‘Hinch’ perfect for Fylde

Hinchliffe - in goal for Coasters at Plymouth
Hinchliffe - in goal for Coasters at Plymouth
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AFC goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe starts work at 4am driving an HGV and making deliveries.

But it is for a delivery of an entirely different sort that he is best remembered by Coasters’ fans.

It was his penalty that earned him a permanent place in AFC Fylde folklore - his unlikely spot kick secured promotion for the club to Vanarma Conference North at the end of last season in a dramatic play-off decider against Ashton United.

Hinchliffe had been a hero already with the supporters, regular topping player-of-the-year awards, and now he is preparing for arguably the biggest match of his and his team-mates’ lives, a clash with Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on Saturday in the first round of the FA Cup.

And Hinchliffe insists that the Coasters are not just making the trip to the deepest west country for the day-out.

He said: “We are going there to win.

“The lads believe we can do that and if we don’t win then we will try and bring them back to our place.

“We have lads at Fylde who could comfortably be good enough to play in the Conference and tomorrow is an ideal opportunity to test ourselves against a team from a higher level.”

Hinchliffe made it to Kellamergh Park on somewhat circuitous route, which at one time saw him playing full-time at Preston North End and then Derby County when ex-Deepdale boss Billy Davies was so impressed with him that he took him to Pride Park.

The Coasters’ keeper did not make first team appearance for either North End or the Rams, but had league experience while on loan at Tranmere Rovers and played Conference football with Oxford United.

Hinchliffe has also seen service with Worcester City and Kendal Town before a return to his Lancashire roots with Bamber Bridge, a stint under former Blackpool striker Andy Preece at Northwich prior to his link-up with AFC Fylde, where it has been success and progression up the pyramid virtually all the way.

And he thinks the Coasters’ rise through the ranks is not over and that the club is well on the way to fulfilling their objective of league football by 2022.

The immediate priority though is Plymouth on Saturday, and atoning for the circumstances of the last - and only - time that Fylde got into the first round, only to perform below expectations and lose 4-1 at home to Accrington Stanley two seasons ago.

Hinchliffe, one of the few survivors from that afternoon, said: “It was disappointing and we didn’t do ourselves justice.

“There are probably only five or six of that team who are still here and now we have a lot stronger squad and better players.

“It hasn’t surprised us how well we have done this season in the league because we are a good team, and though our unbeaten run (14 matches) came to an end at Boston last Saturday, it had to finish at some point and now it is time to kick-start again.”

Hinchliffe is relishing the prospect of playing at a league ground. It is a massive boost for the fans and for the club.

“Plymouth got a crowd of 7,000 for their last home game, and even it is only 5,000 it will be an experience.”

And should a replay be required Hinchcliffe has no issues – thanks to his line of work.

He said:“I work as an HGV driver, starting work at 4am and finish at 2pm, so I am ok for night matches.”