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Fylde Match Report

It may have been out of season for a trip to Blackpool, but the Bucks put in a towering performance on the Fylde coast, illuminated by a debut goal for Lee Hughes. His all-round display showed exactly why the Bucks management sought his signature, with the recent arrival from Worcester City putting in a terrific exhibition of centre-forward play, capped with a goal.

The Bucks made the trip north off the back of a home defeat by Gloucester City, and Fylde themselves were smarting, having been spanked 5-0 at play-off contenders Salford City a week earlier. Rob Smith rung the changes, and Hughes came in to replace Connor McCarthy, loaned to Warrington Town a day earlier. Dropping out also were Elliot Hodge and John-Paul Kissock, the latter not risked after leaving training early for treatment, thought to be precautionary. Jonathan Royle and Joel Dielna stepped in, stiffening the midfield.

On a very cold and windy overcast day it was the home team who looked to take charge early on. Dan Bradley took aim from range but cleared Matt Urwin’s crossbar, the on-loan Fleetwood keeper having kept goal for the Coasters last season. Fylde’s Danny Rowe, top scorer in National League North with an astonishing 35 goals, struck the Bucks’ defensive wall from a good free-kick opportunity, and you sensed the game’s pattern was being set. The Bucks had other ideas, and Hughes was the central figure. A cross aimed at him by Dielna was put behind for a corner, and from that kick Jones’ sidefooted effort at goal was saved by Rhys Taylor, who then had to react to save again as Hughes pounced from 6 yards out when a goal looked certain. That was all in the first six minutes, and both sides continued to probe, Fylde shooting from range, the Bucks putting bodies in the way to stop efforts from Caspar Hughes and Brendon Daniels. Josh Wilson then forced a save from Taylor from 25 yards and a Wilson free-kick was glanced over by Hughes’ head as Taylor came for the ball but didn’t make it.

The Bucks could have been deflated when Fylde took the lead on 17 minutes. A deep cross from their left swirled high into the Lancashire air and onto the head of Andy Bond at the back post. His presence had drawn two Bucks’ defenders and when he headed the ball back to Dan Bradley the ex-Alfreton Town man had space and time on the edge of the box to set himself and smash a powerful shot through a crowd and past a flailing Urwin.

Despite that blow, the Bucks stayed on the offensive. Bond took Wilson down to concede a free-kick which Dielna struck narrowly over the angle of post and bar from 30 yards, then Wilson himself read a poor header back to Taylor from Fylde’s Hughes and nipped into hit a right-footer on the run which Taylor turned around the post. The home crowd weren’t comfortable, neither was Fylde boss Dave Challenor, and his discomfort increased when skipper Josh Langley had to go off with an injury just past the half-hour. His replacement, Bohan Dixon, went into midfield and Bond dropped to centre-half to partner loan signing Dan Jones.

The Bucks were winning corners with regularity, and five minutes before the break they should have been level. A deep corner was met at the back post by Lee Hughes and amidst consternation his header back into the six-yard box was met by Royle. Amazingly, he hit the bar when a goal seemed certain, unable to control his close-range effort. Within minutes Hughes drew another save from Taylor from 12 yards out with a smart turn in the box, and the home side were happy to go in ahead at half-time, though they were looking for a second goal when referee Paul Graham halted proceedings.

HALF TIME: AFC Fylde 1 AFC Telford United 0

The home side started the second half as they had the first, looking to test Urwin without looking genuinely threatening. They forced a couple of corners, then Rowe shot over from 30 yards out on the left, being kept to that distance by the Bucks’ back line. Josh Wilson tumbled, perhaps looking for a penalty but then, on 57 minutes, the away side got a deserved reward. A free-kick for the Bucks was cleared back to Luke Higham and the Blackpool loanee, who presumably made the shortest of journeys to Mill Farm for the game, struck an inviting ball into the box. Lee Hughes read the flight and his movement earned him a yard, allowing him to bury a close-range header past Taylor. The travelling supporters rejoiced, however rather than seeing their side look to consolidate the Bucks then continued to attack.

More corners came, and there was also a fractious incident when Caspar Hughes caught the impressive Higham with a late challenge. Dielna, also once of Blackpool, got into a game of push and shove with Hughes and saw a yellow card for his remonstrations. Signalling their belief that the game was there to be won, Rob Smith sent on Dave Hibbert for the again excellent Eddie Jones, Wilson dropping deeper to accommodate him. The game opened up, and play went from end to end, with Dan Jones curling a shot past the post from the edge of the box when a corner was cleared to him. The Bucks’ Hughes also tried his luck, another great turn to find space giving him room to test Taylor from around the penalty spot, and both sides won corners and free-kicks near to goal, but without being able to really make anything of the opportunities.

John-Paul Kissock came on with less than five minutes to go and showed his commitment to the Bucks’ cause by hurling himself to block a drive from Bradley after he made room to cut in across the edge of the box as time ebbed away for the hosts. That proved to be pretty much the last action of the game, and at the whistle Mill Farm emptied rapidly, probably as a result of fans wanting to escape the clutches of a perishingly cold wind as much as in disappointment at the result.

The home side’s sponsors gave keeper Rhys Taylor the man of the match award, a measure of how busy he had been. The Bucks, with the entire back four outstanding, had restricted the league leaders’ much vaunted attacking options to a single Bradley strike, Rowe’s threat snuffed out by captain Luca Havern. Singling out one player in such a great effort from 1-11, it was Lee Hughes who made the difference for the Bucks. At 40 years of age he is fit but not quick, however it was his know-how and movement that had Fylde occupied, the home side looking fairly pedestrian and lacking in ideas. His on-field presence looks set to provide a huge boost just when the Bucks needed it most.

FULL TIME: AFC Fylde 1 AFC Telford United 1

Bucks: Urwin, Samuels, Higham, Havern, McCone, Rea, Royle, Jones (Hibbert 69), Hughes, Wilson, Dielna (Kissock 86).

Unused subs: Bailey, Hodge, Lilly.

Scorers: Hughes (57)

Bookings: Dielna

AFC Fylde: Taylor, Wilson, Kennedy, Langley (Dixon 34), Jones, Bond, Hughes (Blinkhorn 74), Rowe, Bradley, Daniels (Baker 85).

Unused subs: Thompson, Holland.

Scorers: Bradley (17)

Bookings: None.

Referee: Paul Graham.

Assistants: Nikolas Storey, Daniel Hitchell.

Attendance: 1,502.

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