AFC Fylde kept up the pressure on the teams at the top with a massive victory over a Rushall Olympic side who could still be in with a shout of reaching the Play-offs come the end of the season.
It was Bradley Barnes who gave Fylde the lead just after the half hour mark before what turned out to be the winner came from a wonderful solo goal from full-back Adam Sumner 14 minutes from time.
The visitors did pull one back through Carl Ashton in the final minute but The Coasters held firm through another four minutes of injury time to record the win.
After Jack Duggan and Matt Wood shot wide for Rushall inside the first three minutes, Fylde dominated the rest of the half.
Sumner came very close on 12 minutes, whipping a free kick at goal from 25 yards only to see it tipped over the bar by keeper Chris Gemmell.
Richie Allen fired over a minute later but Matt Blinkhorn should have finished off a fine Coasters move on 21 minutes – Dave Hankin made a trademark run from full-back to square to Joe Booth 30 yards out and he sent a perfect through-ball to Blinkhorn who had time and space to shoot but couldn’t squeeze it past the onrushing Gemmell.
Booth had an even better chance to give Fylde the lead seven minutes later when Gemmell pulled off a fine double save to keep the game goalless. Allen fired a shot which Gemmell parried away only for him to recover and deny Booth a goal from the rebound at almost point-blank range.
But the breakthrough came on 32 minutes – Allen intercepted a poor Sam Smith free kick just inside his own half, raced down the line, sent a cross into the box which evaded Blinkhorn but not Bradley Barnes, who had followed Allen’s run all the way to head home at the back post.
Fylde went into the break with the lead courtesy of that goal, but Rushall regrouped in the second half and it was more of a midfield battle.
A couple of chances for an equaliser were wasted by the visitors through James Dance and Smith – such was the struggle for a foothold of the game, those shots came in the 56th and 70th minutes.
But Fylde lifted again, and on 76 minutes Sumner produced a certain contender for goal of the season. Racing through from 40 yards out, he beat five Rushall players to find himself one-one with Gemmell and, with the calm and ease of a seasoned striker, he slotted the ball past the keeper for a 2-0 lead.
The Coasters should have made the result comfortable late on when Booth curled a free kick around the wall from 30 yards but straight into the arms of Gemmell, then Allen went for placement instead of power and lobbed the ball over the bar with five minutes to go.
However, Carl Ashton pulled a goal back in the final minute when a high cross wasn’t cleared and the ball fell kindly for him to tap into the top corner, but Dave Challinor’s side held on for what could be a vital win.
“That was a massive result for us.” Challinor said after the game. “We produced a brilliant performance in the first half and deservedly went in at half time in front and we should have been well out of sight if I’m honest.
“The result was more important than the performance but we managed to provide both which is fantastic.”
Challinor emphasised the importance of the victory by adding: “We knew that the mentality in their dressing room would be that if they beat us then won their games in hand they would go above us. But we knew that if we won that wasn’t the case but, also, they now have a massive game next week against Chorley.
“Today could have been a difficult game for us as we knew they’d gone to Matlock last week and won convincingly, they beat Chorley away not too long ago, so we knew we had to be bang at it, so to produce the performance we did was brilliant.
“I suppose the only disappointment was the fact we conceded the goal and lost the clean sheet and made the last five minutes very uncomfortable for me.”
He had high praise for both of his sides goals: “They were two brilliant goals. We knew they’d be dangerous from set pieces but we’d have chances on the break and that’s how the first goal came about. Brad’s worked his socks off to get himself in the box and on the end of a decent ball from Richie.
“Adam’s goal was just fantastic and I suppose the only disappointment for him is that the lads who video the games weren’t here. He’s been brilliant this year and he’s now added that aspect to his game as well.”
The Coasters now face three games in the space of seven days starting with Tuesday night’s trip to Frickley Athletic for the Doodson Sport Cup Semi Final – Kick off 7:45pm.
AFC Fylde: Hinchliffe, Hankin (Denson 68), Sumner, Langley, Russell, B. Barnes (C), M. Barnes, Booth, Blinkhorn (Lloyd 85), Cooke (Winter 68), Allen; Subs not used: C. Hughes, Charnley.