Chorley 1, Darlington 1
Promotion chasers Chorley and Darlington shared the spoils in a high-tempo contest which was a tremendous advertisement for non-league football.
It was riveting entertainment for a crowd of 1,387, the first half in particular providing fast and furious end-to-end play and a host of goalmouth incidents.
In the final analysis, although the result could have gone either way, two outstanding saves by Magpies’ keeper Ritchie Branagan ensured parity for his side.
Darlington began the sharper and in the second minute Nathan Cartman fired a rising shot inches over the bar.
Then for Chorley Marcus Carver fluffed a clear chance from three yards, failing to make a clean contact with a low ball across the box and allowing keeper Edward Wilczynski a comfortable pick-up.
But Carver was to do much better later! Both teams were already racking up the corner-count in the game’s early stages and from one of these in the 16th minute Darlington went ahead.
When the cross came over the ball was knocked down and fell kindly for the Quakers’ skipper Kevin Burgess who slid it into the corner of the net from short range.
Soon afterwards Adam Blakeman prevented the Magpies from going two down, clearing off the line a powerful effort from David Syers with Branagan stranded.
Chorley began to gain a grip on proceedings and following a well-flighted corner Darlington defenders twice in succession headed out from under the bar.
It was no surprise when the Magpies equalised in style on 34 minutes. A great ball in from Dale Whitham on the right was cushioned back into the path of Carver who from just inside the box left Wilczynski standing with a thunderous shot high into the corner of the net. As the hectic pace continued Branagan pulled off a terrific finger-tip save when left one-on-one with Syers.
Although the second half did not match the first for goalmouth excitement, the game was always on a knife-edge.
Twice Cartman took up good positions for the visitors but dragged his first attempt wide of the far post and then saw his second effort smartly parried by Branagan at his near post.
The Quakers enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure before Chorley reasserted themselves and forced the Quakers to defend in depth.
Twice Carver raked the goalmouth with well-struck cross-shots and several times the home side got in behind the Darlington defence to the by-line - the missing link a goal-poacher to turn inviting low crosses into the net.
The visitors, however, had two late openings to snatch all three points, with Stephen Thompson twice involved.
Firstly, fastening onto an under-hit back-pass, he prodded the ball wide under pressure from Branagan, then having broken through again he was denied only by a superb block by Branagan racing off his line. But in the end a draw was the right result from a hard-fought match which neither side deserved to lose.
CHORLEY : Branagan, Challoner, Beesley, Teague, Leather, Jordan, Blakeman, Whitham (O’Keefe,69), Carver (McDaid,82), Sampson, Cottrell. Unused subs. Charnock, Azam, Roscoe.