It's Three For Sorrow, As County Are Grounded By The Magpies
The Hatters made a short evening's journey up the M60 and the M61 full of hope and expectation, following two successive home League wins. But, while Edgeley Park has become significantly more synonymous with success for County of late, Victory Park proved to be something of a misnomer, so far as the visitors were concerned - with three second-half Chorley goals seeing the hosts leapfrog back above them into the play-off positions.
Alan Lord kept faith in the side that had beaten Hednesford on Saturday, and named an unchanged starting line-up. The substitutes‘ bench did, however, feature two changes from the weekend, as Kristian Dennis and Scott Duxbury were each once again available following, respectively, a three-match suspension and an injury sustained at the beginning of October. There was, meanwhile, no place in Chorley's squad for former Hatter, Kyle Jacobs, who had transferred to the Magpies during the close season.
With just one place and a single point separating the two teams at the outset, many were anticipating a hard-fought, close contest, and the first half appeared to bear that out. Both sides enjoyed good spells of possession, and, although Chorley edged the corner-count, the Hatters created chances, which, given more clinical finishing, could have put a very different complexion on the game. Andy Owens, Scott Spencer and Lee Stevenson all shot wide of the home goal, and Richie Baker blasted an effort high. Spencer also headed a Jamie Milligan free kick across the six-yard box, without finding a team-mate there to apply the final touch, while a much more crowded Chorley area was in evidence as Daniel Gregson came close to converting County's eventual, first corner.
HALF-TIME: Chorley 0, County 0.
Sadly, if the first half was anyone's game, the second proved to be anything but. That said, initially after the break, County looked further to be taking the game to Chorley, as Dennis and, then, Chris Sharp were introduced. And The Menace, within minutes, curled a shot just over the bar, as if to announce that he meant serious business following his return to match-action.
But, with just over an hour of the game gone, the first corner of the second half was awarded to Chorley. County failed to clear it, and, in the process, a bullet of a header from Adam Roscoe put the Magpies ahead.
Twelve minutes later, the Hatters were again undone by a high ball into the area - this time, in the form of a cross from the right flank. Darren Stephenson, who had looked dangerous for much of the evening, gleefully brought the ball down at the far post to rifle home from close range and double Chorley's lead.
County increasingly looked as if they were not having the best of nightshifts at the office, and, in addition, that they might fail to score in a game for the first time since the first full week of the season, prior to mid-August. A Sharp effort was the sole one of note in the latter stages, and, even then, his low drive from distance was smothered without undue fuss by Aaron Grundy.
Deep into added time, as the Hatters continued to try and push forward, Chorley caught the County defence on the break. The ball fell to Stephenson, who rounded the unprotected Ian Ormson before scoring his second, and his side's third, goal of the night.
Many of us have been County fans for far longer than we care - or, on occasion, admit! - to remember. It is a pretty safe bet, however, that none still around would have borne witness to the previous contest between these two clubs: on 4th November 1899. Back then, the Hatters triumphed by three goals without reply, so one could concede that the Magpies had been waiting one heck of a long time to reciprocate. County, for their part, will... erm, Chorley be chomping at the bit to travel a little further North just four days from now, and to achieve some rather more immediate redress at Fylde.
FULL-TIME: Chorley 3 (Roscoe, 62; Stephenson, 74 and 94), County 0.
Team: Ormson, Belezika (Churchman, 77), O'Halloran, Moses, Gregson, Lees, Baker, Stevenson (Sharp, 59), Owens (Dennis, 54), Spencer, Milligan.
Unused Subs: Hurst, Duxbury.
Man of the Match: O'Halloran.
Attendance: 1,663 (553 representing The Twelfth Man).