Evostik Northern Premier League Premier Division
North Ferriby United 0 AFC Fylde 1
Scorer AFC Fylde: James Dean 79
A highly anticipated game between two promotion contenders turned out to be a highly disappointing affair.
Neither side played like promotion contenders in a game of very few clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities.
The game cried out for somebody to put his foot on the ball and make some telling passes in order to put defences under some significant pressure. However poor passing from both sides made life difficult for the forwards who struggled against two solid defences.
The first-half was a tense affair. The tone was set inside the first five minutes when both sides wasted free-kicks in good attacking positions.
Ferriby almost broke through after 6 minutes but Steve Haslam did well to reach Anthony Wilson's through-ball just ahead of Chris Bolder.
Fylde's response was a free-kick from new signing Sean Cooke that lacked pace and went straight to home keeper Adam Nicklin.
It was almost another 15 minutes before either side threatened with Michel Barnes shot being blocked by Ferriby's defence.
Liam King saw a shot charged down and Fylde's Adam Farrell saw a header saved by Nicklin.
As the half progressed, Ferriby created some half-chance. Oliver Banks went close for Ferriby but his angled shot went just over the bar. Gregg Anderson then saw a header shave the outside of the post following a Russell Fry free-kick.
With half-time approaching, Ferriby had two chances to take the lead. Banks' header seemed to be going in before it hit Ferriby's Ryan Kendall and was deflected over. Kendall then had a one-on -one with Hinchliffe whose fine saved prevented a goal.
The second-half followed a similar pattern. Ferriby applied the early pressure but created no clear opportunities as they ran up against a solid Fylde defence.
Fylde began to exert themselves a bit more and Nicklin did well to turn Michael Barnes's shot round the post.
Although the game continued end-to-end it could hardly be called exciting as neither side could create anything worthwhile. Kendall was just beaten to a Wilson pass by Matty Hughes as Ferriby struggled to find space and time.
The only goal came after 79 minutes. Barnes was given time and space to cross from the left and substitute Dean rose unchallenged to head home from six yards.
Fylde finished the game slightly stronger with Nicklin saving from both Jack Dorney and Barnes.
Gary Bradshaw's shot on the turn in added time was Ferriby's last chance.
A draw would have been a fair result but in a game of almost no chances, Fylde took one of the few on offer.
The defeat was Ferriby's first in 10 games and really opens up the battle for the automatic promotion spot. Both Hednesford Town and FC United will now fancy they have an opportunity to take the title.
Ferriby manager Billy Heath was disappointed with the result and his side's performance ".It was a poor quality game and both sides cancelled-out each other. It was always likely that one goal would decide it and, unfortunately for us, poor defensive work cost us a goal. The promotion race is wide open and, unfortunately, we no longer control it."
NFU: Adam Nicklin, Steve Gardner, Nathan Peat, Liam King, Gregg Anderson, Paul Foot, Russell Fry (Ryan Williams 81), Chris Bolder, Anthony Wilson, Ryan Kendall (Gary Bradshaw 67), Oliver Banks
Non-playing subs: Steve Ridley, Paul Robson, Antoni Pecora
AFC Fylde: Ben Hinchliffe; Steve Haslam. Adam Sumner, Matty Hughes, Glenn Steel, Adam Carden, Jack Dorney, Joe Booth (Ashley Dunn 89), Adam Farrell (James Dean 71), Michael Barnes, Sean Cooke (Michael Taylor 90). Non-playing subs: Jimmy McCarthy, Bradley Barnes