A display full of character brought Chorley a much-needed victory over promotion rivals Kidderminster on a tense afternoon at Victory Park.
In short, the Magpies rediscovered the winning mentality which has served them so well throughout the season and which was clearly required against a team of full-timers who moved the ball around quickly and intelligently but without being able to crack a very determined defence. On a day when all their immediate rivals also won, defeat here would have cost Chorley their place in the top five of the National League North.
After successfully blocking a second-minute Harriers’ free-kick from just outside the box, the Magpies pounced to grab the priceless first goal on eight minutes. A looped forward ball into the box was knocked down to Jack Sampson who though under pressure curled a delightful shot just inside the post with keeper Alex Palmer rooted to the spot. Kidderminster’s response was a bullet header from a corner which flew just beyond the far post and then they had strident appeals for a penalty waved aside when tricky wide-man Arthur Gnahoua went down under challenge on the edge of the penalty area.
But it was Chorley who almost secured a second goal. A lovely ball in from the right found Dale Whitham but his volley at full stretch whistled just over the bar. With the visitors ever-dangerous on the counter, the hosts were relieved to go in at half-time still in the lead.
It was soon two-nil after the interval. Kieran Charnock won a back-post header from a corner only for Scott Leather to scoop his effort to convert it over the bar. The miss mattered little as Jake Cottrell promptly capitalised on some slack work by the Harriers at the back. Palmer attempted to play the ball out short but Cottrell was in in a flash to put the defender under pressure, the ball ricocheting kindly for the Magpies’ midfielder who lost no time in cracking it into the corner of the net from eight yards.
The setback rattled Kidderminster briefly but they were soon chasing the game again with purpose and Chorley were at their resilient best in harrying the Harriers into mistakes. The visitors did finally pull a goal back in the 75th minute, the lively James McQuilkin whipping across a low centre which Andre Brown tucked away at the near post.
But the anticipated all-out assault on the Chorley goal never materialised, such was the Magpies’ determination in midfield and vigilance at the back where Stephen Jordan was outstanding. A surging run on the break by Marcus Carver was only halted by a last-ditch tackle as Chorley sought to sneak a third. There was a rare test for Ritchie Branagan in the home goal when he leapt above a pack of players in a packed goalmouth to palm aside a searching left-wing centre.
There was one last-gasp scare for home supporters in an excellent crowd of 1,242 when Palmer left his goal to contest the final Kidderminster corner and won his header which flashed the wrong side of the far post.
CHORLEY : Branagan, Challoner, Jarvis, Leather, Charnock, Jordan, Blakeman, Whitham, Carver (McDaid,90), Sampson (O’Keefe,69), Cottrell. Unused subs. Teague, Beesley, Roscoe.