Chorley FC won’t be making a third trip in as many years to Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium to contest the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy after losing to Ashton Athletic in the semi final.
At a chilly but mercifully dry County Headquarters in Leyland, the Magpies left it until the 84th minute to find an equaliser after The Ashes opened the scoring on 57 minutes.
Despite Matt Jansen naming a strong squad for the match, the North West Counties outfit often matched Chorley for much of the game in terms of pace and skill on the ball.
In a goalless first half, Chorley had a first half chance after just four minutes after a foul on Charnock led to a free kick. However this game to nothing as Ashton cleared their lines. Charnock fired an effort from distance just three minutes later which the goalkeeper managed to palm away.
On twelve minutes, a neat run by a lively looking Jarvis resulted in a shot on goal, which Pearson palmed away for a corner.
A couple of minutes later, McDaid found the back of the net after a powerful shot by Azam was parried away by the keeper, however the rebound was flagged for offside by the linesman. Walker was the next to come close as he unleashed a shot after a darting run down the right which was gathered easily by the man in green.
The action defaulted in the direction of Athletic after Chorley’s lively start. A cross from a man in yellow landed in the box, which Branagan gathered easily. A clumsy foul by Azam led to a set piece just outside the box.
On the half hour mark a series of fouls by Athletic led to numerous free kicks, however, the men in stripes weren’t able to capitalise.
At the other end of the pitch, a pile driver from Farnworth was stopped by Branagan, however a minute later, the same player was to go in the book for a tackle on Jarvis.
Just before the end of the first half, a surging run by Teague was followed up by a cross, however this went out for a goal kick.
Chorley started off the second half in high spirits, Roscoe with a header which the keeper collected. A couple of minutes later a huge chance for an opener but the goalmouth scramble failed to see a Magpie get a touch on the ball. This was followed by Roscoe and a half volley, but this landed inches over the bar.
On 56 minutes a foul by Leather led to a free kick in a dangerous position with the resulting ball beating everyone apart from Branagan who caught the floating ball. Just a minute later The Ashes deservedly took the lead after neat build up play led to a shot into the corner of the net.
On the hour mark, the Chorley bench decided to ring the changes and swapped a defender for a striker, with Sampson replacing Charnock. Three minutes after this, Brownhill tried a speculative effort, however this sailed wide of the post.
The enlivened Magpies then turned up the heat; Beesley with a pin-point cross to Roscoe, who headed directly at the keeper. Less than sixty seconds later, it was Jarvis with a near miss; Jack Sampson providing cracking service to the winger, however his shot was smashed against the post from a tight angle.
Jarvis was subbed for Cottrell on 68. Walker put McDaid through on 73 minutes, however his effort was deflected out for a corner. This was followed by a huge cross from Cottrell which found Walker, however he struggled to control the ball.
With only eleven minutes left on the clock, Athletic thought they had doubled their advantage however the linesman’s flag had already been lifted.
A fortunate free kick was awarded to the Magpies following a contentious decision by the referee. A scramble in the box finally landed to McDaid who blazed over the bar from ten yards out.
With just six minutes remaining, the equaliser came following a corner and yet another mix up in the box and Walker smashed home in front of the rapturous Chorley fans. The Magpies turned up the heat in search of a winner, however this was not to be. With three minutes added on, the Chorley faithful were perhaps dreaming of another ‘Alfreton’ but the winner was not to be, despite the best efforts of Beesley who went for glory in the dying moments, but sliced his shot well wide of target.
And so with the referee blowing for full time and the scores level, the game went straight to penalties. After a series of tit for tat conversions, the penalty tally stood 5-4 with the advantage to Ashton Athletic. With Sampson, Walker, O’Keefe, and Beesley scoring before him, up stepped Cottrell. However his effort was saved by the keeper to the delight of the Ashton Athletic fans who had made their way to Leyland from Manchester on the night.
The cruellest way to lose a cup tie for any team, however it was perhaps a deserved victory for The Ashes who will now face either Radcliffe Borough or Clitheroe in the final.
FT 1-1. Chorley lose 5-4 on penalties.
We now turn our attention back to the league when we host Telford United on Saturday.
Starting XI: Ritchie Branagan, Waqas Azam, Will Beesley, Andy Teague, Scott Leather, Kieran Charnock, Adam Roscoe, Josh O’Keefe, Jason Walker, Robbie McDaid, Paul Jarvis
Subs: Jake Cottrell, Jack Sampson, Matt Challoner, Jordan Southworth Jordan Darr
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: Jason Waker, grabbed the equaliser in his first start following a long lay off due to injury on Boxing Day. Looked fit and dangerous, and will tease defences in our final run in this season.