Chorley reached the dizzy heights of the first round proper of the FA Trophy, the furthest in the competition since we reach the Semi-Finals in 1995/96 (taking competition restructures into account) with a two-nil victory over Matlock Town.
With no Premier or Championship football, a bumper cup crowd of 772 turned out at Victory Park to see if the Magpies could extend their winning streak to nine games, and despite the Gladiators best efforts the majority of the crowd went home happy.
Mark Atkins obviously learned from past lessons and set his team out to stifle Chorley in a bid to prevent a third defeat of the season against Garry Flitcroft’s team.
After fielding a much changed side at Kendal in midweek it was back to the strongest available eleven, though the cup-tied Paul Woolcott and injured Keiran Walmsley both missed out.
Kick-off was delayed until 3.15 due to an elderly spectator requiring hospital treatment after being struck by a tray shot during the pre-match warm up but once the action was underway it was clear that Matlock’s game plan was stop the Magpies from playing football, and by in large their plan was successful as this was far from a fluent display from the morning league leaders.
The visitors created the first opening of the game, but despite a quality cross from the right wing the rest of the Matlock frontline weren’t in a position to take advantage.
In Chorley’s first meaningful attack James Dean won a free-kick just outside the box. Adam Mather stepped up to take the dead-ball in Tom Baker and Walmsley’s absence and the left-backs delivery was only half cleared to Dale Whitham who drilled a shot just wide of the post.
At the other end Danny Holland saw a shot deflect off Keil O’Brien to safety.
Josh Hine’s pace took him into the box and opted to shoot even though both Dean and Darren Stephenson were in good positions. His effort was easily gathered by Jon Kennedy in goal.
Matlock then had a spell in control as the hosts failed to clear their lines convincingly and over elaborated on the ball too often.
James Ashmore almost capitalised on a wayward Jake Cottrell header, but Mather was on hand to tidy up.
After weathering the storm Dean smashed the ball into the side netting after a neat flick on from Adam Roscoe, then Martin Fosters shot over for the visitors after picking up a poor Sam Ashton clearance.
The last piece of action of the opening half was a Roscoe 20-yarder that bounced off the crossbar with the midfielder slipping as he hit his shot.
After the interval it was more of the same. Brad Grayson forced O’Brien into a clearance with the first attack of the half then a Matlock corner appeared to just drop into the box and it seamed and age before it was cleared.
Adam Yates was the only player to get his name into the referee’s book, in what was an excellent display from Elizabeth Simms, to my knowledge the first female to officiate a Chorley game. From the Mather free-kick Kennedy did well to save a snapshot from Dean.
Roscoe made way for Paul Jarvis on 65 minutes.
Town, still looking good value to take the game to a replay, then had two good chances; the first seeing Ashton same smartly low to his right from Liam Needham then the Chorley stopper smothered a Grayson effort.
Jarvis lashed a 30-yarder over the bar as he looked to play his way into the game before Ashton denied Holland when clean through.
With the full-time whistle getting ever closer a replay looked more and more likely with Matlock looking much improved on our previous two encounters this season.
Simon Wiles was introduced at the expense of Stephenson, with Flitcroft revering from the usual 433 to 442 and this change appeared to have the desired effect with the Magpies gaining a foothold in the game.
Whitham, who had had a quiet game, almost stole in to score with ten minutes left on the clock. A superb ball from Mather split the defence but the effort required the deftest of touches which Whitham could quite manage on the run.
With seven minutes remaining the two substitutes combined to create the opening goal for Hine. Wiles deep cross from the right flank was headed down by Jarvis to Hine’s feet, who smashed the ball home from close range, giving Kennedy no chance.
Town, now searching for an equaliser, had claims for a handball against Andy Teague turned down then Corey Gregory headed at Ashton when anywhere else would have probably resulting in a goal.
Town continued to push bodies forward looking to earn a replay and as a result for the first time in the game Hine found himself in clear space in the area and headed home a Whitham cross deep in injury time.
The result was hard on Matlock, who perhaps deserved a draw, but that’s football and the win gives Chorley £4,000 in prize money and their name into the hat for the 1st Round proper draw on Monday when Skrill Premier sides enter the competition and the prize money goes up to £5,000.
Elsewhere, in the Trophy promotion rivals AFC Fylde lost away from home against First Division North side Curzon Ashton two-one; while in the league Skelmersdale United took top spot off us following a seven-three win at home to Droylsden and Worksop Town went level on points with Fylde after winning by the odd goal in five at Ashton United.
Skelmersdale are a point ahead but we have two games in hand, while Fylde and Worksop are five points behind and was have a game in hand on both.
Starting XI: Sam Ashton, Mark Ross, Adam Mather, Keil O’Brien, Andy Teague, Adam Roscoe, Josh Hine, Dale Whitham, James Dean, Darren Stephenson, Jake Cottrell
Subs: Paul Jarvis (Roscoe, 65), Simon Wiles (Stephenson, 79), Alex Meaney, Matt Jansen, Aaron Grundy
Goals: JOSH HINE (84, 90+2)
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: Josh Hine, was clinical when given the opportunity