Chorley 2 Lowestoft Town 2
Following a nightmare journey and a delayed kick-off, Lowestoft Town battle hard with Louis scoring in stoppage time for a 2-2 draw at fancied Chorley
Chorley: Ashton, Ross, Dodd, Teague, Smyth, Cottrell, Hine (Jarvis 81) Whitham (Roscoe 86 mins), Dean, Winter, Almond
Subs not used; Lynch, Dorney
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Ainsley, Gaughran, Haynes-Brown, Smith (Hayles 68 mins), Henderson, Fisk, Jarvis (Okay 83 mins), Eagle, Bammant, Louis
Subs not used; Clunan, Marsden, Jessup
After a good start to a long journey the Lowestoft coach hit trouble on the motorway with a multiple car accident delaying the team and the kick-off by fifteen minutes. When Lowestoft and their supporters did arrive though, they were met by a very welcoming club and a lovely looking, old fashioned non league ground.
Earlier in the day Lowestoft had announced that they'd registered creative midfielder Michael Clunan to play for them and he went straight into the squad with a place on the bench. The noticeable player for Chorley was their powerhouse forward James Dean, who looked to have all the makings of a defenders worst nightmare.
The game got underway and in their first ever season of Conference football, Lowestoft snatched the lead in the opening minute of the match. A big kick from Jones in the Lowestoft goal saw the Chorley defence backing off and with the keeper also deciding not to come for it, Bammant got himself on the end to scuff the ball home for 1-0 (1 min).
Chorley had been guilty of not switching on from the off and as the opening minutes past the Chorley defence looked more and more nervy, as a handful of Lowestoft supporters behind the goal burst into song and cheered the blues on.
Chorley did however carve out an opportunity from which they should have equalised, with Whitham doing really well on the right to get the ball in and find Almond but from just a yard out he sent his header into the ground and right up into the clutches of Jones.
Henderson was covering a lot of ground for Lowestoft and winning the ball off the opposition at times with some tenacious play but Chorley were now starting to settle into the match. As the fifteen minute mark passed, Chorley were getting themselves into the game more and more, with Whitham in particular looking a very competent player on the ball in midfield for the home side.
The quality of delivery into the box was missing for the home side but that didn't matter in the twenty-seventh minute when a ball from the right caused a mass scramble in the Lowestoft box and with the blues defence and keeper not clearing it, the ball was prodded home by Winter to draw the scores level at 1-1 (27 mins).
The equaliser really lifted the home side as they started to find gaps and were now regularly getting in behind down the right with Hine being the main exposer and Chorley winning a number or corners as a result. The quality of the corners left a lot to be desired though and certainly weren't good enough to give their players something to attack in the box. Lowestoft however had lost their way and Chorley were now firmly getting on top as the break approached.
Chorley must have thought they were going to be heading into the break leading when the impressive Whitham let fly with an awesome strike from fully thirty yards but with it looking set to fizz into the top corner, Jones produced an outstanding save to tip it over. Lowestoft were a team who looked like they needed the break to re-gather their thoughts, as Gaughran bundled Dean over on the edge of the box to collect a booking and give away a free-kick in a dangerous area. Up stepped Winter and with his free-kick heading towards the far bottom corner, Jones was at hand again to push the ball round the post and behind for a corner.
Half time finally arrived and as the teams left the pitch it was Chorley who were certainly ahead on points and Lowestoft needing to find a way to stop the home sides joy down the right.
Midfielder Whitham fired another long range effort over early in the second half for the home side but Lowestoft had come out looking more solid and even though Chorley were quick to the ball at times, the blues were competing and digging in.
The game was now sixty minutes in and even though Lowestoft had restricted Chorley exposing them down the right, they were still getting some joy as a fortuitous effort from the angle saw Jones get down to make another good stop in the Lowestoft goal. Lowestoft reacted to the situation with Smith getting replaced by Hayles and Haynes-Brown being moved to left back.
Ainsley to be fair had also done his job well against a creative Chorley side and with a rare opportunity to get forward, he showed superb footwork to drive in from the right and beat a few players, leading to cries for a penalty from a Bammant pass at the end of the attack but the claims were waved away.
Twenty minutes remained and Lowestoft had certainly faired better this half and were finding their men but with the heat unrelenting, it started to take its toll on both sides.
Frustration was starting to creep into the home support with Lowestoft now looking comfortable for an away point. However with just ten minutes remaining a great knock from deep found Hine and with Jones coming out it was hard to judge if he'd got their in time as the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty to Chorley. Up stepped Dean and as cool as you like, he drilled it into the bottom corner to send Chorley 2-1 up and on course for all three points (80 mins).
Following the penalty Chorley made their first change of the match with Jarvis replacing the penalty winner Hine. Lowestoft then made a change of their own with Okay replacing Jarvis in the centre of midfield.
Chorley were looking good for the win with just minutes remaining, as Jones was forced to get down and make another good save to keep faint hopes of a draw alive for Lowestoft.
Lowestoft never give up or stop trying though and today was no different as Okay laid the ball off to Henderson and Ashton was forced into action in the Chorley goal.
As Lowestoft pushed, Jones had to save at the feet of Cottrell following a pouncing move by the home side and with four minutes of stoppage time being indicated it looked like being an opening day defeat for the blues.
Chorley had clearly not shown the script to Lowestoft though, as in stoppage time a throw-in landed at the feet of Henderson and he sent a teasing ball across the box that Louis snapped up from a couple of yards out to make it 2-2 (90+ mins).
It was a goal the left the Lowestoft bench and supporters smiling at the end of the game and was reward for never giving up in a tough match against a decent side.
If not for a number of top drawer saves by Lowestoft Keeper Jones, Lowestoft could have come away with nothing. However, after a long trip and a delayed kick-off disrupting pre-match preparations for Lowestoft, the players have to be praised for never giving up, battling to the end and snatching a superb opening day point at a ground which will be tough for teams to win at this season.
This was a point ground out by determination but there were some good individual performances; Haynes-Brown looked solid when defending and used his pace well, Ainsley also did his job well for the team and Bammant worked hard up top with some solid hold up play and movement.
However when it comes to the Man of the Match there was a clear cut winner, with the Lowestoft shot stopper Jones doing exactly that on a number of occasions for his side. Excellent goalkeeping and a worthy Man of the Match.
There may have only been a handful of Lowestoft supporters behind the goal but they made themselves heard and the team will be hoping for a repeat of that Tuesday when they welcome Solihull Moors to the Crown Meadow.