by Hal Boxhall-Dockree
04 March 2017

Harrogate Town 3-3 AFC Fylde


Matty Hughes’ 87th minute equaliser denied Town all three points, despite a Simon Ainge hat-trick, as league leading Fylde escaped defeat at The CNG Stadium.


Ainge had given Town the lead after 12 minutes with a composed finish, though a Danny Rowe penalty, and assist for strike partner Dan Bradley saw Town trailing with under half an hour to play.

That was until an Ainge brace, his 16th and 17th of the season, within six second half minutes swung the tie back in Simon Weaver’s side’s favour.

The visitors then showed the never say die attitude that has seen them run away with the National League North this season, as Hughes finished at the back post three minutes from time.

Weaver made three changes from last weekend’s 3-2 win at Darlington, including handing a first start to Liam Agnew on the right of the midfield.

Town had the ball in the net in the early stages as Dom Collins collided with his own goalkeeper, resulting in Ainge tapping into an empty net only for Referee Kevin Mulrane to disallow the goal.

Ainge then got his name on the scoresheet after 12 minutes when latching on to a low through ball from Lloyd Kerry and slotting past Rhys Taylor.

It could have been two for the hosts as fine work from Joe Leesley on the left wing resulted in Lewis Turner heading just over the bar.

Dave Challinor’s men were then given the chance to draw level when they were awarded a spot-kick after Brendon Daniels’ strike was adjudged to have hit a Town arm inside the box.

National League North top scorer Rowe stepped up confidently and beat Peter Crook from 12 yards to level the score.

The equaliser, that came against the run of play, took the frantic early pace out of the contest, though Town did have the ball in the net for a third time before the half was done as Agnew’s finish was ruled out for offside.

A pinpoint Lewis Turner cross almost ensured Weaver’s men entered the interval ahead, though Ainge’s header was a fraction wide of the mark.

The first opportunity of the second half fell to Bohan Dixon, though Crook smothered the low strike.

Moments after substitute JP Pittman had fell just inches short of converting Ben Parker’s cross, a loose ball fell to Rowe whose intricate through ball allowed Bradley to coolly finish.

An immediate response from Town ensured the visitors’ lead lasted just three minutes as Ainge converted his second goal of the afternoon from close range.

Town’s in form centre forward then completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute, heading Leesley’s deep corner past a host of defenders and over the line.

Despite Town looking likely to claim a win that would have seen them just three points short of the play-offs, Fylde struck just three minutes from time as substitute Hughes tapped into an empty net at the far post.

Harrogate Town: Crook, Turner, Burrell, Shiels, Parker, Agnew, Thanoj, Kerry, Leesley, Ainge, Swain (Pittman 54)

Subs not used: Emmett, Elliott, Platt, Day

Goals: Ainge 12, 65, 70

AFC Fylde: Taylor, Hughes (Blinkhorn 84), Jones, Macguire, Collins, Bond, Dixon (Hughes 75), Morgan, Rowe, Bradley, Daniels (Finley 71)

Subs not used: Wilson, Barker

Booked: Blinkhorn

Goals: Rowe (p) 26, Bradley 62, Hughes 87

Referee: K Mulraine

Attendance: 1,018