Chorley 0-2 FC Halifax Town

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FC Halifax Town will play Salford in the National League North play-offs after Tom Denton’s 19th goal of the season and Liam King’s late penalty sealed a 2-0 win at Chorley.

Town go into the first-leg at Salford on Wednesday in fine shape on the back of three straight wins and three consecutive clean sheets.

They weren’t at their free-flowing best here like they were at Harrogate, but did what was required to win in a scrappy, shabby contest.

Salford thrashed Darlington 5-1 to set up a mouthwatering semi-final, with Town already sharing 10 goals in two games with the Manchester club.

In the other semi-final, Kidderminster sealed second place with a home win against Bradford Park Avenue, and will face Chorley, who finished fifth after Stockport failed to beat Gloucester.

Scott McManus made his first start in nearly a year at left-wing-back in a 3-5-2, the same system that worked so well in the reverse fixture at The Shay, but The Shaymen didn’t offer the same attacking threat they’d carried in that win.

Chorley weren’t exactly slicing through the Town defence either as the game, mired in midfield tussles and defensive domination, failed to come to life.

Both teams had three centre-backs, which meant little space for both attacking duos. If any player had a point to prove ahead of the platy-off campaign, it was surely Adam Morgan, but he was a peripheral figure, seeing little of the ball before he was substituted with less than an hour gone.

Of the minimal chances in a fairly dour first-half, the best by a mile fell to Denton, who was left with a simple tap-in after Christian Dibble spilled Jordan Sinnott’s volley from out wide straight into the striker’s path.

That was Town’s first effort on target, with Chorley only testing Sam Johnson once in the opening half, when Dale Whitham found space in the box but miscued his volley straight at the keeper.

Halifax’s back three deserved credit for a disciplined, well-organised display, ably led by Danny Hone in the middle of the trio, who mopped up any loose balls and was dominant in the air.

Danny Clarke was his usual tigerish self in midfield, perfectly suited to a game lacking in finesse but requiring the more unglamorous qualities of commitment, determination and desire.

McManus and Cliff Moyo saw little of the ball inside the Chorley half, with Town rarely enjoying a sustained spell of possession near the Chorley penalty box, although the hosts weren’t much better going forward, with not enough fluency or craft to their attacks, which too often petered out to nothing.

Chorley came out fighting after the interval, with Andy Teague volleying narrowly over and Adam Blakeman hitting the post amid a goalmouth scramble.

By now, Chorley needed a goal with Stockport taking the lead against Gloucester, but were looking less and less likely to find one, with Halifax resolute at the back, giving little away.

Chorley’s touches became looser and chances became more sporadic as the game wore on, with their attacks increasingly aimless. Halifax weren’t much better, but were happy to sit back and protect their lead.

However, Gloucester’s equaliser at Stockport propelled Chorley back into the top-five. The hosts huffed and puffed until substitute King settled the result with a penalty after Clarke was tripped in the box.

Chorley: Dibble, Challoner, Teague, Leather, Jarvis (McDaid 63), Charnock (Roscoe 73), Blakeman, Whitham, Cottrell, Walker, Carver. Subs not used: O’Keefe, Roscoe, Beesley, Azam.

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 5

Corners: 6

Halifax: Johnson, Moyo, Hone, Hotte, Brown, McManus (Wilde 82), Lynch, Sinnott (King 63), Clarke, Morgan (Peniket 57), Denton. Subs not used: Drench, Kosylo.

Scorers: Denton (40), King (90)

Shots on target: 2

Shots off target: 3

Corners: 2

Attendance: 2,462

Town man of the match: Danny Hone

Referee: Steve Copeland