10:38pm Saturday 25th January 2014
By Andrew Simpson
WITTON, during the first half in particular, had enough chances to have made Fylde fret.
The Coasters did anything but, despite the final score suggesting otherwise, though their finishing was clinical enough to have ended the contest inside an hour.
Albion, more incisive than in-form hosts before the break, deserved more for their adventure.
But they did not shoot sharply in front of goal.
In contrast Richie Allen did, his double establishing a two-goal lead.
The first of those arrived inside half a minute, the wide man timing his run to meet Danny Lloyd’s chipped cross to the back post with a cushioned header.
Witton, shorn of Ben Harrison in defence due to illness, were still adjusting to his absence.
They remained disjointed when Matthew Blinkhorn steered a pass in Allen’s direction shortly afterwards, though goalkeeper Matt Cooper blocked his fizzed shot with a boot.
Once Albion were awake they posed an attacking threat, probably more so than when they won on this pitch last season.
Josh Hancock was the catalyst for a counter that involved touches for Danny Andrews and then Martyn Jackson to tee up Chris Simm.
He was composed while cutting inside two would-be tacklers, less so when slicing off target with the goal at his mercy.
Jackson steered wide after Matthew Hughes made a hash of a clearance then Ally Brown, appearing like a phantom in the home team’s penalty area, nodded past an upright after Jackson flicked on Hancock’s assist.
Fylde then found a way to score during their guests’ best spell.
After Albion lost possession, they countered at breakneck speed; Lloyd swept a pass into Allen’s path, and he was merciless with his finish.
Witton’s response was immediate, Simm’s downward header from Rob Bodie’s cross prompting Ben Hinchliffe to save smartly low to his left.
Cooper did the same at the other end to smuggle Lloyd’s drive to safety.
Brian Pritchard’s men, encouraged by how often they had conjured opportunities previously, created their clearest one in the seconds before the interval.
Jon Breeze’s pass, sent cross-field at an angle that bisected Fylde’s defence, put Jackson face-to-face with Hinchliffe.
But his shot, struck with power, was straight at the net-minder.
They did not get so close again.
In the second half, Hughes headed too high from Lloyd’s corner.
Fylde were less forgiving when Witton erred moments later, robbing a ball kicked unconvincingly into midfield by Cooper.
When it reached Lloyd within seconds, his cross was converted emphatically by Sean Cooke.
Conceding again knocked the stuffing out of Albion, who had sent on Dave Walker at half time to support Simm.
Scott Bakkor arrived too after Cooke’s goal, producing the period’s classiest moment with a dribble that started with him prodding the ball through Hughes’ legs.
It ended with Hinchliffe stretching to save his swerving shot.
Witton’s fate this season will not be determined by road trips to Fylde, though the fixture list – at least for now – is unforgiving.
Next up, it’s FC United of Manchester.
Witton Star Man: Josh Hancock. Was involved in Witton’s most incisive moments in the first half, even after suffering a knock to an ankle. Switched later to a central position following Martyn Jackson’s enforced exit with an injury, he continued to drive the visitors forward.
AFC Fylde (4-4-2) Hinchliffe (GK), Hankin (Denson 75), Matthew Hughes, Russell, Sumner, Lloyd (Caspar Hughes 63), Bradley Barnes, Booth (Michael Barnes 63), Allen, Cooke, Blinkhorn Subs not used Mullen, Charnley Goals Allen 1, 35, Cooke 58
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Brown, Bodie, Gardner, Moyo (Walker 46), Andrews, Breeze, Powell, Jackson (Dawson 60), Hancock, Simm (Bakkor 60) Subs not used Plant (GK), Crofts
Referee Mark Astley
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