Harrogate Town 2-4 Chorley: Own goal ends Town stay in National League North play-offs

Danny Ellis, right, put into his own net in the second half after Danny Stephenson scored twice for Chorley in the first (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
Danny Ellis, right, put into his own net in the second half after Danny Stephenson scored twice for Chorley in the first (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
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Harrogate Town dropped out of the Vanarama National League North play-off zone after losing a six-goal thriller at home to Chorley in their final outing of 2015.

Chorley looked to have the points sewn up before half-time as winger Darren Stephenson smashed home two goals before Andy Teague headed home a corner.

But Town responded with a quick-fire double through strikers Jerry Yates and Dom Knowles soon after the break.

Any hope of sharing the spoils was cruelly ended in comical circumstances, though, when Danny Ellis headed over his own goalkeeper when backpedaling.

Defeat dropped Town to sixth place as Boston United returned to the top five with a 1-0 victory over Gainsborough Trinity.

However, promotion rivals AFC Fylde and Solihull Moors both dropped points.

Lloyd Kerry slides in to win the ball for Harrogate Town (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Lloyd Kerry slides in to win the ball for Harrogate Town (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Simon Weaver kept faith with the travelling party that collected three points on a Boxing Day visit to Stockport County.

That meant Saturday’s goal hero Jordan Thewlis was made to settle for a place on the bench, while new signing Lassana Sidibe had to wait longer for his first place in the squad.

Midfielder Andy Gascoigne was also left on the sidelines, ten months after Chorley captain Andy Teague broke his leg in two places in the same fixture last season.

Chorley keeper Sam Ashton was almost caught out from a fourth minute corner as he scooped out Brendon Daniels’ delivery at the near post.

Dom Knowles pokes home Harrogate Town's second (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Dom Knowles pokes home Harrogate Town's second (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

The away side’s forward momentum was centred around the weight of former Town striker James Dean and the long throw of winger Josh Hine.

Dean breached the offside trap once but his cross was too high for Stephenson at the back post.

Yates had Town’s first clear sight of goal as he raced into the left channel but sent a tame striker into the hands of Ashton.

The game was put firmly in the visitor’s control with Stephenson’s two goals in three minutes around the half hour mark.

Harrogate Town's Brendon Daniels on the surge forward (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Harrogate Town's Brendon Daniels on the surge forward (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

Town’s dominance in possession was broken as Stephenson cut inside off the left flank and planted a shot past three defenders into the far corner.

The winger’s second arrived from a deep free-kick into the Town box. When the ball fell at Stephenson’s feet, he switched it to his left and drilled it into the top corner.

Town were struggling to force any openings in attack despite Jack Emmett’s direct dribbling, although Daniels crashed one free-kick narrowly wide.

Chorley’s physicality was noticeably causing strife for Town, and a deep cross from right back Mark Ross found James Dean in acres of space inside the box but his header went went.

Simon Weaver shuffled his pack with the introduction of James Cadman for veteran Paul Thirlwell, possibly feeling the effects of two matches in 48 hours.

However, it was Thirlwell’s midfield partner Lloyd Kerry who was found wanting five minutes before the break as Teague rose above him at the back post for the simplest of headers home from Andy Bond’s corner.

It could have got even worse for the hosts on the stroke of the interval, but Adam Roscoe fired over from the edge of the box after Town gifted more space at a defensive corner.

Weaver’s half-time words sent Town out with much more urgency in the second period and the hosts panicked their visitors.

Yates spurned Jack Emmett’s cross over before Dave McGurk has a similar result with a header from a Daniels corner.
Town’s lifelines duly arrived with two goals in as many minutes. The bouncing ball was not dealt with in the Chorley box and Dom Knowles poked the ball into Yates’ path, for the striker to smack into the bottom corner.

Yates repaid the compliment to his strike partner within a minute as Town poured forward. Crook’s throw found Louie Swain striding forward, from Daniels pass, Yates prodded through and Knowles slid the ball past Ashton.

However, just as Town pressed for an equaliser, Chorley extended their advantage in embarrassing circumstances for centre half Danny Ellis.

An innocuous long ball was comically back-headed by the Town captain and it lobbed over the stranded Crook and into an empty net.

After starring in Saturday’s win, Thewlis came on for Emmett in the final quarter and almost narrowed the deficit as he lifted a shot wide on the right channel.

Weaver used his final throw of the dice to replace McGurk with right-winger Joe Colbeck, leaving muscular forward Paul Clayton on the bench.

The desired goals to get Town back on terms did not materialise, however, as Chorley narrowed their defence and played on the counter.

Colbeck saw a cross-cum-shot tipped behind by Ashton in injury time, while Lloyd Kerry’s strike deflected wide before Ellis headed the final action of the game over from the resultant corner.