AFC Fylde 3 Harrogate Town 1: Promotion dream ended by the Coasters

Harrogate Town striker Jordan Thewlis' close-range effort was deflected over the goal-line to half the deficit in Wednesday night's play-off clash at AFC Fylde. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town striker Jordan Thewlis' close-range effort was deflected over the goal-line to half the deficit in Wednesday night's play-off clash at AFC Fylde. Picture: Matt Kirkham

A spirited second-half showing wasn't enough to save Harrogate Town at AFC Fylde as their hopes of promotion to the Football League evaporated in Wednesday night's play-off eliminator.

Simon Weaver's side never recovered from conceding two poor goals in quick succession early on, despite enjoying a 20-minute spell in the ascendancy immediately after the interval.

Jack Muldoon missed a penalty in first-half stoppage-time, and although the visitors did manage to half the deficit early in the second period, it was the Coasters who finished the stronger, adding their third of the evening late on.

The men from Wetherby Road came close to breaking the deadlock with just five minutes on the clock when Josh Falkingham released Jack Senior down the left and his cross was diverted goalwards by a Fylde defender, forcing Jay Lynch into a sharp save at his near post.

But they were soon behind after switching off at a set-piece.

Danny Rowe curled over a 10th-minute corner from the right and Jordan Tunnicliffe managed to escape Liam Kitching at the back stick before nodding back across goal for Ryan Croasdale to stab home.

Less than five minutes later, the hosts' lead was doubled.

Rowe unleashed a swerving strike from distance that James Belshaw could only parry and Andy Bond reacted quickest to slot into the bottom corner.

Town looked shell-shocked for a spell, and although Fylde were happy to let them have plenty of the ball, the visitors struggled to make any real inroads.

And they could have been three behind just past the half-hour-mark, Nick Haughton planting a free header just wide of the far post with Belshaw rooted to the spot.

The Town stopper was then forced into a good save by Dan Bradley's low strike from 20 yards before Harrogate striker Jordan Thewlis looked to have earned his team a route back into the match.

He got in behind the home back-four and was brought down inside the box by what appeared to be a combination of Lynch and Zaine Francis-Angol.

Referee Peter Gibbons pointed to the spot but, for the second successive game, Muldoon was unable to convert from 12 yards as Lynch dived low to his right and produced an important stop.

Despite the disappointing way that the first period ended for them, Town began the second brightly and were rewarded for their efforts in the 53rd minute.

Half-time substitute Joe Leesley delivered a free-kick into the box, Kitching headed it on and Thewlis' attempted close-range finish was helped over the line by a combination of Warren Burrell and home defender Luke Burke.

Buoyed by that strike, the visitors began to exert some real pressure, though the Coasters managed to hold out and then almost restored their two-goal cushion.

A swift counter-attack down the right saw a ball delivered into the box for substitute Alex Reid, who was only denied by an excellent Belshaw block.

Having been very much in the ascendancy, Town's momentum began to wain and it was the Lancashire outfit who started to look the more likely on the counter-attack.

Reid was twice played clean through on goal, drawing another fine stop from Belshaw before smacking one against the base of the post.

The Fylde pressure was eventually to tell, however, and they wrapped things up in the 90th minute, Bradley coming inside off the left and unleashing a low strike from 20 yards that beat the despairing dive of Belshaw.

Callum Howe almost added a consolation deep into injury-time when he climbed well inside the penalty area, though Lynch was equal to his header, and the final whistle followed moments later.