Knowles’ dramatic last-minute winner sends Town into play-off final

Dominic Knowles celebrates after firing home Harrogate Town's equaliser against Chorley from the penalty spot. Picture: Town Pix
Dominic Knowles celebrates after firing home Harrogate Town's equaliser against Chorley from the penalty spot. Picture: Town Pix

Dominic Knowles struck in the 93rd minute to fire Harrogate Town into the National League North play-off final.

The in-form striker’s second of a thrilling encounter sealed a 2-1 comeback victory over Chorley in the most dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon.

Despite dominating the game, Simon Weaver’s men fell behind late in the first half, but after visiting left-back Lee Molyneux was sent off, Town recovered to record a win that their overall display more than warranted.

The hosts were quickly into their stride, passing and moving in slick fashion and creating a number of good early chances.

With seven minutes on the clock, Mark Beck was denied by visiting gloveman Matt Urwin when he met a right-wing cross at the back post, then as the Chorley custodian spilled the ball, Knowles struck the cross-bar from Jack Emmett’s lay-off.

Town continued to make all the running and following some glorious interplay, another chance was created, but went begging.

The impressive Emmett picked the ball up in midfield, burst forward and exchanged a neat one-two with Beck that sent him clean through on goal, however his tame effort was held by Urwin diving low to his left.

George Thomson was then played in down the right, but could only roll a shot across the face of goal.

Despite barely having had a kick, Chorley somehow took the lead in the 35th minute after Joe Leesley lost possession deep inside his own half.

Alex Newby raced down the visitors’ right towards the byline where he pulled back for Josh O’Keefe to force the ball past James Belshaw from close range.

The goal came very much against the run of play but it knocked the stuffing out of Town and the Magpies finally began to enjoy a brief period of possession.

Disaster was however to strike for the Lancastrians just before half-time when Molyneux flew in with a reckless, high challenge on Ryan Fallowfield, directly in front of the home dug-out.

After consulting with her assistant, referee Rebecca Welch showed the Chorley man a straight red card, handing the Wetherby Road outfit a huge boost in the process.

The second period was essentially a game of attack versus defence, with the visitors keeping all 10 men behind the ball in a bid to hold on to what they had.

It was beginning to look as if it might be one of those days for the Sulphurites with the ball just not quite dropping for them inside the penalty area despite persistent pressure.

That was until the 58th minute when O’Keefe handled inside his own box and, after again seeking the advice of a linesman, Ms Welch pointed to the spot.

Despite a long delay and plenty of gamesmanship from the Chorley players, Knowles kept his nerve from 12 yards, sending Urwin the wrong way as he planted his strike in to the right side of the away goal.

At this point, with the hosts pouring forwards, a Harrogate winner looked inevitable, but they failed to create anything more than half-chances, and with around 10 minutes of normal time remaining, having weathered the Town onslaught, the visitors began to creep back into the game.

Four minutes of added-time were then indicated, and with Weaver’s men back in the ascendancy, skipper Josh Falkingham picked the ball up on the edge of the box and drilled an effort goalwards.

His strike hit a defender, but deflected into the path of Knowles who stroked the ball across Irwin and into the bottom corner as cool as you like.

The goal sparked scenes of delirium inside the CNG Stadium and Town then managed to see out the remaining 60 seconds to set up a home meeting with Brackley Town next Sunday, with a place in the National League for 2018/19 up for grabs.