LANCASTER CITY inflicted the first away defeat on champions elect Chester on Saturday with a superb battling performance at Giant Axe.
The Dolly Blues withstood nigh-on 90 minutes of persistent aerial bombardment from runaway league leaders and whipped back on the counter to snatch three points.
Goals in either half from Billy McKenna and Danny Hattersley either side of an inevitable headed goal from a Chester set piece proved the difference on a day where City’s young guns stood up to be counted.
There were superb defensive displays from Sam Nightingale and Rob Henry at full-back and centre-back duo Jack Duggan and Neil Marshall, not to mention a terrific display anchoring the midfield by Alex Kenyon.
This was a performance to savour for the entire 11. Despite being on the back-foot throughout, being out-manoeuvred in the middle by the superb Ashley Williams and facing a team who excel and frequently play for set pieces, they kept their composure and fought to the end.
Martin Fearon made two notably brilliant saves denying the league’s top scorer Michael Wilde’s header in the first-half and Chester captain George Horan’s vicious half-volley in the second when he found space at the back post.
The brilliant Fearon also tipped countless headers onto or over the bar and when he was found wanting in coming for crosses his defenders covered his back.
Henry, Duggan and Kenyon all made goal-saving interventions on the line, Henry in the first-half with a stretching overhead kick and the youngsters in the second throwing themselves in the line of fire.
From an attacking perspective, the Dolly Blues had the edge over the Chester back-line when the ball was on the deck and Dave Swarbrick and McKenna linked up well for the opener.
Nightingale intercepted a pass inside his half and played a first time ball to Swarbrick who broke forward.
He beat one man and played McKenna into space whose first effort was blocked by Adam Judge in the Chester net; he put away the rebound with his head.
The equaliser inevitably came from a set piece and after Michael Taylor had had one header well saved from Fearon and prodded the rebound against Duggan’s head, he finally found the net with a crashing effort.
It was the Chester ’keeper, Judge, who had the say in a final, damning verdict for his side as he badly botched a clearance.
He sliced it straight into Swarbrick’s heels and it fell for the advancing Hattersley who kept his cool and found the bottom corner with a side-footed effort.
The Dolly Blues’ goal may have led a charmed life but for them to have maintained their concentration in such a resolute defensive performance and to have found a finish when needed was tremendous. They deserve the bragging rights and all the plaudits they get.
After taking on second place and the leaders in consecutive games the Dolly Blues now travel to play-off contenders AFC Fylde on Tuesday night.
Lancaster City: Fearon 9, Henry 8, Nightingale 9, Duggan 8, Marshall 8, Kenyon 8, McKenna 7 (Wilson 79), Rothwell 6, Swarbrick 7, Hall 6 (Rushton 55), Hattersley 7 (Johnson 57)
Subs not used: Gregson, Kenworthy
Chester: Judge, Aspin (Wilson 86), Stones, Horan, Taylor, Booth (McCready 61), Beck (Simm 61), Williams A, Gritton, Wilde, Howard
Subs not used: Field, Williams C
Referee: Dominic McDonald
STARMAN Sam Nightingale. One defensive hero among many in a gritty performance