CHESTER’S first pre-season outing of the summer saw them throw away a two-goal lead at Haig Avenue last night.
The Sandgrounders mounted a spirited fight-back in the final quarter of the game, cancelling out goals from Laurence Wilson and Paul McManus.
Blues boss Simon Davies was without five players through injury – John Murphy, Anthony Barry, Jay Harris, Shaun Kelly and Paul Taylor – and opted to make nine changes to his line-up at half time.
Chris Holroyd – a reported transfer target for Cambridge and Stockport – did not feature, but on-trial goalkeeper Chris Sanna was given the opportunity to impress from the start.
After only 11 minutes, Sanna found himself on the wrong end of a poor decision from referee Peter Wright. The former Stoke City reserve made a good save at the feet of Neil Robinson, clearly pushing the ball to safety before the Southport player tumbled to the ground.
Mr Wright stunned the visitors by awarding a penalty – but justice was done as Ciaran Kilheeney’s spot-kick clipped the outside of Sanna’s post and went for a goal kick.
Chester forged ahead in the 28th minute when Wilson embarked on a driving run from left-back and slipped a pass to Kevin Roberts, who unleashed a fierce drive from 20-yards. The teenage midfielder’s effort was too powerful for Southport keeper Tony McMillan, who could only parry the ball into the path of the unrushing Wilson, allowing the former Everton man to make it 1-0 from close range.
After making nine changes at the break, City doubled their advantage on 62 minutes when Paul Rutherford produced some trickery down the left and crossed into the middle. Mark Hughes’ dummy set up Kevin Ellison, and the forward’s deflected shot fell perfectly into the path of McManus, who swept the ball home from close range.
But all of City’s hard work was undone as the Blue Square North hosts clawed their way back onto level terms.
An unmarked Tony Gray headed home to make it 2-1 on 67 minutes after Wilson had failed to clear his lines.
And Southport drew level 14 minutes from time when Michael Powell was allowed too much space on the right-hand edge of the area and he tucked a shot neatly beyond John Danby. Referee Mr Wright looked to have missed two clear handballs in the build-up to the goal.
Blues boss Davies said: "We’ve found out a lot about some of the lads. We’ve played some really good football at times, and at times we’ve played some really bad football.
"That’s what pre-season friendlies are for. We got out of it what we wanted."
With three of City’s five summer signings injured, Ryan Lowe and David Mannix were the only new arrivals in action. Lowe showed flashes of inspiration but was kept quite for long periods, while Mannix was at the heart of some neat passing moves early in the second half before fading as the game went on.
French trialist Damien Mozika did not feature because the Blues had not received international clearance in time. The 21-year-old should be eligible for Saturday’s match at Vauxhall Motors (3pm).
Chester (first half, 4-3-3): Sanna, J Vaughan, Linwood, Rowlinson, Wilson, Rule, Roberts, Dinning, Partridge, Mitchell, Lowe.
Chester (second half, 4-3-3): Danby, Rule, Butler, Platt, Wilson, Hughes, S Vaughan, Mannix, Rutherford, McManus, Ellison.
Referee: Peter Wright.