Chorley 2-4 Blyth Spartans: Magpies toppled from top spot in National League North
Chorley's return to the top of the National League North a week ago proved to be for one game only as they were promptly deposed by a lively Spartans side in a compelling contest.
Of crucial benefit to Blyth were two penalty awards by referee Matt Corlett who took centre stage in handing out a flurry of nine evenly-distributed pre-Christmas cards.
But any suggestion that this highly competitive game was a roughhouse would be wide of the mark.
Both sides produced eye-catching flowing football, the match being ultimately decided by an enterprising double substitution by Blyth boss Alun Armstrong midway through the second half which impacted decisively on the outcome.
Spartans’ overworked defence did well to survive a an opening half-hour battering by the Magpies, keeper Peter Jameson pulling off two stunning saves and seeing a colleague head another goal-bound flick from Stephen Jordan off the line.
It was completely against the run of play when in the 39th minute Dan Maguire latched on to a long punt from Jameson and was deemed to have been fouled by home keeper Dan Eccles as he dived at his feet.
Sean Reid fired home the penalty.
Then on 44 minutes Maguire doubled the lead with a brilliant speculative shot from the left which flashed into the far top corner.
Chorley reacted almost at once when Andy Teague’s touchline cross was deftly headed in by Josh O’Keefe at the far post.
The Magpies equalised on 55 minutes from a trademark corner routine, Adam Blakeman’s pull-back being confidently dispatched by Elliot Newby from 20 yards.
At this stage Chorley looked set to go on and win, such had been their pressure, but apart from one header off the line Blyth held on.
The introduction of substitutes Jamie Holmes and Jarrett Rivers proved a game-changer.
On 75 minutes the referee awarded a soft second penalty when Maguire went to ground out on the right, Holmes this time tucking away the spot-kick.
And seven minutes later a wonderful mazy run by Rivers, evading four challenges, teed up Holmes for a simple finish which put Spartans beyond Chorley’s reach and kept their impressive winning run going.
Elliot Newby came close to pulling one back for Chorley but his chip over a stranded Jameson just cleared the bar.
For the Magpies and their supporters in a fine pre-Christmas crowd of 1,076 it was an ultimately frustrating afternoon.
They could have been out of sight within the opening half-hour, such was their dominance.
But a pacey Blyth were always a force to be reckoned with and took their chances, at the same time making the most of those two penalties.
CHORLEY: Eccles, Challoner, Blakeman, Teague, Baines (Hooper, 75), Jordan, A. Newby, O’Keefe, Carver, Wilson (Almond, 72), E. Newby. Subs (not used): Cottrell, Meppen-Walter, Lee.