CHESTER managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as their shocking run of home form continued with a 3-2 loss to Woking.
The Blues thought they had won it when Elliott Durrell fired them 2-1 ahead with eight minutes left but Jon McCarthy’s side then inexplicably shipped twice in the final minutes, as goals from Connor Hall and Gozie Ugwu’s penalty sealed a vital away success for the Cards.
Earlier, Brian Saah’s close range finish had given Woking the lead before Liam Davies headed home an equaliser on his home debut.
But Chester threw it away at the death and have now lost seven successive home games, and remain without a win at The Deva since mid-December.
McCarthy made two changes to the side who lost 2-0 at Forest Green Rovers on Good Friday, Tom Shaw and Ryan Lloyd both returning in midfield with Johnny Hunt and Lucas Dawson dropping to the bench.
The Blues were bidding to end their home hoodoo, and also halt a terrible record against Woking, who had won the three previous meetings between the two clubs at the Deva.
Woking were straight on the attack, Nathan Ralph forcing an early corner off Sam Hughes. From the resulting delivery, Joey Jones connected at the back post and forced Durrell into a terrific block on the line, the ball spinning up onto the head of Ugwu, whose header was also hacked off the line by Theo Vassell.
Davies, playing in a left wing back role, motored down the left from Lloyd’s lay-off but overhit his touch and was dispossed, before Delano Sam-Yorke had his pocket pinched by Vassell.
Joyce’s cross was cleared for a corner and Durrell’s resulting ball eventually fell to Vassell, who shot straight at Michael Poke was 15 yards.
Sam-Yorke’s presence was causing issues up front and he laid the ball off to strike partner Ugwu who was tackled well by Hughes.
Davies looked significantly uncomfortable in defensive positions and was easily beaten by Jake Caprice who surged into the area but his shot was pushed behind by Alex Lynch.
On 15 minutes the Blues were handed a major repreive as Lloyd’s woefully underhit back pass was intercepted by Sam-Yorke, who rounded Lynch but couldn’t convert into an open goal from an acute angle.
Durrell’s shot fizzed wide via a deflection before Hughes headed over from the resulting corner as Chester finally got some territory further up the pitch.
Fabio Saraiva was next to rise highest for the Cards as his header flashed wide before Keiran Murtagh’s low shot from 25 yards took a flick off Ugwu’s boot and was palmed clear by an outstretched Lynch.
Caprice was having a field day down the right wing and once again skipped past Davies, crossing low for Ugwu who saw his effort blocked.
Hughes won the ball on the right flank before squaring for Lloyd, who took aim from 30 yards and his powerful shot skimmed over the bar.
Ryan Astles then produced a surging 70-yard run up field, laid the ball off to Lloyd and met the resulting cross with a powerful header but Poke saved comfortably.
There was finally a bit of spark and intensity about Chester’s play as Durrell was the next to test Poke with a stinging shot from distance which the Cards’ goalkeeper parried to safety.
Astles played the ball through to Alabi on 43 minutes and the Blues’ top scorer managed to get his shot off but it was well blocked by Poke, before Shaw’s follow-up header span wide of goal but the Deva crowd were encouraged by what they saw.
Vassell thought he deserved a free-kick when brought down by Murtagh but referee Steven Rushton told him to get to his feet, Woking countered but Ugwu’s cross was gathered by Lynch.
Chester began the second-half brightly, Lloyd’s knockdown from Vassell’s punt forward nearly allowing Alabi to sneak in but Jones cleared the danger.
The Blues defensive line was begin to creep ever so more deeper and Caprice’s cross was well cleared by Alabi. Durrell then neatly turned past Saraiva on halfway but his touch let him down.
Joyce’s touch let him down – not for the first time – and he felled Ralph on the left hand side on 53 minutes. The winger’s stunning free-kick caused havoc in the box, Hughes failed to clear and Saah blasted the Cards in front from six yards out.
The game had sparked into life and Chester equalised just 70 seconds later. Joyce collected the ball 25 yards out on the right wing and delivered a marvellous cross to the back post which was met by Davies, who hung in the air and thudded his header past Poke into the far corner.
The points were now there for the taking and Davies’ terrific inswinging corner found Alabi six yards out but he guided his flicked header just wide of goal much to the anguish of the Chester bench.
McCarthy made an attacking change as James Akintunde, continuing to make his comeback from a long lay-off, replaced Joyce, and Alabi nearly got on the end of Davies’ through ball.
Durrell’s inventive free-kick on 77 minutes found Alabi on the edge of the area, who forced a corner and again Davies’ fine delivery was met by Hughes, who nodded wide of Poke’s upright.
Blues’ skipper George was at the heart of everything good about this performance and another typically full-blooded tackle helped pen Woking back in their half.
The Blues thought they’d won it on 82 minutes as Akintunde did superbly to dribble past Terell Thomas into the box. The ball broke to Durrell on the penalty spot and he fired past Poke via a big deflection.
However, joy turned to despair in the final five minutes. Firstly, a cross from the Woking right created a scramble in the area, and Cards’ substitute Hall stabbed home from six yards out as the ball dribbled past a helpless Lynch.
With the clock ticking into stoppage time, George handled in the area to prevent Hall from heading home and referee Rushton had no hesistation to award a penalty. Ugwu stepped up and was the calmest man in the house as he stroked the spotkick past Lynch to send the travelling supporters wild.
See full story in the Leader