Nyal Bell’s superb second-half strike earned Chester FC a deserved draw against League Two Port Vale in their final pre-season match before the National League kicks off in seven days time.
Bell curled home a fine effort from 16 yards on 68 minutes to cancel out Rekeil Pyke’s opener on the hour mark.
But a defeat would have been harsh on a Chester side who were better for much of the 90 minutes and looked sharp and hungry ahead of the new season.
Once again there was no place for Ross Hannah in the squad, although he was present on the pitch beforehand being put through his paces by the club physios as they look to get him ready for the trip to Solihull Moors in seven days time.
There was also no place for striker Harry White and winger Jordan Chapell, both rested as a precautionary measure with the big kick-off just a week away.
There was a new face in between the sticks to start the game with 21-year-old Burnley under-23 keeper Conor Mitchell donning the gloves as Jon McCarthy cast an eye over his performance as he looks to find a suitable challenger to Alex Lynch for the number one spot.
Chester started with the 4-4-2 formation that they are likely to adopt this season with Nyal Bell and James Akintunde partnering in attack while Lucas Dawson took up a position on the right of midfield.
Seven days previous Chester had seen little of the ball in the first 45 minutes of their clash with League One side Walsall but against the Valiants it was the polar opposite for large parts of the opening half.
For much of the first half it was difficult to tell who was the Football League side and who was the National League outfit as Chester moved the ball around with purpose and pace and played an expansive brand of football that showed plenty of width.
The Blues were seeing plenty of the ball from the off and had their first sight of goal on 10 minutes when Akintunde did well to win the ball in the area before cutting back to Kingsley James who’s first time effort cannoned off a Vale defender and out for a corner.
From Paul Turnbull’s corner the ball eventually found its way to Dawson who came in from the right before sending a left footed effort wide from distance.
On 18 minutes a lively Craig Mahon jinked past his man before letting fly from 25 yards, with his effort taking a deflection to take it wide.
But for all the Blues’ possession and endeavour, Chester were unable to really work Rob Lainton in the visitors goal, although they were repelling the Valiants threat coming forward at every turn as Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, John McCombe, Ryan Astles and Andy Halls held firm against an experienced forward line.
Vale did come closest to breaking the deadlock, though, when a corner was flicked on to the back post to Nathan Smith who turned it goalwards only to find Mahon on the post to clear the danger and ensure parity going into the break.
Chester started the second half in much the same vein as they pressed the League Two side and moved the ball around well, but it was the visitors who would come closest when Tom Pope hit the corner of the woodwork with a header from a left-wing corner.
Astles did force a save out of Vale’s substitute keeper moments later, though, when he tried to turn home a Dawson corner from the right.
But the deadlock was broken on the hour mark and it was the visitors who struck.
A long ball forward found the head of Halls who attempted to steer it towards Mitchell but his header was too short and Pyke raced onto the loose ball and fired home from close range. It was rough on the Blues and Halls, a player who had put barely a foot wrong all pre-season.
But, just as they had done a week previous, Chester restored parity against their more illustrious visitors - and it was that man Bell again.
A throw in on the left found Rowe-Turner who played a delightful ball over the top for Bell who shrugged his man, checked back on to his right foot and curled a beauty into the far corner past substitute Vale keeper Sam Hornby.
Michael Tonge saw a 25-yard free kick held well by Mitchell while a speculative first-time Pope effort from distance looped just over as the Valiants pushed for a winner their overall play didn’t warrant.
At the other end Akintunde stretched his legs when he ran at the Vale back line but saw his 18 yard effort saved comfortably by Hornby.
There were to be no further goals and Chester can be pleased with a strong performance that should give them confidence heading into next weekend when it all starts for real.
Chester: Mitchell, Halls, Rowe-Turner, McCombe, Astles, Mahon (Davies 61), Dawson, Turnbull (Joyce 75), James (Hellawell 88), Bell (Brown 88), Akintunde (Marsh-Hughes 88). Subs: Lynch, Waters.
Goals: Bell 68.
Port Vale: Lainton, Wilson, Gunning, Pugh, Smith, Tonge, Kay, Harness, Pope, Pyke, Montano. Subs: Hornby, Turner, Kelly, Yates, De Freitas, Davis, Calverley, Reeves, Boot.
Goals: Pyke 60.
Star man: Nyal Bell.