Top dogs Magpies can smell Bloods

Alex Nicholson
Alex Nicholson
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Top meets bottom tomorrow as title-chasing Chorley face doomed Droylsden at Victory Park.

The Magpies went three points clear at the summit of the NPL Premier Division after beating Witton Albion 1-0 at home in midweek.

They took advantage of second-placed FC United’s inactivity after their match against Grantham Town was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, while AFC Fylde – in fourth spot – were held to a 2-2 draw at Rushall Olympic.

This weekend’s fixture looks a certain three points for Garry Flitcroft’s men as Droylsden are already relegated, having picked up just one win and six points all season.

The Bloods are also currently beset by financial problems.

However, their only victory this season came two weeks ago against Witton Albion and their upturn in form continued last Saturday when they were narrowly beaten 4-3 by third-placed Worksop Town.

And Flitcroft has cautioned his players against the threat of complacency when Dave Pace’s men roll into town.

“They beat Witton Albion a few weeks ago and lost narrowly to Worksop,” Flitcroft said.

“The manager has got a few different lads in from Football League clubs, who are on YTS.

“It’s never an easy game – we’ve just got to make sure we are right for it and hopefully, we will come away with the three points.”

A win tomorrow will set the Magpies up nicely for next Tuesday’s potential title decider against FC United at Gigg Lane.

Tomorrow, the Red Devils face a stiff test away to Blyth Spartans, who are still in with a shout of the play-offs and are particularly strong on their home patch.

Should Chorley do the business tomorrow, then there is every chance they could head to Gigg Lane on Tuesday, with a significant points advantage.

Flitcroft said: “That would be nice but we’ve just got to concentrate on getting a result there and winning as many games as we can.

“FC United have to go up to Blyth tomorrow and it’s not going to be an easy game for them.

“Blyth are on a great run at home – they’ve got the best home form in the league. So a lot could change after this weekend.”

After a sticky run of just two wins in their previous nine games, Chorley were relieved to pick up two successive victories this week.

Their win over Witton followed a 3-2 success away to Ilkeston, which was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.

“On Saturday against Ilkeston, we could have been four or five up at half-time,” Flitcroft said.

“But we let them back in the game by conceding from a 
set-play, which is not like us.

“Their second goal came in the last minute.

“On Tuesday we ground it out. We huffed and puffed in the first half but in the second half we created a lot more chances.

“Dale Stephenson missed a one-on-one just before we scored but our goal was a great one.

“It was a great ball in from Max Cartwright and a terrific header from Dale Whitham.”

Chorley’s win over Witton on Tuesday night was all the more impressive, bearing in mind the average age of their back line.

Skipper Andy Teague’s early withdrawal due to tonsilitis meant manager Garry Flitcroft had to call upon the services of 17-year-old Preston youth player Nick Anderson.

He slotted in at centre-half alongside fellow North Ender – 20-year-old Alex Nicholson, 19-year-old Max Cartwright and Mark Ross, who at 21 is the ‘old head’ of the quartet.

“The pleasing thing for me from Tuesday night were the performances of the young lads after Andy Teague came off,” Flitcroft said.

“Max has done really well since he came, and Alex and Nick have been good for us.

“We were getting slack with our defence but they have really strengthened us.”

Teague was touch and go before Tuesday night’s 
game but Flitcroft is confident he will be available against Droylsden tomorrow.

AFC Fylde will aim to keep their title hopes alive when they welcome relegated Stocksbridge Park Steels to Kellamergh Park tomorrow.

The Coasters drew 2-2 with Rushall Olympic in midweek to slip five points behind leaders Chorley.