CHESTER produced a stirring second-half fightback to come from behind and claim a 2-1 victory at Braintree Town.
Hakan Hayrettin’s Braintree led through Jack Midson’s first-half header and should have been out of sight at the break after a dismal 45 minutes from the Blues.
However, Jon McCarthy’s men flew out of the blocks in the second-half and dominated for long periods, deservedly levelling through James Alabi’s 61st minute header, before the impressive striker bagged an 84th minute winner with a terrific right-footed finish from 12 yards out.
This valuable win ends a run of consecutive defeats for the Blues and reignites their National League play-off hopes, having been boosted 24 hours by the news that Ryan Lloyd had re-joined for the rest of the season on-loan from Port Vale.
Sam Hughes didn’t travel to Cressing Road with the rest of the squad, the centre-back missing through injury, so Blaine Hudson came into the defence in the only change from the 3-0 defeat against Solihull last weekend.
In the second minute Elliott Durrell was adjudged to have pushed Lee Barnard and Michael Cheek curled the resulting free-kick narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Durrell’s 60-yard ball found Alabi and he looked to have shook off Manny Parry but was adjudged to have pulled the defender back.
The opening 15 minutes passed with chances at a premium and disappointingly Chester were reverting to long punts downfield towards Alabi and Kane Richards as their main outlet.
On 16 minutes, Sam Corne’s corner was met by a thumping header from Midson, but the winger’s effort flew over the bar.
Barnard forced another corner a minute later after Luke George’s block but the pressure remained constant from the Iron and Cheek should have buried Barnard’s right-wing cross but his header went wide.
Cheek then went close on 19 minutes as his effort hit the sidenetting from close range, before the Blues finally got some possession. Alabi played a neat pass into Lloyd’s path but the midfielder overran his first touch and Sam Beasant gathered.
On 20 minutes, Parry rose highest at the far post from another lofted Corne delivery but this time it was Durrell who was on hand to head clear off the line, with Braintree players claiming the ball had crossed the line.
McCarthy was forced into a 26th minute change as Jordan Chapell, who appeared to have injured his back, was replaced by Matty Waters, celebrating his 19th birthday.
Waters nearly made an instant impact, set clear on goal by Alabi, but his shot was well blocked by Ian Gayle.
Each time Alex Lynch booted a long kick up to Alabi, possession just came straight back to the Iron, and the anticipated opening goal arrived on 30 minutes.
Luke George miscontrolled the ball which allowed Millwall loanee Kris Twardek in down the left and his pinpoint cross was met by a cracking glancing header by Midson which found the top corner.
Alabi was cautioned after 35 minutes following a late tackle on Gayle which left the centre-half stricken on the pitch.
Waters was brought down 20 yards out and Durrell very nearly caught Beasant out with a quickly taken shot which the goalkeeper palmed clear, before Alabi forced a corner which was blazed over by Hudson.
It was almost 2-0 just prior to half-time as Durrell’s clearance from yet another corner smacked Shaw in the back of his head and struck the upright, before the Blues cleared their lines, but Braintree should’ve been out of sight by the interval.
Chester made a bright start to the second-half, Durrell’s low cross evading all those in a white shirt and drifting wide.
Smart work on the left from Evan Horwood allowed Durrell room to shoot but his effort was blocked yet it was encouraging stuff from the Blues.
On 54 minutes Durrell laid the ball neatly off for Waters, but the teenager’s effort sailed over the bar. Fine work from Richards drew a foul from Jerome Okimo on 58 minutes and Durrell’s cross was headed behind by Midson.
The Blues had rediscovered their ability to pass the ball at pace and grabbed a deserved equaliser on 61 minutes. Richards deflected cross looked to be heading straight into Beasant’s waiting hands, but Alabi nipped in front of the goalkeeper and nodded home from five yards out.
Alabi rampaged down the right wing and shrugged off Okimo before being hauled down by the left-back, Shaw’s shot subsequently blocked for a corner.
Braintree made a switch on 70 minutes, Cheek replaced by Alex Henshaw, but it was the Blues in the ascendancy and looking likely to grab a winner.
Durrell had a fantastic chance on 73 minutes following Richards’ through ball but the winger toe-poked the ball wide from 12 yards out.
Lynch was called into action on 81 minutes to repel Henshaw’s fierce drive, before saving low from Twardek a minute later.
And there was late drama as Shaw’s fantastic counter down the left-hand side saw him roll the ball square into Alabi’s path and the big frontman fired the ball home for his 11th goal of the campaign.
Twardek had a chance deep into stoppage time but failed to finish at the back post and Chester clung on to claim a big three points.