Danny Rowe’s spectacular free-kick on the hour mark sealed FA Trophy success for AFC Fylde eight days after their last trip to Wembley ended in a painful play-off final defeat.
Dave Challinor’s side spoiled the party for the National League winners Leyton Orient, who hit the post three times in a pulsating second half. Fylde also became the first club to win both the FA Trophy and Vase, which they won in 2008 as Kirkham & Wesham.
Orient fans who had descended on Wembley in their thousands were subjected to a first half dominated by the opposition. Tom Brewitt, an early substitute for the Fylde captain, Neill Byrne, whipped in a cross that Andy Bond failed to finish from close range with 15 minutes gone. The midfielder spurned an even better chance later in the half, meeting Rowe’s cross-shot but skewing wide with the goal at his mercy.
Nick Haughton fired into the side netting after Rowe’s cross was parried by Dean Brill, who then tipped Alex Reid’s effort around the post as Fylde’s forwards caused chaos among Orient’s three-man defence. Orient struggled for attacking momentum, their best chance coming from a free-kick that Jobi McAnuff fired high and wide, while Josh Koroma saw three speculative efforts fail to find the target.
It was no surprise to see Justin Edinburgh shuffle his Orient side at half-time, with Jordan Maguire-Drew replacing Jamie Turley. Stationed behind the strikers, the former Brighton man made an immediate impact, striking Jay Lynch’s left post with a free-kick and delivering a corner that Dan Happe headed over.
From another corner, Marvin Ekpiteta struck the other post with a header before Maguire-Drew played in Craig Clay, who sliced his shot over the bar. The tide seemed to be turning Orient’s way – but Rowe had other ideas. After Josh Coulson fouled Reid 20 yards out, the forward curled the ball expertly into the top corner.
Edinburgh quickly threw on the forward Matt Harrold, whose first involvement was to get in the way of Maguire-Drew’s goalbound shot after Joe Widdowson hit the post from a narrow angle. The Orient fans massed behind the goal were beginning to sense this might not be their day, and Rowe’s strike proved enough to ease Fylde’s Wembley heartache.
“It doesn’t make up for last week, but it certainly makes the summer a bit easier,” Challinor said. “We’ve deserved to come out of this season with something, and the group in there have made history, winning the [FA] Vase and now this unbelievable trophy.”
Challinor felt last Saturday’s defeat to Salford helped his team learn valuable lessons. “Last week, it just didn’t happen for us [but] it did us the world of good in preparation for today. They’ve worked really hard this season, and they deserved this.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Chertsey Town won their first ever FA Vase after beating Cray Valley 3-1 in extra time. Jake Baxter’s penalty and a fine finish from Quincy Rowe made the difference after Anthony Edgar had struck the crossbar for Cray Valley with the last kick inside 90 minutes.
The final was contested by two clubs based within 15 miles of Wembley, who both won their respective leagues. It was the south Londoners who went ahead through Gavin Tomlin’s solo effort. The striker latched on to a through-ball down the left, cut inside and fired low inside the near post.
Chertsey’s response was immediate, Sam Flegg heading against the post from a corner before tucking away the rebound as the first half ended level. Kevin Lisbie, once of Charlton and Orient, spurned two second-half chances for Cray Valley before Baxter dragged a shot wide with the goal gaping.
Cray Valley finished the stronger, with Ashley Sains’ header saved by Nick Jupp before Edgar wriggled clear deep into stoppage time – but saw his shot rebound off the bar.
The game turned Chertsey’s way in extra time when Lubomir Guentchev – son of former Ipswich player Bontcho – was brought down by Cem Tumkaya on the edge of the area. Ross Joyce awarded Chertsey the spot kick and Baxter converted for his 43rd goal of the season.
The centre-back Rowe then secured a hard-fought victory, firing home clinically from 25 yards out to spark wild celebrations.