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Fylde Scenes
How big could that be? By: Max Bygraves 04/10/2023
Barnet
AFC Fylde
2 1
League 03/10/2023
2023-2024 Attendance: 1167 (23)




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After the elation of a last gasp winner, it's very easy to have the rose tinters on. However, make no mistake about it, that was a real grind both on the pitch and on the eyes of those present. For the majority of the evening, we looked nothing like the free-flowing, exciting, talented side we have for much of this season. Yet the fact we are waking up this morning still just three points off the top is no small feat. A potentially massive moment for our season.

Due to an unrealistically ambitious departure time for chances of making kick off, I was a few minutes late into the ground for this one. On the walk from the car, I had to check the WhatsApps I was receiving weren't a wind up. Barnet 0-1 AFC Fylde - the time was only 7:44pm! As described to me upon my arrival, 'basically, it fell to him 25 yards out and he just hit it.' That's the best I can offer. Either way, a shock and something of an early sucker punch on a night when most assumed a home win was a given.

Much had been made of Fylde's sales, or lack of, of away tickets beforehand. As of 2pm in the afternoon, Stand 66 was showing 3 tickets sold - interestingly all dotted in different rows. You'd assume a travelling support of these kind of numbers would all know each other. Maybe they'd just had a falling out.

You don't get this question much at this level these days with the profile of most clubs, but I do think, 'What exactly is a Fylde?' is a valid thing to ask. As someone who was living on the other side of the world during the only other spell when they were in our league, this was my first experience of seeing this opposition in the flesh. I did tune in to BT Sport at 1:30am Malaysian time in December 2019 to watch some of (I definitely fell asleep before the end) a 2-1 win in front of a meagre crowd of just 661 (13 away). I also remember their gloating posts on social media when dumping us out of the FA Trophy in the 2018/19 season.

From afar, they are something of a strange outfit. It sort of feels like Fleetwood did what they want to do already in that region. What's the point, you might ask? Whenever they have tended to find themselves in the spotlight, it's not usually been for the best reasons. This job advert caused a stir a few years back. Chairman David Haythornthwaite is known for a variety of interesting reasons and it doesn't appear he perhaps fosters the most family-friendly environment. Despite being keen to grow the 'Fylde brand.'

There was also the ill-fated appointment of manager James Rowe in 2022, who the chairman cited as being, "no shrinking violet," but that they'd done their, "due diligence," upon appointing him. This just after he had been sacked by Chesterfield at the top of the league above in mysterious circumstances. 'Due diligence' was made to look somewhat dubious when they had to sack him six months into his three year deal following a charge for sexual assault...

Finally, they had something along the lines of 'project 2022' on their shirts for many years, with this being the year by which Haythornwaite said they'd get to the Football League by. They did go close in 2019, to be fair. However, this had to be sheepishly removed at the end of the 2020/2021 season when they were still two leagues away from their goal. On the evidence of their start to the campaign back at this level, they may need to continue to further revise this date. Their home gates are not awful, but one does wonder how much real enthusiasm there is to make their 'project' a success.

An away following of 23 were shunted into the corner by the players' tunnel, to save the bother of opening the big away stand. They did, rather optimistically, travel by coach, though. Plenty of room for them to spread out on the long journey home.

That is a lot on the opposition - but to be honest, there's not much I could or want to write about the first half. The visitors set up effectively and we were limited to very few openings. The first half was surmised rather well by the final action consisting of several sideways or backwards passes going nowhere, before the referee gave up on us having a final chance and did everyone a favour by blowing the half time whistle.

Free beers in the bar were a consolation for some - where The Beer Headpromotion came from for this one, I am unsure, but a mate got a round for something like £4.32 I believe, despite two non-free pints making up part of the order. Certainly, less organised than the Fylde defence to that point behind the bar.

