The Magpies moved up to forth in the league with a victory over second placed Harrogate Town that was far more emphatic than the score line suggests.
Adam Blakeman’s 76th minute penalty conversion following Luke Shiels dismissal for dragging down Jason Walker in the box is the only statistical difference between the two sides, but the Magpies dominated possession carving out several opportunities to banish last weekend’s FA Cup exit and celebrate Matt Jansen’s manager of the month award in style.
From the first whistle Chorley pressed forward but had to wait until the 11th minute for the first sight of goal, but Jason Walker blasted a free-kick wastefully over following a foul on the impressive Dale Whitham 20 yards out from goal.
Five minutes later Walker was denied by a finger-tip save from Peter Crook in the Town goal. The ex-Barrow striker hung in the air at the back post to meet a Matt Challoner cross, but his powerful header to diverted over by Crook.
Harrogate, in a rare foray forward on twenty minutes, saw a cross-come-shot covered at the near post by Sam Ashton.
Immediately down the other end, Chorley were awarded a free-kick and following the ball being half cleared Whitham hit a half volley from the edge of the box which Crook did well to save.
Walker again went agonisingly close with a header skimming the top of the cross bar on the half hour mark from a Sefton Gonzales cross then Whitham drove across the face of the goal minutes later.
With the break approaching Sam Ashton went to gather a Harrogate cross but ended up in a heap in the middle of his goal and had to receive length treatment on this left knee. With no substitute keeper on the bench this was a worrying moment for the Magpies. However, Ashton was able to continue through obviously still in discomfort for the remainder of the match.
Just before the break Walker again was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet. Captain Andy Teague flicked on a corner to the back post and rather than power his header at goal Walker opted for precision, attempting to head into the bottom corner but directed the ball agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
Immediately after the restart Gonzales was in a perfect position to convert a cross, but the ball rolled just behind him and he couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough to get a shot at goal then ten minutes later following a succession of home corners he headed inches wide of the target.
Despite dominating possession going into the final half hour the score line was still unbelievably blank and it looked like the manager of the month curse was set to strike when Teague headed against the post and this was followed soon after when Gonzales danced around the Harrogate area but couldn’t find a way through a sea of Town legs, having several attempts blocked by some desperate defending.
However, on 75 minutes the defining moment of the game arrived. Gonzales flicked a ball into the path of Walker, and the striker sped at goal only to be dragged down by Sheils inside the area, giving the referee the easy decision to award a penalty and send Sheils for an early shower.
Up stepped Adam Blakeman, and following what seems like countless misses already this season, a nervous Victory Park watch on, but the former Bolton apprentice slotted coolly, sending Crook the wrong way.
Following last week’s defeat against ten-man Spennymoor nothing can be taken for granted against a side with reduced number and Harrogate then almost netted with a corner was headed just over the bar with the hobbling Ashton rooted to his line, then again in the final minutes Town had a half chance to net, but the shot was sent well side from close range.
Between these two opening for Harrogate, Chorley continued to dominate the ball with Whitham and Gonzales stepping up and at times becoming a two-man team that the visitors just couldn’t get the ball from.
At the final whistle, three more deserved points in the bag and an eighth league clean sheet from thirteen games – officially the tightest defence in the league following Kidderminster conceding three and on this evidence there was little to suggest how Harrogate were and still are second in the league!
Starting XI: Sam Ashton, Matt Challoner, Paul Jarvis, Andy Teague, Scott Leather, Stephen Jordan, Adam Blakeman, Dale Whitham, Jason Walker, Sefton Gonzales, Jake Cottrell
Subs: Will Beesley (Jarvis, 85), Josh O’Keefe, Adam Roscoe, Waqas Azam, Louis Myers (Gonzales, 90+4)
Goal: ADAM BLAKEMAN (76, Pen)
Red Card: Luke Shiels (75)
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: Dale Whitham, he almost singlehandedly ran the Harrogate midfield ragged