Chorley 0 Stockport County 1
Chorley’s nine-game unbeaten run in the National League North was ended by a feisty Stockport side finally able to record a victory over the Magpies.
County have suffered four previous defeats in the two seasons in which both clubs have competed at this level.
In fact, allowing for decades in which the teams never met, this was Stockport’s first win over Chorley since 1899.
It also ended the Magpies’ impressive unbeaten home record stretching back to February, the Hatters finding the key to unlock the league’s tightest defence just once – and it proved enough for a joyous celebration by the County players and their near-900 vocal fans in a superb crowd of 2,464.
In truth, the game was far from a classic.
Chorley – as manager Matt Jansen admitted afterwards – were not as sharp as in recent matches and they were hustled out of this one by an uncompromising Stockport side clearly up for the challenge.
A very physical battle in a tense and highly-charged atmosphere allowed few clear shooting chances to either side.
But the decisive goal on 72 minutes was a classic route-one strike, the result of quick thinking by County keeper Ben Hinchcliffe and ex-Magpie Danny Lloyd.
When a home attack petered out, Hinchcliffe instantly launched a speculative long clearance which caught out Chorley’s last man, and Lloyd – anticipating the flight of the ball – gained possession and neatly slipped his shot past the advancing Sam Ashton.
There had been little to excite the crowd in a scrappy first half, though Chorley had two chances as the interval approached.
A great centre from the right by Jason Walker was met by Jake Cottrell 12 yards out but his header flew straight at Hinchcliffe.
Then a quickly-taken volley by Kieran Charnock following a corner whistled just over the bar.
County were on the front foot from the off in the second half and a volley from James Hooper was well saved by Ashton.
But gradually the Magpies gained more control and it was a real sucker-punch when the visitors snatched the all-important goal.
Chorley worked hard to find an equaliser and substitute Marcus Carver headed narrowly over at the far post from an excellent Walker centre.
County, however, remained a threat on the break and substitute Jimmy Ball deceived Ashton with a cross-cum-shot which clipped the bar.
But the action in a tense last few minutes was in the Stockport goalmouth.
In a frantic finale, Hinchcliffe arched himself to tip over an Adam Roscoe header bound for the top corner and then Carver had a shot scrambled off the line.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Jansen.
“We weren’t quite as ‘at it’ as we have been in recent games and there were a few flat performances out there today.
“But we have had a fantastic run and been unbeaten here since February, so we’ll pick ourselves up, remain positive and go again at Curzon Ashton on Monday.”
CHORLEY: Ashton, Challoner, Jarvis (Beesley 82), Charnock, Leather (Carver 61), Jordan, Blakeman (Roscoe 90), Whitham, Gonzales, Walker, Cottrell. Subs (not used): O’Keefe, Azam