After weeks of being deferred by relentless adverse weather conditions, college football finally returned as Week 6, Lent term, saw Fylde lock horns with Bowland.
On paper, the tie stood as an enticing prospect with both teams tied in fourth position in the College A-league, having each won two and lost once respectively. With both teams therefore eager to make up ground upon joint second placed Lonsdale and County, three points seemed a paramount prerequisite for either side coming into the 2pm kick off.
The usual college pitches had a slightly different feel as the match approached. With the latest construction foundations of the artificial pitch now in place, metal fencing lined each neighbouring side of the field, creating a cage-like feel and considerably narrowing the pitch dimensions.
As anticipated, the game got off to a raucous and high-tempo start, with both sides striving to implement their dominance upon a difficult surface. It was an industrious Bowland who struck first, inside the opening five minutes, after a sustained attack saw a blocked shot, fall to the feet of winger Taj Suhail who had a simple tap-in with which to open the scoring.
This early strike proved to be a catalyst as a smarting Fylde side crafted an instant response, a long and precise kick from the goalkeeper fell neatly into the path of chasing striker and Fylde captain Billy Crow, who was able to outpace his last man and finish calmly when presented in a one-on-one situation with an advancing Bowland keeper.
Now square at 1-1 and with everything to play for, the gauntlet had certainly now been thrown down for either side to seize the impetus and begin to control the game.
Minutes later, this call appeared to have been answered by a confident Fylde, who worked a throw-in deep in the opposition half, with a flick-on from centre back James Lester finding an unmarked Zach Holyoake at the back post to drill his close-range shot past a hapless Bowland defence.
A mere 15 minutes in and Fylde had already come from a goal behind and were unquestionably deserving of their 2-1 lead. The following patch of play saw the game fall into an anonymous lull of risk-free football, with both sides seemingly eager to remove an element of the fast-paced nature of which the game had begun.
A spurt of play around the 20 minute mark saw a burst of activity, as miscommunication within the Bowland defensive line saw a Fylde free-kick awarded 20 yards out, firmly within the danger area. Fylde piled men forward, seeking an opportunity to put day-light between themselves and the opposition. Nevertheless, the over-hit free-kick beat everyone and lightly shaved the crossbar as it travelled over a thankful Bowland goalkeeper.
Further Fylde build up forced Bowland midfielder Ben Finch into making a reckless tackle upon the oppositions Iain Beddow on the edge of the area. With the resulting free-kick poorly executed and hastily cleared by the Bowland defence, the whistle blew with Fylde going into the half-time interval 2-1 to the good.
As the second half got underway, the swift tempo of the first 45 appeared to have evaporated. After several attempts of attacking play, Bowland were finally able to threaten goal, a low-driven free-kick on the hour mark catching the Fylde back-line off guard only for Andy Gamble to see his attempt hit the post.
This near chance evidently spurred a resurgent Bowland back into action as minutes later a weighted through-ball down the right wing saw midfielder Taj Suhail beat the Fylde centre back for pace and drill a near post effort past a diving goalkeeper to bring the game back level at 2-2.
Late Fylde attacks ensued with winger Zach Holyoake displaying excellent work-rate, even in the latter stages, linking well with his supporting left-back. The attack however only developed as far as a Fylde corner, as the game lost its final few seconds. With the referee harshly declaring that time was up, the resulting corner never materialised as the curtain fell down upon a hard-fought 2-2 draw.
Both sides will undoubtedly be aggrieved that they could not steal a march upon their rivals and claim victory, nevertheless the shared points sees Fylde and Bowland continue to stand dead level in the league placings, keeping an ever watchful eye upon those above.