CHESTER FC clinched the Evo-Stik Division One North title after a frantic, nail-biting climax to their season at Garforth Town.

Despite losing 2-1 on the day, with nearest rivals thumping Ossett Albion 7-2, the Blues had just enough in hand in terms of goal difference to seal promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier.

Chester, which 12 months ago didn't have a squad, a manager or a league to play in after previous club Chester City went bust, played far from their best during the match, but had enough to win the division by virtue of a narrowly superior goal difference.

Cheered on by an enthusiastic but increasingly anxious crowd of 2,428 at the Genix Healthcare Stadium, the vast majority being Chester fans, the Blues took the lead just before half-time thanks to a looping cross from Neil Aspin, drilled home by Michael Powell from close range.

The second half saw Garforth up their game and equalised with their first meaningful shot on target. Darren Kelly fired home from close range on 55 minutes, shortly after the side rattled the crossbar.

With Skelmersdale United already 5-1 up at this stage, the last thing the fans wanted to see was a second Garforth goal, but Matt Dempsey fired an excellent strike from 25 yards out to beat keeper Richard Whiteside on 64 minutes.

The match became increasingly scrappy as Chester pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but the full-time whistle blew with the squad unsure if they had done enough to secure promotion.

After an agonising wait of six minutes, Blues fans roared on to the pitch to celebrate when news filtered around the ground Skelmersdale had fallen two goals short of what would have been a miraculous turnaround.

GARFORTH TOWN (4-4-2): Higginson; Marron, Villerman, Dempsey, Kelly; Price, Priestley, Hotchkiss, Brown; Small (Turley 82), Fisher (Walker 45). Subs (not used): Normaschild.

CHESTER (4-4-2): Whiteside; Aspin, Horan, Taylor, Chris Williams; Stones (Barnes 61), Booth (Howard 58), Ashley Williams, Powell; Simm (Wilson 78), Wilde. Subs (not used): Ruffer, Judge.


Attendance: 2,428.