Stockport County’s season was ended on Wednesday night, with Chorley taking victory in an evenly matched play-off quarter final at Edgeley Park.
In what was County’s first play-off involvement since victory over Rochdale at Wembley in 2008, it was the Magpies that came out on top in a tight game with over 6,000 supporters watching on (6,230 the official number, although it looked as though there was an extra 1,500 on top of this).
Injuries and recalls had forced Jim Gannon to rethink his starting XI for the match. Dan Cowan dropped into a defensive trio with Sam Minihan and Adam Thomas acting as wing-backs on the night.
The Hatters started the brighter too, forcing a number of early corners as they fed off the electric Cheadle End atmosphere.
Jimmy Ball saw a tame shot go wide and a Sam Minhan cross was almost headed into the net by Chorley defender Andy Teague.
Matty Warburton’s presence around the final third was the biggest threat that County offered, but the former Curzon man was unable to find a breakthrough.
HT: County 0-0 Chorley
The second half started much the same as the first ended, with both sides offering little going forward, Adam Thomas did go close after some good play down the left but his shot comfortably hit the side netting.
Things began to change towards the hour, with the Magpies happy to soak up any and all possession before launching swift counter-attacks against the Hatters.
And unfortunately, after 67 minutes, the visitors did get their goal. The County defence were unable to clear the ball after a string of crosses eventually fell to Jason Walker, who bundled home from close range.
Darren Stephenson was introduced alongside Rhys Turner as the home side looked for a way back into the match.
But besides Stephenson’s bouncing shot being headed off the line by O’Keefe in the 88th minute, County offered little in the way of threat against a solid and resilient Chorley defence and the game ended with just the one goal.
FT: County 0-1 Chorley
Credit to Chorley, who were just about the better side and much more organised defensively than the Hatters. The Magpies go on to the semi-finals of the play-offs for the third straight year, facing Harrogate on Sunday.
For Jim Gannon and Stockport County, planning will already be underway for next year’s attempt, and the manager has already begun to make changes to his squad for the 2018/19 season.
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Cowan, Winter, Smalley, O’Halloran (Stephenson, 79), Thomas, Turnbull (Turner, 72), Oswell, Warburton, Ball.
Unused: Clarke, Ormson, Walker.