Gary Roberts’ late penalty ensured Chester claimed a thoroughly deserved draw with Morecambe in a blood and thunder pre-season clash.

The key action developed in a frantic five-minute first-half period, which began with John Pritchard’s penalty miss for the hosts. Andrew Fleming fired Morecambe ahead moments later, but Chester were level 90 seconds later via Steve Howson’s towering header.

The Blues pressed for a late winner, but Howson’s rash challenge on Kevin Ellison led to an 82nd minute spot-kick which Jason Oswell hammered home.

But Chester weren’t to be denied as Matty Hughes won a late penalty, calmly dispatched by Gary Roberts to claim a well-deserved draw.

Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley will be delighted with the application of their side against the League Two outfit, as the Blues created more chances and looked the more threatening team for long periods.

Although some question marks defensively, this display from the Blues certainly bodes well ahead of their National League North opener against Spennymoor Town on Saturday week (August 4).

The Blues were facing fourth tier opposition for the second time in four days following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Ryan Lowe’s Bury, and there was a fellow former Blues favourite in the Shrimpers line-up, with 39-year-old Ellison skippering the side.

Ellison was immediately involved down the left flank, cutting past Dom Smalley who managed to force the ball out for a corner.

The Blues were set up with a three-man central defence of Howson, Jon Moran and Simon Grand, but were being easily pulled apart by Morecambe, Aaron Wildig getting plenty of joy down the right. Fleming’s ninth minute volley sailed over the bar, but it was an early warning for the hosts.

Former Chester transfer target Oswell nearly got on the end of Wildig’s cross but Grand was on hand to stab it clear.

There was a blow on 13 minutes for Chester as skipper Scott Burton was forced off with a muscular injury, replaced by Roberts.

Chester were awarded a 20th minute penalty. Jon Moran was hauled down by Sam Lavelle in the box attempting to attack Roberts’ free-kick and referee Peter Gibbons had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Pritchard stepped up confidently, but his tame effort was parried clear by goalkeeper Mark Halstead. It was the second penalty he has missed in pre-season, having previously fired a spot-kick over the bar in the win at Ramsbottom.

Minutes later, Chester fell behind. Howson missed his header and Ellison’s firm strike was blocked by Moran, but Fleming capitalised on the rebound and could hardly miss from just eight yards out.

Just 90 seconds elapsed, and the hosts drew level. Pritchard’s deep cross from the right wing found Howson at the back post and the experienced centre-back nodded home past Halstead.

The game was being played at a decent tempo for pre-season but once again Chester’s lack of cutting edge in the final third was evident, with Deane Smalley and a trialist forward both struggling for any service.

Zak Mills fizzed a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards, before the right-back’s cross was nearly converted by Carlos Mendes Gomes but he shot wide.

Chester came close to taking the lead on the stroke of half-time as Dom Smalley was played in by the trialist striker, but his low effort was deflected wide by Halstead.

Pritchard and Smalley linked up well at the start of the second-half to set up Deane Smalley in the area who headed downwards but wide of goal.

Shenton’s handling looked suspect as he came to claim an Ellison cross but spilt the ball.

The Blues were building some real momentum in the second period and Roberts dangerous corner was hooked away by Alex Kenyon after Moran’s attempted header.

Dan Mooney, who is making a decent impression on-loan from Fleetwood, blasted a volley wide from 20 yards after good work from Smalley.

Chester twice went close to winning it late on. Pritchard left-footed cross was nearly converted by Matty Hughes, before Howson and Grand both missed their headers from Smalley’s corner.

Smalley’s error enabled Ellison to gallop into the area and he was felled in the area by Howson with a rash, sliding tackle. Oswell smashed the penalty into the top corner.

Kenyon’s handball at the other end gave Chester a chance to equalise from the spot, and Roberts stepped up to stroke the ball into the far corner to salvage a deserved draw.

Chester FC starting XI: Shenton, Dom Smalley, Moran, Howson, Grand, Pritchard, Burton (Roberts 13), Stopforth, Mooney (Mahon 66), Deane Smalley (Trialist C 66), Trialist B (Hughes 66). Subs: Trialist (GK), Brown, Downes.

Morecambe line-up: Halstead, Cranston, Kenyon, Mills (Sinclair 45), Fleming (Hawley 72), Ellison, Wildig (Campbell 62), Lavelle (Brownsword 55), Gomes (Hedley 62), Mandeville (Conlan 77), Oswell. Subs: Roche, Jagne, Oliver.

Chester MOTM: Gary Stopforth – Another combative midfield display from the summer signing.

Referee: Peter Gibbons

Attendance: 582