Chester FC 2 – 1 FC Halifax Town
Three sides now sit on top of the Blue Square North table, all having won six out of six matches. Unfortunately for FC Halifax Town, they became the latest victim to the trio’s tenacious start.
Town went down by two goals to one at the Exacta Stadium in a ferociously high-tempo match, which brought some of the best football out from either side that the Blue Square North is likely to see.
Despite winning every game prior to last night’s encounter, Chester’s victories have not been quite as swashbuckling in comparison to Brackley Town and Guiseley – the other two table-toppers – who between them have scored 41 goals already.
Nonetheless, Chester have acquitted themselves well, especially haven risen two levels in two years since reformation – a phenomenon not unfamiliar to Town fans, a number of which made the journey to North Wales.
For the 3112 inside the stadium, they witnessed the game start in an anticipated undertone of nastiness, with the feisty nature of the atmosphere inside the Exacta getting the better of a number of players.
Liam Hogan and Nathan Jarman exchanged pleasantries early on, as did Jason Jarrett and Michael Powell, with the former of the latter pair receiving a yellow card – though for something entirely unrelated.
When stood over the ball as Town readied themselves for a free kick from close range, he was adjudged to have taken the ball short without the referee’s permission, though in fact Paul Marshall was the culprit.
However, the referee’s persistence nearly proved beneficial for Town as Marshall’s effort clipped the top of the goal.
This was in reply to the home side’s lead, which they took early on in the game. Ben Mills was played through and confidently guided home to notch his sixth of the campaign.
It marked a point in the match where Town, who had hitherto been placed under pressure thanks to the advanced pressing of Chester’s forwards, took control of the match, creating a number of chances.
Jon Worthington missed the best of those opportunities from as little as six yards out. The midfielder smashed the ball high and wide, so much so that it sailed into the Welsh countryside – a feat that is not all that difficult given that the ground straddles the England/Wales border.
Despite his miss, Town rallied still further, creating a plethora of chances, none of which came to fruition.
Gregory hit wide from range, Worthington had a tame header saved comfortably and a wonder-strike by Jarrett shot less than a lick of paint wide of the post.
Town continued from where they left off in the second half but Matty McGinn nearly latched on to a lapse in concentration by Matt Glennon.
The goalkeeper kept possession of the ball for too long, being forced into a rushed clearance where left back McGinn launched an effort on goal, though it landed just wide.
The Shaymen were not so lucky soon after, as the home side doubled their lead.
Nathan Jarman’s cross was not dealt with as the ball fell to Dave Hankin on the edge of the area, who had time to place into the bottom corner of Glennon’s goal.
Town’s reply was not long in coming, though, as they fed on the electric atmosphere inside the Exacta Stadium to produce some high voltage football of their own.
It was a small spark of sublime play by Worthington who made amends for his earlier miss to thud the ball into the back of Martin Fearon’s net from all of 35 yards.
From thereon in, the match was simply breathless. The game took the form more akin to basketball than football, such was the extent of end-to-end play.
Captain Danny Lowe’s head was in the air as Chester should have taken what would have been an unassailable lead with ten minutes to go.
The defender gave away the ball inside Town’s half, producing a two-on-one situation for Chester but, with only Glennon to beat, the ball careered off the advertising hoardings instead of nestling in the goal.
Marc Williams came close a number of times for Chester after coming on as a second half substitute but Town looked equally as dangerous in attack.
Jamie Rainford, on for Dale Johnson, let the occasion of playing against his former side get the better of him when miss-cuing a chance instead of squaring to the much better placed Lee Gregory.
He came so close to avenging the miss not long after, when his foray into the box produced a low effort from an acute angle that rolled agonisingly wide of goal.
It was a night where Town could have easily racked up a number of goals, but instead head back to West Yorkshire with no share of the spoils.
Halifax may not be one of the three sides with a maximum haul of points but with the performances displayed so far, surely it will not be long until they join the league’s summit.