Town maintain fine form with Chorley success

Simon Ainge powers home a header to put Harrogate Town 2-0 up against Chorley. Picture: Town Pix
Simon Ainge powers home a header to put Harrogate Town 2-0 up against Chorley. Picture: Town Pix
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Harrogate Town’s fine run of form continued as they beat Chorley 2-1 at the CNG Stadium.

Their unbeaten stretch of six games never looked like coming to an end with first-half goals from the excellent Joe Leesley and the irrepressible Simon Ainge earning the win.

Simon Weaver’s side created a stack of chances in the opening 45 minutes and should have been further ahead at the break, but if they continue to churn out impressive results then their play-off ambitions have life in them yet.

Fourth-placed Chorley were poor on the day and aside from Jack Sampson, who struck in the 42nd minute, caused the home defence few problems.

Town started with all of the assurance of a team who have only been defeated once in this calendar year and they took the lead in the 13th minute.

After Liam Agnew swung a cross-field pass out to the right wing, full-back Lewis Turner was clipped on the ankle by Jack Cottrell. A penalty was rightly given, which Joe Leesley planted confidently down the middle.

Five minutes later, Lloyd Kerry was stretchered off with a knee injury and this disrupted the home side’s pattern although Ainge came close with a low drive that was saved.

The Magpies saw Sampson nod just wide from a corner and then force a save out of Peter Crook as the hosts drifted through the middle of the first period.

On 39 minutes they won a free-kick on the far side which gave Leesley the chance to whip in a delivery; he did so, devilishly, finding Ainge to power in a header at the back post- his 14th goal in nine games continuing the tale of a remarkable renaissance.

Minutes before the break, Chorley got a goal back out of the blue, there was a hint of a foul on Crook as he tried to punch the cross clear with Sampson on hand to slot in the rebound.

In first-half injury time, Leesley had two great chances to extend the lead but was twice foiled by gloveman Ritchie Brannagan; first with his left foot from inside the box and then from range.

Leesley makes the game look pitifully easy at times and his left-footed deliveries have set up 21 goals so far this season.

The Wetherby Road outfit continued to create chances and dominate the game after half-time.

Substitute Jon-Paul Pittman, mysteriously omitted at Gloucester for ‘contractual reasons’, turned Leesley’s low cross just over before Branagan nicked the ball from him with an outstretched hand as he tried to round the Chorley stopper.

Harrogate had a couple of forlorn penalty shouts in the second half, both on Ainge, which were rightly given short shrift by referee Martin Woods before Joe Colbeck’s deflected shot nearly creeped in at the near post.

Warren Burrell, deputising at the back, looked unruffled all game but then nearly headed into his own net, relying on Crook to dive backwards and palm the ball onto the crossbar.

The 970 fans at the CNG Stadium were given another, late scare as Crook looked to have spilled a cross into his own net but Mr Woods blew up for a foul.

With barely a moment to spare, Jack Emmett was tripped in the box by Stephen Jordan and a second penalty was awarded.

Leesley stepped up and went down the middle again but Branagan saved; with the rebound dropping to the taker in space, the referee blew for full-time in a thoroughly bizarre end to the game.