FC Halifax Town will have to settle for a play-off place in the National League North after Fylde’s 1-0 win at The Shay put the league leaders out of The Shaymen’s reach.
Danny Rowe’s league record-breaking 44th league goal of the season against the run of play sealed a tight affair before midfielder Sam Finley was sent-off for two yellow cards late on.
The Shaymen were the better side, and could count themselves unfortunate to not at least get a share of the spoils, but Fylde took their best chance of the game and Town didn’t, which proved to be decisive.
Billy Heath had warned before now of the lack of free-flowing football at this stage of the season, and it was conspicuous by its absence in a game that failed to live up to expectations.
The two teams had scored 173 league goals between them heading into the contest and shared five in the return fixture, but they were too often mired in a scrappy and disjointed game to create much.
The respect between the teams was clear, with both sides funneling back behind the ball when the other had possession, and both snapping at the heels of the other as soon a player found some space.
Jordan Sinnott was finding the odd pocket of space on the ball, and from it, created the chance of the first-half for Josh Macdonald, but Rhys Taylor saved his low shot one on one.
There were few other chances in a cagey opening half, with Cliff Moyo, Town’s other change along with Macdonald from last Saturday, volleying off target, while Andy Bond brought a decent save from Sam Johnson.
For their part, Fylde offered no indication why they were table-toppers, surrendering possession under no pressure more often than they strung any passing together.
Both defences, on high alert to the dangers of the opposition, gave nothing away, also probably knowing that if they did, it could be decisive.
Town forged some momentum shortly after the break, forcing some corners, one of which fell to Tom Denton at the near post, but whereas he headed in a similar chance against Alfreton last Saturday, he headed wide here.
Town looked the only team capable of scoring, with Fylde’s attack blunted.
Substitute Matty Kosylo brought the game to life just after the hour-mark with a scintillating run before his shot across goal hit the far post.
Just as Town were at their strongest in the game, there were two lengthy stoppages to treat Fylde players, and almost as soon as play restarted the second time, Rowe gobbled up his chance with an excellent low finish from 15 yards as Halifax conceded for the first time in over five hours of football.
Town nearly replied in kind but Scott Garner’s header across goal was cleared off the line before Richard Peniket tried to flick Sinnott’s low cross home but missed his kick.
If Fylde had already parked the bus, they switched the engine off after Finley’s dismissal, and Town had only the odd glimpse of goal thereafter, with Peniket’s nod across goal hitting Denton and rolling harmlessly to Taylor and Sinnott’s piledriver deflected wide.
Halifax: Johnson, Roberts, Garner, Hotte, Wilde, Macdonald (Kosylo 56), Moyo (Hone 56), Lynch (Morgan 79), Sinnott, Peniket, Denton. Subs not used: Drench, Charles.
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 7
Fylde: Taylor, C Hughes (K Kennedy 87), Collins, Bond, T Kennedy, Langley, Morgan (M Hughes 90), Finley, Dixon, Bradley, Rowe (Blinkhorn 90). Subs not used: Daniels, Baker.
Scorer: Rowe (72)
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 3
Town man of the match: Jordan Sinnott
Referee: Joe Hull