Football is a funny old game.
Chester FC looked dead and buried at the break after a dismal first 45 minutes against Aldershot Town but battled back in the second half as a Lucas Dawson penalty and a Kingsley James effort eight minutes from time cancelled out an opener in the first half from Matt McClure.
It may have been a smash and grab but who cares? A first win in 10 games for Chester, a first win in the season and a chance for the side to build on something. This was vital to the team and boss Jon McCarthy.
Chester boss McCarthy arrived at the Recreation Ground under some pressure after a slow start to the season.
With his new-look Blues side still winless this season and without a win in 10 games dating back to last season and their dire post-Christmas form, McCarthy was in need of three points to help give his side a springboard and something on which to build.
But Aldershot were in fine form coming into the game.
Third in the National League and having not lost at home in a regular season game for some nine months the Shots were heavy favourites to take all three points against a Blues side who were yet to turn in a convincing performance over 90 minutes this season.
Injuries to strikers Ross Hannah, Nyal Bell and Harry White saw them ruled out for the trip and Liam Davies was handed a first start and appearance of the season on the left hand side of midfield while Blacon teenager Tom Crawford took his place on the bench for the senior side for the first time in a competitive match.
Chester nearly found themselves behind inside five minutes when Paul Turnbull picked up a needless yellow card after kicking the ball away following a foul on Jim Kellerman.
From the resutling free kick James Rowe slammed a 25 yard effort against the crossbar before the Blues scrambled clear.
And the woodwork would come to Chester’s rescue on 13 minutes when a sweeping move from midfield for the home side saw the ball fed out to the left into the path of Bobby-Joe Taylor whose first-time effort from 15 yards crashed off the outside of Conor Mitchell’s right-hand post.
Minutes later saw Shaun Okojie spurn a great chance when he failed to turn home Rowe’s low cross from the right before Matt McClure tried his luck from 20 yards with a low effort that dragged wide.
Just before the half hour mark Aldershot thought they had grabbed what would have been a thoroughly deserved lead when Taylor broke free on the right before crossing low to the dangerous Rowe who thundered his 15 yard effort off the underside of the bar, with the ball almost dropping over the line.
But it didn’t spark a reaction from Chester and the home finally made the breakthrough on 34 minutes.
Davies gave possession away cheaply on wing with the ball worked to Kellerman whose threaded pass was slammed home by Shots striker McClure. The warning signs had been there since the third minute.
The first half came to a close without Chester evening having a shot on Jake Cole’s goal in anger. It was a truly woeful first 45 minutes.
McCarthy made two changes at the break and opted to throw on Wade Joyce and Jordan Chapell in place of Davies and James Akintunde, with the Blues striker withdrawn with what looked like a knock picked up in the first half.
Chester needed to come out swinging and they were awarded a penalty just two minutes after the restart whenCraig Mahon was hacked down in the box by Chris Arthur.
Up stepped Dawson, now operating as a makeshift striker, to fire home the spot kick and restore parity, something which had looked inconceivable at the close of the first half.
The Blues sparked to life in the minutes that followed and showed more attacking intent in the opening five minutes in the second half than they did in the entirety of the first, although a weak Chapell effort was the only thing to trouble Jake Cole in the Aldershot goal early on.
But Aldershot regrouped and started to dominate possession once more, although they found Chester a tougher nut to crack than in the first half, although Mitchell had to be alert on a number of occasions to punch away under pressure during a succession of corners.
At the other end the Blues did force Cole into a save when McCombe nodded a Turbull into the grateful arms of the Shots stopper.
Aldershot still looked the more likely to grab a winner and Mitchell was called into action superbly to tip substitute Scott Rendell’s effort wide of the post before Manny Oyeleke blazed wide when well placed after Mitchell’s punch from resulting corner fell kindly to him 12 yards out.
But, as they had done against Sutton United seven days previous, Chester were a different proposition in the second half and they took a shock lead with eight minutes remaining.
Substitute Chapell raced on to a long ball and saw a chipped effort clip the bar but the home side were unable to clear their lines and the ball was worked back out to Chapell whose low ball across goal was slammed home by James at the far post to hand Chester a lead which had looked a pipe dream at the break.
Aldershot were stunned.
They continued to press in search of something from the game but found the Blues repelling their advances forward, the home support growing ever more frustrated as a result.
McClure wasted a glorious chance deep into added time when he nodded over a Taylor cross from 10 yards when he should have found the target.
Rendell almost netted with another late header while it was backs to the wall stuff for the remaining seconds but Chester held out to bag their first win since April 1.
Aldershot Town: Cole, Alexander, Oyeleke, McClure, de Havilland, Okojie (Rendell 70), Kellerman (Fenelon 70), Rowe, Arthur (Arnold 78), Reynolds, Taylor. Subs not used: Lyons-Foster, Smith.
Goals: McClure 34.
Chester: Mitchell, Halls, Rowe-Turner, Astles, McCombe, James, Turnbull, Davies (Joyce 46), Mahon, Dawson, Akintunde (Chapell 46). Subs not used: Lynch, Waters, Crawford.
Bookings: Turnbull, Akintunde, Halls.
Goals: Dawson 48 (pen), James 82.
Referee: Gary Parsons.
Attendance: 2,056 (118 from Chester)
Star man: Ryan Astles. Battling display at the heart of defence as Aldershot poured forward time and time again.