AFC Fylde book place in play-off final
AFC Fylde booked their place in Saturday's National League North play-off final after this 1-1 draw in the last game at Kellamergh Park was enough for a 2-1 aggregate win.
League runners-up North Ferriby United overcame a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the other semi 3-2, meaning the Coasters must travel to Humberside for the final.
Sam Finley opened the scoring with a screamer after just 11 minutes before Dominic Knowles equalised five minutes later with a simple tap in.
However a defensive masterclass in the second half ensured Fylde progressed with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Manager Dave Challinor named the same side that took a narrow one-goal advantage away from the CNG Stadium in the first leg on Wednesday night.
There were fewer than five minutes on the clock when top scorer Danny Rowe, who was presented with the Player of the Year trophy ahead of kick off, first tried his luck but he was narrowly over with a thunderous free-kick from 25 yards.
The Coasters’ front man was looking dangerous from the off and jinked his way into some space on the edge of the area, but his final strike was comfortable for goalkeeper Peter Crook.
The deadlock was broken shortly after the 10-minute mark and it was simply brilliant. Matty Hughes delivered a ball across the edge of the Harrogate area that was missed by Rowe; however the onrushing Finley caught the ball perfectly and the strike flew into the top right-hand corner.
Just a few short minutes later and the scores were level. Jack Emmett delivered an inviting cross from the right and Knowles was on hand to tap home at the back post.
The visitors came close to scoring again when Luke Shiels caught Matt Urwin off his line with an acrobatic volley but Tom Hannigan was back to save the day and head clear.
A clever free-kick 25 yards out saw Brendan Daniels play in Lloyd Kerry but his shot only found the side netting. Harrogate were starting to turn the screw and Kerry should have done better with a close range header after he had been well found by Joe Colbeck.
The Coasters were dealt a blow 10 minutes before the break when Caspar Hughes limped off to be replaced by winger Dion Charles. Finley looked to double his tally for the afternoon when his latched onto Stephen Crainey’s blocked shot, but his effort was comfortable for the keeper.
Urwin came into action with a cracking save on 41 minutes to deny Warren Burrell after he had connected well with Colbeck’s first time cross from the right. Tom Platt launched an ambitious drive from 30 yards as the half drew to a close but the ball was well clear of Urwin’s left-hand post.
Visiting winger Daniels fashioned the first opportunity of the second half when he fired a dipping free-kick at the Fylde goal that Urwin did well to turn over the top.
Fylde, who had been quiet for a spell, were presented with a decent chance of their own but substitute Bohan Dixon lashed over from 12 yards from Richie Baker’s corner.
There was very little in the match as the clock ticked past the hour mark, Burrell’s ambitious curling effort from distance not testing Urwin in the Coasters goal.
The hosts were then given a glorious chance to seal the tie when Dixon was brought down in the area, but Crook pulled off a fantastic save to deny Rowe from the spot, diving low to his right.
Rowe had a chance of redemption less than 10 minutes from the end when substitute Danny Lloyd tricked his way into the box, but he blasted over from 15 yards.
Dixon was proving a handful for the Harrogate backline and he lifted the ball over a stranded Crook with a deft touch, but it drifted agonisingly wide of the far post.
Harrogate continued to knock on the door during the four tense additional minutes at the end of the match, with Clayton almost connecting with a Colbeck cross, but the Coasters held on for a famous result.
Fylde boss Dave Challinor said: “It was a very intense game and there wasn’t a massive amount of quality on show. Except for our goal which was incredible. Sam’s hit it perfectly and hopefully he has another in his locker for newxt weekend.
“It was always going to be a nervy game with so much to play for and they probably edged the first half. We let them back into the game straight after we scored and then we started to get a bit frustrated.
Half time came at a good time for us because we just needed to calm people down a little. We dealt with them much better after the break and defensively we were outstanding.
“The momentum could have swung their way after the penalty miss but we coped well.
“We have got ourselves into the final now and it’s a one-off game that hopefully we can get the right result from. It was our objective at the start of the season and we are very close to it now.
“Ferriby turning it around in their semi doesn’t surprise me. If they got the first goal then they were right back in the game and that’s exactly what they did.
“They have beaten us twice this season so I suppose they will go into the game as favourites and full of confidence but we are better than the two results we have had against them. We respect what they do because they are very effective but we can give them something to worry about too.
AFC Fylde: Urwin, C. Hughes (Charles 35), Langley, Hannigan, Crainey, Barnes, Baker, Finley, M. Hughes (Lloyd 74), Hardy (Dixon 50), Rowe.
Harrogate: Crook, Platt, McWilliams, Burrell (Clayton 71), Ellis, Shiels, Colbeck, Kerry (Thirlwell 75), Emmett (Cadman 64), Knowles, Daniels.