TOM SHAW says Chester are ‘chomping at the bit’ after they signed off from their pre-season campaign.
The Blues assistant coach hailed a well-organised display from his side, in an accomplished performance against an experienced Port Vale side.
With some slick passing and incisive wing play from the hosts, Michael Brown’s Vale side found themselves outplayed for spells of the game.
But the Blues were made to battle for the result, as a moment of brilliance from on-loan forward Nyal Bell cancelled out Rekeil Pyke’s opener for the visiting Valiants.
Reflecting on the game, Shaw said: “It was a really good test for us and I think we stood up to it terrifically well. I think we got on top of the game for long periods.
“It’s great to challenge yourself against experienced players like that, especially our younger ones, so it was a really successful afternoon.
“We’ve thrown a lot at the players tactically in pre-season and it’s so pleasing for the coaching staff to see them doing that out on the pitch in games.
“We’ve tried to sign learners as well as leaders and when you see it all pan out the game looks quite simple at times.
“People making the right decisions in games making the right runs is pleasing and the players have been a credit to themselves in the pre-season period.
“The boys are ready to fly without a doubt. They’re chomping at the bit and what’s great as a coach is that you’re having to calm it down a little bit.
“Nobody needs a kick-start in training – the ball’s rolling and they’re flying around – that’s why I’m confident going into this season that we’ll do well.
“I think we’ve got our reward today with a good performance and a good ovation as they came off, but obviously next week is the important one.”
The final summer friendly augured well for Chester, as they matched a Vale side who were unfortunate to lose their League One status last term.
With Harry White and Ross Hannah absent with knocks, Jon McCarthy deployed 20-year-old Bell and James Akintunde as an attacking pair in a traditional 4-4-2.
A bright start saw the right-backs from both sides make good incursions into the opposing half.
Vale defender Lawrie Wilson tested Blues keeper Connor Mitchell with a vicious dipping cross, which was tipped over the bar.
Minutes later, Chester’s Andy Halls sent in a dangerous cross, which was scrambled clear.
Sustained pressure from the hosts began with Kingsley James’ well-struck shot from the edge of the box, which deflected just over the bar.
Lucas Dawson then tried his luck with a speculative left footed effort from the edge of the box, but his half-volley flew wide of the target.
On 15 minutes, Craig Mahon showed his quality when he gathered possession 20 yards out before jinking inside and hitting a well-struck right-footed effort that was deflected over.
James then spurned a decent chance to break the deadlock when Dawson’s inswinging corner found him unmarked six yards out but his poor first touch allowed the Vale defenders to recover.
Chester’s more expansive play saw them shade the opening 30 minutes, with the visitors offering little in terms of attacking enterprise.
Blues centre-backs Ryan Astles and John McCombe looked assured in the heart of defence, as a series of blocks and interceptions snuffed out any threat from the visitors.
Chester maintained their effective high pressing game early in the second half, but were grateful to see Tom Pope’s arching header from a corner rebound off the upright on 57 minutes.
The breakthrough came minutes later, when Pyke latched onto Halls’ undercooked headed back pass and tucked the ball beneath Mitchell.
Aggrieved at falling behind, Chester rallied as Akintunde took possession and stormed forward but was crowded out by three Vale defenders.
Parity was restored on 68 minutes though, when Bell collected Lathaniel Rowe-Turner’s measured aerial ball and beat his marker before curling a superb right-footed finish into the far corner.
It was Bell’s second sublime finish in a week, following his stunner against Walsall.
Further chances were at a premium, though Michael Tonge’s 25-yard free-kick drew a decent save from Mitchell.
Late on, Akintunde got in behind the Vale back line but his effort from 18 yards lacked conviction and was comfortably gathered by Vale keeper Sam Hornby.
Chester: Mitchell, Halls, McCombe, Astles, Rowe-Turner, Dawson, James, Turnbull (Joyce 75), Mahon (Davies 65), Bell, Akintunde (Brown 90). Subs: Lynch, Brown, Marsh-Hughes, Hellawell, Waters.
Port Vale: Lainton, Wilson, Smith, Kay, Gunning, Harness (Reeves 86), Pugh, Tonge, Montano (Turner 55), Pyke (De Freitas 86), Pope. Subs: Hornby, Turner, Kelly, Yates, Davis, Calveley, Reeves, Boot.
Star man: Nyal Bell – A stunning finish capped a fine display.
See full story in the Chester Leader