Chorley 0 Curzon Ashton 3
Chaotic first-half defending condemned Chorley to defeat against a lively mid-table Curzon and also cost the Magpies their place among the play-offs contenders which they had held since early September.
The visitors’ speed, energy and intelligent running off the ball ruthlessly exposed the lack of pace in the Chorley rearguard. What was in the first half of the season the league’s tightest defence, with clean-sheets the norm rather than the exception, was shredded here with alarming frequency.
And the game was effectively over as a contest with little more than half-an-hour played, by which time Curzon were three up – and it could have been more.
As assistant manager Jamie Vermiglio said: “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
Jason Walker crucially missed a clear chance in the first half-minute, shooting tamely wide, and then with half-time approaching fluffed an easier opportunity, firing wastefully over the bar when found unmarked six yards out.
Add to that the loss after just 15 minutes of top marksman Jack Sampson to a muscle injury and Vermiglio’s summing-up rang all too true.
Curzon took the lead on eight minutes when the rangy Jamie Stott headed home from a corner via the underside of the bar.
Five minutes later the lead was doubled. Stephen Jordan was caught out by a long cross-field ball and, though Ritchie Branagan saved the initial shot, the ball was recycled into the goalmouth where Niall Cummins bundled it into the net.
Then in the 31st minute, Cummins added his second, gift-wrapped by Scott Leather, whose unwise attempted short back-pass to Branagan was intercepted by the lurking striker and slipped beyond the keeper.
To their credit, the Magpies showed greater resolve after the break and created chances as Curzon were content to sit back on their lead.
In fact, the visitors did not muster a serious shot on goal throughout the second half.
Substitute Robbie McDaid under pressure headed over at close range from a superb Walker centre and Dale Whitham blazed high over after good link-up approach play.
But Chorley’s wretched afternoon was typified when Marcus Carver was denied a consolation goal by the quick reaction of Curzon full-back Stott.
Carver made a controlled run at goal and stroked the ball past the advancing Burton, only to see Stott race back and succeed in hooking the ball right off the line.
“We didn’t turn up today,” said Magpies manager Matt Jansen.
“We were flat, not aggressive nor energetic enough. For me, it was the biggest disappointment of the season.”
He might have gone further – this was arguably the worst display by Chorley at Victory Park in the whole of the Flitcroft-Jansen era of sustained progress.
CHORLEY: Branagan, Challoner, Jarvis (McDaid 25), Teague, Leather, Jordan, Blakeman (O’Keefe 45), Whitham, Walker, Sampson (Carver 15), Cottrell. Subs (not used): Charnock, Roscoe.