Chorley 3 Stocksbridge Park Steels 1

TWO quickfire goals of stunning execution set up another vital victory for league leaders Chorley against already-relegated Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Although the midweek exertions against closest challengers FC United seemed to catch up with the Magpies later in the game, they conjured a third goal to settle the nerves and received a boost at the final whistle with the news that United had been surprisingly beaten at home by mid-table Buxton.

After Darren Stephenson had missed an absolute sitter in the opening minutes, Chorley went ahead on the quarter-hour mark.

A flowing move led to Jake Cottrell releasing Josh Hine down the right and the pacy striker netted his 20th of the season with a cracking low cross-shot which literally broke the net inside the far post.

Two minutes later the mercurial Stephenson added a gem of a goal, bursting through from his own half to leave keeper Jack Ward standing with a fierce rising drive.

But loss of concentration at the back allowed Steels to reduce the deficit on 19 minutes, two defenders failing to clear a long throw-in and allowing Jamie Smith to stroke the ball past Sam Ashton from eight yards.

Stephenson should have restored the Magpies’ two-goal cushion soon afterwards but, racing clear once again, he fired straight at Ward. Such excitement-levels could not be maintained and there was a lengthy period of stalemate, with Steels unable to threaten the home goal.

Two missed chances by James Dean and Cottrell early in the second half added to the frustration before home fans in another superb crowd of 1,007 at Victory Park were finally able to acclaim Chorley’s 100th league goal on 69 minutes.

Stephenson broke through on the left and squared the ball across the face of goal where Hine pounced on a deflection to rifle a shot into the roof of the net.

In the end it was a routine victory and now Chorley, with a vastly superior goal-difference over their rivals, are effectively within two wins of the title with three games to play.

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