Reebok final beckons

Andy Bell
Andy Bell
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AFC Fylde 2, Chorley 0

REEBOK here we come. That’s the message from AFC Fylde as they beat Chorley in the semi-final of the LFA Co-operative Challenge in Leyland to win through to the final at the home of Bolton Wanderers.

Fylde went into the game without injured top scorer Kevin Townson but Andy Bell was handed a starting place and scored both Fylde goals.

The former Fleetwood Town hitman, who has endured a frustrating start to his Fylde career with a glut of injuries, was the Coasters’ hero with a goal in each half.

After a tense opening against their Evo-Stik First Division North promotion rivals, Fylde got into their stride and came close on 20 minutes when Bell attacked a cross whipped in by Michael Barnes at the near post but was challenged from Chorley keeper Aaron Grundy and the ball rolled safe.

Forward Shelton Payne was Chorley’s dangerman but his wayward shooting proved costly.

Fylde were looking to hit the Magpies on the break and did so to great effect on 29 minutes.

It was a slick move started by midfielder Matt Mahoney, whose delightful crossfield ball from right to left found Barnes. He sped up the touchline and fired in a dangerous ball for Bell, who planted his header in at the far post.

Further chances fell to Fylde’s dangerman Barnes, who fired a shot on the run inches wide of the far post.

Chorley made keeper Dave Stevenson work hard late in the first half, twice tipping over the bar from striker Mark Houghton.

The first of these was a shot on the turn minutes before the break, then Houghton found himself free in the box only to see his shot pushed away by the Fylde keeper.

Fylde started the second half on the front foot as speed merchant Barnes twice went close early on.

First he left his marker for dead but Grundy got the better of his shot across goal, then minutes later he played in Joe Booth but the midfield man failed to connect yards from goal. Barnes had another great opportunity but dwelled too long on the ball at close range and his shot was blocked for a corner.

Booth had a 20-yard curling drive pushed away but on 65 minutes it was in- form striker Bell who got the vital second goal for the Coasters which eased the pressure.

The in-form hitman swept the ball home after a great through ball from Barnes found the striker one on one with the Chorley keeper and his clinical finish made it 2-0.

Chorley did put Fylde under a long spell of pressure for the final 20 minutes, with the impressive Tom Ince, sub Jordan Stepien and fellow sub Jack Dorney all going close, but Fylde’s defence held firm despite a second-half injury to influential skipper Mercer.

The final whistle was another great moment to savour for a healthy contingent of Fylde fans in a bumper crowd and they can look forward to the final on March 14 against local rivals Bamber Bridge.

Fylde boss Kelham O’Hanlon said: “It was a great win and to be in a cup final is fantastic for everyone connected with the club.

“We now all must look at the next league game on Saturday against Salford City because the league is where it really matters for us.”

Fylde: Stevenson, Lawlor, Hills, Mercer (Monckton), Stringfellow, Kay, Booth (Nolan), Mahoney, Cahill, Bell, Barnes Subs not used: Walwyn, Edge, Elderton