MATCH REPORT: Stockport 0 Chorley 1

Jason Walker rolled back the years with a spot of vintage poaching to ignite Chorley's promotion dreams as his goal slayed Stockport County in the first round of the play-offs

Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 11:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 11:51 pm

Walker, 34, is used to a big occasion and it was the ex-York and Luton man who popped up to silence the Stockport faithful as the flame haired forward was once again that fox in the box to pounce from close range.

His effort extinguished any hopes County had of bypassing Chorley to the semi-finals of the play-offs in this new-look three game National League North path to the National League.

Given Matt Jansen's sides strength in defence, having the second best in the whole division, that solitary goal was all skipper Andy Teague and his men needed to clinch a clash at Harrogate on Sunday with the Magpies now two wins away from ending a near three decade absence from the top tier of non-league.

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Walker might have etched his name in the Chorley history books but many of the 1,000 strong travelling Magpies will struggle to recall much of this rather tepid affair, aside obviously from the rapturous euphoria of that Walker goal.

It was a tame opening affair with Stockport thriving on crosses into the box roared on by the strong home faithful behind the goal they were attacking in the first 45.

Though they failed to test on-loan Fleetwood shot-stopper Urwin who collected the majority of crosses into the mix.

When Chorley finally got the ball down and played they showed their teeth with former Clitheroe man Alex Newby released on the right to tear County apart, his cross was nodded back across goal by Josh O'Keefe but the hosts managed to wrestle the sniffing Carver away.

Newby was the Magpies bright spark again as his deflected effort flew wide and then he drilled the ball straight down Hinchcliffe's throat after a sublime step over from Walker saw him find a pocket of space outside the box.

Jake Cottrell got in on the act with another speculative effort from distance but his effort flew way over as Chorley kept finding room outside the box.

It was a game of attrition until Stockport woke back up before the end of the first half, Urwin had been a virtual spectator but had to be at his cat-like best to tip over a Teague header to stop the skipper nodding into his own net. Urwin tipped out that a Smalley effort from that subsequent set-piece but Ball should have done better with the next as once again he rose highest above the pack but failed to hit the target.

And as the hosts started asking more probing questions the Magpies showed what they could do in the opposition half, a cross was eventually cleared to Molyneux outside the box and his delightful effort swirled fiercely through the air before a Stockport man put his body on the line to divert it off the line.

Stockport started the second half firing on all cylinders as Leather just managed to divert Warburton's shot away from a corner with a number of red shirts just bundling the subsequent set-piece away.

Chorley on the attacking front constantly won the second ball and after Molyneux's initial set-piece was cleared it was re-worked to the left footer outside the box though his curling effort was deflected away by another strong County block.

Adam Thomas managed to squirm his way through but talismanic skipper Teague was on hand to ensure he only diverted his eventual strike into the side netting.

Chorley sat deep and lived on the counter with Walker winning another free-kick on the halfway line that Molyneux directed towards Teague at the top of the box though his downward header was comfortable for Hinchcliffe with nobody gambling in the six-yard box.

As County began to tire Chorley's counter tactics started to come to the fore with Carver and Newby getting on the ball more and more though they lacked that final touch of quality.

That was until the 67th minute, Carver had grown into the game and it was his persistent work in the box and link-up with Challoner that lead to the ball flying towards the back stick where experienced hit-man Walker pounced to show his poaching days are not behind him.

Chorley had their goal and that played into boss Jansen's hands as they sat deeper and continued to pose a threat on the counter as Stockport's search for a leveller allowed more gaps for Chorley to exploit.

This time it was Newby at the forefront as he broke but instead of sliding the unmarked Challoner in on the overlap on the right he went for glory blasting the ball way over the bar.

It seems like we were all waiting for a home onslaught that never came but this is football and of course it came, though it was to be too late for County.

They piled bodies forward in the dying embers, like the men in blue had suddenly looked at their watches and gone ah, we are running out of time here, best try our luck.

And try they did, the stage was set for Stephenson to break his old club's hearts but the substitute fluffed his lines with some heroic defending on the line by O'Keefe who had recovered to block his effort.

With Stockport finally going for it that left those tell tale gaps at the back and Newby should have put the game to bed as he strolled in on goal, though the ex-Clitheroe man's effort was just tipped away by the fingertips of Hinchliffe.

Though the question now was could Chorley cling on to this slender lead, with the five minutes of added time ticking away fingernails in the away end it was never in doubt at Jansen's men once again pulled off another 1-0 win.

Chorley: Urwin, Challoner, Molyneux, Teague, Leather, Anson, Newby, O'Keefe, Carver, Walker (Wilson, 76), Cottrell. Subs: Whitham, Gregory, Burgess, Darr.

Stockport: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Minihan, Winter, Smalley, O'Halloran, Thomas, Turnbull, Oswell, Warburton, Ball. Subs: Clarke, Ormson, Walker, Turner, Stephenson.