AFC Fylde 1-1 Harrogate Town - Season over for Town in play-off exit

AFC Fylde (2) 1-1 (1) Harrogate Town

Sunday, 8th May 2016, 1:20 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th May 2016, 9:45 pm
Harrogate Town striker Paul Clayton during Wednesday's first leg against AFC Fylde (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Harrogate Town missed out on a historic play-off final after drawing their second leg 1-1 at AFC Fylde.

Having lost the opening leg 1-0 on Wednesday, Town were given a mountain to climb when Sam Finley scored an 11th minute wonderstrike.

Dom Knowles gave Town a lifeline after slotting home at the back post four minutes later.

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Town had their chances to level the aggregate score but Fylde goalkeeper Matt Urwin made two good saves to keep them at bay.

Danny Rowe, Fylde's hero from midweek, saw a late penalty sensationally stopped by Peter Crook but it mattered little for the hosts as they held on for victory over the two legs.

Fylde will face North Ferriby United away in the play-off final after the Hull side overturned a two-goal deficit by beating Boston United 3-0 at home.

Simon Weaver sprang a surprise in making five changes from Wednesday night's defeat as he backed Jack Emmett and Dom Knowles to lead the line in place of the injured Jordan Thewlis and dropped Paul Clayton.

The manager's main selection shock was the reintroduction of Andy McWilliams who made his first appearance since mid-December. The left-back, who has spent the majority of the season on loan at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League side Whitby Town, replaced Louie Swain in defence.

Warren Burrell and Tom Platt were also thrust into Town's line-up with Paul Thirlwell and the injured Lewis Turner making way.

In contrast, Fylde were unchanged from their dominant win with leading marksmen Danny Rowe spearheading the attack.

It was Rowe that caused the early worry for Town as the first-leg match winner saw a low shot saved well by Peter Crook before lashing a free-kick over.

On 11 minutes, Fylde made Town's already uphill battle much tougher in spectacular fashion. The ball was laid back on the edge of the box and Finley rifled a wonder strike into the top corner, leaving England C international Crook with no hope despite a despairing dive.

Town required a quick response to remain in touch and Weaver's men halved their deficit just four minutes after the opener.

Tom Platt made a surging run forward, and after he looked to be brought down inside the box, the ball found its way to Jack Emmett's feet and he crossed for a simple finish at the back post for Knowles.

The goal gave Town the momentum in the clash and Lloyd Kerry could have levelled the aggregate score from a quick free-kick but fired wide at the near post.

The midfielder, one of Town's players of the season, then headed a Joe Colbeck cross over the bar before seeing a third effort dribble through to Fylde keeper Matt Urwin.

Urwin then misjudged another Colbeck cross in the swirling wind and Luke Shiels almost caught the keeper out from distance but his hooked effort was cleared off the line.

Town outmuscled the hosts in midfield with Platt and Burrell adding extra height from Wednesday night. And Burrell could have sent Town into half time level but his acrobatic strike was claimed well by the diving Urwin.

With the wind behind their backs in the second half, Town's dominance of possession continued.

However Urwin made a fine stop to prevent Brendon Daniels' free-kick dipping under the bar.

Daniels had been quiet again on the left as Fylde were quick to press Town's leading scorer this season.

However, Weaver opted to stick with his main man again as Jack Emmett made way in the boss' first substitution, with young midfielder James Cadman sent on.

Burrell was then sacrificed as Weaver threw caution to the significant wind, with Clayton sent on to add extra height up front.

With 15 minutes to go, Fylde were awarded the chance to seal their progression as substitute Bohan Dixon was tripped by Shiels inside the area.

Rowe, a scorer of 25 goals this season, stepped up but Crook spread himself to his right and palmed clear.

Despite Town's need for a goal, it was the hosts that were making strides to adding to their tally and Dixon clipped dangerously goalwards but just over the top.

Four minutes of added time were announced, and Town fashioned one last opportunity but Clayton failed to get on the end of Colbeck's searching cross as Fylde held out for a place in the final.