Chorley 1 Brackley Town 0
The National League North points were far more important than the performance as the Magpies sought to banish their midweek FA Cup blues against a Brackley side whose own cup exploits are not yet over.
But the dogged Northamptonshire team will have to find a cutting edge up front if they are to embarrass League Two visitors Newport County in next Saturday’s FA Cup first round.
They made Chorley work hard for victory with defence-in-depth their priority and a goalless stalemate was in prospect, until talisman striker Darren Stephenson delivered the three points on 77 minutes.
Stephenson’s exhilarating runs down the left wing lit up this mundane match and it was fitting that he should be the match-winner, coolly controlling Mark Ross’s long cross-field ball before drilling a low shot past keeper Sam Hornby from 12 yards.
His opposite number Sam Ashton enjoyed a quiet afternoon as Brackley failed to muster a serious shot on target, their best chance disappearing in the opening minutes when Glenn Clarke scooped a sharp back-post opportunity wide following a corner.
Chorley repeatedly pressured the visitors’ defence in the first half with a series of crosses and corners from one of which Kieran Charnock headed inches over the bar. Then, after bursting through from Marcus Carver’s flick-on, Stephenson under challenge poked the ball beyond Hornby but was unable to regain possession and score.
The pattern changed little after the break with Stephenson’s dazzling runs again Chorley’s most potent threat, and he was unlucky to see one terrific drive deflected for an unproductive corner.
When finally he broke the deadlock it was no more than he and Chorley deserved for a display brimming with purpose and endeavour.
“For a change we got what we deserved today,” said manager Matt Jansen.
“We stuck to our beliefs, I asked for a little bit extra after Tuesday’s disappointment and our never-say-die attitude saw us through.”
CHORLEY: Ashton, Ross, Cartwright, Charnock, Doyle, Cottrell, Hine (Jarvis 62), Whitham, Carver, Bond (Guy 71 (Roscoe 90), Stephenson. Subs (not used): Lynch, Dean