Harrogate Town 0-1 AFC Fylde: Crook heroic but Coasters gain advantage in play-off semi

Harrogate Town were frustrated in front of goal by a stubborn away side (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
Harrogate Town were frustrated in front of goal by a stubborn away side (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Danny Rowe gave AFC Fylde a slender advantage over Harrogate Town in a pulsating National League North play-off first leg at the CNG Stadium.

The league's topscorer fired home the only goal after breaching the home defence eight minutes into the second half.

It could have been far worse for Town had goalkeeper Peter Crook not made a number of high quality saves to thwart the Coasters.

Paul Clayton had Town's best opportunity in the opening seconds as his volley was blocked from point-blank range.

The two teams will meet again on the west coast on Sunday..

Paul Clayton almost sent the 1,500-strong crowd into a frenzy within 15 seconds as Colbeck's cross was headed into his path by Daniels, and the striker's volley was sensationally blocked by Fylde keeper Matt Urwin.

Paul Clayton had the best opportunity for Town in the opening moments (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Paul Clayton had the best opportunity for Town in the opening moments (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Within two minutes, it was the visitors' turn to be denied as Peter Crook produced a fine double save. First the number one tipped James Hardy's header away when unbalanced and he got up in the nick of time to punch the spinning ball clear of danger.

Nerves could have been a problem with so much at stake but both sides showed the expected appetite to attack. Lloyd Kerry forced Urwin into another strong save before the keeper had to be alert again as Daniels' mishit shot deflected dangerously goalwards.

At the other end, dangerman Danny Rowe then rifled a free-kick high out of the stadium with his the league topscorer's only real sniff of goal in the opening half an hour.

Crook was then called upon for a second wondersave of the match as Hardy found himself free at the back post, and his firm header was met with the goalkeeper's left hand at full stretch.

An attendance of 1,694 watched the game at the CNG Stadium (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

An attendance of 1,694 watched the game at the CNG Stadium (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Fylde started to gain a stranglehold as the Town crowd were on edge before the break and the visitors would have been level had Lewis Turner not stuck out a leg on the line to deny Josh Langley's six-yard header.

The visitors piled the pressure on Town in the opening moments of the second half and Crook again stood up well to the test.

Sam Finley tried to find the near corner but his low effort was saved behind before Rowe had a similar effort blocked again by the Town keeper.

The 25-goal striker eventually did breach Town's defence on the 53rd minute. After capitalising on a slip by Danny Ellis, Rowe galloped into the box on the left hand side and found the bottom corner, with the ball bobbling over Crook's low dive.

Jordan Thewlis found the crossbar with a first half header but he was in an offside position (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Jordan Thewlis found the crossbar with a first half header but he was in an offside position (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Joe Colbeck had the opportunity to pull Town level two minutes after the goal after determined work from Jordan Thewlis, but the winger flashed his effort wide.

Rowe was the spearhead of Fylde's forward momentum and will have been disappointed to waste another opportunity after being released by Matty Hughes.

The flow of the match became fragmented by substitutions as tensions rose with Daniels, Finley and Hughes all going into referee Dave Richardson's book.

Roared on by the vocal crowd, Town searched for a late equaliser but captain Danny Ellis was beaten to the ball at the near post before Luke Shiels headed the last action over the bar from six yards.

TEAM NEWS

Simon Weaver named an unchanged Harrogate Town line-up following Saturday's 5-0 win over Corby Town. The only change to the match day squad saw Tom Platt reintroduced in place of James Cadman.

Lewis Turner passed a late fitness test despite missing training in midweek after injury force him off in the second half on Saturday.

Harrogate Town: Peter Crook. Lewis Turner, Louie Swain, Paul Thirlwell, Danny Ellis, Luke Shiels, Joe Colbeck Lloyd Kerry, Paul Clayton, Jordan Thewlis, Brendon Daniels

Subs: Jack Emmett, Warren Burrell, Tom Platt, Dom Knowles, Tom Stewart

AFC Fylde: Matt Urwin, Caspar Hughes, Stephen Crainey, John Langley, Tom Hannigan, Brad Barnes, Matty Hughes, Sam Finley, Danny Rowe, Richie Baker, James Hardy

Subs: Bohan Dixon. Ben Hinchcliffe, Matt Blinkhorn, Danny Lloyd, Dion Charles