The bulk of the second half remained a turgid watch. Consistent performers were consistently not doing what we consistently see them do consistently well. Kabamba couldn't win a header, Collinge couldn't pick a pass and Pritchard couldn't influence the game in midfield. It was easy to lose count of the number of stray passes to nobody. Cutting edge looked totally absent and the longer this went on, the more convinced I was that a pessimistic shout I'd made earlier in the day of this being a potentially infamous 0-1 would be accurate.

Fylde were obviously happy to stick with what they'd got and didn't mind being cynical in preserving their lead. By just past the hour mark, they were on seven yellow cards and a false red. A case of mistaken identity for a second yellow averted just in time by a very over-zealous, card-brandishing official. However, it seemed he had his mind set on sending someone off when shortly afterwards Fylde's Siyabonga Ligendza's substitute appearance was cut short for a second yellow. It was given for kicking the ball away when flagged offside. Honestly, thought it was perhaps a tad harsh. Seen those not given before.

With renewed optimism of playing against 10 men, there was a bit of encouragement from the stands. It has to be said, it had been pretty flat on and off the pitch thus far. Whilst not the most inspiring fixture at any time, it didn't smack of a team 2nd in the league with buoyant fans enjoying every minute. Not a criticism of anyone - it was an awful watch, but even the younger more exuberant chaps were quite subdued throughout.

Calum Stead had been thrown on just before the hour to replace a largely ineffective Marvin Armstrong. Perhaps a little harsh on Stead not to start from the off after his goal on Saturday. There was no strop-throwing from the young attacker however, immediately buzzing about and giving the visitors something to think about.

On 80 minutes, via a scrappy looking finish (although after a decent passage of play), the Bees number 10 made it two in two and grabbed the long-awaited equaliser. Now everyone did wake up a bit. There was more than enough time to do this against a tiring opposition. Credit to Adam Murray's side, they continued to defend well and despite how it finished for them, there were certainly positives for them to take from a very disciplined performance. 

Barnet cranked up the pressure as the time ticked on, with eight minutes added for the many bookings and substitutions. A deep cross resulted in an effort smacking against the post and shortly after, an outstanding close range save looked to have secured a point for Fylde.

However, in the 96th minute, Idris Kanu made one final charge down the left wing. A blind alley on many occasions in this one, this time, his cross found Zak Brunt at the back post who knocked the ball across goal for Nicke Kabamba to power home a close-range header. Bedlam. With several fans inexplicably already seemingly making for the exit, there were jubilant scenes down the front as the players celebrated with very relieved supporters. I sort of lost myself a little and realised I was halfway down the Block D/E steps going nowhere obvious, before running back up for man hugs with The Wardrobe and The Secret Season Ticket Holder.

A big, further outpouring of relief on full time. Despite his contribution, Kabamba has not always been given the credit perhaps due by his manager this season. A big sloppy kiss on the cheek from Irishman suggested he was more than happy with his number 9 tonight. The three cheers fist clenched celebration at the end was done with real gusto, too. 

Consecutive narrow wins against struggling sides may not have seen us exhibit our best football. However, we have taken nine points in a week and you can be absolutely sure last season that wouldn't have happened. This team can play entertaining, easy on the eye football but are showing they can also dig in and win ugly. If we're serious about staying in contention, you need to have the ability to do both. Annoyingly, wins for Chesterfield and Solihull mean its as you were, following ground being made up on Saturday. 

Dorking Wanderers away on Saturday is a trickier looking proposition after their recent resurgence (ignoring their result tonight) but another game we have to be going into looking for a win to stay in touch. The late kick off time for tele could work as a blessing if other results go well, or add a bit of pressure if the gap has been widened. Despite the TNT Sports coverage, you'd hope a decent number would make the short trip to Surrey. I've been persuaded. See you all there. 




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21/02/2024 Shot Down
20/02/2024 (South) Underhill
04/02/2024 Unpleasant
20/01/2024 Barnet Rivalries
10/01/2024 Daggers Defeated
31/12/2023 Nine Point Christmas
24/12/2023 Merry Sixmas
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