ALDERSHOT TN 3, CHESTER 1 (Vanarama National League)
LUCK at last favoured Aldershot Town as they recorded a much-needed win against Chester at the EBB Stadium.
An eventful match, played out in horrendous conditions, was effectively decided either side of half-time.
Chester were denied what looked a clear penalty just before the break, after which Aldershot took the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring twice in two minutes early in the second half and missing several more good chances.
John Rooney, younger brother of Wayne, then scored a spectacular goal for the Blues before Jim Stevenson wrapped it up with Aldershot’s third three minutes after coming on as substitute.
The grim weather that set in for the second half would have had ships heading for the nearest harbour at sea, yet Aldershot served up some exhilarating fare for a supportive crowd, setting sail for only their second win in 14 league matches.
Shots skipper Sean McGinty led from the front in a frenetic opening, twice almost scoring from Dan Walker’s wind-assisted corners. McGinty saw a shot cleared off the line by Ryan Higgins and then met Omar Beckles’ brave header with an angled volley that hit the crossbar.
In between, following a mistake by Beckles, Ross Hannah should have put Chester in front, shooting over from ten yards.
This was all inside the first 11 minutes and Dan Walker continued to give Johnny Hunt the runaround on the right, hitting several testing crosses into the swirling wind. Ian Sharps made a vital clearance and Jake Gallagher was denied a goal by another last-ditch interception.
The visitors weathered the storm, the game settled down, and as the first half moved into added time, an aggrieved Chester were denied a likely penalty. Craig Mahon, through on goal, had his legs taken away by Phil Smith. Surely a spot kick and red card for the keeper, but referee Brett Huxtable was unconvinced and after consulting his linesman, awarded a goal-kick, provoking a storm of protest from the travelling fans and a one-man tirade from the directors’ box.
Smith did not appear for the second half and replacement Dan Thomas at first had little to do as Aldershot forced a series of corners.
Chester had survived McGinty’s earlier efforts, but it was the persevering full-back who broke their resistance in the 51st minute.
Dan Walker took yet another corner and although McGinty’s glancing header was knocked up by Jon Worsnop, the ball still bounced into the net.
The goal-starved Shots fans were still celebrating when Charlie Walker made a darting run on the right and his precise cross was swept home off the post by Alfie Pavey who scored on his debut after being signed on loan from Millwall last week.
Lashing rain was threatening to flood the pitch and ruin Aldershot’s day. But the ex-Chelsea turf stood up well to the drenching and Chester, with nothing to lose, began to make a game of it.
Jason Gilchrist bore down on goal, but Joe Oastler, the last defender, pressured the substitute into a weak shot straight at Thomas.
Danny Hattersley hooked a great chance wide before Chester got back into contention with 12 minutes remaining.
Higgins provided the assist and Rooney did the rest with the sweetest of 25-yard strikes into the top right corner, giving Thomas absolutely no chance.
Aldershot had ample opportunities to kill off the game. Damon Lathrope’s free-kick was headed by Beckles to Charlie Walker who shot the wrong side of the post.
Deserving a goal for his selfless front-running, Charlie Walker brought a fine save from Worsnop and then set up an unmarked Gallagher whose shot was brilliantly blocked by the keeper.
Chester pressed again and Thomas preserved Aldershot’s slender lead with a full-length save from Hannah.
Finally, in the 89th minute, Stevenson settled both the issue and the home fans’ jitters. Rhys Browne was allowed to run free on the left and whipped in a cross that the incoming Stevenson guided past Worsnop’s grasping hands into the far top corner. A superb header, with an exuberant swallow-dive to match.
Man of the match? No contest – Sean McGinty.
“We played as well as we have done for a period and I’m delighted to start our 2016 home games with a win,” said manager Barry Smith. “We could have scored more goals in the first half and were a wee bit nervy near the end, but it was a good performance.
“We’re pleased for the fans – to turn out in those numbers in these conditions – and I think they got an entertaining game. We got the ball in the net and that’s the difference. It makes a massive difference.”
Aldershot: Smith (Thomas 46), Alexander, Beckles, Oastler, McGinty; D Walker, Lathrope, Gallagher, Browne; C Walker (Stevenson 86), Pavey (Carr 90). Subs (not used): Oliver, Brodie.Booked: Pavey.
Chester: Worsnop, Higgins, Heneghan, Sharps (Gilchrist 69), Hunt; George; Hewitt (Shaw 55), Lloyd (Rooney 55), Mahon; Hattersley, Hannah. Subs (not used): Chapell, Astles. Booked: George.
Referee: Brett Huxtable.
Attendance: 1,617 (158 away).