Words: Steve Topping; Pictures: Keith Bowes
Injuries and illness meant Chorley made the long trip to Billingham with just eleven players, with very strong blustery wind combined with a dry bobbly pitch ensured neat passing football would be at a minimum.
A series of early corners by Norton were easily dealt with by the Chorley defence. Betty Worth battled hard up front against a strong, physical Norton outfit and Chorleys midfield trio worked hard to try and release the wide players, but the conditions spoiled the majority of attacks for both sides.
The second half started much the same with both sides striving for the breakthrough but defences on top. The game changed in controversial fashion on 65 minutes; a ball powered across from the right struck Saskia Bowes on the arm. The referee played on, however, the linesman flagged for a penalty and the referee duly gave the spot kick. Rachel Darbyshire in goal then produced a fantastic save, but the ball bounced back across the face of the goal and spun over the line before she could recover it.
Confirmation that lady luck had deserted Chorley came two minutes latter. Spurred by the injustice Chorley forced a free kick midway in the Norton half which drew a third yellow card for Norton. The ball was floated into the Norton box and was clearly handled by a Norton defender, the Chorley players appealed as one, but the referee said play on. This would have knocked the stuffing out of most sides but the Chorley girls rolled up the sleeves and battled. A lovely midfield move found Laura Walker in space, she drew a player before squaring a nice ball to Lisa Topping. Twenty five yards out, she took one touch and smashed the ball over the Norton keeper to level the game.
Katy Morris then went on a powerful run from midfield beating several players, but unluckily the ball bobbled away at a crucial moment. Norton attacked down the left but their resulting shot was saved once again by the excellent Darbyshire. Into the last minute Norton attacked with pace into the box and only a superb tackle by Bowes stopped a shot on goal. From the resulting corner the ball was flicked up in the air, landed on the bar and dropped down goal-side, only to be stabbed home by Norton for the winning goal.
Player of the match: Katy Morris
Chorley: Darbyshire; Fenton, Searson, Bowes, Mitchell, Topping, Walker (c), Worth, Mills, Morris, Kemp.
HT 0-0 / FT 2-1
Goals: Owens, Burton; Topping
Next Up: A local derby against Bolton Wanderers at Victory Park next Sunday (2pm). Admission is £3 adults, £1 concessions & FREE under-12s & season ticket holders.