Chorley 1-1 Stockport County: Hatters guarantee play-off spot with away draw

Scott Duxbury. Chorley FC 1-1 Stockport County FC. Vanarama National League North. 17.4.18

A headed equaliser 19 minutes from time from Scott Duxbury, together with results elsewhere, guaranteed Stockport County a place in the National League North play-offs.

The Hatters took to the field showing three changes from the line-up that had started at Edgeley Park against Telford three days earlier.

Ben Hinchliffe was recalled to replace Ian Ormson in goal, while Duxbury, following recovery from injury, and returning captain Harry Winter were brought in.

Harry Winter. Chorley FC 1-1 Stockport County FC. Vanarama National League North. 17.4.18
Harry Winter on the ball for Stockport County (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

Given that the sixth-placed hosts sat just one position below County, and also had serious play-off aspirations, a rather cagey opening might have been expected.

But instead, the Hatters had a chance to score after only 15 seconds when Rhys Turner latched on to Jamie Stott’s long ball and fired over.

And three corners – two of which were County’s – then followed in as many minutes.

But, with 27 minutes played, the hosting ‘Magpies’ stole a lead with their first attempt of the evening.

Adam Blakeman’s free-kick from inside the County half found Scott Leather – and, in spite of a crowded area, the centre-half found space to take the ball down, before turning to unleash a well-struck drive into the bottom-left corner.

Much of the rest of the half saw both sides produce off-target chances – with Winter firing one high and another wide for the Hatters, and Jason Walker, who eventually limped off five minutes before the interval, shooting over from a tight angle.

Darren Stephenson’s introduction for Turner upon the resumption brought the total of former Chorley players in the County team up to four – with Winter, Chris Smalley and Dan Cowan having also once plied their trade for the Magpies.

Hinchliffe was called into action for the first time when diving to smother an early second-half delivery from the left by Marcus Carver.

But the Hatters were playing their part in an open contest, which, around the hour-mark, saw the first half’s award of three corners in three minutes repeated.

Again, the Hatters won two of them – and with their second, taken by Adam Thomas from the left, the far post was struck, before home captain Andy Teague cleared Cowan’s follow-up shot off the line.

And four minutes later, County went close again, after an excellent move involving Stephenson and Warburton that played Jimmy Ball through on goal – only to be blocked by Urwin.

This renewed effort was worthy of an equaliser – and it came courtesy of Duxbury, who, from 15 yards, connected with Cowan’s cross from the right, to loop a header into the top-right of the net.

Paul Turnbull. Chorley FC 1-1 Stockport County FC. Vanarama National League North. 17.4.18
Paul Turnbull for the Hatters (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

With the Hatters back on level terms, the ‘live’ league table showed that they could not be overtaken to a play-off slot by either Blyth Spartans and York City – both of whom were losing.

In the event, happily, matters everywhere were to remain unchanged.

But, ahead of the final whistle at Victory Park, there remained work to be done, as the Magpies swooped to apply concerted pressure around the away area in the final 15 minutes.

The Hatters responded to the task with solidity and heroism in equal measure.

Hinchliffe parried two shots from Newby and a header by Teague, while his fellow defenders also performed with collective vigour to keep out anything that came their way,

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