Tranmere Rovers 0 Chester FC 0: Alex Lynch heroics earn Blues a valuable derby point

Reporter:

Charlie Croasdale

Alex Lynch produced a heroic performance for Chester as Marcus Bignot's side clung on for a valuable derby day point at rivals Tranmere Rovers.

Blues goalkeeper Lynch was in sensational form to deny wave after wave of Tranmere attacks, with James Norwood and Gerry McDonagh denied by a string of top drawer saves.

Micky Mellon's hosts dominated for long periods but Bignot's Blues stood firm much to the delight of the terrific 1,198 travelling away fans, as they left Prenton Park with a point for the second season in succession.

There was one change to the Blues line-up, with Paul Turnbull returning in place of the injured Craig Mahon, who faces a couple of weeks on the sidelines.

Fleetwood loanee Nathan Sheron has returned to his parent club, so academy graduate James Jones was included among the substitutes, while former Blues striker James Alabi had to settle for a spot on the bench for the hosts.

In the build-up to this derby encounter, Bignot and his players had spoken about the need to 'galvanise' the club after a disappointing start to the campaign continued in midweek with a 2-0 reversal against Woking.

The Blues shaped up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Lathaniel Rowe-Turner in a more advanced role on the left flank but it was a cagey first 10 minutes, with Connor Jennings advancing into the area but denied by a sliding tackle from John McCombe.

Lynch was called into action as he produced a brilliant one-handed stop to deny James Norwood, who volleyed at goal from 18 yards after a woeful headed clearance from Andy Halls.

Ollie Norburn drilled a low shot which Lynch clung to, as James Akintunde floored Adam Buxton with a late tackle which referee Peter Wright missed.

Jennings was pulling the strings from left midfield and picked Norwood with a terrific 40 yard cross-field ball but the forward was let down by his touch as torrential rain continued to pour down in Birkenhead.

Norwood got on the end of Buxton's cross but his header flashed wide, before Andy Cook went close with a front post header which zipped past Lynch's upright on 21 minutes.

Hannah had Chester's first meaningful attempt two minutes later as his left-footed drive skipped past the post.

Referee Wright was at the centre of attention on 25 minutes when he cautioned Norwood for diving inside the area having rounded Lynch. It had looked a nailed-on spot kick but the officials felt otherwise and Norwood was livid, almost talking himself into a second yellow for dissent.

Lynch continued his personal crusade to keep the Blues in the game as he spread himself superbly to deny Norwood from eight yards out after a quick free-kick caught Chester's defence napping.

Jennings looked very dangerous all afternoon and his 20 yard effort was parried clear by Lynch with Cook waiting to pounce in the box, as the Blues somehow got into half-time will the scores level.

Tranmere began the second period strongly and Astles was forced to hack behind with Cook bearing down on him, before Tom Shaw produced a superb block to deny Norburn from 20 yards.

Shaw's shot at the other end was blocked but the Blues were growing into the game.

Shaw once again found himself in space in the area but his effort was well defended by Stephen McNulty before Buxton's right-footed drive struck the side-netting.

The atmosphere was crackling and we finally had a football game to match it, with Rowe-Turner a constant threat down the left.

Akintunde skipped past Jeff Hughes on the hour mark and struck a 30 yard which whistled over Scott Davies' bar, with Shaw entering the notebook for a tackle from behind on Dylan Mottley-Henry on 64 minutes.

Norwood won the hosts a corner shortly which Hughes subsequently wasted, but the ball was recycled and Buxton's cross was met by Mottley-Henry's header with Lynch forced into another terrific save from close range.

Kingsley James' right wing cross nearly found Shaw before Lynch produced another masterful save as he spread himself to deny debutant Gerry McDonagh from close range.

Hannah broke the offside trap but Davies was quickly off his line to deny the striker, Lynch then comfortably holding onto a 35 yard deflected effort from McNulty.

Norwood's deflected shot whistled wide, before Ryan Astles got a vital block on Jennings' stabbed effort from six yards which rebound back off the post.

Hughes' cross from the right was met by McNulty who nodded wide on 88 minutes and McDonagh was once again repelled by the excellent Lynch as Chester held firm.

Tranmere: Davies, Buxton, Ridehalgh, McNulty, Sutton, Mottley-Henry, Jennings, Norburn (Harris 89), Hughes, Cook (McDonagh 61), Norwood; Subs not used: Pilling, McEveley, Alabi.

Chester: Lynch, Halls, Rowe-Turner, McCombe, Astles; Turnbull, Shaw (Joyce 90), James, Dawson; Akintunde, Hannah; Subs not used: Chapell, Jones, Waters, Bell.

Referee: Peter Wright – 8/10 – Huge call to caution Norwood in the first-half for diving when it looked like a certain penalty, and replays suggest he got the big decision bang on.

Attendance: 7,172 (1,189 from Chester)

Email:

charlie.croasdale@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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