Another away defeat and another red card in front of the national television cameras should be enough to describe FC Halifax Town’s loss at Chester.
Simply, it is not.
In a season full of highs and lows, with the lows mainly coming away from The Shay, Town thought they had grabbed a deserved late draw through James Bolton after Josh Wilson’s harsh red card just before half-time.
But the eleven men of Chester still had time to break ten-man Town’s hearts with substitute Jamie Menagh stealing all three points in the 95th minute.
Adam Smith and Jon Challinor dropped to the bench as Neil Aspin made two changes from the side that swept away Salisbury City at The Shay last time out, with on loan Leeds United youngster Simon Lenighan making his debut and Bolton making his first ‘second debut’ start since re-joining the Club on loan from Macclesfield.
But it was the home side who made the brightest start at a windswept Swansway Chester Stadium and they could have taken a lead as early as the third minute if it wasn’t for the athleticism of Matt Glennon.
A precise cross from the left-hand side caught a static Town defence out, allowing John Rooney to glance a delightful header towards the top corner. The younger brother of England international superstar Wayne was ready to celebrate the breakthrough, but former Chester stopper Glennon somehow kept it out with a firm left hand just underneath his cross bar.
Lenighan then fouled his fellow Leeds youth product team-mate, Lewis Turner, who had made a darting run from left-back for Chester. The free kick caused more problems for Glennon but Simon Ainge was on hand to clear the impending danger.
Ainge and Marc Roberts were proving to be a rock at the heart of the Shaymen’s defence, as Gareth Seddon remained a peripheral figure.
The former Town striker had shared a hearty giggle with Lee Gregory just before kick-off, as both players captained their respective sides. But it was Gregory who had the first chance at goal between the pair, rising to head a customary long Roberts throw into the arms of Aaron Chapman.
Seddon, before the game, had urged for Chester’s number one John Danby to remain between the sticks, but Chapman, aside from Gregory’s header, was largely untroubled.
The best chance Town did create bypassed Chapman, as Wilson’s low shot-come-cross from the right evaded everyone in the box, although Ryan Crowther will be disappointed he couldn’t apply a finishing touch.
It was turning into a scrappy affair, with challenges flying in left, right and centre, but it was one stray foot from Wilson that referee Peter Bankes took great interest in just before the interval.
There seemed little contact as Seddon skipped past Wilson right in front of Aspin and the visiting bench, but Bankes wasted no time in brandishing a straight red card for the former Guiseley man.
The decision – Wilson’s second dismissal of the season and Town’s third in front of the BT Sport cameras this season – was greeted with a mixture of bemusement and horror as Wilson trudged down the tunnel.
There was still time for some more drama before the half-time whistle, which couldn’t have come soon enough for Aspin.
Firstly Glennon did well to claw away a dangerous cross before Chester struck the cross bar, although the flag was raised for offside.
Half-time; time for cool heads and for changes. Aspin just made the one with Lenighan’s debut ending early for the introduction of Marlon Jackson.
And the lively winger seemed to carry on from where he left off against Salisbury with a number of runs on the right, but with no end result.
However, it only took Chester’s eleven men to break the deadlock, and Town’s hearts, ten minutes after the restart. A fabulous cross from the right fell perfectly for Craig Mahon who steered his close-range shot past a helpless Glennon.
Chester’s tails were up and they nearly grabbed a second to put the game beyond the Shaymen with fifteen minutes remaining when Matthew Taylor saw his angled shot deflect narrowly wide.
At the other end, the ball just wasn’t falling for the Shaymen with Jackson and Crowther both delivering teasing crosses from either flank but there was no-one in the area to test Chapman.
When the ball did fall invitingly for Town, Bolton, who had bombed forward from defence, hopelessly miscued on the half-volley from 25 yards.
Smith came on for a late cameo but couldn’t make an impact, as Town seemed destined for further misery on their travels.
However, deep into five minutes of injury time, a Roberts throw wasn’t cleared and Bolton swooped to steer a delightful volley into the far corner, sending the Town fans delirious.
But Chester, fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the table, weren’t finished, and raced up to the other end to regain the lead through substitute Menagh, leaving Town crestfallen.
Chester: Chapman, Turner, Killock, Brown, Heath, Rooney, Bond, Jarrett, Mahon, Seddon (C), Taylor
Subs: Danby, Linwood, Menagh, Reed, Mainwaring
Goals: Mahon (55) Menagh (90+5)
Town: Glennon, Maynard, McManus, Roberts, Ainge, Marshall, Bolton, Wilson, Lenighan, Crowther, Gregory
Subs: Senior, Challinor, Smith, Jackson, Worthington
Goal: Bolton (90+3)
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