Sheffield United 2 AFC Fylde 1: Jordan Williams strike brings thrilling finale to Coasters' greatest FA Cup adventure
AFC Fylde took Sheffield United all the way to the wire at Bramall Lane as Jordan Williams’ goal saw the Coasters’ first ever FA Cup third-round tie end 2-1 to the Blades.
Fylde’s only change to the side beaten by Barrow on New Year’s Day was the return of Nick Haughton in place of Lewis Montrose.
The Premier League side controlled the ball in the early exchanges and made the breakthrough just eight minutes in.
Republic of Ireland international Callum Robinson controlled a Luke Freeman cross superbly before firing past Sam Hornby in the Fylde goal.
The snapshot caught Hornby off-guard and crept in at his near post but the Coasters weren’t about to let the Blades run riot.
Fylde began to play some promising football after the setback, with Haughton at the heart of some quick counter-attacks.
The hosts did, however, come close to a second from a Kieron Freeman cross that inadvertently flew towards the goal, forcing Hornby to tip the ball over the bar.
The Coasters broke from the subsequent corner, with Dan Bradley out wide playing Haughton through on goal.
Fylde appealed for a penalty from the goal-saving challenge that followed from keeper Michael Verrips but Australian referee Jared Gillett waved play on.
Sheffield United started to see more of the ball again and nearly added a second when Leon Clarke’s header from a corner was impressively tipped on to the bar and over by Hornby.
The Coasters threatened on the 36-minute mark, when a quickly-taken long throw by Williams put Ryan Croasdale in behind the home backline.
Croasdale squeezed the ball across looking for Bradley, which resulted in a collision between Dutch keeper Verrips and defender Kean Bryan before a scrambled clearance.
Verrips was injured in the incident and replaced by the Blades’ first-choice keeper Dean Henderson shortly before the half ended at 1-0.
When the second half got under way the Blades stepped on to the front foot. The ball fell to Robinson at the back post and it took a combination of a Luke Burke block and a fine Hornby save to keep his effort out.
The Coasters then came forward through Haughton, who was pulled back out wide to earn a free-kick in an attacking position.
Haughton dusted himself down to whip a fantastic ball into the box, finding Alex Whitmore unmarked.
The centre-half rose brilliantly and got a clean connection but steered his header just wide of the post.
The hosts then came forward and saw a Ravel Morrison back-post header ruled out due to the striker straying offside, the decision confirmed after a VAR check.
The reprieve didn’t last, however, and two minutes later the Blades had a second as the clock struck an hour.
The lively Luke Freeman’s low strike hit the post and rebounded, with Clarke on hand to fire it home.
Fylde boss Jim Bentley looked to freshen his forward line as he searched for a way back into the game.
Kurt Willoughby and Mark Yeates, the latter returning to his former club, replaced Danny Rowe and Haughton.
The home side pressed for a third as the tie moved into its final 20 minutes, with Luke Freeman having two efforts deflected wide.
The Coasters burst back into the game with 12 minutes to play and set up a grandstand finish.
The hard-working Bradley clipped a delightful ball in behind for Williams, who expertly lobbed Manchester United loanee Henderson to send the travelling fans wild.
The Coasters had the opportunity to level as Williams burst through once again, this time his right-footed strike deflected wide for a corner.
Four minutes of added time was signalled for the Coasters to try to create something but the hosts made it difficult and looked for a third goal of their own.
Defender Neill Byrne ventured forward deep into injury time and won a corner which saw all his Fylde team-mates, including Hornby, storm into the penalty area.
The set-piece, however, failed to beat the first defender and the referee blew his whistle to bring the Coasters’ historic cup run to an end.
Fylde: Hornby, Jameson, Byrne, Whitmore, Burke, Croasdale, Philliskirk, Bradley (Craigen 85), Haughton (Yeates 65), Williams, Rowe (Willoughby 65); subs not used: Lavercombe, Taylor, Montrose, Kellett
Sheff Utd: Verrip (Henderson 41), Bryan, Jagielka, Rodwell (Basham 58), Osborn, K Freeman, Besic, Morrison, L Freeman, Clarke, Robinson (Stearman 88): subs not used: Fleck, O,Connell, McBurnie, Sharp.
Referee: Jarred Gillet