Chorley sensationally knocked Skrill Premier side Forest Green Rovers out of the FA Trophy in a penalty shootout after 210 goalless minutes.
Rovers, the pre-season favourites for non-league’s top league title, couldn’t break down the Magpies defence through two pulsating encounters and as the fog grew thicker at The New Lawn, the Magpies found a hero in keeper Sam Ashton. He stepped up to the mark and saved three penalties to set up a January third round encounter with Tamworth in the next round, topping the clubs winnings in this competition by another £6,000, taking the total earned in the Trophy to a staggering £20,950.
And the penalty win was the more remarkable after Josh Hine hit the post with the opening kick. However Matthew Barnes-Home and James Norwood had their efforts save while James Dean and Darren Stephenson netted to make it two-nil after five kicks.
Matt Taylor beat Ashton with the sixth with Dale Whitham slotted in the seventh to make it three-one before Forest Green’s Paul Green was denied by Ashton to send everyone who had made the trip to Gloucestershire delirious.
During the previous 120 minutes Chorley were more than a match for their hosts who play football two leagues higher. In the opening 30 minutes Dean had two early chances, the second needing a super save from Sam Russell, Adam Roscoe headed over the bar from a free-kick and Whitham crossed into the side netting all before Rovers had a clear opportunity.
Barnes-Homer somehow headed over from two yards with the home sides first clear opening though Stoke City loanee James Alabi was a threat whenever they attacked.
Dean smashed the ball narrowly over the bar from a Adam Mather freekick, then James Norwood caused all sorts of problems dribbling the ball forward before a clattering challenge from Keil O’Brien stopped him with a yellow card earning challenge the second player in the book following Al Bangura.
So at half time might the Magpies rue their missed chances?
Rovers stared the brighter in the second period with Barnes-Homer volleying over then forcing a save from Ashton.
Roscoe then missed when he should have scored from a Dean cross before Barnes-Home and Norwood combined for the best chance of the game, but the latter blazed over.
The superior fitness of the full-timers was starting to tell as the controlled the opening exchages of the second period and it needed Mark Ross to hack clear a James Alabi cross on the hour mark to keep the score level.
Stepheson joined the action in place of Paul Jarvis on 64 minutes to add pace and power to the Chorley attack.
Whitham was penalised for what looked like an excellent tackle, but the free-kick in a dangerous position was dealt with and Chorley hit on the break with Hine’s blistering pace taking him clear and his cross/shot almost caught Russell out in the Rovers goal.
Alabi them missed an absolut sitter, firing wide of the upright then a Marus Kelly cross eveded everyone before drifing to safety wide of the post.
A Stephenson headed from a Roscoe cross was well held by Russell.
With just over ten minutes to go Rovers used the last of their subs and looked to push for a winner but Ashton denied Taylor’s long range effort with their best effort before normal time ended.
A minutes before extra-time there were shouts for a penalty off a Whitham shot but the claims fell on deaf ears then in the fourth and final minute of injury time Stephenson tried a cheeky back-heel inside the six-yard box to win the tie but went just wide of the upright.
So full time and the sides were in separable, would the fitness and extra rest Rovers have had recently seen them past their part-time opponents?
As in the second half Rovers start the brighter hitting a few crosses into the box, though they didn’t trouble the Magpies backline.
Seven minutes in and Norwood stretched the defence but Ashton saved well with his legs to force a corner then Barnes-Homer saw an effort deflected for another corner.
In the final seconds of the first period Chorley first chance almost resulting in a goal as Adam Roscoe forced a goal line clearance.
Into the second period and Jamie Vermiglo replaced the excellent Roscoe to add steel to the midfield.
Jared Hodgkiss whipped a cross in which rebounded off Ross, but straight into the grateful arms of Sam Ashton then Ashton was even more grateful when the ball was cleared after his only mishandle of the game off a Norwood dink five minutes from time then Ashton save smartly from Norwood in the final second – were the football gods on our side?
Final whistle, penalties await and they are taken in front of the Magpie supporters…
- Chorley; Josh Hine, hit the left hand post; 0-0
- FGR; Mathew Barnes-Homer effort saved by Sam Ashton down to his right; 0-0
- Chorley; James Dean, banged it down the middle; 1-0
- FGR; James Norwood, Saved again by Sam Ashton low to his left; 1-0
- Chorley; Darren Stephenson scores down the right hand side; 2-0
- FGR; Matt Taylor, Ashton gets close but it goes in; 2-1
- Chorley; Dale Whitham scores putting the ball down the right; 3-1
- FGR; Paul Green has to score to keep Rovers in it but Sam Ashton saves; 3-1
Chorley XI: Sam Ashton, Mark Ross, Adam Mather, Andy Teague, Keil O'Brien, Jake Cottrell, Josh Hine, Adam Roscoe, James Dean, Dale Whitham, Paul Jarvis
Subs: Darren Stephenson (Jarvis, 64), Jamie Vermiglio (Roscoe, 107), Alex Meaney, Adam Mitter, Aaron Grundy
Att: 508 (51 from Chorley)
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: Sam Ashton, purely for three penalty saves