CHESTER’S lead at the top was cut to six points as their 15-match unbeaten run in Evo-Stik League First Division North came crashing to an end.
The recalled Michael Taylor brought the leaders level but a goalkeeping howler from Adam Judge condemned them to their first away league defeat of the campaign.
With key trio Ashley Williams, Iain Howard and Michael Wilde restored to the starting line-up after injury, the large travelling support spread across the Giant Axe stands fully expected their side to make an instant return to winning ways and avenge last month’s President’s Cup semi-final defeat to Lancaster.
So it came as a nasty surprise when the hosts went in front in the sixth minute from their first attack of the game.
Slack play gave Dave Swarbrick the chance to run at a back-pedalling Blues backline that – minus Carl Ruffer – endured a shaky first half.
The striker could have shot but instead chose to lay the ball into the path of the on-running Billy McKenna, whose first-time effort was brilliantly blocked by Judge. But the winger showed quick reactions to dive and head the rebound into the empty net.
On a difficult, bobbly pitch, the visitors in the opening period failed to meet the high standards they have set themselves this season.
That said they would have been level at the break had it not for a piece of outstanding defending and a sublime save.
Top-scorer Wilde was the player to be denied on both occasions. Firstly he beat Martin Fearon to Michael Aspin’s cross only to see his nod-down acrobatically cleared off the line by Sam Nightingale, before the hitman’s flying header from Robbie Booth’s pull-back was somehow turned aside by Fearon.
After a half-time dressing down by Neil Young, Chester worked the home goalkeeper again moments after the restart when Booth saw a stinging half-volley pushed past the post.
The pressure was mounting and from the resulting corner captain George Horan twice went desperately close.
But there was little Fearon could do to prevent Taylor from stooping low to head in Booth’s corner to level the contest in the 53rd minute with his first goal for the club.
Parity, however, was to last just three minutes.
A routine back pass turned into a nightmare for Judge as the young keeper drove his clearance straight into the feet of Danny Hattersley, who took one touch before stroking the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Blues boss Young threw on forwards Chris Simm and Kyle Wilson in a bid to salvage a point, but the excellent Fearon and his defence held firm.
Lancaster: Fearon, Henry, Duggan, Marshall, Nightingale, McKenna (Wilson 79), Kenyon, Hall (Rushton 55), Rothwell, Hattersley (Johnson 58), Swarbrick. Subs: Gregson, Kenworthy.
Goals: McKenna 6, Hattersley 56.
Chester: Judge, Aspin (Wilson 84), Horan, Taylor, Stones, Booth (McCready 61), Beck (Simm 61), A Williams, Howard, Wilde, Gritton. Subs: Field, C Williams.
Goal: Taylor 53.
Referee: Dominic McDonald (Widnes).