Coasters win as title race hots up

Blinkhorn - bagged the winner
Blinkhorn - bagged the winner
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Ilkeston 0 AFC Fylde 1

AFC Fylde secured at least an Evo-Stik Northern Premier play-off place as they stretched their unbeaten run to 21 games.

Matt Blinkhorn scored the only goal of the game 11 minutes from time on a night the title race was thrown wide open with results elsewhere going third-placed Fylde’s way.

A couple of half-chances fell for Fylde early on, Richie Allen and Blinkhorn sending efforts over the bar before Andy Russell headed wide.

A good period of possession for Ilkeston allowed Chey Adams and James Reid to shoot wide within minutes mid-way through the half before another double chance for the Robins, through Rob Duffy and Adams, failed to break the deadlock.

A dominant end to the first period saw Richie Allen miss three great chances to give his side the lead. First he rode two tackles to shoot inches wide before forcing a good save from keeper Ross Etheridge after some great passing.

He was then played in by a great through-ball from Harry Winter but couldn’t keep his low shot on target when one-on-one with Etheridge.

Into the second period and the home side created the better chances to snatch a lead.

Substitute Courey Grantham was the liveliest player, heading wide on 47 minutes before heading another cross wide four minutes later.

Duffy was unlucky to see the ball go through his legs as he tried to volley towards goal just before the hour and then he headed wide a minute later.

Ben Hinchliffe kept the score level on 68 minutes from another Duffy chance that was headed straight at him, and then Mike Williams headed over three minutes after.

Duffy was alive to pounce on Hinchliffe’s poor kick out of his hands 35 yards out, but his first time shot was very wayward and ended up going out for a throw-in.

Then, with 79 minutes on the clock, substitute Sean Cooke smashed a shot against the post but the rebound fell to Blinkhorn and he lobbed the ball into the far corner of the net from outside the box.

Another Fylde substitute had a couple of chances to make sure of the points late on – Karl Noon shot wide before striking an effort straight at Etheridge when one-on-one with the Ilkeston keeper.

The Coasters held on to the lead through four more minutes of injury time. On a night top two FC United and Chorley drew and fourth-place Worksop lost to Skelmersdale, Fylde are now only three points off the summit with four to play.

Manager Dave Challinor was delighted and said: “Even though we had a lot of possession in the first half, we weren’t moving the ball quick enough.

“We created a good chance in the first minute, then toiled a bit for the next 40 minutes before having three really good chances right on half- time. If we’d taken one of those it may have been a different game.

“We made a bold decision to keep three up top against their three at the back, so we planned for it to be an open game.

“In the second half, by the time we got the goal I thought we’d opened it up again, and with Barnesy playing at right- back we had plenty of forwards on the pitch.

“Credit to Ilkeston, though, as they are a very young side mixed in with a bit of experience and they worked their socks off and closed us down.”

Next up for the Coasters is Sunday’s Doodson Sport Cup final against Skelmersdale at Stockport’s Edgeley Park, kick-off 3pm.