THE prospect of an FA Trophy final appearance at Wembley Stadium was the last thing on the mind of Chester boss Neil Young after seeing his side surrender a 2-0 half-time lead.
All the excitement of a money-spinning run in the competition was put firmly to one side as his team looked relieved to be in the hat for today’s first round draw and receive a second chance in this Wednesday’s third qualifying round replay at Worksop.
A comfortable opening half performance had merited the Blues a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Nathan Jarman in the opening 15 minutes, who was also denied a hat-trick before the break when his 20-yard effort crashed off the bar.
But the second half was a totally different story as Worksop worked their socks off to get back on level terms and caused a nailbiting situation for horrified Blues fans.
Leon Mettam reduced Worksop’s arrears in the 53rd minute, and then Ash Burbeary grabbed the visitors equaliser after 78 minutes.
Worksop assistant manager Dave Frecklington underlined his side’s achievement after the final whistle had sounded: “It’s a big ask to come to Chester and get any kind of result, but to come back from 2-0 down shows what we are all about.
“We have been behind in league games, but to reduce the deficit and then take Chester back to Sandy Lane on Wednesday is a massive bonus for us.
“The gaffer just told the players at half-time to believe in themselves a bit more, but we always like to play in the right way and we could have nicked it in the end.”
Chester made five changes from their 4-2 midweek win in the Cheshire FA Senior Cup tie at Cheadle Town.
The Blues named 23 year old striker Craig Curran as a substitute after signing on a one month loan for the club just 24 hours earlier from Carlisle United.
He was joined on the bench by young forward Sean Miller and by club captain George Horan who was returning from a three match suspension.
Jarman provided Chester with a perfect start in the fifth minute when he headed home from six yards after Levi Mackin had hoisted a superbly judged cross into the area.
Blues midfielder Iain Howard had forced visiting goalkeeper Paul Bastock into a save after just four minutes following an incisive pass from Marc Williams.
And Chester dictated the early exchanges thanks to a number of crisp and accurate passes featuring Dave Hankin and Howard.
Hankin’s 10th minute cross received a touch off Kern Miller which looped wide of the far post, and Hankin’s left wing delivery four minutes later was flicked wide of the right post by Jarman.
Jarman doubled his account to increase Chester’s lead a minute later after seizing on a defence-splitting assist from Antoni Sarcevic and clipping a 10 yard shot over Bastock to find the target.
Worksop captain Steve Towers responded for the visitors in the 17th minute, but his powerful 20 yard drive flew wide of the left post.
And Mettam scampered clear of the Chester cover on the half hour but saw his angled shot saved by John Danby.
The Blues resumed normal service a minute later when Hankin unleashed a low goalbound effort that Bastock comfortably gathered.
And Jarman controlled a well measured pass from Sean Clancy seconds later before forcing Bastock into a save that he had to collect at the second attempt.
Jarman turned provider in the 33rd minute when he threaded a fine forward pass into the path of Howard, but the midfielder’s first touch found Bastock.
Chester came close to extending their advantage in the 41st minute when Sarcevic and Mackin combined to set up Hankin, but his first time goalbound shot was superbly saved by Bastock and was hastily cleared by his defence.
Jarman then came within a whisker of completing his hat-trick when he controlled a long pass from Danby before turning his marker and seeing his 20 yard shot crash off the bar.
Worksop started brightly after the break, but Mettam’s first time shot from 20 yards was sprayed wide of the right post, Burbeary’s cross shot was turned behind by Dominic Collins; and Matt Young steered a header over the bar.
The visitors were rewarded for their much-improved performance in the 53rd minute when they reduced their arrears after Mettam punished Danby’s failure to clear on the edge of his area by nipping the ball away from the goalkeeper and slotting the ball home into an empty net.
Curran replaced Howard in the 59th minute as Chester attempted to regain a foothold in the contest.
But Worksop continually frustrated the Blues and looked a more disciplined outfit than they had been before the interval.
And the visitors were full value for their equaliser in the 78th minute when Burbeary swept home a first time close range shot from Craig King’s right wing cross.
Chester, who introduced Tony Gray in place of Jarman, saw Sarcevic shoot wide in the 79th minute, while Owain Warlow blasted a 20 yard effort over the bar for Worksop in the 84th minute.
The closing stages featured half chances for both sides, but the tie finished in deadlock and will now have to be decided in Wednesday’s replay.