AFC Fylde won through to their third Lancashire FA Trophy final in four years after a tough semi-final victory, beating Bamber Bridge 2-0.
Matt Blinkhorn’s first goal in nine games was the difference between the sides in the first half before the Coasters soaked up a final 30 minutes of pressure from their opponents and made the game safe with a Joe Booth spot-kick in the final minute.
Having not played for over a week, Brig were the brighter team through most of the match as Fylde still seemed to be recovering from a difficult league match at Ashton United 48 hours earlier.
Fylde boss Dave Challinor was pleased his side gained the win but wasn’t happy with his side’s overall performance: He said: “Credit to Bamber Bridge as they played really well but I thought we were awful to be fair.
“At the end of the day we won but it was far from a good performance.”
Former Fylde defender Matt Lawler sent a wild shot over the bar before fellow defender, Paul Alexander, headed wide from a corner two minutes later early on.
But after Ben Hinchliffe nearly got the better of his opposite number Lee Dovey with a 75-yard clearance that almost bounced over the Brig keeper he was on hand to pull off a fine save from Alistair Waddecar’s point-blank shot just six yards out.
It wasn’t until the half- hour mark when Fylde’s first clear chance came. Danny Lloyd played a short corner to Sean Cooke and when he got it back he cut inside and saw his 20-yard lob tipped just over.
And from the resulting corner, the ball was swung in from the left by Cooke and Blinkhorn was first to the ball to blast it into the top corner for a 1-0 lead.
The second half saw Fylde start brightly against the wind and should have extended their lead with a hat-trick of chances for Lloyd.
First he shot high from 25 yards before seeing a second attempt saved by Dovey four minutes later. And then Michael Barnes played an expert square ball into the 18-yard box to find him rushing in but shoot just wide of the post.
Hinchliffe showed once again why he was a good candidate for man-of-the-match as he kept his side in the lead with another fine stop on 66 minutes – another point-blank effort was turned away, this time from Tom Williams.
Despite intense pressure from the Evo-Stik Division One North Play-off hopefuls, it was still Fylde who created the better chance late on when Blinkhorn made his way into the box, beat his marker but shot straight at Dovey from a tight angle.
And, probably against the run of play, the match was decided when Lloyd was taken down just inside the box and Joe Booth was able to step up and send Dovey the wrong way for an unassailable 2-0 lead.
So Fylde go through to meet Evo-Stik Premier Division leaders Chorley in the final on Monday, March 17 at the Reebok Stadium for what promises to be a thrilling cup final. Kick-off will be 7.45pm.