Chester FC Youth dropped their first points of 2017 with a 2-2 draw against second placed AFC Fylde.
Fylde visited with the Young Blues trailing the Coasters by one point, with Fylde claiming all three points in the reverse fixture in September.
Joe Edwards had fired Chester in front after eighteen minutes but the Blues relied on Nathan Brown’s injury time free-kick to equalise and share the spoils.
The visitors had the first real chance, Hodges saving well at his near post after James Sloane flicked Jack Foster’s cross goalwards.
Despite the Coasters’ early pressure, Chester opened the scoring with their first real attack. Joe Edwards was released down the right and fired a spectacular effort into the top corner of the net from all of 25 yards.
The goal seemed to lift the hosts and could and maybe should have doubled their lead moments later. James Jones found himself in a wide position after a Chester corner, floating the ball back into the box for Alex Downes to head wide of the far post. Ilan Ap-Gareth’s effort barely stung the Fylde goalkeeper’s gloves before the visitors levelled. One pass split the Chester midfield, Isaac Loftus turning and firing the ball beyond Hodges from the edge of the box to send the sides in level at half-time.
AFC Fylde started the better of the two sides in the second period and were in front within five minutes of the restart. Chester cleared their lines but failed to advance up the pitch, with the ball being forced back to the edge of the box. Alex Downes did well to block the original strike but the rebound fell kindly to James Sloane to slot beyond Hodges. James Cottrell and Rhain Hellawell were introduced for the hosts who now had to chase the game.
The game became very stop start but Hodges had to keep Chester in the game with a sensational save from close range.
A string of set pieces began to edge the Blues back into the game, James Jones clearing the bar with a header before Ilan Ap-Gareth couldn’t connect with Nathan Brown’s cross.
Conor Rowbottom squandered the Blues best chance before Brown was able to equalise in injury time.
His free-kick from the left was crossed, bouncing awkwardly in the box and nestling into the far corner to level the scores. With three minutes of injury time remaining, it was the hosts who looked more like scoring but were unable to edge a winner and forced to settle for a draw.
Academy Head Coach Calum McIntyre said: “It’s a decent result against a strong side and dropping points here might really damage their ambitions to win the league. We were wasteful in the first half and ultimately paid the price for that as the two goals aren’t great on our part.
“That said, this is a strong Fylde team who have been together a lot longer than us and they will no doubt be disappointed that they have missed out on the chance to beat us here for the first time.
“It may become a really good point for us and it’s obviously another late goal which speaks volumes about our attitude but ultimately we haven’t taken our chances in the first half and that is probably the difference in the game. This group of players don’t accept losing and once again have scored late to ensure we at least get something out of the game”.