A David Perkins red card topped off a bad night at the office for AFC Fylde, as they were beaten 2-0 by a determined Curzon Ashton outfit.
The Coasters travelled to the Tameside Stadium in high spirits, boasting an unbeaten record and sitting one point behind table-toppers Gloucester City.
AFC Fylde’s late and somewhat unexpected match postponement vs Boston United on Saturday morning gave Jim Bentley and his players a mini rest before Tuesday night’s National League North clash in Greater Manchester.
Bentley made two changes to the side that lined up against Spennymoor Town last Tuesday, bringing Kurt Willoughby in for Jordan Hulme, and naming new signing, Luke Brennan, amongst the substitutes.
Meanwhile Curzon Ashton manager, Steve Cunningham, opted for the same team that defeated Kettering Town 2-1 at the weekend.
AFC Fylde dominated possession in the early stages, with Coasters’ midfield trio, Perkins, Philliskirk and Haughton dictating the tempo of the match.
It was Curzon Ashton who recorded the first shot of the game though, when central defender Douglas Tharme tried his luck from range after 4 minutes, but Chris Neal watched the ball sail wide of his goal.
Nick Haughton replied with a speculative effort of his own just a minute later. The creative midfielder picked the ball up in a pocket of space, slalomed in and out of two Curzon defenders before dragging a shot just wide.
On 8 minutes, former Fylde striker Darren Stephenson nearly got one over on his former team, picking up a wayward header from defender Alex Whitmore, and unleashing an effort which Luke Burke did well to throw himself in front of.
The closest the visitors came to breaking the deadlock came through Nathan Shaw after 11 minutes. The young Blackpool loanee used a mixture of skill and agility to get to the byline, before chipping the ball to the back post, only to see it hit the cross bar and to the relief of the Curzon Ashton goalkeeper, drop behind for a goal-kick.
Ben Tollitt was next in line to give Mason a scare in between the Curzon sticks. The tireless Burke motored up the right hand-side and delivered a promising cross that found the feet of Tollitt; the wingers touch was perfect, but the finish was only a fraction wide.
Kurt Willoughby almost scored on his return to the Fylde line-up, but his strike after 20 minutes was skewed into the ground and eventually scrambled to safety.
Two minutes later, Whitmore out-jumped his marker, and met a Haughton corner with purpose. His header was cleared off the line however, denying Fylde once again.
Shaw was next to almost round the keeper and score, before Haughton tested Mason from distance.
Then came the opening goal of the game on 36 minutes, and to the surprise of everyone, it went to the hosts. The dangerous Dominic Knowles held the ball up well and released Matty Waters. The left-back then ran onto the ball and fired a first-time strike passed Neal from the corner of the penalty area to give Cunningham’s side an undeserved lead.
Things went from bad to worse just two minutes later, when experienced Fylde midfielder David Perkins lunged in on Samuel Walker and was shown a straight red-card by the referee.
With the home side now in the ascendency, Fylde were happy to get in at the interval trailing by a goal to nil, regroup and come out fighting with ten men in the second half.
HT: Curzon Ashton 2-0 AFC Fylde
The plan was short-lived though, as it was Curzon who shot out of the traps. On 47 minutes the Fylde crossbar was shaking, after Knowles struck the woodwork with a curled effort.
It didn’t take the home side long to double their lead though, when Stephenson broke away, wriggled away from Pond and slotted into the back of the net.
The visitors almost found a way back into the game after 68 minutes, when Whitmore latched onto a Haughton delivery but , again, frustratingly saw his effort cleared off the goal line.
Curzon responded four minutes later, and would have made it three if it wasn’t for a terrific save from Neal to deny Stephenson.
Kurt Willoughby was then presented with a golden chance with a quarter of an hour to play. The introduction of new signing, Luke Brennan, sparked life into Fylde second-half performance and it was he who put the ball on a plater for Willoughby to score from six-yards. Willoughby’s resulting effort struck the post and somehow stayed out.
The last ten minutes consisted of time-wasting tactics from the home team, who battled hard to cling onto their two goal advantage.
The referee eventually blew for full-time, and Fylde departed the Tameside Stadium empty handed, with their inability to convert chances proving costly against a plucky Curzon Ashton display.
FT: Curzon Ashton 2-0 AFC Fylde