Fleetwood Town might have fielded a team littered with first team stars but it took two of their young development squad prodigies to fire them past AFC Fylde and into the final of the Lancashire FA Senior Cup.
Development squad boss Paul Murray was able to use numerous first team players, with new head coach John Sheridan watching on at Poolfoot Farm and assessing his options ahead of Saturday’s visit to Charlton Athletic.
But it was young attackers Michael Donohue and substitute Joao Morelli, signed from Middlesbrough, who showed a clinical touch to earn Town a date with League One rivals Bury in the final at the County Ground in Leyland on April 11.
Fylde boss Dave Challinor’s team consisted mostly of first-team squad members and he gave a first run-out to Wigan loanee Jordan Flores, though for the majority of the game it was one-way traffic but Fleetwood struggled to turn possession and chances into goals.
Fylde came closest in the opening exchanges as Matty Blinkhorn nodded just wide and Jonny Smith forced Chris Neal into a save, while at the other end Bobby Grant tested Theo Roberts.
Referee Darren Handley had not won many admirers in the Fleetwood camp after waving away two penalty claims in Saturday’s draw with Plymouth, and he carried on where he left off by waving away another when Jordy Hiwula’s strike appeared to be handled.
Fylde attacked most dangerously down the right and they went close when Jonny Smith outfoxed Joe Maguire but Neal was able to clear.
The lively Harrison Biggins did his chances of a start at Charlton no harm with a fine performance in the centre, while Grant grew into the game and saw an effort spilled by Roberts.
Sam Stubbs’ deflected effort was just held by Neal but the best chance of the half fell to the hosts as Grant found Biggins in space.
His low effort from outside the box was spilled by Roberts into the path of right-back Harrison Holgate, who could only fire tamely at the keeper.
Fylde finished the half stronger as Josh Ezewele shot straight at Neal and Henry Jones’ cross was glanced wide by Blinkhorn.
Fleetwood came out fighting in the second half as Hiwula wasted a huge chance from close range and Wes Burns’ pace terrorised Fylde.
Town finally made the breakthrough on the hour, when Burns was sent clear and crossed from the right. Hiwula and Grant both had efforts blocked before Donohue calmly slotted home.
Tempers threatened to boil over for a while, after Toumani Diagouraga’s meaty challenge on a Fylde triallist.
Town settled the issue when Burns’ replacement Gerard Garner linked up with Diagouraga before releasing Morelli to curl the ball home.
Fleetwood: Neal, Hiwula, Burns (Garner), Grant, Maguire, Oliver, Diagouraga, Holgate, Biggins, Sheron, Donohue (Morelli). Subs not used: Crellin, Bartosinski, Des Pres.
AFC Fylde: Roberts, triallist, Blinkhorn, Smith, Ezewele, Burke, triallist, Chettle, Stubbs, Jones, Flores. Subs: triallist, Gray, Hassall, Pope, Kay.