Harrogate Town will have to come from behind in Sunday’s second leg of the play offs, following a 1-0 reverse to AFC Fylde at a packed CNG Stadium.
The Town starting eleven was unchanged from Saturday and Tom Platt replaced James Cadman on the bench.
In an explosive start, Town almost took the lead in the first half minute when Brendan Daniels returned a Joe Colbeck centre across goal and Paul Clayton’s powerful shot was beaten away by Matt Urwin.
Straight away the action switched to the other end and Peter Crook made a double save from James Hardy, who suffered a nose injury in the ensuing scramble, which caused a four minute delay while he received treatment.
However, it was Urwin who was the busier keeper, firstly keeping out a shot from Lloyd Kerry and then making a flying save to keep out a shot from Daniels which took a wicked deflection off visiting skipper, Tom Hannigan.
A foul by Danny Ellis twentyfive yards out on the prolific,Danny Rowe,spelt danger for Town,but the only things threatened were the windows in the hospital block as Rowe blasted the ball out of the ground.
Jordan Thewlis headed against the bar from a Daniels cross,but the offside flag had already been raised, and soon Clayton headed a Kerry centre across goal as Town continued to press.
Fylde’s Richie Baker found Hardy with a cross but Crook snuffed out the danger and Lewis Turner cleared a dangerous header from Josh Langley as the “Coasters” hit back.
In a hard fought game both Clayton and Fylde’s,Brad Barnes,found themselves in overworked Referee Dave Richardson’s notebook after a clash, but Clayton soon made a more positive contribution when his header from a Louis Swain cross forced Urwin to pluck the ball from under the bar.
The half ended with Rowe hitting a thirty yard free kick past the Town wall, forcing Crook to make an excellent diving save at the foot of the post.
The Coasters made a bright start after the break with Sam Finley forcing Crook to concede a corner, but Town squandered a chance to take the lead when Colbeck dragged his shot just wide of the far post after a fine run and pass from Jordan Thewlis.
Several players had slipped on the heavily watered surface and a slip from Ellis after fiftythree minutes let in Rowe, who cut in from the left, wrong-footed two Town defenders and tucked the ball inside Crook’s near post for the vital goal.
Town tried to fight back and a strong run from Colbeck ended with a shot which sailed wide of the post.
Jack Emmett,Warren Burrell and Dom Knowles were introduced to the fray as Town looked for an equaliser, but the visitors had the next two chances.
Rowe broke through, but wantonly shot straight at Crook and sub Dion Charles had a screamer deflected wide of Town’s goal.
But Town, roared on by a bumper crowd, staged a grandstand finish, with Burrell having two shots charged down and Knowles flashing a shot across goal.
Well into stoppage time, a Daniels free kick was scrambled for a corner, and Luke Shiels pushed forward to throw himself at the ball which unfortunately cleared the bar.
However, this is only half time, and Town have a great opportunity to redress the balance when they travel to Fylde on Sunday.
1Crook, 2 Turner, 3 Swain, 4 Thirlwell, 5 Ellis (c), 6 Shiels, 7 Colbeck (Burrell 69), 8 Kerry, 9 Clayton (Knowles 69), 10 Thewlis (Emmett 55), 11 Daniels.
Unused subs, 15 Platt, 18 Stewart. Bookings Clayton,Daniels Man of the Match Crook,
By John Harrison.