Sixteen-year-old Lloyd Marsh-Hughes showed the future is bright at Chester FC after a second-half cameo helped his team earn a 3-1 win at Welsh Premier League side Bala Town.
Youth team player Marsh-Hughes came on at half-time and netted on his Blues debut before setting up Harry White for Chester’s third after Nyal Bell had given the Blues a first-half lead.
Chris Venables netted to level matters at the break for Bala but the second-half line-up came up with the goods and Marsh-Hughes’s performance provided the talking point.
As had been the case in the previous three friendlies, Chester boss Jon McCarthy opted to field two separate teams and played his more senior players in the first half before blooding some of the younger members of the squad in the second.
There was a familiar face in the Bala line-up with former Blues full back Evan Horwood in the Lakesiders’ line-up after his switch from Chester at the weekend.
Chester were once again with Ross Hannah as he continued to rest after picking up a muscle strain in the 5-1 win at Runcorn Town seven days previous. His absence was taken as a precaution.
After a slow start to proceedings the game livened up after 10 minutes and James Akintunde did well to fashion himself some room 20 yards out before turning and seeing his low effort gathered easily Craig Vernon in the Bala goal.
Chester were starting to find their groove and began moving the ball around the artificial 3G surface with some purpose and conviction and it wasn’t long before they came close to opening the deadlock.
A fine flowing move saw Craig Mahon, starting after his return from injury in the draw at Hyde United last week, create room on the left and stand up and inviting cross towards Bell who nodded goalwards only to see his goalbound header hacked off the line by Stuart J Jones.
Chester continued to move the ball around well and exploit gaps and Akintunde showed his strength to hold up Lathaniel Rower-Turner’s long ball and lay off Bell whose first time effort was lashed wide from 20 yards.
But Chester had the lead their early play deserved on 20 minutes in calamitous circumstances.]
A back pass to keeper Vernon saw Bell race and pressure the Bala keeper on the end of his six yard box, pinching the ball off him before tapping home.
But the Blues couldn’t take the game to their hosts and the next 20 minutes saw chances at a premium and neither side able to find any inroads.
And the home side were back on level terms six minutes before the break when a Horwood corner was swung in dangerously and met with a knockdown header from Jones before being swept home by Chris Venables after some suspect defending from the visitors.
It was all change at the break for McCarthy’s men as they opted for a new XI that included the now permanent addition of Lucas Dawson and young academy prospect Lloyd Marsh-Hughes.
Bala started the second half against a younger and more inexperienced Chester side on the front foot and asked questions early on before the visitors found their feet.
Matty Waters, back after an ankle injury, looked every inch a senior member of the squad while Wade Joyce and Harry White also caught the eye early on in the second period.
But it was Marsh-Hughes who stole the show just past the hour mark when Joyce did well to manoeuvre his way out of traffic before playing a piercing through ball to a lurking Marsh-Hughes with the teenager showing composure beyond his tender years to lift the ball over an onrushing Verrnon.
Waters was asking questions of Horwood on the right of midfield and he did well to beat his marker and flash an inviting cross across the face of goal that was almost turned home by Marsh-Hughes.
Dawson was next to go close for Chester as he curled a 20-yard effort onto a Bala post with the rebound falling to Liam Davies whose cross was headed wide by a fearless Marsh-Hughes, keen to make his mark.
At the other end former Southport man Andrai Jones wasted a glorious chance to level matters when he headed over from a Mike Hayes flick on, and they were made to pay for their profligacy minutes later when Chester made it 3-1, with Marsh-Hughes once again having an impact.
The impressive Waters played an intelligent ball inside the full-back to Marsh-Hughes who advanced with the ball before playing a perfectly weighted ball through to White who composed himself before slotting past Vernon.
Bala continued to look for a way back into the game and enjoyed a flurry of corners but were unable to make them count.
And there were to be no further goals at Maes Tegid as Chester held on for a well-deserved victory against their strongest opponents to date.
There were plenty of positives, not least the performance of 16-year-old Marsh-Hughes.
Bala: Vernon, Stephens, S J Jones, Horwood, Bell, Trialist, Venables, Burke, Sheridan, Davies, Rule: SUBS: S Jones, Fisher, A Jones, Thompson, Hayes, J Jones.
Goals: Venables 39.
Chester first half: Lynch, Halls, Astles, McCome, Rowe-Turner, Chapell, Turnbull, James, Mahon, Bell, Akintunde.
Chester second half: Trialist A, Trialist B, Jones, Trialist C, Trialist D, Waters, Dawson, Joyce, Davies, White, Marsh-Hughes.
Goals: Bell 20, Marsh-Hughes 61, White 81.