Skelmersdale United 0, AFC Fylde 1
AN 89th minute winner from substitute Matt Walwyn earned Fylde a derby date in Chorley for Friday’s play-off final.
Yesterday’s Evo-Stik First Division North semi-final at Skelmersdale’s Stormy Corner looked set for extra-time until an excellent cross by fellow sub Andy Bell found unmarked striker Walwyn, who slotted the ball past keeper Tom Brocklehurst from ten yards.
It was the perfect end to a tight game for the Coasters, who had the edge throughout as the hosts struggled to raise themselves after failing to win automatic promotion last Friday, when they came so close to pipping Chester to the title with their 7-2 win over Ossett.
Even so, Fylde almost found themselves behind in the first minute, when a cross from striker Shaun Tuck sailed dangerously across the face of goal with nobody on hand to tap it in.
The visitors then had a good 20-minute spell in which four opportunities to take the lead went begging.
After just four minutes, Matt Mahoney got a toe on the end of a loose ball into the United box only for Brocklehurst to tip his shot round the post.
On 11 minutes, Matty Kay’s shot flew over the bar and two minutes later the ball struck the crossbar after a penalty box scramble.
And when Fylde won a free-kick just inside their opponents’ half six minutes later, Glenn Steel headed over from a fine delivery by Phil Doughty.
As the tension rose, United finished the half the stronger, with shots for Tuck in the 28th and 42nd minutes. In between those, Fylde’s Paul Jarvis could only shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
Neither keeper was seriously tested in a tight second half, and Fylde manager Kelham O’Hanlon introduced Walwyn for the final 15 minutes to boost his firepower.
But it was United who had the next chance to break the deadlock on 78 minutes, when defender Ken Strickland steered a free-kick wide, then a long throw caused headaches for the Fylde defence until the ball was thankfully cleared.
United’s top scorer Chris Almond almost gave the home side the lead with four minutes remaining but saw his looping header go inches wide of Lewis Edge’s goal.
A minute later, Walwyn had a chance in another goalmouth scramble but the home defence stood firm.
Then Walwyn capitalised on some superb build-up play from Fylde, though there were still nervous moments to come.
Edge pulled off an amazing save when Paul Byrne shot from the edge of area as the game entered stoppage time.
O’Hanlon was delighted with the win. He said: “It was an excellent performance and an excellent result for us. I was delighted to be 0-0 at half-time because these games are tense affairs as everything’s at stake and there are no second chances.”
Their quest for a premier division spot now comes down to one match in Chorley, who defeated Curzon 2-1 in the other semi, kicking-off at 7.45pm on Friday.
AFC Fylde: Edge, Stringfellow, Elderton, Doughty (Walwyn 75), Steel, Mercer (C) (Lawler 72), Kay, M. Mahoney, Townson (Bell 86), Jarvis, Barnes; Subs not used: D. Mahoney, Stevenson.