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Would expect to be able to feel play in the wheel bearing with the wheel off the ground.
I've changed a few front shock absorbers with the same play as you describe.
When jacked up it feels fine.
Depending on room, some cars you can get your fingers between the
of the spring and lift the plastic cover boot, then you can place a finger against the piston where it enters the shock casing, then when you pull/push on the wheel you can feel for play.....shouldn't be any noticable movement.
If the hub nut is loose, you could get in/out play at the wheel but would also expect you'd feel it with wheel off ground.
If the shocker to hub bolts are loose or wrong size you could get in/out play at the top of the wheel.
Presume you checked the top mount wasn't flapping around as you did your check.
Currently in lancs dave's garage:
Scenic 1.4ish 2002. Clio 1.2 2002. Thunderbird 885 1995, Suzuki Gsx600f 1989. Fazer 600 2002. Specialist cement mixer for proffessionals only, not yer average forum numpty. Your car is probably worth more than all that lot put together.