Chester are in the hat for the FA Trophy second round after they served up a Christmas cracker.
Marcus Bignot had promised to take non-league’s premier knockout competition seriously and he was true to his word, playing a strong side who needed extra time and penalties to eventually see off Dave Challinor’s AFC Fylde.
Ross Hannah’s 52nd minute strike looked set to have booked Bignot’s men a place in today’s second round draw, but Serhat Tasdemir levelled up in the 90th minute for the visitors, forcing a rip-roaring tie into extra time.
Danny Rowe came off the bench to capitalise on Sam Hornby’s howler to give Fylde the lead but Lucas Dawson bagged an equaliser on 98 minutes to take the tie to penalties.
Following four superb spot-kicks from Blues quartet Hannah, Kingsley James, Ryan Astles and Paul Turnbull, ex-Wrexham winger Jonny Smith fired Fylde’s fifth penalty over the bar, leaving Andy Halls to successfully convert his effort to secure a 5-4 shoot-out victory.
“First and foremost, we’re in the next round, that’s the most pleasing and important aspect,” Bignot said.
“When we were asked if we could settle it on the day, I didn’t think it was going to go to penalties! But we practiced them in training on Friday and all five were excellent penalties, as were theirs, I’ve never known a shoot-out where neither keeper has made a save.
“Credit to our boys, five out of five. I think the England national team can take a lesson out of that.
“We’ve spoken about December and January being vital in terms of winning football matches, getting momentum so that’s two games now where we’ve come out and got our rewards.
“Hopefully we can continue to build on that with an important game next Saturday at Halifax.
“We’re going in the right direction. We’re a work in progress, they are giving me everything and there’s lots more to come.
“Fylde passed the ball really well but if you look on chances created then it balances itself out by the end and we’ve edged it on penalties.
“Solihull was fine lines last week, we got our rewards and we’ve done so today. The work they are putting in on small little details, that’s the main thing.”
For utility man Halls it felt like a big moment in his Chester career, and will hopefully go a long way to improving what has been a strained relationship with Blues’ supporters since his summer switch from Macclesfield Town.
“We knew Jordan Gough and Tom Shaw couldn’t play 90 minutes so we had to make the substitutions,” Bignot added. “Fylde made a lot of changes but for us it was those two we had to manage. Halls and Turnbull have come on and were really good in there for us.
“That will have given Andy a huge confidence boost as we’ve inherited someone who has had a rough time of it, but he’s coming through that and has been important to us, no more so than today.
“That penalty kick was worth £6,000 to the club, so that’s not bad is it?”