THE romance of the Cup may have been wrecked for some, but in this part of Lancashire it is a stronger love affair than ever.
Ignore all this talk about clubs having to field patched-up line-ups because of the virus.
Forget the fact some of this year’s third round ties have literally been men against boys match-ups.
The bald facts are these…on Monday Chorley, tiny mid-table National League North Chorley, will be in the hat for the last 16.
And in five years’ time, do you really think anyone from these parts will look back on this day and say “ah yes, but we only did that because Derby couldn’t field a proper team?”
And they celebrated with another rendition of Adele's 'Someone Like You' in their dressing room.
There will be no asterisk in the record books. There will be no mention of the fact Wayne Rooney and his senior stars were watching from home.
No paragraph pointing out that the Rams had 11 kids making their debut and an average age of 19.
Nothing highlighting that they actually went into it as the bookies’ favourites, for all the two clubs are worlds apart.
Just the scoreline. One which – whatever the strengths or weaknesses of the opposition – will go down as the most memorable in Chorley’s existence.
Goals from Connor Hall, as prolific a striker as you find at this level, and a late clincher from Mike Calveley made sure of that.
And now, thanks to both round four and round five being drawn on Monday, they can dream of bringing the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea to Victory Park.
Okay, it’s a bit fanciful to think they may end up playing host to both Jurgen Klopp AND Frank Lampard, but you can always dream.
After all, it’s doubtful whether even manager Jamie Vermiglio would have dared imagine they would get this far, for all we are – as we’ve heard a million times – living in unprecedented times.
To be fair, Chorley never seriously looked in danger of not progressing yesterday. Indeed, their biggest scare had come in the early hours, rather than the match itself.
That was when groundsman Ben Kay, sleeping under the huge blanket covering the pitch, awoke to discover the generator had packed up.
It took a frantic call and a hasty dash from an engineer to hotfoot it to the ground, fix the problem, and ensure the tie didn’t fall victim to the frost. How ironic that he came from Derby!
As for the match itself? Well from the minute centre forward Hall headed the minnows ahead, you knew how it would go.
It certainly won’t be elbowing the likes of Ronnie Radford down the list of unforgettable FA Cup strikes.
But to the 22-year-old who is scoring goals for fun this season, it may as well have been a 20-yard screamer, rather than the head tennis it actually was.
When Will Tomlinson swung over a corner, Harry Cardwell, then a combination of Scott Leather and Mike Calveley nodded on, and Hall nodded in.
Ollie Shenton blazed another just over the top soon afterwards, as did the impressive Elliott Newby, and if either had gone in you feared the kids could have got a bit of a spanking.
So full credit to them for the fact they didn’t. Indeed, they actually did their best after the break to take the battle to Chorley.
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But you know what they say about how a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un. And this time the minnows were the mighty.
Never more obvious, by the way, than the highly amusing sight of pint-sized Rams midfielder Liam Thompson standing beside man mountain Harry Cardwell at one stage.
Still, with only one goal between them, you never know. And you couldn’t fault the Derby kids in terms of effort and determination.
But for all that, they didn’t manage a real pulse-raising chance beyond the fifth minute, when for a second Cameron Cresswell thought he’d won a penalty.
Yet keeper Matt Urwin had got his left foot to the ball as Cresswell haired through on goal, and although the player tumbled, ref Kevin Friend was indeed right to rule no spot kick.
That, sadly for the visitors, was as good as it got for them.
They huffed and puffed aplenty, but never got really close again…and seven minutes from the end Calveley reached out to poke home Newby’s delivery, and it was job done.
And from the level of shouts and screams from the Chorley bench, you try telling them the FA Cup isn’t what it was.
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