FC Halifax Town suffered a disappointing defeat in their final game of 2014 after Chester produced a smash-and-grab performance to secure their first away win in over a month.
With four wins from their past six games in all competitions, Town entered the curtain-closer to 2014 in high spirits but goals at the start and end of the game from Matthew Brown and Tom Peers gave the visitors three valuable points.
A team of around 40 volunteers ensured the game would take place after snow and ice had covered The Shay pitch, leaving Neil Aspin thankful that the game would go ahead with an enforced two-week break on the horizon going into 2015.
However, Aspin’s men – with two changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Gateshead on Boxing Day - were punished for a sluggish start and fell behind after only seven minutes. A free kick was taken quickly into the neat feet of Sean McConville whose cross from the left was neatly met by Brown who headed in from close range.
Will Hatfield, in his last game for the Shaymen as part of his current loan deal from Accrington Stanley, was the home side’s brightest spark and he shot over from 20 yards as Town looked to gage a way back into the contest.
The equaliser nearly materialised on 26 minutes after a rush of blood from Jon Worsnop. An innocuous long ball forward was chased down by Jamie Jackson but he was outdone by the fortunate Worsnop who cleared in no-man’s-land.
Defender James Bolton then found himself in an unfamiliar attacking position and volleyed inches over on the stroke of half time after being found by Adam Smith on the right.
Aspin evidently gave a resurgent a team-talk at the break as the Shaymen roared into life.
Lois Maynard, with six goals in his previous six games, went close immediately after the restart but his effort from a Marc Roberts nod-back was bravely blocked.
Richard Peniket, who replaced Smith at the interval, was then denied in a similar vein after a great cross from Jackson.
Jackson, who was “outstanding” in the thrilling festive draw at Gateshead, was turning into Town’s main threat but he had to be replaced six minutes into the second half after picking up a hamstring injury.
Matt Glennon, whose only real action was to pick the ball out of the net after Brown’s opener, had to be at his splendid best to deny McConville’s top corner-bound curler before Ibou Touray turned over Peniket’s low cross at the other end.
Roberts had his header blocked by a Chester defender from the resulting corner as Town searched for what would have been a deserved equaliser.
And it nearly came when leading scorer Scott Boden crossed from the left but Maynard couldn’t connect with Worsnop looking vulnerable in the visitor’s goal.
The former Macclesfield striker repeated the trick with ten minutes remaining but substitute Paul Marshall could only succeed in heading over.
Still the chances came and went for Town. Peniket was smartly denied by Worsnop after a low angled drive and then Peniket crossed for Boden who agonisingly headed against the bar.
Somehow you just sensed that it wasn’t going to be the Shaymen’s day.
And so it proved in the final moments when they were punished in the cruellest of fashions for their wasted opportunities. Town were pushing forward only for Scott McManus to concede possession on the halfway line, allowing an attack down Chester’s right, concluding with substitute Peers heading in to cap a flowing counter-attacking move and ensure Chester concluded 2014 in fine style.
Without a game for two weeks, it will be a long wait for Town’s 2015 era to get started.