AFC Fylde striker Danny Rowe bagged a hat-trick as the Coasters booked their place in the second round of the FA Trophy with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Skelmersdale United.
Rowe’s treble, topped off with a late goal from substitute Matt Blinkhorn, lit up a miserable evening at the AJ Bell Stadium and earned his side a trip to Eastbourne Borough this Saturday.
Manager Dave Challinor named a strong starting line-up that included a rare start for Matt Urwin in goal and a return to the side for injured midfield duo Brad Barnes and Matty Hughes.
Dion Charles fashioned the first opening of the match when he flashed a shot narrowly wide of the post. A goal mouth scramble followed from the resultant corner with both Josh Langley and Danny Lloyd denied by Skem stopper Martin Fearon.
The away side were on top in the opening exchanges and Rowe tried his luck from distance on five minutes, but his shot was well over the bar.
The deadlock was duly broken just two minutes later and it was in-form frontman Rowe that did the damage when he cleverly flicked home Charles’ corner.
In line with the theme of the tie so far, the driving rain was making play difficult for both sides. Skelmersdale’s best chance of the first 15 minutes was an inswinging corner that Urwin had to turn around the post.
A fantastic Fylde move on 20 minutes almost lead to a second goal when Rowe sprayed the ball out to Hughes and his dangerous cross was narrowly missed by Lloyd at the near post.
The ‘home’ side were presented with a chance to level the scores five minutes later when they were awarded a central freekick 25 yards from goal, but Kenny Strickland fired his effort straight into the wall.
There was little between the sides as the game reached the half-hour mark as Charles looked to make a breakthrough, but his left footed shot was charged down on the edge of the area.
The winger was guilty of missing a glorious chance moments later when he nodded a free header wide from Lloyd’s right wing cross.
Skem created a rare chance shortly before the break and there was a hint of fortune about it. The ball was flicked on to striker Issac Kusaloka on the edge of the area and his improvised effort looped up over the bar.
The rain persisted as the second-half kicked off and whilst Skelmersdale were building momentum they were struggling to test the Fylde backline.
Rowe looked to add a second goal to his tally on 52 minutes and won a corner when his curling strike from 25 yards deflected around the post for a corner.
Skelmersdale created perhaps their best chance of the match so far when Chris Almond met a cross from the right, but his unchallenged header from 10 yards was a foot wide.
Just 10 minutes into the second period and the Coasters grabbed a second goal and it was one of real quality. Charles burst down the right before delivering a pin-point through ball for Rowe, who deftly chipped the goalkeeper with his first touch.
Fylde were in the ascendancy and Lloyd was next to try his luck when he fired narrowly over from the left hand side of the box.
Shortly after the hour-mark Skem were on the attack once more and only the feet of Urwin prevented Kusaloka from reducing the arrears. Strickland was next to test Urwin with a free-kick, but his low strike was comfortable for the Fylde stopper.
The advantage really should have been extended on 70 minutes when Sam Finley exchanged passes with Rowe on the edge of the box, but somehow skewed his effort wide when clean through.
Skem went close on 75 minutes when Urwin punched a corner to the 18 yard line, but forward Gerard Kinsella could only rifle his volley over the crossbar.
A minute later the Coasters spurned another opportunity to put the game out of sight when substitute Josh Wilson lashed a shot over the top when well placed in the box.
The match was finally put to bed when Rowe bagged his hat-trick five minutes from time. Finley stole the ball from the last defender and unselfishly squared to Rowe who beat the goalkeeper and rolled the ball into the empty net.
There was to be icing on the cake for the Coasters when Blinkhorn, on the pitch for less than a minute, netted his first goal of the season, flicking Lloyd’s cross into the far corner of the net.
Skelmersdale United: Fearon, Fernandez, Corrigan, McIntosh, Rendall, Woolcott, Almond, Strickland, Kusaloka (Donaldson 81), Kinsella, Ince (Gaskell 68).
AFC Fylde: Urwin, C. Hughes, Langley, Hannigan, Whittle, Barnes (Baker 71), Finley (Blinkhorn 89), M. Hughes, Charles (Wilson 71), Lloyd, Rowe.
Subs: Hinchliffe, Sumner.
Goals: Rowe 7, 56