AFC FYLDE 2 HARROGATE 1
Goals in either half from Danny Rowe and James Hardy lifted the Coasters above North Ferriby United into second spot as they signed off from league football at Kellamergh Park in style.
Harrogate nicked one back in the final seconds through Warren Burrell but Fylde held on to claim all three points.
Dave Challinor made three changes to the side that was beaten by Tamworth a week earlier, with Matt Urwin replacing Ben Hinchliffe in goal, while Matty Hughes and James Hardy came in for Josh Langley and Danny Lloyd.
There was a bright start in the Lancashire sunshine for the last ever regular season game at Kellamergh Park, though the first real chance didn’t arise until the eighth minute, when Rowe almost turned home from close range after the ball deflected against him from a corner.
Rowe almost broke the deadlock five minutes later in spectacular fashion.
Bohan Dixon stole the ball and Rowe jinked past three challenges but the goalkeeper got down well to his left to keep out his low effort.
The hitman was clearly in the mood and launched a vicious drive at the Harrogate goal from 20 yards that dipped narrowly over the crossbar.
The visitors appealed for a penalty shortly before the 20-minute mark, when Jack Emmett slipped in the area, but referee Shaun Hudson wasn’t interested.
Some intricate play on the edge of the area after half an hour saw young midfielder Hardy presented with a chance but his left-footed strike only found the side-netting, much like Joe Colbeck’s header straight afterwards at the other end.
Moments later and Harrogate had their best opportunity of the match so far when Tom Platt met Colbeck’s cross with an acrobatic overhead kick but his shot sailed just wide of the far post.
The deadlock was broken in the 39th minute and was a deserved opener for the hosts. Charles delivered a low cross into the Town area that broke to striker Rowe and he made space before firing low into the bottom corner via the post.
Lloyd Kerry had a late effort for Town, bending a strike just over the bar as the teams headed in for the break.
Harrogate had a wonderful chance to level the scores just three minutes after the interval, when Jack Emmett saw his powerful strike blocked on the line.
Dion Charles raced away from the visitors’ backline seconds later but was thwarted by the sprawling Peter Crook.
Matty Hughes was agonisingly close to adding his name to the scoresheet but his cross-shot flashed wide of the far post.
Danger man Rowe could have put Fylde further ahead just before the hour mark if he had managed to get a real connection on Hughes’ corner. Instead the ball drifted harmlessly out for a throw.
Visiting frontman Kerry found himself clean through on goal a minute later but goalkeeper Urwin was equal to his low shot.
Luke Shiels also had an attempt on the Fylde goal but his header was well over the bar.
There was a moment of panic for Harrogate when Charles drove into the box from the right but no-one in a white shirt could turn the ball home in a frantic scramble.
Harrogate survived another scare with 15 minutes to go, when the ball dropped to Hughes six yards out but his instinctive strike was pounced on by Crook.
However, Town’s luck ran out on 78 minutes, when Fylde doubled their advantage.
Hardy picked up the ball and wrong footed the goalkeeper with a shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
Towering midfielder Dixon tried an ambitious effort as the game drew to a close but the ball ended up in the car park from 30 yards.
Harrogate grabbed a late consolation in the dying seconds, when Burrell slotted past Urwin from 10 yards, but the Coasters held on to see out the match.
The win moved Fylde a point clear of North Ferriby, who lost 3-2 at Gloucester City, though the Humberside club can reclaim second spot if they avoid defeat in their game in hand at Lowestoft tomorrow.
The battle for second will be resolved on Saturday, when Fylde visit Worcester and North Ferriby entertain Alfreton.
Defeat means Harrogate are not yet sure of their play-off place and must fight it out with Boston and Nuneaton for the final two spots.
Fylde manager Dave Challinor was pleased with his side’s response to the defeat at Tamworth.
Challinor said: “That was an important game for us to right the wrongs of last week. You just hope that what you’ve said has hit home and the lads will go out and show what we’re about. That was much better.
“I don’t like getting beat but I can accept it if the performance is right but last week was unacceptable.
“This was an opportunity to put that right. It wasn’t the best game and we made it really difficult.
“The pitch was very dry and sticky, and it wasn’t the most open game but both sides that have a lot to play for and that showed.
“First half, against the wind, we looked pretty comfortable. We just wanted a little bit more and to get on the front foot. I thought we did that and thoroughly deserved to win.”
Fylde and Harrogate could meet again in the play-off semi-finals and Challinor added a word of warning.
“The only disappointment is that we conceded at the end, which was just sloppy. Going into a two-legged play-off tie, you’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen and you’re switched on until the end.
“A two-goal lead could be quite difficult to drag back but all of a sudden there’s only one goal in it. But it was great to show what we’re about. We’ll take whoever we get in the play-offs.”
AFC Fylde: Urwin, C. Hughes, Hannigan, Barnes, Crainey, Baker, Dixon, Hardy (Dudley 86), Charles (Lloyd 70), M. Hughes, Rowe (Blinkhorn 82).
Harrogate: Crook, Fallowfield (Thewlis 49), Swain (Warren 57), Platt, Shiels, McGurk, Colbeck, Burrell, Clayton (Gascoigne 75), Kerry, Emmett.