Worcester City 2 AFC Fylde 2: Full report and reaction

Danny Rowe is congratulated by Matty Hughes  Picture: STEVE MCLELLAN
Danny Rowe is congratulated by Matty Hughes Picture: STEVE MCLELLAN
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AFC Fylde will take on Harrogate Town in the play-off semi-finals after this draw at Worcester consigned them to third place in Vanarama National North.

With North Ferriby losing at home to Alfreton Town, Fylde looked set to overhaul them for second place until Lee Hughes equalised from the penalty spot for Worcester with eight minutes remaining.

A first-half double from Coasters top scorer Danny Rowe looked to have handed the visitors all three points.

Indeed, Fylde could have been well out of sight after a dazzling first-half display but a second-half comeback courtesy of Danny Nti and Hughes pegged them back.

Manager Dave Challinor named a full-strength side for the trip to the Aggborough Stadium as the Coasters looked to finish the regular season with back-to-back wins after the previous weekend’s success over the Harrogate side they meet again in the semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

Fylde sprang into life in their dazzling orange shirts as Caspar Hughes broke down the right and fizzed a telling cross into the Worcester six-yard box, but Matty Hughes couldn’t quite adjust to turn home.

Less than five minutes in and the visitors should have been ahead when Rowe smashed over from Sam Finley’s right-wing cross. The Coasters were in the mood and soon after Hughes fired over when well placed in the box.

Richie Baker went closer still when he latched on to a Rowe flick on the edge of the area, but his low drilled strike was narrowly wide of the left post. Rowe himself flashed one wide moments later as Fylde looked for an opener.

Worcester looked to fashion an opportunity of their own when a ball over the top reached Alun Webb, but his first time effort 10 yards out was tame. Dion Burton, who was playing in his final match of an illustrious career, tested Matt Urwin with a stringing drive on 20 minutes but there was no way through.

Defender Tyler Weir attempted an audacious lob from 40 yards that Urwin had to tip over the bar. The first goal duly arrived on the half-hour mark when Rowe burst forward from the half-way line and tucked the ball past Ethan Ross in the Worcester goal.

The lead was doubled moments later and it was that man again. Hardy raced down the right and into the box before squaring for Rowe who fired home with aplomb.

The frontman should have sealed his hat-trick before the break but flicked his strike agonisingly wide of the near post from Hughes’ cross.

Worcester striker Danny Nti was the first to try his luck after the interval, but his effort from distance looped up and into the grateful arms of Urwin. Full-back Sam Minihan, who scored a belter at Kellamergh Park in the reverse fixture, looked to reduce the arears but his long-range shot was just over the bar.

The visitors almost made it three on the hour-mark, but Ross pulled off a sensational fingertip save to deny Finley. The Worcester stopper was called into action seconds later to thwart Richie Baker and Finley was well over with the follow-up.

The visitors continued to pile on the pressure and substitute Danny Lloyd should really have put the game to bed when he was picked out by Hardy in the box, but another top save from Ross kept the hosts in the game.

The advantage was halved on 68 minutes when Jordan Murphy’s right-wing cross was turned home at close range by Nti. Hardy had been a constant thorn in the side of the hosts and almost rounded off a fine performance with a goal, but his strike at the near post from Hughes’ cross found the side-netting.

The game took an unexpected turn in the hosts’ favour when Caspar Hughes tugged back Hughes in the area and referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. The 39-year-old dusted himself off and smashed home the spot-kick to level the scores.

Winger Lloyd was presented with a great chance to put the Coasters back into the lead but he smashed his left-footed drive the wrong side of the near post from the angle.

Substitute Hughes could have nicked it at the end for the hosts but Urwin reacting quickly to prevent the frontman from touching the ball over the line.

Harrogate sealed fourth place with a 5-0 win over bottom club Corby, while Boston won at Stalybridge Celtic by the same scoreline to pip Nuneaton to the final play-off spot and earn a two-legged tie with North Ferriby. After Wednesday’s first leg in West Yorkshire, the Fylde v Harrogate tie will be decided at Kellamergh Park on Sunday.

Manager Dave Challinor said that missing out on second spot could have a silver lining for Fylde.

The Coasters boss said: “It would have been nice to finish second but it is what it is.

“We play Harrogate now and perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise as we don’t have the long midweek trip to Boston.

“I don’t think it would have made a great deal of difference who we played, the play-offs are unique games and we are very much looking forward to them.

“We need to make sure we maintain our performance right to the very end of games and ultimately try to get through to the final.”

As for the draw at Worcester, he added: If you don’t take chances then you don’t win games. We could have scored six goals in the opening 15 minutes.

“We went into the break two up and we were well on top and we challenged the lads at half-time to go and finish the game off.

“We had a glorious chance where Lloydy has almost an open net that is kept out and within 90 seconds the ball is in our own net.

“That then gave Worcester an opportunity from nothing to get something from the game. Then as has been the case on too many occasions this season, one of our players has made a poor decision.

“On this occasion it was Caspar to give away the penalty and Worcester end up with a point from nowhere.”

DANIEL AGNEW

AFC Fylde: Urwin, C. Hughes, Hannigan, Langley, Crainey, Barnes, Baker, Finley (Lloyd 62), M. Hughes, Hardy, Rowe (Blinkhorn 59).