Play-offs in a Blink
Skelmersdsale 0, AFC Fylde 5
Matt Blinkhorn scored a 14-minute hat-trick as Fylde returned to winning ways in style, but they must settle for a place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier promotion play-offs for a second successive season.
The Coasters had gone 23 games unbeaten before Saturday’s home defeat by Grantham, but it wasn’t enough to propel them to the top – leaders Chorley’s 4-0 win over Marine yesterday meant they remain four points clear of Fylde with only one game to play.
FC United of Manchester could still deny Chorley the title and automatic promotion, while Fylde will be looking for at least a point at home to Kings Lynn Town on Saturday to guarantee a top-three finish and a home semi-final.
Richie Allen scored the other two goals for a Fylde side whose sublime first-half performance left them four goals to the good at the break.
It took just eight minutes for Fylde to open the scoring against a very poor Merseyside club.
Danny Lloyd was the catalyst, driving down the wing and crossing for Allen to tap in from close range.
From that point it was the Blinkhorn show as the in-form striker scored his first on 21 minutes, connecting with a loose ball in the box.
Blinkhorn had to wait just two minutes for his second, heading powerfully past despairing keeper Zac Hibbert from a corner from the left.
The man of the match sealed his hat-trick with a tap-in from inside the penalty are as Fylde capitalised on more woeful defending.
The hosts’ goal attempts never really troubled Coasters keeper Ben Hinchliffe and the only addition to the score in the second half was Allen’s 73rd-minute penalty.
Sean Cooke was brought down after a mazy run and Allen sent Hibbert the wrong way to complete a miserable end to the season for a Skem team that had looked like promotion candidates themselves just two months ago.
Manager Dave Challinor said of hat-trick hero Blinkhorn: “Blinks has done really well and he deserved his goals today. His general play all season has been very good and it’s paying off now with the goals he’s scored of late.
“On paper this was a difficult game but we started really well and scored goals early, which killed the game, though it was important not to become complacent in the second half.”
Worksop Town are Fylde’s likeliest play-off opponents but first Challinor’s side must face Kings Lynn.
The manager added: “All we can do is win on Saturday and see what happens.
“We would be quite happy to finish third if that is how it works out.
“Hopefully the lads who picked up a knock today will be fine for Saturday, but if not I’m not afraid of going with the likes of Joe Mullen or Jake Gregory.”