CHESTER may have uncovered a hidden gem in the form of teenage forward Lloyd Marsh-Hughes.
The 16-year-old scored the Blues’ second goal in their 3-1 victory at Bala Town before laying on the third for strike partner Harry White, as he made a big impression on the Blues fans who made the trip to Maes Tegid.
Chester had taken an early lead after Nyal Bell robbed Bala goalkeeper Craig Vernon of possession in the first-half but they were pegged back by Chris Venables’ equaliser.
However Jon McCarthy’s youthful second-half XI more than proved a match for the experienced Welsh Premier League side and ran out deserved winners with talented teenager Marsh-Hughes leading the charge with eye-catching displays from both Matty Waters and Lucas Dawson.
For the fourth pre-season game running, McCarthy named a strong starting line-up, with Irish winger Craig Mahon named on the teamsheet for the first time since October.
There was a instantaneous reunion for full-back Evan Horwood, who only departed the Blues last week in order to sign for Bala, having opted for a longer-term contract.
On 11 minutes, the Blues put together a fluid move as Kingsley James broke through midfield and fed Mahon on the left-hand side of the area, who jinked past his man and crossed for Bell at the back post, whose header was hacked off the line.
Chester grabbed the lead on 20 minutes and it was Bell who capitalised on a horror moment for Vernon, the goalkeeper dwelling in possession inside his six yard box and gifting 20-year-old Bell a tap in.
Stephens blazed a shot wide on 26 minutes when under pressure from Paul Turnbull, who was once again providing battling qualities in the engine room.
Colin Caton's men equalised on 39 minutes, as the Blues pondered at a set piece. A corner whipped in from the left wasn't defended properly, allowing Jones to nod down into the path of Venables, the prolific marksman lashing home from six yards out.
Just five minutes had elapsed in the second-half as Bala missed a guilt-edged chance to take the lead, Dave Thompson’s inswinging cross from the right flank glanced narrowly wide by Andrai Jones, with the goal gaping.
Dawson found Waters on 55 minutes with a fine 60-yard diagonal pass, the youngster subsequently hauled down by Glenn Rule right on the edge of the area, Liam Davies blazing the free-kick wide.
Marsh-Hughes then announced himself to the Blues’ faithful with a delightful finish on the hour mark. The teenager was threaded through by Wade Joyce and lifted a fine chip over the on-rushing Vernon from 12 yards, composed stuff from the youngster, who scored 24 hours earlier for the Blues under 18s in their 3-2 defeat at Dundee United under 20s.
Centre-back James Jones thundered into a reckless tackle on 67 minutes on Thompson before the lively Jones, who was at Southport last season and looks addition to the Lakesiders’ team, crashed a deflected effort wide.
Davies cracked a powerful left-footed shot at Vernon from 25 yards which the Bala gloveman parried clear, before Jones should have scored at the other end but blazed over from eight yards.
It was Dawson’s turn to get in on the action on 77 minutes, curling a splendid effort which struck the upright, Waters failing to convert a header from Davies’ subsequent cutback.
It was a debut to remember for Marsh-Hughes and he capped it off on 81 minutes by laying on Harry White for his third goal of pre-season so far, the forward drilling a low shot past Vernon from 12 yards after a sublime chipped through ball into his path.
Bala Town: Vernon, Stephens, Jones, Bell, Horwood, Wade (A Jones 45), Rule, Venables, Burke, Sheridan (Thompson 45), Davies (Hayes 45).
Chester first-half XI: Lynch, Halls, Astles, McCombe, Rowe-Turner, Chapell, Turnbull, James, Mahon, Bell, Akintunde.
Second-half XI: Trialist A, Trialist B, Jones, Trialist C, Trialist D, Waters, Dawson, Joyce, Davies, White, Marsh-Hughes.
Man-of-the-match: Matty Waters – Excellent display full of energy in the second-half down the left wing.
See full story in the Chester Leader