Town lose out at Chorley

Harrogate Town lost out on the road at Chorley
Harrogate Town lost out on the road at Chorley

Harrogate Town could not find a way through the National League North’s stingiest defence as Simon Weaver’s men suffered a second defeat of the season, at Chorley.

After a first half that saw the hosts rattle the bar, a half-time change of formation looked to have improved Town at the break, only for the visitors to be undone by a 76th-minute penalty.

Jason Walker had managed to get behind Luke Shiels, who then brought the forward to the ground; conceding a spot kick and being shown a straight red card.

Adam Blakeman converted the penalty and sent Town to a defeat that leaves them four points behind league leaders AFC Fylde.

Simon Weaver made one change from Tuesday night’s win over FC United of Manchester with Chib Chilaka replacing JP Pittman.

Danny Ellis had the first half chance of the afternoon, when the centre-half met Joe Leesley’s corner at full stretch but headed over the bar.

Town’s captain then had his goalkeeper to thank for keeping the scores level as Peter Crook tipped Jason Walker’s header over the bar.

The stopper was again called into action mid-way through the half, collecting Dale Whitham’s volley low to his left.

When Crook was eventually beaten by Sefton Gonzales after rushing out to close the number 10 down, the crossbar came to Town’s rescue as Walker, who had been picked out by Gonzales, headed onto the bar and behind.

The home side boasted the best defence in the league going into the contest, and lived up to that label in the first 45 as Town were limited to speculative efforts including Leesley’s try from 30 yards.

The final chance of the half fell to the Magpies eight minutes from the break when Whitham raced into the right of Town’s penalty area a shot low across the face of goal and wide.

Matt Jansen’s side then had a good chance to take the lead just three minutes into the second period as Gonzales looked set to toe Walker’s shot home, but failed to make the right contact with the ball.

Chorley’s tall centre forward had another chance to break the deadlock ten minutes later, but missed the target with his floated header.

Warren Burrell then thought he had put Town ahead against the run of play when he unleashed a shot towards the bottom right corner, only for his attempt to hit a defender and go behind.

The contest had suddenly become much more open than the first half, with Chorley Captain Andy Teague almost finding the elusive opener with a back-post volley, only for Lewis Turner to hook off the line.

With 15 minutes to go, a flick on allowed Walker to get the wrong side of half-time substitute Shiels, who was then penalised for bringing the forward to the ground.

The referee awarded the hosts a penalty which Blakeman calmly converted, and brandished a straight red card for Shiels.

Despite Joe Colbeck coming within inches of repeating his FA Cup heroics and grabbing a late equaliser, the 10 men of Town couldn’t find a way back into the game, and were forced to settle for a second defeat of the season.