LFA Challenge Trophy final: Chorley 3 Clitheroe 2

Clitheroe's Kurt Willoughby could have been featuring at the Macron Stadium on a more regular basis had things worked out for him during a trial with Bolton Wanderers.

Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 8:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 8:56 am
Clitheroe striker Kurt Willoughby opened the scoring at the Macron Stadium

The 21-year-old, who was once on Fleetwood Town's books, was given the opportunity to impress at the Championship club's Lostock training base last season but, despite encouraging feedback, returned to Shawbridge without an offer on the table.

The former AFC Blackpool forward may have been overlooked by Phil Parkinson and his team at the time but he showed that he's capable of operating at a significantly higher level in the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy final against National League North play-off hopefuls Chorley.

While the striker's set-pieces gave the Magpies plenty to think about, Willoughby's finish to give the Blues the lead provided a snapshot of the quality that the club's leading scorer has shown in the Evo-Stik First Division North this term.

Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy winners Chorley

Willoughby, with 25 league goals, second to Scarborough Athletic's Michael Coulson's return, out-muscled centre back Ben Lightfoot to reach George West's flick on before calmly lifting the ball over Matt Urwin in the 24th minute.

While Matt Jansen's men had the lion's share of possession in the first quarter of the tie, Clitheroe did well to contain the favourites.

Delial Brewster and full back Lee Molyneux saw efforts deflected wide of Chris Thompson's goal with the former also failing to threaten with a drive from deep inside the penalty area.

But even before the deadlock was broken it was the Blues that crafted the better openings and Willoughby was central to everything.

Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy winners Chorley

Urwin was alert to the striker's quickly taken free kick following an infringement by Adam Anson 20 yards from goal and Willoughby was unfortunate not to pick out West on the counter as Josh Gregory recovered well to clear.

The jewel in Clitheroe's crown was the provider once again just before the opener, whipping a corner in towards the penalty spot where Michael Samson's header was hacked off the line by Molyneux.

Clitheroe's opener was simple but effective, a route one approach with a long clearance upfield, but it required a majestic finish from Willoughby to round it off.

After Burgess guided a header in to the gloves of Thompson, Blues skipper Danny Brady had an excellent chance to give his side some breathing space.

The defender powered a header on target having found space to meet Willoughby's corner but he couldn't pick out the space either side of Urwin.

That gave the Magpies a lifeline and it was one they took full advantage of. When Burgess wrestled his way through inside the penalty area he was bundled over by Samson, leaving referee Martin Woods no option but to point to the spot.

It was Burgess himself who picked himself up and dusted himself down to take on the responsibility from 12 yards out, firing the ball to his right hand side while sending Thompson the wrong way in the process.

Both sides had the chance to get their noses in front before the interval but Urwin gathered Willoughby's free kick after his wall was beaten while Thompson was equal to Brewster's attempt as the forward got a shot away on the turn on the edge of the box.

The Blues engineered the more clear cut chances after the break but ultimately it was Chorley who were the more clinical in front of goal.

Samson flicked wide of the upright when throwing himself at another expertly delivered Willoughby corner and West lifted a half-volley over the bar once the ball dropped for him at the back post.

However, once substitute Charlie Russell fired another warning shot, directing his attempt straight at Urwin, it was one that the 17-time champions of the competition heeded.

With just quarter-of-an-hour remaining, and the potential lottery of a penalty shoot-out looming, Dale Whitham was in the right place at the right time when Molyneux's cross was cleared and the Magpies substitute stroked the ball in to the bottom corner from outside the penalty area.

Clitheroe, who ply their trade two divisions below their opponents, were mightily unfortunate not to restore parity in the closing stages when Ian Rowlands couldn't quite adjust his body to turn the ball over the line after Urwin had repelled Willoughby's well-driven set-piece.

The underdogs continued to commit men forward to exert more pressure on Chorley but in the end they were caught out on the break.

There was a chasm for Burgess to feed the ball in to when the Magpies countered and Brewster's finish was befitting of the setting as he nonchalantly flicked the ball past Thompson and in to the corner in time added on.

Clitheroe, though, still weren't finished and they pulled a goal back with just seconds remaining. When Thompson's clearance was helped on by Dimitri Tuanzebe, man of the match contender West scored spectacularly, caressing the ball delicately over Urwin and in to the far corner.