Friday May 6th
Promotion Play-Off FINAL
CHORLEY ended eleven years of hurt and returned to the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League with a victory over Lancashire rivals AFC Fylde in what was a fantastically contested match, a superb advert for non-league football in front of an unbelievable attendance of 2,950!
A goal in each half separated the sides, with ace marksman Steve Foster opening the scoring on twenty-two minutes and Jack Dorney’s twentieth goal of the season four minutes from time rounding of a near perfect season for the club.
Right from the off the Magpies played a high tempo game and took the match to their hosts, who arrived at The Chorley Group Victory Park Stadium in the knowledge that in the three previous meetings this season the Coasters were unbeaten against the Magpies with two wins and a draw and had not conceded a goal either.
The first chance of the match cane Dale Whitham’s way as he hit the bar following a Tom Walker long throw.
Foster then tested the keeper before Whitham headed over a Tom Ince corner.
Fylde then came close with, first Chris Howarth smothered a Matt Mahoney effort then captain Michael Stringfellow headed a corner narrowly wide.
Just as Fylde had thought they’d weathered the Chorley storm Matt Jansen and Tom Ince combined beautifully to open the Fylde defence before Foster side footed into the corner despite the best efforts of Lewis Edge in goal.
This sparked near pandemonium on the Duke Street terrace as almost the entire ground erupted with joy.
The remainder of the half produced few chances as the two sides battled to take control. The Magpies survived a five minute spell of being down to ten men while Andy Russell received treatment to a blooded nose and there was an altercation in the Fylde dug-out when Dale Whitham joined them at pace – handbags!
Early into the second half, player-coach Matt Jansen was withdrawn with Jack Dorney replacing from the bench, the shortly after Fylde made their first substitutions, with a double change with Kevin Townson and Matt Mahoney being replaced by Andy Bell and Matt Walwyn, the scorer of the winner at Skelmersdale United.
The second half was a continuation of the end of the first.
Glenn Steele headed a Michael Barnes header goal-ward, but Howarth save well, then a spell of Fylde pressure with a series of corners and log throws was withstood.
With Fylde pushing forward for an equaliser, Chorley defeded stoutly and looked to hit on the break.
Chris Howarth pulled of what is possibly the save of the season, as he recovered ground to race to the far post and flung himself to deny Walwyn from close range. It looked an impossible save to make and some of the few hundred travelling supporters started to celebrate, then looked on in disbelief.
Steele was not up front for Fylde, and with captain Stringfellow leaving the field with a suspected broken arm (Dan Mahoney replacing him), they were started to get stretched at the back and Chorley took full advantage to wrap up the game and promotion four minutes from time.
Dorney running down the left wing channel cut inside and hit a blistering strike into the top corner to send Victory Park into raptures as the club recorded it’s first promotion since elevation to the Conference back in the 1980’s.
At the final whistle there were hundreds on the pitch celebrating, and no doubt the players are enjoying themselves around Chorley town centre as I write this report (1am!
We are going up, we are going up!!
Commiseration to our opponents, not only of tonight, but Monday’s to. AFC Fylde and Curzon Ashton, along with runner-up Skelmersdale were a credit to themselves and the league all season and Fylde tonight put up a superb battle.
Now bring on FC United, Bradford Park Avenue, Kendal Town and Chester in the Premier Division and who knows we may emulate FC Halifax Town and Colwyn Bay who both have recorded back to back promotions from the First Division and will be playing Blue Square North football next season.
Starting XI: Chris Howarth, Mark Ross, Tom Walker, Andrew Teague, Andy Russell, Dale Whitham, Adam Roscoe, Jamie Vermiglio, Matt Jansen, Steve Foster, Tom Ince
Subs: Lee Woodyatt, Jack Dorney (Jansen, 52), Shelton Payne, Nathan Fairhurst, Jordan Stepien
Goals: STEVE FOSTER (22) JACK DORNEY (86)
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: The Team, same as the semi-final. To a man they were phenomenal.