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AFC Telford 1 AFC Fylde 2 - Report

Football is a game never short on ironies, and despite delivering one of their better performances this season, this defeat for the Bucks, combined with results elsewhere, dropped them to the very foot of the Vanarama National League North table.

AFC Telford United Interim Manager Dennis Greene
AFC Telford United Interim Manager Dennis Greene

Given that their opponents were the league leaders, perhaps a defeat wasn’t unexpected. The quality possessed by the visitors ultimately shone through, but despite the result the Bucks can reflect on a greatly improved performance from their defeat at Kidderminster a week earlier, where the Dennis Greene’s team lacked cohesion, spirit and any semblance of a game plan.

Against Fylde, the Bucks looked much more like a team and less a group of disgruntled individuals. They were organised, showed discipline out of possession in keeping their shape, and when given the chance to attack they did, prompted by a fine display in the centre of the field from Dom McHale.

There was controlled aggression too. Jason Oswell’s duel with defender Emeka Obi brought Oswell the upper hand, Obi too often resorting to unfair means to halt the striker. A first-half yellow card for Obi had him walking a tightrope, and eventually Fylde manager Jim Bentley withdrew Obi to prevent him potentially being dismissed.

For all their positive points, the Bucks will be kicking themselves at the way they conceded twice in a ten-minute span either side of half-time. Joe Piggott’s brace were goals that led from errors, rather than the hosts being cut open, and as each game takes on a greater significance, the Bucks need to be more reliable.

Greene made five changes to the team that slid to defeat at Kidderminster; West Bromwich Albion loanee goalkeeper Ted Cann made his debut, replacing regular custodian Russ Griffiths, plagued by a flaring up of an historic hip injury. Brad Bood, Saul Shotton, Theo Streete and Elliott Durrell all came back into the starting XI.

Fylde possess quality in abundance, with no.10 Nick Haughton their creative livewire. Perhaps expecting not to see too much of the ball, the Bucks sat deep, drew Fylde on and pounced on any loose possession to spring attacks through McHale.

It was one such move that gave then a 9th minute lead; taking the ball off Fylde close to their own penalty area, the Bucks were swift and Dom McHale’s surging run and pinpoint pass played Jason Oswell inside the Fylde defence on the left. As keeper Bobby Jones narrowed the angle, Oswell shot across him and although the ball struck his body its momentum carried it into the far corner.

Fylde were soon back into their groove, and enjoyed the majority of possession but the Bucks kept their shape and discipline and continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack, into the spaces left by Fylde’s high defensive line.

The Bucks were working overtime to stop Haughton and his colleagues, but when the home side were awarded a free-kick on half-way after 18 minutes they almost profited; Elliott Durrell’s delivery found the head of defender Kory Roberts, and his effort went just wide of Bobby Jones’ left post.

Another McHale surge from midfield saw Obi enter referee Daniel Locker’s notebook, the Fylde no.5 stopping McHale before he could thread another pass through their retreating defence. From the resulting free-kick, no-one in white read Durrell’s crafty delivery, and the opportunity was lost.

Haughton’s free-kicks were testing Cann in the Bucks goal, and in the 45th minute Cann made a terrific stop, reaching up to turn Haughton’s goal-bound effort from 25 yards over the angle of his post and crossbar for a corner.

However, Cann’s clean sheet wasn’t to last until half-time; from another dangerous position wide on the left, Haughton’s dipping delivery beat everyone and was met by the head of striker Piggott, stealing in on the blindside to thump a header past Cann to level the scores.

The goal had arrived in first-half injury-time, but despite being pegged back the Bucks could be pleased with their first half; the challenge now was to do it all over again in the second period.

Alas, that’s where the plan started to fail; both sides has started the half positively, putting efforts wide of goal in the opening five minutes, but on 52 minutes Piggott struck again. Roberts lost possession on the edge of the penalty area, and Fylde pounced. Quickly working the ball into the box, an effort aimed across goal was blocked by Cann but as the ball ran loose, Piggott had the whip hand and he swooped to convert the loose ball past Cann and a covering defender’s despairing efforts.

The Bucks now had it all to do, and they attempted to rally. Obi and Oswell clashed again and the Fylde defender was substituted soon after as his manager, a former Telford player and son of club legend Jack Bentley, took the safe option of bringing on Liam Nolan to subdue Oswell.

Just after the hour, Haughton wasted a great chance when he glanced a header wide from 10 yards, timing his run to meet a ball delivered from the left. Greene introduced Kyle Bennett and Ewan Bange from the bench to try and give his side some extra bodies and energy up front, but the tide was turning against them. Kai Williams was also thrown into the fray a few minutes later, and his speed did result in one dangerous ball through the six-yard box that no-one in white could connect with.

The visitors were gaining the ascendancy, but not the goals to make the game safe. Substitute Jack Sampson fired a curling shot wide of Cann’s far post after carving out some space for himself with a smart turn on the edge of the box, and the hosts’ frustrations began to surface. Referee Locker had been less than consistent, particularly in the second half, and extended more kindness to the visitors than the home fans felt was due.

Williams was booked for going in late on keeper Jones in his desperation to convert a low, near-post cross, and Telford even permitted defender Theo Streete to throw himself into the forward line injury time; however, by that point their efforts were more optimistic than purposeful, and Fylde mopped them up with few alarms.

Defeat was signalled by referee Locker’s final whistle, and for the Bucks now the only way simply has to be up.

Referee: Daniel Locker.

Assistants: Jonathan Wyatt, Daniel Stokes.

Attendance: 874.

Telford (5-3-2): Cann, White, Bood, Shotton, Streete, Roberts (Bange 63), Walker (Bennett 63), Durrell, McHale (Williams 68), Sparrow, Oswell.

Subs not used: Lilly, Maphosa.

Scorer: Oswell (9).

Cautioned: Williams.

AFC Fylde: Jones, Conlan, Obi (Nolan 59), Tollitt, Stott, Lloyd, Philliskirk, Haughton (Walker 89), Osborne (Sampson 68), Joyce, Piggott.

Subs not used: Hulme, Robinson.

Scorer: Piggott (45, 52)

Cautioned: Obi, Tollitt.

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