Previously on X-Reds:
AFC Fylde are a club with big ambitions. At the newly built £18m stadium that seats up to 6,000 supporters a flag hangs with the words “2022: Stop us if you can” denoting the owners intent to have the men’s side rise through the pyramid and become a National League club within six years.
The women’s side at the club also harbours these aspirations, currently competing in the FA Northern Premier League under Fylde Ladies after taking over the successful Preston North End Women at the end of the 2015/16 season.
Fylde has inherited a squad that finished second in the league, narrowly missing out on a play off to gain entry to the Women’s Super League, and were also runners up in the FA Women’s Challenge Cup back in April.
The team are led by former Liverpool Ladies assistant manager Luke Swindlehurst, who returned to the club last year after winning the FAWSL1 with the Reds in 2013 and working with promoted Sheffield F.C.
Luke is joined at Fylde by former Liverpool Development duo Yasmine Swarbrick and Eve Kennerley; Yasmine joined Preston from Liverpool in 2014 while Eve spent time at Manchester City before recently signing for Fylde.
Fylde had enjoyed a flying start to their season and were unbeaten in seven games heading into the Lancashire derby against, also unbeaten, Blackburn Rovers Ladies. The knowledge that this tie was also a battle for top spot still early in the season adding extra excitement.
Rovers themselves have an ex-Liverpool player in their ranks, title winning midfielder Jess Holbrook wearing number six and in the starting line up.
It was a bitterly cold evening at Mill Farm, meaning that multiple cups of tea were required in order to not freeze.
The game kicked off and immediately descended into a typical derby match, with bruising challenges and a fast paced opening seeing both sides with opportunities to take the lead.
First Fylde had a chance as Rovers ‘keeper Danielle Hill allowed a corner to slip through her heads, the ball landing at Swarbrick’s feet but the former Liverpool youth player was denied her second goal in as many matches as Hill recovered.
Up at the other end Flyde’s Laura Walker cleared a fierce volley off the line, Walker well-positioned to prevent the ball crossing the line.
Fylde were passing the ball well, Jenna Carroll with an impressive long range pass to pick out the run of Argentinean Agustina Barroso. Barroso crossed towards Swarbrick, who was leading the attack, yet the goalkeeper beat her to the cross.
While at Liverpool Swarbrick played predominantly as a wide attacking midfielder, during this game she played as the lone striker and was impressive. Her strength and hold up play combined with nifty footwork allowing her team to join the attack and press forward.
At the 19th minute mark supporters in the stands initiated a minutes applause in memory of former Fylde number 19 Zoe Tynan, who passed away in August. The club have also retired her shirt.
Before Blackburn took the lead, captain Charlotte Farrell went down clutching her knee in the centre circle as Fylde looked to hit Rovers on the counter attack. The captain was unable to continue and was replaced by Alice Forshaw.
Shortly before the half hour mark Rovers took the lead through Faye McCoy. The powerful midfielder capitalised on a mix up at the back from Fylde to prod the opening goal over the line.
Before half time Barroso had an effort from fifty yards, one that sounds speculative but in reality wasn’t far off as the defender had spotted Hill off her line.
Into the second half it was again Blackburn that threatened, Fylde number one Danielle Brown produced a string of excellent reaction saves from set pieces – while Swarbrick was denied again by a good save at the opposite end of the pitch.
Barroso picked up a knock and was replaced by Kennerley, Kennerley was barely on the pitch for a minute before the frantic efforts of both sides resulted in a goal.
Former Manchester City winger Danielle Young swung a left footed set piece into the box and Carroll converted to level the score at 1-1.
Unfortunately for Fylde, fifteen minutes later McCoy bagged her second of the game to put Rovers back in the lead from another set piece.
From this there would be no coming back, despite a late effort from Swarbrick that went just inches wide of the post, and Fylde were defeated for the first time this season.
Overall the trip to Fylde was a thoroughly enjoyable one with talented players on both sides, if you wish to catch either of Fylde or Blackburn in action over the winter find their upcoming fixtures here:
The commitment shown by players, staff and supporters lower down the leagues is admirable and deserving of more support and awareness for the sacrifices they make to be involved in the game. As an example, speaking with Yasmine and her mum Carol after the game yesterday they explained how she works full time, then coaches Barrow’s u12 side before making a four hour round trip for training with Fylde.
This dedication is matched by players, staff and supporters across the Premier League, and of course the Women’s Super League, and never fails to remind me why following women’s football is an inspiring experience.