Chorley 1 Alfreton Town 0
Manager Matt Jansen admitted to giving his battle-weary players a half-time roasting to fire them to a fourth consecutive victory and confirm a sixth-place National League North finish.
The Magpies now head into the promotion play-offs. Playing their fourth match in eight days, Chorley, in their manager’s own words were ‘flat’ in the first half.
But his interval message clearly hit home as Chorley grabbed the only goal of the game within seven second-half minutes and after that ran out quite comfortable winners.
That took their points’ haul to an impressive 20 from the last eight games of a hectic end-of-season run-in.
“We didn’t turn up in the first half,”’ said Jansen. “But in the second we were fantastic.”
The Magpies certainly started sluggishly and Alfreton had much the better of the opening half-hour. Striker Nyal Bell repeatedly caused problems and full-back Tom Allan was a threat at set-pieces but the visitors’ final ball or shot was often not good enough.
Allan, however, almost did the trick, his low cross-shot beating Matt Urwin, only to be booted off the line by the vigilant Lee Molyneux. Chorley’ first clear chance was delayed until just before the break. A careless back-pass left Marcus Carver with just Chris Elliott to beat but the keeper spread himself effectively and blocked the shot. The decisive goal on 52 minutes was a typical predatory strike by Jason Walker.
Elliott miscued a clearance high into the air and a defender’s attempt to head clear fell to Walker, who coolly lobbed the ball beyond the stranded Elliott into the empty net.
Chorley grew in confidence after that and Alfreton’s attacking threat noticeably diminished.
The nearest they came to an equaliser was a stinging low angled drive by Bell which Urwin gathered safely on his way to a 17th clean sheet of the campaign.
It was the Magpies who threatened to enhance the scoreline.
Elliott pulled off a cracking full-length save from a Carver header following Matt Challoner’s pinpoint centre and then Josh Wilson found himself through on goal but saw his cross-shot sail just past the far post.
And so it is on to Stockport on Wednesday for the elimination play-off quarter-final against County at Edgeley Park, where the Magpies will hope to preserve their record of not having lost in the three seasons of National League North meetings.
CHORLEY: Urwin, Whitham, Molyneux, Teague (Lightfoot,78), Challoner, Anson, Newby, Wilson, Carver (Darr, 83), Walker (Gregory,63), Cottrell. Subs (not used): Burgess, O’Keefe.