AFC Fylde 1 Bradford Park Avenue 1: Match report and reaction

Matty Blinkhorn celebrates Fylde's equaliser
Matty Blinkhorn celebrates Fylde's equaliser

Substitute Matty Blinkhorn saved what could prove a crucial point for Fylde with his second 97th-minute equaliser in a month.

However, the Coasters’ promotion party must wait until Saturday at the earliest as Kidderminster’s 4-1 win at relegated bottom club Altrincham cut their lead at the top of Vanarama National North to four points.

Danny Boshell gave Park Avenue a surprise first-half lead in a feisty encounter at Mill Farm but Blinkhorn’s late show means that victory in either of Fylde’s remaining games will guarantee the title.

Manager Dave Challinor named the same starting line-up for the third game running but it was Bradford who should have opened the scoring after creating two gilt-edged chances inside the opening 10 minutes.

Oli Johnson broke into the box and put the ball on a plate for Nicky Wroe, but Tom Kennedy was back in the nick of time to clear off the line superbly.

The loose ball fell to Bushell but his strike was deflected away, this time by the head of Bohan Dixon.

Danny Rowe looked to add to his new league goalscoring record a moment later, when Dan Bradley’s cross fell kindly at his feet inside the area, but after shifting the ball on to his left foot the striker fired narrowly wide under pressure from Ryan Toulson.

Avenue had the ball in the net shortly before the 20-minute mark, when Johnson’s hopeful effort from the edge of the box was swept home by Matt Hill, but the assistant’s flag was raised.

That flag stayed down a minute later, when Andy Bond was cutely played in one-on-one with Jon Worsnop, but the goalkeeper came out on top with a fantastic reaction save.

The opportunities continued to flow for the hosts and another fine save prevented Sam Finley from sliding the ball home from just inside the area, then Dixon’s strike whistled inches over from 25 yards.

Bradley wasted another golden chance 10 minutes before the break, when he fired over with a wild attempt after being expertly picked out at the back post by Finley.

Fylde keeper Rhys Taylor had to be on his toes on the stroke of half-time, racing out to smother the shot when Johnson was sent clean through.

However, seconds later the visitors broke the deadlock. Taylor made a decent save from Chris Sharp at the near post but Boshell was on hand to slot the ball into the open goal.

The Coasters began the second half in a positive manner but Rowe’s shot from distance was comfortably saved by Worsnop .

Bradford still looked dangerous on the break and Taylor had to get down low to his right to keep out Gavin Rothery’s precise effort.

Fylde clearly hadn’t given up, though, and Bradley lashed a vicious drive narrowly wide on the hour.

The game was still end to end and Josh Langley had to sprint back to clear the ball off the line after Sharp had poked a strike towards goal.

Challinor’s side continued to press for a leveller and Rowe glanced a header narrowly wide from Bradley’s right-wing cross as the clock ticked down.

The introduction of winger Brendon Daniels added some quality delivery from the left and another killer ball somehow evaded everyone in the area 10 minutes from time.

Bradford were reduced to 10 men with five minutes to play after Jake Hibbs received his second yellow card in as many minutes for a lunge on Kennedy.

And then, deep into the nine minutes of added time, there was to be late redemption for the Coasters. Bond whipped in a sublime cross from the left and Blinkhorn rose highest to nod into the bottom right corner and send Mill Farm into raptures.

Challinor bemoaned a missed opportunity as his Fylde team left themselves work to do to clinch the title.

The Coasters manager said: “There’s a feeling of disappointment in the dressing room, which there should be.

“We’ve passed up the opportunity with our performance in the first half.

“We’re fortunate enough that we’ve got ourselves into a position where we have another chance and all of our focus will be on making sure that we take that chance. I suppose it’s a consolation that we know we have another chance at winning the league.

“I suppose this will hurt for a day or so but in the first half we weren’t good enough. If you come in at 0-0, potentially you can sort things out because playing like we did in the second half we’d have won the game through our tempo.

“As a group, we could have affected that game more. I’ve been in ground where people have become league champions and have a perspective that we should just go and put in a performance. You could sense there was an air of ‘turn up and we win’. I knew that would be far from the case.

“Bradford have an experienced team. They’re good footballers. To play on a surface like that, they love it.

“We had to play at a tempo to make sure they felt it towards the end of the game but we didn’t. Sometimes the harder you try, the worse it gets.”

DANIEL AGNEW AND CHRISTOPHER COUGHLIN

AFC Fylde: Taylor, C. Hughes (Blinkhorn 78), Langley, Collins (Daniels 59), Kennedy, Bond, Morgan, Finley, Bradley, Dixon (M. Hughes 46), Rowe; Not used: Baker, Kennedy.

Bradford PA: Worsnop, Toulson, Hill, Wroe, Killock, Knowles (Chippendale 82), Hibbs, Bushell, Sharp, Johnson (Nowakowski 66), Rothery; not used: Payne, Hall, Spencer.

Att: 2,326, Ref: Darren Strain