AFC Fylde 3 Harrogate Town 1: Match report

Dan Bradley in action for Fylde. Photo credit: Steve Mclellan
Dan Bradley in action for Fylde. Photo credit: Steve Mclellan
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Dan Bradley's touch of last-gasp magic secured AFC Fylde's spot in the semi-finals of the National League play-offs but that far from tells the story of an all-action advert for non-league football at Mill Farm.

Bradley's goal might have clinched the tie but it was goalkeeper Jay Lynch who should bask in the plaudits.

Harshly ruled to have felled Jordan Thewlis, he dusted himself down to bat away a spot-kick with the Coasters coasting at 2-0 up just before the break.

Even so, Harrogate were not going out without a battle and nerves seemed to hit Fylde in that second 45 as the Yorkshire side pulled one back.

Alex Reid did his best to put the game to bed but it was to be Bradley who stopped Harrogate's hopes of a late leveller with a fine third goal.

But you could not help but feel that it could have been a a lot easier for Fylde after they raced to a two- goal lead inside 15 minutes.

Fylde were nearly the architects of their own downfall just minutes in. Ryan Croasdale's attempted clearance fizzed towards his own net but Lynch was alert to bat the ball out for a corner.

And Dave Challinor's men soon took the lead through a well- worked set-piece on nine minutes

Top scorer Danny Rowe was the man on the ball and at first it looked like he had over-hit the set-piece. His curling effort flew high and swirled towards the back post, where Jordan Tunnicliffe back-pedalled to nod the ball back into the mix and Croasdale was alert to pounce.

The perfect start for Challinor's men and it would get better. Not satisfied with the National League golden boot, Rowe's effort from distance was too hot for James Belshaw to handle as he batted it away.

The shot did not just sting the keeper's palms it knocked him off his feet, with Bond following in to mop up the rebound and make it 2-0 on 15 minutes

Rowe was a hero up the other end as he cleared Callum Howe's effort off the line but Fylde woke up again and looked to put the game to bed.

Nick Haughton should have made it three as he nodded just wide and Belshaw had to produce a fine fingertip stop to push Bradley's low strike just around the post.

A 2-0 lead is labelled one of the most dangerous and Fylde nearly found out why just before the break. Tunnicliffe was outfoxed by the bounce of the ball and Thewlis nipped in.

He went to ground as Lynch tried to come to Fylde's rescue, and referee Peter Gibbons pointed to the spot and showed the keeper a yellow card.

Lynch dusted himself down and was Fylde's hero as he batted former Coasters forward Jack Muldoon's effort away to preserve the two-goal lead at the break.

But the visitors struck eight minutes into the second half. A free-kick caused chaos in the Fylde box, with debate raging as to whether it was Thewlis or Coasters man Luke Burke who got the final touch.

It was deserved goal for Harrogate, though, and they kept pressing for a leveller as panic set in for Fylde

The Coasters should have restored that two-goal cushion through substitute Alex Reid. Burke had whipped the ball into the mix but the striker's effort was kept out by Belshaw.

The Harrogate shot-stopper pulled off another fine stop to tip Reid's strike away after the forward steamed through on goal.

It was not to be Reid's night as he once again found a gap in Harrogate's defence but after finally beating Belshaw the post had other ideas. His venomous strike cannoned back off the left post and sailed to safety.

Fylde piled the pressure on to try to kill off Harrogate. They finally got that third goal just seconds after four minutes of stoppage time were announced.

Bradley fizzed the ball home in some style to seal Fylde's semi-final spot.

Fylde got the result but if they are to reach the Football League lessons have to be learned.

The Coasters nearly paid the price for sitting back and will need to be more clinical.

However, the way they ended the game showed they have the fight and spirit to roar on.

I would not bet against this team going all the way.