Bamber Bridge 0, AFC Fylde 1
AFC Fylde were the pride of Lancashire last night after winning the Lancashire FA Co-operative Challenge Trophy at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium.
The Coasters won the competition for the first time in their history courtesy of Joe Booth’s spectacular goal after 43 minutes, though Kelham O’Hanlon’s side had enough chances in the first half to have seen off their Evo-Stik First Division North rivals by half-time.
After 15 nervy opening minutes, Fylde began to take control and dominated possession.
Striker Tom Cahill threaded a neat pass through to Matt Mahoney on 27 minutes, but the midfielder’s attempt on goal against his old club was deflected for a corner.
The lively Michael Barnes followed a fine run down the left with a neat through-ball to Cahill but alert Brig keeper Ben Hinchliffe saved his stinging shot from close range.
Fylde’s incisive play should have been rewarded on 36 minutes, when workhorse Cahill picked up a loose ball just outside the box and set up another shooting chance for Mahoney, who blazed over the crossbar.
Brig did the league double over AFC last month but their only real chance of the first half was a shot by Chris Marlow, which bounced inches wide from Neil Black’s flick-on after 39 minutes.
Fylde enjoyed long spells of possession, with their superb travelling support in the crowd of 1,089 willing them to make a breakthrough.
A glorious chance went begging in the 42nd minute, when Kevin Townson put strike partner Cahill through on the keeper. He rounded Hinchliffe but shot agonisingly wide of an open goal.
But the Coasters got the goal they deserved a minute later, when Joe Booth curled a 25-yard free-kick over a full-stretch Hinchcliffe from the left side.
Coasters keeper Dave Stevenson didn’t have a shot to save in the first half, and although former Fleetwood boss Tony Greenwood’s Brig side did improve after the break the Fylde attack continued to test them.
Barnes cut in from the right and shot narrowly wide on 48 minutes, then skipper Ricky Mercer saw his header deflected wide from a Townson corner a minute later.
Brig then had a good chance of their own when tricky winger Alistair Waddecar crossed dangerously. However, Matt Lawlor got a crucial touch on the ball for Fylde and it eluded the lurking Marlow at the back post.
Fylde almost added a conclusive second goal on 70 minutes, when Barnes sprinted clear of the Brig defence only for Hinchliffe to win their one-on-one duel. Brig resorted to long balls and pushed defenders forward, while at the other end substitute Matt Walwyn cut in from the right and fired a fizzing shot just wide.
Alistair Waddecar was Brig’s biggest threat and went closest to an equaliser on 75 minutes when his drive was tipped over spectacularly by Stevenson following a great through ball by Sean Williams.
Fylde supporters endured some nervous moments as Brig won a series of corners, swung in full-back Martin Crowder and aimed at Michael White and Phil Denney, the latter seeing a header deflected over on 87 minutes.
As the seconds ticked away, Fylde were denied a second when Hinchliffe saved from Walwyn with his feet following a superb gliding run by man of the match Barnes.
A delighted O’Hanlon said: “That game should have been won by half-time with the chances we had.
“We controlled the game and had plenty of possession and chances to kill the game off, but Boothy’s free-kick was a worthy winning goal for a final.
“We owed them one, so it was good to beat them on this stage. Let’s hope this win can give the lads a boost to make sure we go on to secure the play-off place we all want.”
Fifth-placed Fylde will be looking to do just that at home to Warrington Town, who are immediately below them, at Kellamergh Park on Saturday.
AFC Fylde: Stevenson, Lawlor, Elderton, Doughty, Stringfellow, Mercer, Booth, M Mahoney, Cahill (Bell), Townson (Walwyn), Barnes; not used: Edge, Kusaloka and Hills.