VERDICT – The statistics don’t look good but there’s hope for Steelmen

Corby Town and AFC Fylde players surround referee Declan Ford before the visitors' first goal was awarded at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley

Corby Town and AFC Fylde players surround referee Declan Ford before the visitors' first goal was awarded at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley

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If you go by the statistics, it doesn’t look good.

Corby Town’s return to action after a two-week break ended in a 2-1 defeat to AFC Fylde at Steel Park.

Paul Walker is beaten by Ritchie Baker's penalty during Corby Town's 2-1 loss to AFC Fylde

Paul Walker is beaten by Ritchie Baker's penalty during Corby Town's 2-1 loss to AFC Fylde

It extended their winless run to 11 matches and saw them drop into the bottom three of the Vanarama National League North.

But while the numbers paint a bleak picture, the performance the Steelmen served up should give their followers hope.

For large portions of the game, they matched a side who, at this stage at least, look well-placed for an assault on the title.

Duane Courtney’s thumping header came a bit too late for the Steelmen as two goals in the space of five minutes at the start of the second half proved to be enough to send Fylde to the top of the table.

Cleveland Taylor makes a spectacular clearance during Corby Town's loss to AFC Fylde

Cleveland Taylor makes a spectacular clearance during Corby Town's loss to AFC Fylde

There’s no doubt that, certainly for the time being, Tommy Wright’s men are facing a real battle at the wrong end of the table.

But, unlike the dismal display which saw them hammered 5-0 at North Ferriby United in their previous outing, they didn’t fold.

Instead, they showed a bit of grit and determination to give themselves a chance. And they will need more of that in the coming weeks if they are to haul themselves out of trouble.

Wright threw recent signings Clayton McDonald and Andre Johnson straight into the starting line-up and both made a reasonable impression.

McDonald added some much-needed steel to the back four while Johnson was full of running in attack, even if the service into him wasn’t always the best.

That added freshness to the Corby side was clear in the opening period as they gave the high-flying visitors a real run for their money.

The Steelmen started brightly with Ashley Sammons’ lob being helped over the bar by Fylde goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe while captain Cleveland Taylor put his body on the line at the other end to block Akil Wright’s goalbound shot.

Sammons was denied by Hinchliffe again as he pushed away the Corby man’s well-struck free-kick and Johnson might have done better than to shoot weakly at the goalkeeper after good work down the left from the lively Wilson Carvalho.

But it was Fylde who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Matty Blinkhorn met Danny Lloyd’s cross from the left with a side-footed volley, which bounced off the base of the post.

The visitors were certainly in no mood to mess around after the break, however, as they took the lead in controversial circumstances on 49 minutes.

Ritchie Baker’s shot took a deflection and found its way into the bottom corner. The assistant’s flag went up, the belief being that it had deflected off a Fylde boot from an offside position.

But, after a brief discussion, referee Declan Ford awarded the goal.

It was a blow that the Steelmen struggled to deal with and just five minutes later, things looked like they would unravel again.

The impressive Dion Charles danced his way into the area, only to be dragged down from behind by Chris Carruthers - the clearest penalty you will ever see.

Carruthers, perhaps fortunately, escaped with a yellow card but Baker made no mistake from the spot as he doubled his and his team’s tally.

However, instead of folding, the Steelmen showed some resolve and Courtney saw a header tipped over by Hinchliffe before substitute Callum Ball shot wide from the resulting corner.

It was so nearly 3-0 when Fylde substitute Josh Wilson’s free-kick struck the bar with Paul Walker rooted to the spot.

But there was hope for Corby when Courtney rose to thump home Taylor’s pin-point set-piece.

Another Taylor free-kick flashed across the face of goal with no takers as the hosts went in search of an equaliser but an all-out assault on the visiting penalty area never really materialised.

And so, it was another defeat and anyone in football will tell you that once you are in that bottom three, it’s a tough old job to get yourself out of it.

If this performance is anything to go by, Wright’s Steelmen aren’t down and out by any stretch of the imagination.

But a win, no matter how it comes, needs to arrive as soon as possible to get the wheels properly turning once again.

Steelmen: Walker; Thomas, Courtney, McDonald (sub Ball, 57 mins), Carruthers; N’Goma; Milnes, Taylor, Sammons (sub Weir-Daley, 70 mins), Carvalho; Johnson (sub Revan, 70 mins). Subs not used: Anderson, Donkin.

AFC Fylde: Hinchliffe; Hughes, Collins, Hannigan, Whittle; Wright, Baker; Charles, Hughes, Lloyd (sub Rowe, 70 mins); Blinkhorn (sub Wilson, 70 mins). Subs not used: Urwin, Sumner, Hardy.

Referee: Declan Ford.

Goals: Baker (49 mins, 0-1), Baker pen (54 mins, 0-2), Courtney (85 mins, 1-2).

Booking: Carruthers (foul).

Attendance: 515.