Saturday 30th October
FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round
Chorley 3 Marine 1
Tea hut purchases: Cheeseburger £2.20, Tea £1
Weather: Raining upon arrival, dry and fair later
Parking: Side street just around the corner
The Match Shed was going dizzy with all the incessant roundabouts in Chorley town centre, I counted at least 8 of the things. For a welcome change my downloaded ground directions proved 100% correct and I soon had the Match Shed parked up in one of the tight back streets adjacent to the ground. Victory Park is quite close to the edge of the town centre, nestling besides the old Plaza Cinema and a Morrisons Supermarket that has its own unique chimney. I'd made excellent time and even had time for a pint in one of the local pubs. A half hour later I was surprised to find it raining, certainly not what was forecast. Me and Frugal Glenn hurried along to the turnstile entrance to join the queue of eager locals shuffling through the car park. I always get a bit twitchy when I see stewards scrutinising everyone lining up, I had my camera bag with me and I had pre-read the Victory Park ground regulations which do not allow unauthorised photography. I'd been on the Chorley Fans Forum, the impressive 'Magpies In Space' and enquired if I'd be able to take some snaps? They'd assured me I wouldn't have a problem and so it proved, no hassle at all. Chorley are going great guns this season, unbeaten league leaders in the Evo Stik NPL Division 1 North, they pulled in over 1,100 spectators for their last home game, the town is obviously impressed with the new profile being set out by the board and the management team. This FA Trophy tussle pitted Chorley against wily and determined opponents from the Premier league division above them, Merseysides finest, Marine. The very good match programme provided lots of information on previous encounters and the publication set the scene 'just right' for the match, nice to see a value for money programme with interesting articles, I've bought some howlers at other grounds this season.As usual, I hadn't been in the ground very long when I got a hint of that delicate, entrancing, magical aroma drifting along the gentle breeze, the unmistakable smell of the Tea Hut. I decided to go and buy something. Chorley have just opened a second tea hut so you now have the luxury of one each side of the Main Stand, I decided to go in the traditional established one, The Magpies Nest Snack Bar. Most people were still sheltering from the rain so when me and Frugal Glenn marched in there was nobody inside. However, on the other side of the counter there looked to be around 8 or 9 pretty young girls all looking for a bit of action, food wise I mean. The strange thing about the girls is that they all had bright orange faces? I was thinking that they either did shift work at a local foundry or they'd been getting too close to the griddle pan? I seem to be seeing more and more orange women around nowadays, weird.I went for the cheeseburger at £2.20, worryingly it miraculously appeared in seconds without the aid of the nearby grill-plate, it also had those well diced onions which I'm not too keen on. To make it even worse the tomato ketchup bottle had a congealed-sticky lid and I got that awful leaky liquid before the real sauce came through the top (despite shaking it). I reckon Tea Hut teams should adopt more stringent sauce bottle management disciplines, it does affect the produce. Needless to say I still ate it all (but it was a bit 'luke-warm/cold' to be honest).Having a pre match stroll around the ground we decided to watch the first half from the large grass bank on the side opposite the big Main Stand. You get a great view of the pitch from the bank and it enables you to see the majesty and character of that Main Stand in all its glory, a terrific old school football stand which provides a tremendous backdrop to the action. Why can't we make stands like this anymore, they are miles better than the flat pack jobs you see at new grounds nowadays. Just before kick off Frugal Glenn mentioned that there must be a lot of those 'Goths' in Chorley, he said he'd just seen one bloke with a red painted face and a big black cloak, the woman he was with was dressed like a blow up version of a ballet dancer come wrestler? I then realised that a lot of the Marine supporters had come in fancy dress (probably Halloween related), Frugal remained sceptical. He only believed me when I pointed out Father Christmas jumping up and down behind the nets, surely he wasn't a local Goth? The two magpies wondering around as Chorley mascots only confused the situation even further. Frugal Glenn can be bloody hard work at times, I dont think he likes Goths that much? A lot of people had this match down as tie of the round, me included, it was a great disappointment to witness something well short of that illustrious billing. It was a dog of a first half really, fragmented passing, over hit crosses, minimal midfield creativity.Both sides filtered in and out of the action (if you can call it that) without posing much of a threat. I suppose Marine just about edged the proceedings, a fact verified by a 35th minute Neil Harvey goal (which he took well enough). Half time gave me the chance to try the other Chorley Tea Hut, the Victory Snack Shack, I just about got my cup of tea before the mad rush, they certainly like Tea Huts in Chorley! Both me and Frugal expected Chorley to put a much better show on in the second half, surely they must play better than this to achieve such first class results in the league? As for Marine, I got the impression they would protect that 1 goal lead and let Chorley fall onto them. The next 30 minutes were pretty awful, there was a bit more goalmouth action but the general play was very flat and dare I say it dull. Marine as predicted seemed to be playing a holding profile, they got a few shots in, superbly saved by the decent looking Chorley keeper Dean Porter, but more and more possession was going to Chorley, the problem was, they couldn't find a way through, numerous moves fell down with the final ball going astray.Chorley manager Gary Fitcroft decided to play his final 'ace' card with just over quarter of an hour left, he took off new signing Aaron Rey (who'd done ok with limited service as a striker) and brought on player coach Matt Jansen. Marine would need to get close to Jansen and be resolute in totally shutting him out of the proceedings. His reputation alone warranted complete respect. It took Matt less than 3 minutes to smack in one of the sweetest best placed shots of the season. I was right behind the trajectory, the keeper never moved as it whistled low into the far right hand corner of the net, a clinical, lethal strike which shifted the balance of the whole match there and then. Marine went into panic mode, Chorley pushed forward, passes that before went wayward now found feet, width and pressure built upon the Marine rear guard, Jansen was everywhere, his presence had injected life back into a dying match, the home side surged forward urged on by the vocal support of the fans. When Jordan Stepien made it 2-1 three minutes later, I realised what was brewing in this ordinary Lancashire town, they were going somewhere and they all wanted a part of it, the supporters were going mad! In 6 or 7 minutes Matt Jansen had completed mission impossible, his influence and ruthless example re-ignited the rocket on the launchpad, this time they had lift-off! Marine had one bullet left in the barrel but would they get a chance to fire it, they re-grouped and pushed into occupied territory. It was brutal nerve jangling stuff, if only the rest of the match had been like this? The final whistle drew ever closer, Chorley seemed stuck between defending or going for another one! When Jordan Stepion hit a wonder shot in the last minute the Main Stand roof lifted off, what a goal, what a finish, Marine had been beaten and the Chorley rollercoaster rolled over another mighty peak, what a great end to a pretty dull match, 75 minutes of cardboard, 15 minutes of pure gold. Hope it didn't spoil Saturday night for Count Dracula and the merseyside Father Christmas?