THE sense of relief was palpable as Jon McCarthy’s Chester registered their first win of the new season.
Kingsley James’ 82nd minute winner stunned promotion-hopefuls Aldershot Town and it felt like a big moment for boss McCarthy, who had faced questions over his future as manager in the build-up to this National League clash.
Chester, without a win in 10 games spanning back to April 1, were completely outplayed in the first-half at the Recreation Ground, but Gary Waddock’s Shots only went in 1-0 ahead, through Matt McClure’s 34th minute finish.
It was a dismal 45 minutes from Chester, who failed to register a shot and saw Aldershot hit the woodwork on three occasions, as the Hampshire outfit looked to stretch their unbeaten home record to 15 games.
However, the Blues rallied after the interval and Lucas Dawson’s penalty drew them level on 48 minutes, before James’ late intervention completed an incredible turnaround in the warm late summer sunshine, with towering defender Ryan Astles producing some heroic late defending to deny the hosts.
This result eases some of the pressure on McCarthy ahead of Monday’s Cheshire derby against Macclesfield Town but the 47-year-old will be all-too aware this win must act as a springboard for more victories in the coming weeks.
“What a result that is for the whole football club,” said McCarthy, who lost his only fit striker – James Akintunde – to a first-half hamstring injury.
"We've lost one game in five this season, which came in injury-time to the team who were top of the table, and we've lost all four of our strikers now.
“We've come to Aldershot, we've gone to Hartlepool and made all ourselves difficult to beat.
“I'm missing four strikers now, our last fit striker gets injured after 20 minutes, and we've got 14 players, plus the young Tom Crawford on the bench.
“I'm delighted for him, he received a round of applause from all the players as it was first time he's made the bench. There's a good chance he could come on on Monday. So Blacon need to come down and watch their young lad.
“We’ve given our supporters a response. We’ve done a lot of work in stopping Aldershot play out, but Akintunde’s hamstrings have gone after 20 minutes and we can’t get that pressure on them.
“Guiseley came here and got beat six, we didn’t want that. They drive from the back, get their wide players on, and we stopped their centre-backs coming forward with the ball.
“The moment we have a player out on his last legs, who plays on when he should’ve told us earlier, it makes it difficult, because we couldn’t stop them.
“We get to half-time, changed formation and we knew we’d get chances with pace up top. Dawson’s top scorer so it made sense for him to go up top.
“He was outstanding, so was Chappie, he gets his critics and it’s a shame the home fans haven’t been here to see that. Hopefully our fans will make sure that gets out there.”
John Askey’s Silkmen are the visitors to The Swansway Chester Stadium on Monday and McCarthy admitted he was disappointed to see Macclesfield handed an extra 24 hours recovery time following Friday’s 1-0 win over Dover.
“The supporters were amazing today and we need them again on Monday,” he added. “Macclesfield have played 24 hours earlier, we know we're lighter than when we started the game, so we're going to need everybody.
“It was a really warm day today, it's taken a lot out of us, so come on Monday and help us get us that win because if we do get that win, what a position we'll be in going into the game against Torquay and Solihull.”
See full story in the Chester Leader