Chester confirmed they’ll be playing National League North football next season after a goalless draw with Brackley Town in their last home game of the season.
The visitors dominated the majority of the possession but couldn’t take their chances – including one from the penalty spot as Shane Byrne blazed over.
Chester’s clear-cut opportunities were few and far between but their best fell in the fifth minute of stoppage time as substitute George Green smashed an effort towards Danny Lewis’ far post – which the Brackley stopper stretched superbly to keep out.
Despite a good result under the cosh at the Deva, the four point gap between the Blues and Bradford means the Swansway will play host to National League North football again next term.
Chester made two changes from the side that secured a convincing 3-0 win at Ashton United on Friday – with a formational switch-up allowing Craig Mahon to return to the lineup whilst Jamal Crawford made his first start.
The visitors started the brighter of the two, Lee Ndlovu broke into the box and struck a low effort which was well kept out by Grant Shenton after eight minutes.
Shenton had to be alert again as Brackley continued their early dominance, Gareth Dean’s powerful header was excellently tipped over by the ‘keeper.
A quarter of an hour gone and Chester experienced a first for them this season, having to defend an indirect free-kick. A high foot from the resulting corner gave the Saints a chance to shoot from before the six-yard line, but the eleven blue shirts on the line charged brilliantly to block and clear their lines.
The hosts moved up the other end a few minutes later and won a free-kick. Gary Roberts took but his efforts to work the ball around the box were unsuccessful. Eventually the ball dropped to Steve Howson on the edge of the penalty area who let fly but dragged his effort well wide.
Shenton’s good afternoon continued as he slid low to block another Ndlovu strike, the Brackley forward was allowed into a box after a mix-up between Roberts and Simon Grand.
The visitors continued to press forward with Carl Baker rising highest from another corner but this was wide. The Blues were defending desperately at this stage, throwing their bodies at shots to keep the promotion chasers at bay.
The Saints broke into the box again on 42 minutes, only this time Mahon ran across the back of former Chester defender Shepherd Murombedzi who went down under the challenge. Referee Elliott Swallow pointed to the spot but ever-reliable taker Byrne smashed his effort over the crossbar. A relief.
The start to the second period was lacklustre. Whilst Brackley dominated possession as they had, they couldn’t carve out a clear cut opportunity in the opening 20 minutes until a first Ndlovu header was cleared for a corner and the forward’s second from the resulting delivery was narrowly over from close range.
Then from long range, Howson tried his luck again but this curled outwards and well wide of the far corner into the Harry Mac. Some good football on the ground followed and the Blues earned their first corner of the game with nearly 70 minutes on the clock, though this was unsuccessful.
The visitors went close again as a nervy finish neared, this time James Armson headed wide at the back post after a good delivery. Another messy corner followed minutes later and once more Chester’s solid defence were on hand to block.
Into the run-up to stoppage time and Brackley surged forward once more, the ever-present Ndlovu beat Grand and burst into the box but blazed his effort over – a huge let-off.
Pushing forward for a winner of our own. Ben McKenna ran into the opposing half and played in Green who smashed his shot towards the far post but Lewis phenomenally kept it out, whilst makeshift forward Howson mis-hit the rebound. Seconds later the referee finally blew for full-time.
Chester’s stay in the National League North has now been officially confirmed for another season but they have one more game to play – away at Alfreton Town on Saturday (3pm).
CHESTER: Shenton, Jackson, Waters, Roberts, Howson, Grand, Crawford (Green 62), Burton, Waring, Murray (Dudley 62), Mahon (McKenna 62).
SUBS NOT USED: McAllister, Thomson.
Match Report by Alex Bullions.