By Mark Rawlinson
Despite a committed performance, Farsley found themselves on the end of a 3-1 defeat to promotion contenders AFC Fylde on Saturday afternoon.
The Celts were on the back foot after 20 minutes as Lewis Butroid was unfortunate to put through his own net. But the visitors levelled just before the break, courtesy of Frank Mulhern’s penalty.
The game was finely in the balance for much of the second half until Coasters went ahead as key man Nick Haughton converted a fortuitous penalty. And Fylde snook a third with the final kick of the game via Haughton’s free-kick, a 3-1 scoreline that slightly flattered the hosts after a close encounter.
Third-placed side Fylde started the game on the front foot and their first dangerous chance of the game came after 12 minutes, as Stephen Dobbie headed just wide from Luke Conlan’s cross. Then five minutes later Kyle Trenerry had to be on his toes to tip Haughton’s shot around the post and away for a corner.
The Celts were dealt an early double-injury blow with experienced midfielders Dave Syers and Sam Walker limping off holding their hamstrings and things got even worse on 20 minutes as Fylde struck the opener. Ben Tollitt sent in a wicked low cross from the left and through a sea of bodies, left-back Butroid turning the ball into his own goal.
Farsley were almost immediately level two minutes later as former Stockport and Spennymoor man Frank Mulhern saw his excellent free kick from 25 yards deceive Chris Neal in the home goal, but it struck the upright before a covering defender was able to beat sub Jimmy Spencer to a tap in from close range.
A frantic opening half an hour continued as Adam Clayton was well-placed to clear the ball off the line after a dangerous strike from Haughton.
On the brink of the break, Farsley were thrown a lifeline as skipper Chris Atkinson played an incisive ball through to Mulhern, to play him in one-on-one with Neal. Although the forward took a heavy touch, he drew a foul from the goalkeeper and Italian referee Claudio Gavillucci pointed to the spot. Mulhern stood up from 12 years and dispatched the penalty down the left to send Farsley in level at the interval.
Former Fleetwood Town and Salford City man Nick Haughton was at the centre of almost every Fylde chance, and he almost put his side back ahead on 50 minutes as he squeezed a shot under a defender, but Treberry was on hand to make the save.
The hosts were awarded a disputed penalty on 65 minutes though; a looping ball came down in the area and although Clayton seemed to just beat Doug Taylor to the ball in a penalty-box challenge, the referee pointed to the spot. This allowed Haughton the chance to fire his penalty down the right to restore Fylde’s lead.
After going back in front, the Lancashire side went onto create the lion’s share of chances, with recent signing Will Hatfield twice firing over from promising chances before Trenerry was once again called upon to make a key save with his feet in a on-on-one duel with Taylor.
Farsley could have pinched a point inside stoppage time, as a dangerous low ball was flicked on by Sheffield United loanee Jean Belehouan, before taking a further deflection off a Fylde defender, but Neal was able to make the save.
And then Fylde snatched a third right at the death as star man Haughton curled an excellent free kick from 25 yards into the corner of the goal, just before the final whistle was sounded.
Celtic boss Russ Wilcox said he had no complaints after the defeat against the full-time outfit, and spoke about Syers’ and Walker’s fitness doubts ahead of Tuesday’s crunch home game against bottom club Guiseley.
AFC Fylde: Neal, Conlan, Obi, Tollitt (Walker 72), Philliskirk, Haughton, Morrison, Dobbie (Osborne 55), Stott, Taylor, Hatfield.
Subs not used: Joyce, Gregson, Slew.
Farsley Celtic: Trenerry, Turner, Digie, Clayton, Butroid, Parkin, Hayhurst, Walker (Belehouan 19), Atkinson, Syers (Spencer 15), Mulhern (Greaves 80).
Subs not used: Robson, Gratton.
Referee: Claudio Gavillucci.