Gateshead 3 Chester FC 2: Injury-time heartbreak as the Blues leave empty-handed

Reporter:

Charlie Croasdale

Chester’s early season woes continued with a heartbreaking stoppage time 3-2 defeat at Gateshead.

Andy Halls first-half own goal had given Neil Aspin’s hosts the lead before Chester gifted the Heed a second just 45 seconds into the second period as Richard Peniket tucked home.

Caretaker boss Tom Shaw rang the changes in the second-half and saw Harry White help change the game as he firstly set up Ross Hannah for a headed finish before teenager Matty Waters bagged what looked like being a dramatic stoppage time equaliser.

However, there was a last-gasp sucker-punch from Gateshead, as a dangerous corner caused carnage in the six yard box and Conor Mitchell turned the ball into his own net, remarkably the Heed’s fifth own goal in their favour this season.

This latest defeat leaves Chester in the National League relegation zone having picked up just one win from their opening 10 matches.

There was one change to the Chester side and it was a notable one, with Craig Mahon recalled for his 160th competitive appearance for the reformed club, breaking George Horan's record in the process.

The Irish winger replaced Nyal Bell, who couldn't play due to the terms of his loan from Gateshead, while White and Waters returning on the bench.

The rain was absolutely lashing down at the International Stadium, situated on the banks of the Tyne, for Shaw's second game in caretaker charge, having overseen Saturday's 1-1 draw with Ebbsfleet United.

Lathaniel Rowe-Turner's second minute interception and surge the left saw him square the ball for Paul Turnbull 25 yards out, who blasted his effort over the bar.

As the rain got heavier there were already some areas of the pitch which were getting very wet, as Hannah's turn and volley was well blocked by Neill Byrne, before Hannah got a header in on goal from Rowe-Turner's dangerous angled cross. A promising opening 10 minutes from the Blues for sure.

Heed had their best chance of the game on 11 minutes as JJ O'Donnell's low left-footed cross zipped off the surface and nearly found the incoming Peniket, but a mixture of John McCombe's strength and brave keeping from Mitchell kept the ball out.

Danny Johnson's 25 yard strike then flashed past Mitchell's far post but these were clear warning signs for the Blues.

Byrne got up to head O'Donnell's free-kick towards goal on 14 minutes but it went wide before Fleetwood loanee Nathan Sheron did well to deny O'Donnell another opportunity to cross.

Hannah tried to find James Akintunde with a back post cross but it drifted over, before Akintunde repaid the favour by winning a free-kick 20 yards out which Hannah curled over the wall but was parried clear by Dan Hanford.

Luke Hannant really should've done better as he flashed over from six yards out from O'Donnell's cross after Sheron was caught ball watching.

The Blues were dealt a blow on 28 minutes as Turnbull was forced off injured, replaced by Lucas Dawson, who was cautioned within 30 seconds off coming onto the pitch for a foul in the middle of the park on Callum Williams. And within 30 seconds of coming on, Dawson was in the referee's notebook for a rash tackle on Callum Williams.

A jinking run from Mahon down the left brought a foul, Dawson's delivery nodded clear, before Hannah got on the end of a Rowe-Turner cross but headed well over.

Sheron went in bravely to win the ball and found Kingsley James who almost found Dawson with a deft through ball as the Blues imposed themselves on the game.

Andy Halls and James produced consecutive blocks to deny Williams and Hannant's shots in quick succession before Mitchell tipped Peniket's 40th minute effort wide for a corner.

The ball was recycled from the resulting corner and Hannant whipped in a cross which was headed into his own goal by Halls, under pressure from ex-Blues man Theo Vassell.

O'Donnell then missed a superb chance to double Heed's advantage, needing to just make contact at the back post with the goal gaping but he fluffed his lines and the teams went in at half-time with Halls' own goal the difference.

Chester then made the worst possible start to the second-half as they gifted Aspin's side another goal just 45 seconds after the restart.

Mahon gave away the ball on halfway and Halls mistimed his challenge on Danny Johnson 25 yards out, enabling the striker to turn and bear down on goal before squaring the ball to Peniket six yards out to stroke into an open goal.

Hannah was working tirelessly up top but was feeding off scraps for much of the evening as the Blues struggled to make a significant impact going forward against the hosts, who were yet to concede a goal at home this campaign. 

McCombe brought down Johnson 30 yards out with a clumsy foul, as White entered the fray on 59 minutes in place of the ineffective Akintunde.

Peniket’s goal really seemed to crush Chester’s spirit as they faded badly during the second period, with Dawson and Rowe-Turner at least trying to get the Blues moving forward, the left-back’s cross/shot sailing onto the roof of Hanford’s net.

McCombe upeneded the lively Peniket right on the edge of the box, with Hannant’s effort deflecting out for a corner.

Makeshift centre-half Halls then made Hanford work for the first time since the interval with a stinging effort from 20 yards which was tipped clear, Mahon unable to find James with the follow-up.

The Blues had livened up since White’s introduction and they grabbed a lifeline on 73 minutes through Hannah. White’s cross from the right wing had Hanford back-pedalling and although the keeper managed to repel the dangerous ball, he simply palmed it straight to Hannah, who had the easy task of nodding home from two yards out.

Chester now sensed they had a chance to get an unlikely point and James nearly found with an acute through ball but ex-Blues defender Vassell cut it out.

Matty Waters came on to replace Wade Joyce and was immediately involved in the heart of the action, feeding James who was bundled over in the penalty area by Byrne but referee Simeon Lucas waved away the appeals for a spot-kick. It was a decision you see given more often than not.

With five minutes to go, White charged down Hanford’s kick and was desperately unlucky not to do better as the ball rebounded off the 22-year-old’s chest and out for a goalkick.

A scuffle then broke out between Vassell and Hannah after an off-the-ball incident, the pair both cautioned for their troubles.

Rowe-Turner was cautioned for arguing with the officials as four minutes went up for stoppage time.

Waters thought he’d grabbed a vital point for his side as he buried a left-footed shot from the edge of the box after a smart one-two with White.

But there late, late heartache for Chester as Mitchell failed to clear a corner and inadvertently turned the ball into his own goal, to send the Heed players into wild celebrations. It was a bitterly disappointing ending for the Blues.

Email:

charlie.croasdale@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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