Michael Wilde, Bradley Barnes and George Horan
THE Blues ended their neighbours’ six-match winning run in incredible fashion this evening to put their title bid back on track.
Neil Young’s men were cruising through strikes from top-scorers Michael Wilde and Bradley Barnes, but they looked to have thrown the points away after Dave MacPherson and Ashley Stott struck in the first two minutes of injury-time to level what had been up until that point a one-sided affair.
But the drama was not over yet as skipper George Horan headed home in the 94th minute to seal a victory which moved Chester up to third in Evo-Stik League First Division North and within three points of second-placed Witton.
Blues boss Young, who lost midfielder Mark Connolly to a knee ligament injury, said: “I was slumped in my chair when that second goal went in because for 90 minutes we bossed the game – we could have had four or five.
“The lads worked their socks off and two lapses of concentration nearly cost us, but to come back again and win shows massive character. What happened shouldn’t take the shine off what was an excellent performance.”
Witton went into this Cheshire derby knowing a seventh win on the spin would take them above Chorley and into top spot. But with Chester turning in a performance that - both in terms of commitment and application - was in complete contrast to the one they produced against Prescot Cables on Saturday, that never looked like happening.
From the first whistle it was clear the visitors were desperate to make amends for their underwhelming display against lowly Cables and become the first team to win at Wincham Park this season.
Impenetrable at the back, tigerish in midfield and clinical in attack, for 90 minutes the Blues were everything boss Young knows they have the potential to be, and it was a potent mix that the hosts simply could not live with.
The Northwich outfit never looked like beating Richard Whiteside until a defensive mix-up allowed MacPherson to net what seemed to be nothing more than a consolation.
Matt Cooper, in contrast, made a string of fine stops, with the Albion number one saving from recalled duo Iain Howard and Tom Field before the deadlock was broken in the 22nd minute.
Chester were forcing a succession of corners, and it was following one of these that Wilde opened the scoring with an instinctive close-range finish after Barnes’ 20-yard shot deflected into his path.
It was the striker’s seventh goal in nine games, but he is being pushed all the way in the scoring stakes by midfield dynamo Barnes.
The talented Mancunian took his tally for the term to five with a superb first-time effort from the edge of the area to double the advantage in the 58th minute.
It was no more than the Blues deserved for a storming start to the second half which saw Horan have a header cleared off the line.
Barnes came close to adding his second when he forced Cooper to turn his drive past the post, and it seemed at this point it was a case of just how many Chester would score.
But Witton weathered the storm and reduced the deficit in the 91st minute when MacPherson tapped in after a breakdown in communications between Whiteside and his defence.
And worse was to follow moments later when former Bangor City forward Stott equalised.
But the Blues were not done yet and after Wilde was denied by Cooper, captain fantastic Horan rose highest to head in Howard’s left-wing corner and spark scenes of jubilation in the large travelling support.
Witton: Cooper, Holt (Pritchard 65), Harrison, Kearney, Wood, Griggs (Frost 55), Maguire, MacPherson, Botham, Stott, Kinsey (Pugh 73). Subs: Jones, Moffatt.
Goals: MacPherson 90, Stott 90.
Chester: Whiteside, Jones, Horan, Ruffer, Williams, Booth (Wilson 86), Field (Hopley 90), Connolly (Burgess 10), Barnes, Howard, Wilde. Subs: Peers, Graves.
Goals: Wilde 22, Barnes 58, Horan 90.
Referee: Gary Hilton.