AFC Fylde crowned champions with 3-0 win at Boston United: Match report and reaction
Champions AFC Fylde sealed the National League North title in style with an emphatic 3-0 victory at Boston United.
It was fitting that the the league’s record-breaking top scorer Danny netted two of the goals as the Coasters clinched promotion to the top tier of non-league football for the first time in their history.
Substitute Matty Hughes applied icing to the cake with the third goal before the final whistle brought wild celebrations from the Fylde players and supporters.
Title rivals Kidderminster had reduced Fylde’s lead to four points on Easter Monday, meaning one victory from the final two matches would secure the crown for the Coasters.
The pressure is now off for Saturday’s Mill Farm clash with Worcester City, when the Coasters will enjoy their trophy celebrations, though the visitors need a result to have any chance of avoiding relegation.
Fylde manager Dave Challinor adopted a new approach for the Boston game, starting with two strikers for the first time all season.
Matt Blinkhorn partnered the prolific Rowe up front, while Brendon Daniels returned out wide in an attacking formation.
Rowe had the first clea- cut opportunity of the match after Blinkhorn was felled 25 yards from goal, but his curling free-kick could only find the side-netting.
Boston forward Nat Brown tested Rhys Taylor in the Fylde goal with a low strike shortly afterwards in a lively opening to proceedings.
After a stop-start spell, Rowe latched on to a throw-in but couldn’t get a decent connection on his shot, which was comfortably saved by Pilgrims stopper Ross Durrant.
Dan Bradley glanced a header narrowly wide on the 20-minute mark from Tom Kennedy’s telling cross as the visitors began to turn up the pressure.
The Coasters were dealt a blow on the half-hour, when Bradley was forced off with an injury. Bohan Dixon was the man to replace him.
Neither side had developed a real rhythm to their play, and although Durrant flapped at a couple of corners 10 minutes before the interval, Fylde were struggling to make a breakthrough.
However, the game sparked to life when Fylde were awarded a penalty four minutes before the break.
Daniels did fantastically well to beat Kalern Thomas in the area before being hauled down.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and marksman Rowe slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Fylde started the second half brightly and Daniels flashed a vicious strike agonisingly wide of the far post from Rowe’s lay-off on the edge of the area.
The Boston threat was limited to long balls into the box, which in the main which were dealt with well by the Coasters backline.
The decisive second goal duly arrived on the hour mark and it was a record breaker for the visitors.
Matty Hughes, introduced just seconds earlier as a substitute, lifted a delightful ball over the top to Rowe, who took a touch before firing past Durrant into the far corner.
The striker’s 46th league goal of the campaign was Fylde’s 104th, the highest total ever for National League North.
The game was put to bed 15 minutes from time, when Hughes himself got onto the scoresheet. Andy Bond’s cross from the left found Hughes in the centre and he swept the ball home at the first time of asking.
Jay Rollins really should have pulled one back for the hosts when he was picked out superbly by Liam Adams from the left but Boston’s leading goalscorer headed over from point-blank range.
Rowe fizzed one over as the Coasters saw out the final minutes with ease.
As it transpired, a draw would have been enough to secure the title as Kidderminster could only manage a share of the spoils at Gainsborought Trinity, but Fylde completed the job in style and can look forward to a day of celebration on Saturday.
Fylde boss Dave Challinor said after the final whistle: “It’s difficult to sum up my thoughts at the moment. It’s all very, very emotional.
“To get over the line and win in the manner that did, and to be crowned league champions with a game to spare is fantastic.
“ It will take some time for what we have achieved here today to sink in.
“I’m really looking forward to next weekend, when we can celebrate at home and get that trophy in front of our fans.”
DANIEL AGNEW AND CHRISTOPHER COUGHLIN
AFC Fylde: Taylor, C. Hughes (Baker 81), Langley, Collins, Kennedy, Bradley (Dixon 31), Bond, Morgan, Daniels (M. Hughes 59), Blinkhorn, Rowe; not used: Thompson, K Kennedy.
Boston: Durrant, Thomas, Yeomans, Hilliard (Hawley 69), Batchelor, Brown, Chapman, Briscoe (Briscoe 67), Rollins, Dieseruvwe (Bishop 79), Broadhead; not used: Vince, Gatter.
Attendance: 1,255 (128 away); Ref: Richard Maxwell