By Matt Badcock
AFC Fylde completed the Non-League cup set as Danny Rowe’s gorgeous free-kick fired them to FA Trophy glory.
The Coasters are the first club to win both this competition and the FA Vase – a prize they claimed 11 years ago albeit in the guise of Kirkham & Wesham.
It had to be that man Rowe and what a winner it was. When Fylde had stopped laughing at the January offer for their star from an unnamed League club, they swiftly dismissed it and this showed exactly why.
On the hour mark Fylde won a free-kick 25 yards out. Step into Rowe’s office. Their top scorer promptly stepped up and whipped the ball into the corner with his right foot for his 33rd of yet another prolific campaign.
It was a moment of quality in a game National League champions Leyton Orient will probably wonder how they didn’t at least score.
Three times they hit the woodwork as they bid farewell to Non-League after a two year stay. Justin Edinburgh’s side will be back in the Football League next season. Ultimately that is where Fylde want to be, but for now Dave Challinor’s side have gone some way to making up for last weekend’s National League promotion final defeat to Salford City.
The Coasters lost captain Neill Byrne inside six minutes after a nasty looking clash of heads with Orient defender Josh Coulson when challenging for a ball in the box. Byrne was able to walk off the pitch but despite pleading his case to be allowed back on, was withdrawn.
Challinor’s side clearly had a personal score to settle having been turned over by Salford on the Wembley pitch eight days ago.
It was a bruising 3-0 defeat but the crumb of comfort was they could at least finish their season on a high.
A lovely Nick Haughton turn put him into space and he slipped a ball through to Rowe. His low ball into the box had to be pushed out by keeper Dean Brill before, after play had been recycled, Haughton flashed into the side-netting.
Some of the Fylde supporters at the far end of the ground thought it was in and they may well have thought Alex Reid had given them the lead soon after. Again Brill was well-placed to push his sharp shot around the post.
Orient were chasing a double of their own as they aimed to become just the fourth club – after Wealdstone, Colchester and Wycombe – to win Non-League’s top flight and premier cup competition.
They did grow into the half but they could have found themselves behind at the break when two chances went begging for Fylde.
First Andy Bond, who had ghosted into the six-yard box, skewed a golden opening wide before Reid couldn’t get enough power on his shot when he’d been slipped in by Haughton.
Edinburgh introduced Jordan Maguire-Drew from the bench at the break and he was the width of a post away from putting Orient ahead inside five minutes.
Jobi McAnuff was felled by Haughton outside the box and Maguire-Drew curled left-footed onto the frame of the goal. He then sent over an inviting corner that Dan Happe headed over.
The woodwork denied Orient again on 56 minutes. Maguire-Drew, again, delivered a dangerous inswinging corner. Marvin Ekpiteta rose high only to see his header thump the bar.
The spell buoyed Orient’s close to 25,000 support but it was the Fylde fans who were celebrating on the hour.
Rowe lined up and fired in a sumptuous curling strike that was in from the moment it left his right foot.
Orient went in hunt of the equaliser with Matt Harrold thrown on from the bench. The striker has been key in their run to the final but he accidentally stopped his side levelling.
Joe Widdowson burst forward and hit a low shot that cannoned back off the post straight to Maguire-Drew, whose first time shot hit Harrold on the line.
Again Maguire-Drew went close when he tried to steer in McAnuff’s clipped ball as time ebbed away and the Coasters held on. They’ll want to do the same with Rowe again this summer.
AFC Fylde: 1
Leyton Orient: 0
Star Man: Nick Haughton (Fylde)
Referee: Andrew Madley
Entertainment rating: 2 star
AFC Fylde: Lynch; Birch (Crawford 90), Byrne (Brewitt 12), Tunnicliffe, Francis-Angol; Philliskirk, Croasdale, Bond; Haughton (Odusina, 74); Reid, Rowe,
Subs not used: Griffiths, Hardy,
Leyton Orient: Brill; Ekpiteta, Coulson, Happe (Harrold 68); Turley (Maguire-Drew 46), Clay, McAnuff (Lee 78), Widdowson; Brophy; Koroma, Bonne
Subs not used: Sargeant, Ling,