CHESTER left it late to claim a dramatic 2-1 victory at Aldershot Town and end their winless run.
Kingsley James’ 82nd minute winner sealed a crucial three points for boss Jon 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.
However, the Blues rallied straight after the interval and Lucas Dawson’s penalty drew them level on 48 minutes, before James’ late intervention completed an incredible turnaround.
This result slightly eases the pressure on McCarthy and his side, who now face a Cheshire derby against Macclesfield Town on Monday.
Paul Turnbull picked up a third minute booking needlessly for kicking the ball away, with James Rowe rattling the bar with the resulting 25-yard free-kick., with Conor Mitchell well beaten.
The Shots looked the better side in the opening exchanges and striker McClure nearly got on the end of Rowe’s deep corner.
Manny Oyeleke swung in a dangerous eighth minute cross which Shaun Okojie headed wide at the far post.
On 12 minutes, Aldershot rattled the woodwork for a second time as the Blues surrendered possession in a dangerous area, McClure threaded Bobby-Joe Taylor and the left winger drove his shot against the upright. James Akintunde was booked shortly after for a rash tackle on Jim Kellermann.
Just 16 minutes had elapsed when Shaun Okojie narrowly failed to connect with a teasing low Rowe cross and it feasibly could’ve been 3-0 already.
Taylor was causing Andy Halls a headache down the left flank and he twisted past the Blues’ right-back but his deep cross evaded McClure.
Rowe hit the crossbar for a second time on 28 minutes as his shot from 12 yards out, following Taylor’s cutback, hit the underside of the bar and bounced down on the goal-line.
The woodwork couldn’t save Chester on 34 minutes as McClure fired the Shots into a deserved lead. Liam Davies was outmuscled by Oyekele in midfield, who found Kellermann and his pass was met by a fine low finish from McClure into the corner.
Akintunde was extremely isolated upfront and McCarthy tried to combat this by switching Davies to a more central role in attack, but Waddock’s side remained in firm control at the break.
Akintunde was forced off with a leg injury, replaced by Jordan Chapell, while Wade Joyce came on for the lacklusture Davies, Dawson heading upfront as a makeshift centre-forward.
Within two minutes, the Blues were handed a lifeline. Dawson’s deep corner found Craig Mahon and the winger was chopped down by Chris Arthur, a clear penalty.
Dawson stepped up and fired low past Jake Cole from 12 yards with Chester’s first shot of the match.
John McCombe was inches away from nodding the Blues ahead from Dawson’s inswinging cross, before Halls was cautioned for upending Kellermann.
Taylor’s deflected shot on the hour mark had Mitchell scrambling, but the on-loan goalkeeper expertly claimed the resulting Rowe corner. Aldershot continued to press with a string of corners but Mitchell kept matching the delivery with fine handling.
McCombe got on the end of Turnbull’s cross but headed straight at Cole, Halls’ cross evaded everyone, before Kingsley James’ appeals for a 76th minute penalty were waved away after his shot appeared to strike an arm.
Mitchell, having a fine afternoon, clawed Scott Rendell’s curling effort round the post and Oyeleke wasted a good chance from the following corner.
Quite incredibly, the Blues took the lead on 82 minutes. Initially, Mahon’s floated pass found Chapell, who carried the ball to the edge of the area and produced a stunning chip which hit the crossbar.
The Blues recovered the loose ball, Turnbull found Chapell on the right edge of the box, and the winger’s cross-shot was met by James at the backpost, who smashed home from two yards out, sparking wild scenes of celebration of the Blues’ bench.
Shamir Fenelon nodded over from close range in stoppage time but Chester held on for a thrilling victory, with some frantic defending in the penalty area deep into injury time.
Aldershot: Cole, Alexander, Arthur (Arnold 78), Reynolds ©, Taylor, Oyeleke, De Havilland, Okojie (Fenelon 70), Rowe, Kellermann (Rendell 70), McClure; Subs: Lyons-Foster, Smith.
Chester: Mitchell, Halls, Rowe-Turner, Astles, McCombe, Turnbull, James, Dawson, Davies (Joyce 45), Mahon, Akintunde (Chapell 45); Subs: Lynch, Waters, Crawford.
Goals: McClure 34, Dawson (pen) 48, James 82
Attendance: 2,056 (118 away)
Referee: Gary Parsons
See full story in the Chester Leader