Chester FC came unbelievably close to pulling off a remarkable upset in their first game in over four months – but the ten men were eliminated from the Play-Offs this afternoon.
Altrincham took the lead through Josh Hancock before doubling their advantage after an Elliott Durrell penalty and dubious red card for John Johnston.
Durrell added his second and Altrincham’s third shortly after before a late fightback saw Chester get two goals back through George Glendon and Matty Hughes but just didn’t have enough to get the equaliser.
It was the hosts that asserted the early pressure though, taking the game to the Blues from kick off and almost took the lead after seven minutes as Josh Hancock’s 25 yard free kick was brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Louis Gray in the Chester goal.
Altrincham followed up that chance with another effort as former Blues winger Dan Mooney cut inside from the right and fired just wide of the Chester goal.
Chester started to grow into the game though and forged their first chance of the afternoon after ten minutes as Danny Elliott picked up a poor pass from the Altrincham midfield and burst forward, before firing from 25 yards but Tony Thompson was on hand to make a comfortable save.
After a quarter of an hour the Blues forged a fantastic opportunity to take the lead, Joel Taylor skipped past the challenge of Dan Mooney and picked out Danny Elliott in the penalty area, his header was low to the left of Tony Thompson and the former Blues ‘keeper got down well to claw it out and pounce on the follow-up.
The Blues almost gifted Altrincham the lead as Simon Grand’s backpass came up short and Dan Mooney was in one on one with Louis Gray, the Chester ‘keeper kept himself big though and made a superb save to keep the scores level.
It was the hosts that took the lead with just over ten minutes to go until half time as Josh Hancock found himself with space twenty five yards out and fired a low drive beyond the outstretched arm of Louis Gray.
The visitors looked to spark a comeback and were again denied by a strong save from Tony Thompson as Joel Taylor’s throw was flicked on to Simon Grand and Thompson rose high to turn the ball away with one hand to ensure Altrincham lead at the break.
Chester started the second half brightly forcing a succession of corners and pressing Altrincham deep in their own half before disaster struck as the hosts countered Jordan Hulme setting free Dan Mooney, John Johnston chased Mooney down as he bore on goal and was adjudged to have brought him down and was shown a straight red card as Altrincham were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Elliott Durrell, who send Louis Gray the wrong way and doubled the Robins’ advantage.
The Blues changed shape and looked for a way back into the game but again came unstuck on the counter attack as Durrell was played in and beat Gray from a tight angle.
There was a lifeline for the Blues as they pulled one back six minutes later, winning the ball high up the pitch and Anthony Dudley squared for George Glendon, who beat Thompson in the Altrincham goal.
A raft of substitutions meant that the game lost a lot of the flow but Chester, despite being a man down, were very much in the ascendancy. Matty Waters’ free kick almost set up the grandstand finish as he curled it over the wall and just into the side netting.
Two minutes later and Waters managed to get Chester back within striking distance as his cross picked out Matty Hughes who beat Thompson from close range leaving the Blues with eleven minutes to find an equaliser.
Despite having seven minutes of stoppage time the hosts were able to hold out and advance in the Play-offs to face York next week.
Chester FC: Gray, K Roberts, Taylor (Waters 74), Burton (c) (Stopforth 57), Livesey, Grand (Morgan 68), Jackson, Glendon, Waring (Hughes 74), Elliott (Dudley 57), Johnston.
Altrincham: Thompson, White, Hampson, Mullarkey, Hannigan, Moult, Mooney (Harrop 85), Lundstram (Richman 67), Hulme (Peers 73), Hancock, Durrell (Mahon 67).
Substitutes: Hooper, Wynne.
Goal Scorers: Altrincham: Hancock (34), Durrell (pen 53, 59). Chester: Glendon (63), Hughes (79).
Yellow Cards: Chester: Burton, Grand. Altrincham: Lundstram, Hulme, Richman.
Red Cards: Chester: Johnston.