IN a season where wins have been a precious commodity, losing a lead so late in a match can leave you feeling deflated and almost like the game had been lost, regardless of how good the opposition were. Saturday’s game against Chorley was one of those occasions.

Despite our visitors being top of the league, at full time, it was really difficult to fully appreciate the result for what it was as we had once again let a lead slip albeit this was probably the cruellest of circumstances in which we were punished.

For the best part of 75 minutes, we had looked the business. On quite a few occasions this season you could levy the charge of the tactics employed by Tommy having cost us results, but for those first 75 minutes you could not fault his logic.

Playing a slightly different set up to usual with three forwards strung out across the front line, we gave the top side in the league plenty to think about. I’ve seen some comments about how their defence was scared of the running of Wilson Kneeshaw, Harvey Saunders and Stephen Thompson. I’m not sure they were mega worried, but we kept them honest and carried a decent threat.

For the three seasons we’ve been in this division, Chorley have been the most consistent side. They are a quality outfit and their three-man defence has always impressed me. Stephen Jordan and Andy Teague, the two constants in that back three over the last three seasons, have always stood out. They’ve been around the block a fair few times. They’re not spring chickens and yet they flank the defence, get involved in the build up and are massively underrated. On Saturday, we kept them busy. Very busy. I don’t know whether Tommy planned to do that in how he set-up but it worked a treat.

With the system working so well, it came as a real surprise when around the 75th minute Tommy opted to bring off both Thompson and Kneeshaw. In his post-game interview, he explained about Thompson carrying a knock and Kneeshaw being tired, but their withdrawal changed the dynamic of the game. It allowed Stephen Jordan and Andy Teague to get more involved. It allowed Chorley’s wing backs to push further up. It allowed Chorley to squeeze us much higher up the pitch. I get why Tommy felt he had to bring the players off, but for me, even with pretty limited choices on the bench, he had to try and maintain the shape that had worked so well.

When he brought Alex Henshall on a little later, it looked like he had decided to try and get the three pushed up top again, but by that point the momentum had swung in Chorley’s favour despite the big chance Saunders had which was wonderfully saved from the excellent Matt Urwin in the Chorley goal.

With Chorley’s tails up, the goal felt inevitable and yet it still came as a real blow. Given how well our back-three had defended throughout, marshalled superbly by Simon Ainge having one of his best games in a Darlo shirt, there was the hope that we would have enough to repel the increasingly frequent yellow waves of attack, but in the end it was just a bit too much. A momentary lack of concentration and some slack marking ultimately did for us.

Before the game, I would have happily taken a point but those precious three points were in our grasp for so long. They would have been massive in our battle to get over the safety line, but as it was we moved a further point away from the dreaded drop with us having a game in hand. Ultimately, not being able to hold on to a lead like Saturday is why were down near the bottom of the league and not higher. Sadly, it is our reality.