CHESTER claimed an unlikely point at Sincil Bank this afternoon courtesy of some brave defending and a wonder goal from Anthony Barry.
Blues boss Mark Wright was forced to field a patched-up side due to a crippling list of injuries and suspensions. But his players responded magnificently and hung on for a draw after Lee Frecklington’s second-half header cancelled out Barry’s spectacular opener.
With James Vaughan and Laurence Wilson suspended and a whole host of other players injured, Wright had to be inventive with his team selection.
Tony Dinning was brought in from the cold and handed a starting place in the centre of Chester’s back three, while Kevin Ellison and Glenn Rule filled the wing-back positions. Chester’s bench had a youthful look to it as teenagers Ben Jones, Connor Rawlinson and James Owen joined Jay Harris and Paul Rutherford.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to Lincoln’s veteran striker Geoff Horsfield, who out-muscled Kevin Roberts in the penalty area but could only direct his header from Lee Beevers’ cross over the bar.
On 11 minutes, Blues keeper John Danby had to be at full stretch to claw Scott Kerr’s dangerous free-kick out of the top corner as the Imps upped the pressure.
Danby was beaten four minutes later by Horsfield, but Chester skipper Paul Linwood was on hand to make a goal-line clearance from the Lincoln forward’s close-range shot.
The visitors had to wait until the 24th minute for their first effort on goal, Ellison sending a 25-yard free-kick just wide of the post.
When Chester opened the scoring on 31 minutes, their goal came very much against the run of play. However, the small band of away supporters in the far corner of the ground were not complaining as midfielder Barry collected a short free-kick from Dinning and unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard drive which left Imps keeper Rob Burch grasping at thin air. It was a stunning strike – one of the best by a Chester player this season.
The hosts continued to enjoy the greater share of possession but Chester’s makeshift defence was holding out well. Janos Kovacs headed straight at Danby soon after Barry’s goal, and on 43 minutes the lively Frecklington tested the Chester keeper with a low 25-yard drive.
Frecklington was the man who drew the Imps level just three minutes into the second half. The midfielder rose unchallenged in the area to head home a right-wing corner from Aaron Brown, leaving Chester with plenty of hard work ahead for the remainder of the half.
Lincoln kept pressing forward and Danby was called on to parry a powerful left-footed drive by Danny N’Guessan on the hour mark.
There was a blow for the Blues on 70 minutes when Damien Mozika was injured in a tackle with Kerr and limped of with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Lincoln’s height and power from set pieces caused Chester plenty of problems all afternoon. When Danby could only punch the ball as far as N’Guessan from one 74th-minute corner, the Lincoln winger blasted narrowly wide when well paced.
Despite that rare error, Danby was distinguishing himself in Chester’s goal. He made another smart save on 79 minutes, keeping out a low drive by Horsfield with his legs.
The Imps threw plenty of dangerous balls into the box in the final 10 minutes, but the visitors soaked up the pressure well and clung on for a share of the spoils.
Lincoln: Burch, Beevers, Kovacs, Sinclair, Brown, Frecklington, Kerr, N’Guessan, Mullarkey (John-Lewis 67), Horsfield (Patulea 85), Elding. Subs: Oaks, Swaibu, Duffy. Booked: Frecklington. Goal: Frecklington 48.
Chester: Danby, Rule, Roberts, Linwood, Barry, Partridge (Jones 79), Hughes, Mozika (Harris 70), Dinning, Ellison, Lowe (Rutherford 90). Subs: Rawlinson, Owen. Booked: Mozika, Dinning, Ellison. Goal: Barry 31.
Referee: Nigel Miller (Co Durham).
Attendance: 3,760 (113 away).