CHESTER failed to score in an Evo-Stik League First Division North match for the first time this season as their lead at the top was cut to 12 points.
Without top-scorer Michael Wilde and key midfielders Ashley Williams and Iain Howard, Neil Young’s men struggled to break down their Cheshire neighbours and their unbeaten league run – which now stands at 15 games – would have come to an end had it not been for an incredible Ben Harrison miss and a goal-line block by Stuart Jones.
Jones’ last-gasp intervention brought the Blues their 20th clean sheet of the campaign and ensured them of a share of the spoils from a hard-fought derby encounter.
Witton, who are now unbeaten away from home in the league in their last nine, deserved their point.
The play-off hopefuls were happy to put men behind the ball and it was not until the 19th minute that the first opening of the match arrived.
Chris Simm was the creator as he collected Martin Gritton’s cross-field pass and pulled the ball back to the recalled Bradley Barnes, whose powerful side-footed strike skimmed Matt Cooper’s crossbar.
Gritton – fresh back from his trial at Yeovil Town and in for the injured Wilde – then screwed wide after neat inter-play with Simm as Chester began to up the pace.
Simm went closer still on the half-hour mark when the ball broke kindly to him in the area. Although his slide-rule shot beat Cooper, Ian Kearney got back in time to clear off the line.
The visitors were very much on the back foot, but they survived until half-time and then failed to take the two golden opportunities that came their way shortly after the restart.
Firstly Callum Botham fired over from the angle of the six-yard box before Harrison somehow contrived to hammer the ball over the bar from just four yards out after Adam Judge parried a scuffed Dave MacPherson attempt into the lone forward's path.
And Harrison was so nearly made to pay in the 69th minute when Simm latched on to Carl Ruffer’s knock-down in the area. The in-form striker’s turn and half-volley was superb, but so were Cooper’s reactions.
Cooper's stunning save brought the home side’s seven-match league winning run to a halt, but not before on-loan Blues midfielder Richie Foulkes went desperately close to a winner.
Foulkes, who has been with the Northwich outfit since November, let fly with a fierce 18-yard drive that substitute Jones did brilliantly to hack off the line.
Chester: Judge, Aspin (Jones 78), Horan, Ruffer, Stones, Beck (Wilson 78), Barnes, Field (C Williams 63), Booth, Gritton, Simm. Subs: St Juste, Taylor.
Witton: Cooper, Gardner, Pritchard, Kearney, Doughty, Hancock (Wood 88), Bennion, MacPherson, Botham, Foulkes, Harrison (Kinsey 82). Subs: Ablett, Tomkinson, Smith.
Booked: Bennion, Kearney, Wood.
Referee: Andy Scregg (Halewood).