Chorley 2 Guiseley 3
Chorley’s hopes of promotion to non-league football’s top tier evaporated in the most cruel fashion at a packed Victory Park.
The Magpies were in the box-seat after opening up 2-0 lead at the interval in the play-off final against Guiseley.
But a trio of enforced defensive substitutions early in the second half contributed to Guiseley boldly turning the match on its head to run out 3-2 winners.
Although it was hugely disppointing for the vast majority of the 3,418 crowd – the biggest at Victory Park for 40 years – full credit must be given to the visitors for a terrific comeback.
After the departure of influential Chorley skipper Andy Teague two minutes after half-time and full-back Paul Jarvis shortly afterwards, Guiseley pulled a goal back on 56 minutes and seeing the door to promotion now ajar they had quality to kick it wide open.
When home keeper Sam Ashton fell awkwardly after making a routine catch midway through the half, he became the third luckless member of the Magpies’ back-five to leave the fray.
It was to prove one setback too many for Chorley.
Earlier it had all been plain-sailing for the home side.
Guiseley in contrast were defensively all at sea as the Magpies started much the sharper side and they soon delighted their fans by going ahead in the fifth minute.
Dale Whitham’s inswinging corner was flicked on at the near post by James Dean and turned into the net off the crossbar by Teague.
Guiseley hot-shot Adam Boyes promptly worked himself a clear chance but Ashton rescued Chorley with a point-blank save.
Teague was soon celebrating what he thought was a second home goal with a well-timed header from a free-kick but the flag went up for offside.
It must have been a marginal call.
However, the lively Magpies did increase their lead after 20 minutes with a fine goal.
Jack Dorney linked well with Jarvis down the left flank and the latter jinked past two defenders before beating Steve Drench from an angle with the aid of a deflection. As the interval approached, Chorley were very close to a potentially decisive third goal. Josh Hine was set free from the halfway line and raced unchecked on goal but Drench stood up to his fierce rising drive and palmed the ball aside.
Guiseley began the second half in determined style, substitute Liam Dickinson hooking a snap-shot high and wide.
Boyes then showed his class by expertly controlling a long ball over the top, holding off his marker and shooting past Ashton to relight Guiseley’s fire.
Ashton’s departure left reserve keeper Aaron Grundy in the firing line and he appeared to be caught flat-footed on 73 minutes as Dickinson angled a header across him from a free-kick to bring the scores level.
It was certainly game on now and five minutes later Guiseley grabbed the all-important goal. Good work by Boyes following a free-kick teed-up substitute Nicky Bushell for a simple close-range finish.
Shell-shocked Chorley rallied bravely in the closing stages and Matt Flynn was agonisingly close to equalising with a header which struck the underside of the bar before being scrambled away amid protests that the ball had crossed the line.
Late shots by Jake Cottrell and Dorney were safely gathered by Drench before the final whistle was rapturously greeted by Guiseley and their 900 raucous fans.
After four successive play-offs disappointments lady luck had finally smiled on Guiseley in the Victory Park sunshine.
Magpies’ manager Garry Flitcroft understandably struggled to hide his disappointment.
He said: “We were outstanding in the first half but those three injuries disrupted us. To lose three of your back-five like that is very hard to manage in such a big game. But the players have given me everything all season and I’m very proud of them.”
CHORLEY : Ashton (Grundy,66), Ross, Jarvis (Mather,53), Teague (Flynn,47), Doyle, Winter, Hine, Whitham, Dean, Dorney, Cottrell. Unused subs. Burns, Almond.