TAMWORTH 1 CHORLEY 1
The FA Trophy dream was still alive at the weekend for Garry Flitcroft’s unflappable Magpies who fully deserved their place in Tuesday’s quarter-finals draw after another performance full of character against Skrill Premier opponents in a rousing cup-tie.
Chorley’s incessantly vocal contingent of supporters, numbering a truly remarkable 507 in a crowd of 1,209, all but silenced the Lambs’ fans and the Evo-Stik League Premier Premier title-chasers, who in a high-tempo match created the more clear-cut scoring chances, would not have been flattered by victory. “We could have won at the first time of asking,” said the proud Magpies’ manager. “The chances were there if we could have taken them. We’ve had amazing support from our fans here and I think with 1,000-plus behind us on Tuesday night we can finish the job.”
Tamworth started confidently but it was their goal which had the first escape, Andy Teague rattling the right-hand post following a long throw-in.
In a Tamworth reprisal, Richie Baker scuffed his shot wide when well-placed.
The clever footwork of Richard Peniket on the left flank was a repeated threat but Teague and Keil O’Brien commanded the Chorley penalty-box with composed and emphatic clearances.
Chorley were again close to opening the scoring on the half-hour, Adam Roscoe seeing his far-post header from a corner scooped off the line. As play switched from end to end, Baker’s snap-shot for the hosts from just outside the box flew wide.
But the Magpies continued to hold the attacking advantage as the interval approached, Dale Whitham shooting over the bar on the turn and Paul Jarvis miscuing a bobbling ball high and wide, before a raking low cross just eluded James Dean at the far post.
It was no more than Chorley deserved when they seized the lead on 52 minutes with a goal of classic simplicity.
Dean won an aerial duel forty yards out and from his headed flick-on Adam Mather raced through on the left and calmly drilled a superb low drive into the far corner of the net to cue wild celebrations among the hundreds of Chorley fans behind the goal.
But the lead lasted only seven minutes.
In a packed Chorley penalty area Lloyd Kerry went down under challenge and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, from where Nick Chadwick gave Sam Ashton no chance with a fierce rising shot in-off the underside of the bar.
Soon afterwards, Mather limped off with a tweaked hamstring, Jarvis filling in at full-back. The equaliser and two substitutions pepped up Tamworth who at this stage were using the slope to advantage and stretching the Magpies’ defence, who held firm under mounting pressure.
Yet in breakaways the Chorley attack still carried the greater threat. Dean got in a cracking low shot on 70 minutes which keeper Cameron Belford did very well to turn for a corner.
There was a major scare for Chorley when Ashton unwisely involved himself in a tussle for possession near the touchline and only a brilliant covering header by Mark Ross saved the visitors when a cross duly arrived in the untended goalmouth.
Further Chorley breaks could have won the tie, Belford again saving well from Dean, who then glanced a header wide from Whitham’s deep centre with the goal at his mercy.
Whitham once more burst clear but this time his cross was just too far forward for Dean to connect. With time running out, both sides had one more clear chance to settle the issue.
A plunging save by Ashton kept out a well-placed Gavin Mahon header before Magpies’ substitute Darren Stephenson’s pace carried him clear but with Josh Hine unmarked and perfectly placed for a square pass Stephenson elected to shoot himself and blazed well wide.
So it’s on to Victory Park tomorrow (7.45pm) for the second instalment of a tie perhaps too close to call, a trip relegation-threatened Tamworth will not be relishing with a vital televised league match to fulfil at Alfreton on Thursday.