12/5/19 Chorley v Spennymoor Town, National League North Playoff Final, Penalty Clause.

I felt a bit cheeky leaving the others to go on an ale trail round Chorley, but I really didn’t want to face a game like this stone cold sober, plus Chorley might be on the small side, but it’s packed with some really good pubs. Not having anything to eat, Val made sure I didn’t go before I’d at least had some toast. There must’ve been some kind of fun run going on, as there was the usual barriers erected, people bedecked in lycra and festooned with numbers that would make the identification easier, that’s always associated with this sort of thing. With the influx, the market had opened and some of the stall holders were making use of the opportunity, unfortunately, the Bob Inn micro pub that’s located in there, wasn’t, so I headed first to Shepherd Hall Ale House, another Chorley micro pub, one that has been up and running for a few years now, and a really good one too, it’s recently been taken over and new manager installed. It was excellent before, but it’s been made even better. It was off to the Malt and Hops, a particular favourite of mine. There’s so many things to like about the place, and I just can not fault it.

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“A Chorley gem, not to be missed”

Three Spennymoor coaches went passed me as I headed to The Shed, not that I needed a reminder of the game. The Shed is yet another of the many micro pubs of Chorley, this one’s decor giving it a wine bar feel, which soon evaporates, replaced by the usual comfortable real ale type ambiance. The last on this rather quick trail, (I really could’ve done a lot more, had it not been a Sunday, and had had a little more time) was the Flat Iron, we’d been out on the previous night, but with a bouncer on the door, and Dave in an Ajax shirt, we’d been turned away. I suppose a no football shirt policy, is a no football shirt policy, but did the pub house the Feyenoord supporters club, Chorley branch? It seemed to be where the older Chorley lads congregated, so maybe it had been just a precaution. They struggle with my accent up in Chorley, and I can never go up there without bamboozling someone in a shop or pub with it, least a Brummy accent can’t be mistaken for a Geordie one. I received a text saying the rest would be leaving the house at 2:30, so drank up, heading back to my Nephew’s place to meet them.

The game was always going to be tight, you very rarely get a game in the playoffs that’s an absolute cake walk, and it didn’t disappoint. The Mags had the slightly upper hand, and had the ball in the net, but offside. Wasn’t even close, celebrations muted. First half came to a close, chances had been a premium. Second half and other than Chorley having a few half chances, a goal could not be bought, 90 minutes had garnered no goals, extra time was needed. A far post header broke the deadlock and pandemonium eschewed, ecstasy is quickly replaced by relief which is just as quickly replaced by heightened anxiety, in these circumstances, Chorley had battled hard to work a chance worthy of a goal against a resolute Spennymoor defence, all the Mags needed to do, was keep kicking the ball out of the ground towards neighbouring Lancashire towns, Spennymoor had to come out of hiding, they hit Chorley before they had finished putting up the barricades, the goal they’d worked hard for, cruelly wiped out almost instantly. It had been and turned out to be Spennymoor’s only meaningful attack. 45 minutes at Reading on the last game of the season, had felt twice as long as the 2 hours of this game, it wasn’t bursting with goals, it hadn’t even been jam packed with missed chances that left you scratching your heads, or in my case, pulling what little hair I’d left, out, but it had sped by. It was the dreaded penalties. Penalties was the idea that was dreamt up to split these occasions, and beats a previous way, which was just a toss of a coin, but I truly hate penalties, it feels hollow once the celebrations have subsided, if you’ve won, and you can’t help but feel cheated if you’ve lost on them. When I was a kid, it was replays upon replays until something or someone gave, but staging replays became less and less financially viable, not least, rescheduling and never mind the fans. So penalties it was, penalties it was with this,

Chorley miss, Spennymoor miss, Chorley miss, Spennymoor score, Chorley score, Spennymoor miss, Chorley score, Spennymoor score, Chorley score, Spennymoor score, keeping up? Sudden death, Chorley score, Spennymoor miss. Chorley had done it. Despite an announcement over the loud speakers, to refrain from running on the pitch,

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“It was mere lip service”

Dave was off to join them before he heard any protests from off his parents, Val and John, 10 years earlier, I might have joined him, 15 years earlier, and I definitely would’ve. I’d like to say that it’s because I’m much more sensible these days, but in reality, I’m just too old.

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“A trophy for the winners. . . . . NOT runners up”

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“A ground hopping Ginge, and his minders for the day”

We went back to Dave’s, having a cup of tea, (We know how to celebrate) before saying goodbye, dropping Stephs Mom off, and heading down the motorway home, with the season not even cold, we chatted about next season, Val and John dropping me off, before travelling the last leg to theirs.

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