Chester are through to the second round of the Buildbase FA Trophy after defeating AFC Fylde on penalties.
The Blues were held to a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes of football as goals from Ross Hannah and Lucas Dawson were not enough to ensure victory against a visiting side who proved to be no pushovers. Andy Halls scored the decisive penalty in the shootout.
Marcus Bignot made three changes to the side that defeated Solihull Moors last week, with Hannah, Tom Shaw and Jordan Gough returning to the team.
The Blues looked to exploit their opponents by getting in behind in the opening stages, and a delicious through ball from Hannah set James Akintunde bearing down on goal but he was bravely denied by Rhys Taylor.
Chester enjoyed comfortable spells of possession but found chances limited within the first 25 minutes.
The best chance of the half came from Hannah. The in-form striker nicked possession deep in Fylde territory before unleashing a thunderous effort which was excellently tipped over by Rhys Taylor.
After surviving a brief interlude of Fylde pressure, Hall-Johnson collected the ball on the right before beating two men and firing across a dangerous cross which unfortunately couldn’t find a Chester shirt.
Chester found themselves slightly on the back foot in the opening exchanges of the second half, but it was in the 51st minute when the Seals broke the deadlock.
Excellent work from Shaw, who was making his century appearance in a Chester shirt, won the ball back in the middle of the park which allowed Kingsley James to play an incisive ball which sent Hannah through, and the striker took it round the keeper to bag his fourth goal in five games.
The saying goes you’re at your most vulnerable when you’ve just scored and the Blues were forced to display their resilience as the visitors looked to score an immediate equaliser with Jack Muldoon going close.
It was after 70 minutes when the game began to open up as Fylde pressed for an equaliser.
The Blues defended well and were able to counter when Hannah picked up a misplaced pass from Jason Taylor and played in Akintunde who was open on the left, and the striker dummied a Fylde defender but just couldn’t find the back of the net as R.Taylor dropped low.
Fylde responded straight away, and Sam Hornby had to be alert to prevent the substitute Jonny Smith from scoring.
The Seals continued to battle bravely with possession proving to be a rare commodity, and the back three of James Jones, Ryan Astles and Myles Anderson stood firm against the presence of Fylde’s star striker Danny Rowe.
However the visitors persistent pressure soon paid off, and it was a combination of the substitutes Serhat Tasdemir and Rowe which set the 17 year old through one on one and he slotted the ball past an out-stretched Hornby.
The daunting prospect of extra-time loomed but the Blues were not willing to settle for an extra 30 minutes as they looked to retake the lead late on. Daniel Udoh managed to win a free-kick on the edge of Fylde’s area, and the resulting set-piece seen Hannah curl a delightful effort which was superbly saved by R.Taylor. The ball fell to the feet of Hall-Johnson, and his effort looked to have sealed a dramatic victory but his shot was cleared off the line by J.Taylor.
Extra-time began and Chester were having to defend once again as Fylde pressed early on.
It was four minutes into extra-time when Fylde had their second. Striker Rowe was able to capitalise on a horrendous spill from Hornby and he smashed a left footed effort into the back of the net.
A resigned atmosphere dawned upon the Swansway but the Blues were back in the game just four minutes later as Udoh forced another goalkeeping error which seen Lucas Dawson loft the ball into an empty net. The goal lifted the home side and Chester were unlucky not to grab a third just moments later as Hannah broke down the right before feeding Paul Turnbull, but his effort trickled just wide of the post.
Hornby’s heroics were on display once again as Tasdemir found himself in behind Chester’s defence, but his shot was bravely diverted by the face of Hornby. Tired legs began to creep into the Fylde midfield and a neat set of interchanges opened up space for Dawson, who floated a sumptuous ball through to Udoh but he just couldn’t control the ball to finish.
The Blues continued to press for a winner and great strength from Udoh enabled him to set Hannah through, but a last-ditch tackle from Edmundson denied Hannah from scoring his second of the game.
Chester were unable to find the killer instinct to seal the game and penalties ultimately ensued.
Eight perfect penalties were dispatched until Fylde’s Jonny Smith blazed over, and Andy Halls made no mistake in taking advantage as his penalty sends Chester through to the second round. Up next for the Blues is a trip to Halifax as Bignot’s side return to National League duties.
Chester team: Hornby, Astles, Anderson, Jones, Hall-Johnson, Gough (Halls), Dawson, Shaw (Turnbull), James, Akintunde (Udoh), Hannah Unused Subs: Lynch, Mahon
AFC Fylde team: Taylor, Burke, Edmundson, Grand, Richards, Ezewele, McCready, Taylor, Mangan (Tasdemir), Blinkhorn (Smith), Muldoon (Rowe) Unused subs: Montrose, Tunnicliffe
Match Report by Jaquob Crooke