Chorley 4 Skelmersdale United 1
Garry Flitcroft’s irrepressible Chorley took a giant stride towards the NPL Premier Division championship by thumping current leaders Skelmersdale United 4-1 at Victory Park.
It was a performance crackling with energy and commitment on a gluepot of a pitch which unhinged the visitors, whose push-and-run style of play was less effective on the sticky surface than the home side’s more direct approach.
Roared on by the vast majority of a superb crowd of 1,968 – the league’s highest of the season – the Magpies delighted their boss.
He said: “That was a mammoth show, especially after the exertions of Tuesday night min the FA Trophy. It’s a massive three points for us at this stage. And what a crowd.”
The win now puts Chorley within a point of Skem, but with four games in hand!
The bare scoreline, however, does not tell the whole story of an enthralling match.
Skelmersdale made much the sharper start and, had they taken a couple of the clear openings they created in the first 20 minutes, the outcome might have been a much happier one for their supporters.
But, as so often, goals change games and all-action Chorley were never going to let the points slip once in front.
Elusive wide-man Matty Hughes’ fine run and deep cross gave Adam Morning a free far-post header but Sam Ashton rescued Chorley with a top-class save at full stretch. Then Neil Prince’s chip dropped agonisingly the wrong side of the post, before Dean Astbury squandered a third presentable chance, dragging his shot wide from 15 yards.
The visitors were made to pay on 26 minutes when Paul Jarvis curled a sublime free-kick beyond the defensive wall and into the far top corner of the net. Clearly boosted by the spectacular strike, the Magpies were in the ascendancy when another free-kick produced a second goal after 39 minutes.
This time Keil O’Brien nodded on Jarvis’s kick from midfield and James Dean got in a second header which looped beyond ex-Magpies keeper Zac Hibbert and dropped just under the bar.
And the home fans were in seventh heaven a minute before the break when Darren Stephenson set up the newly-re-signed Jack Dorney for a simple finish with the visitors’ defence in disarray.
A well-timed dash from goal by Ashton smothered Hughes’ attempt to reduce the deficit almost at once.
On the resumption Skelmersdale seized the initiative and Ashton flung himself to his left to punch aside a smart effort by Prince.
Then on 54 minutes a free-kick from the by-line enabled visitors’ skipper Tom Hardwick to score with a simple back-post header and it was game on again.
But Chorley dug in resolutely to prevent further damage and it was they who had the clearer chances to extend their lead.
Only a desperate defensive deflection took the ball off the head of Dean, all set to convert a searching centre, and Hibbert later did well to spread himself and block substitute Josh Hine’s shot following a great through-ball from Dorney.
But the Chorley pair had the final word in the 84th minute, Dorney again releasing the former Skelmersdale striker who raced clear and confidently tucked a shot beyond Hibbert to complete the Magpies’ joy.
CHORLEY : Ashton, Ross, Cottrell (Roscoe, 85), Teague, O’Brien, Whitham (Vermiglio, 89), Dorney, Woolcott, Dean, Stephenson (Hine, 71), Jarvis. Unused subs. Walmsley, Grundy.
Hereford United completed the double over Southport at Edgar Street on Saturday with a 4-1 victory in front of 1569 spectators and leaving the Sandgrounders perilously close to the drop zone.
Ex-Port player, Jon Brown, opened the scoring blasting the ball in from 10 yards out as the defence hung back.
The second half was all Hereford. Man of the match, Michael Rankine did a brilliant turn before shooting past Danny Hurst for the second in the 53rd minute and, three minutes later, another ex-Port player, Dan Walker, converted Chris Sharp’s cross for a third goal.
Steve Ackrigg pulled one back on the hour but a minute from time, Rankine scored his second and the demolition was complete.
Southport are still 19th in the Conference Premier table but can be overtaken by Aldershot, Chester and Tamworth who have games in hand.
In the NPL Premier Division, AFC Fylde registered their fourth successive victory with a well earned 2-1 victory away at Marine.
Despite falling behind to a Joseph Fowler penalty on 21 minutes, but Richard Allen restored parity 16 minutes later.
The game was heading for a draw until Daniel Lloyd-McGoldrick pooped up in the final minute to give the Coasters all three points.
In the First Division North, both Bamber Bridge and Lancaster City’s respective aways games against Kendal Town and New Mills were postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
Burscough’s match at Padiham also fell foul of the weather, but Clitheroe’s match at harrogate Railway Athletic did go ahead and the Blues were beaten 3-2.
Paul Coote gave Simon Garner’s men a fourth minute lead, but Nathan Cartman (39) equalised and Colin Hunter two goals in the 52nd and 73rd opened up a two-goal cushion. Jake Shawcross’s late goal was a consolation.