March 31, 2015
Last Time Out Chester FC lost 3-2 at home to Woking
Josh Payne’s sensational strike six minutes from time gave Woking the spoils in a match from which an out-of-sorts Chester FC almost took a point despite having 10 men for most of the second-half.
In truth, the Blues fell well short of the standard set earlier in the season and the Cards did more than enough to win the game, and probably should have seen the game out with far less hassle.
Woking’s top scorer Scott Rendell put his side ahead but Craig Mahon, whose work rate put a few of his team-mates to shame, levelled at the end of the first-half.
Rendell restored the lead in the second period after Kieran Charnock had been dismissed but Ben Heneghan equalised for a second time with 10 minutes to go.
A point would have been an excellent return in the circumstances but Payne had other ideas, unleashing an unstoppable volley from long range that rates as one of the best goals seen at the ground for some time.
In a week where high profile departures had been making the headlines, there were no such dramas heading into the game for the Blues, who could begin to build for the future with Steve Burr extending his contract for a further 12 months and the club finalising a 50-year stadium lease.
However, a more immediate concern to the manager would the form of his side, who had won just once in six games.
He had been rotating his squad with an eye on next season and did so again, making three changes from the 1-1 draw at Alfreton Town.
Kieran Charnock, Matty Brown and Sean McConville came into the team for Michael Kay, Gareth Roberts and the absent Oliver McBurnie.
Woking’s promotion challenge faltered mid-season but five wins from six had pushed them right back into the mix.
Garry Hill retained the team that had fought back from 2-0 down to beat Torquay United 3-2 midweek, meaning new signing Emmanuel Oyeleke had to make do with a spot on the bench.
With the wind swirling around the ground, it took five minutes or so for the first meaningful passage of play with Yemi Odubade making a mess of his attempt.
Matty Hughes volleyed over when well placed for the Blues but most of the early running came from the Cards.
Woking had the ball in the net on nine minutes when Scott Rendell side-footed home from close range, although an offside flag cut the celebrations short.
Chester, who were playing with three centre halves, were opened up on a couple of occasions but important blocks from Brown and Ben Heneghan kept the scores level.
There had been moments of promise for the Blues with Hughes and McConville getting behind the back four, but Woking hit the front on 29 minutes with a slice of good fortune.
John Goddard’s shot was missing the target but deflected into a dangerous area and Rendell reacted quicker than Charnock to steer the ball past Jon Worsnop.
Woking had been the better team without being dominant and the hosts needed to come up with something different to get themselves back on terms.
Chester’s performance had been laboured, particularly in possession, and the manager switched back to a more familiar formation in an attempt to get his team going.
The change paid off a minute before half-time when McConville curled a shot towards goal and keeper Michael Crowe spilled the ball into the path of Mahon, who took his time before firing into the net to ensure the half ended 1-1.
Crowe’s mistake had given the Blues a route back into the game but an improved second-half performance would be required to took advantage.
However, there was little change from the opening 45 minutes with Woking continuing to force things.
Desperate blocks from James and Heneghan kept them out but the Cards had upped the temp and the tide had turned.
Charnock compounded the situation in the 62nd minute when he lost possession and pulled down Betsy on the edge of the box, giving referee Richard Wigglesworth no choice but to show him a second yellow card and then a red.
Worsnop had to be at his brilliant best to keep out the resulting free-kick from Josh Payne, clawing the ball out of the top corner.
Chester brought on Craig Hobson and Roberts but the Cards could sense the hosts were on the ropes and regained the lead on 69 minutes.
Joey Jones soared highest to head a corner back across goal and Rendell bundled the ball from from a yard out for his second of the game.
Worsnop saved from Brian Saah and Odubade as the Blues floundered but a goal out of nothing had them level again in the 79th minute at 2-2.
McConville clipped a corned towards the back post and Heneghan added to his outstanding record, powering a header into the ground and past Crowe.
Woking chased the win and threw everything at the Blues in the final 10 minutes but it was a moment of pure brilliance that ultimately won the game.
Payne steadied himself under a dropping ball 35 yards from goal and the midfielder unleashed a stunning volley, which flew past the diving Worsnop and into the top corner of the net.
Chester FC: Worsnop, Higgins (Kay 76), Heneghan, Brown, Charnock, Mahon, Abbott (Hobson 60), James, Rooney, McConville, Hughes (Roberts 63).
Subs: Viscosi, Peers.
Goal: Mahon 44, Heneghan 79.
Sent off: Charnock.
Woking: Crowe, Ricketts, Jones, Saah, Arthur, Goddard (Banya 68), Payne, Murtagh, Betsy, Rendell, Odubabe (Sole 74).
Subs: Little, Nutter, Oyeleke.
Goal: Rendell 29 and 69, Payne 84.
Booked: Jones, Goddard, Payne, Arthur.
Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (Doncaster).
(This Match report is adapted from the Chester Chronicle with many thanks.)