Bishop's Stortford 1, Chelmsford City 1
By Matt Abbott at Woodside Park
MARK Hughes struck a last gasp leveller to earn Clarets a vital point in their bid to beat the drop.
The midfielder popped up in the final minute of stoppage time to tap home his first goal for the club – and one which cancelled out Callum McNaugthon’s freak 75th minute opener.
The hard earned point leaves Mark Hawkes’ side four points clear of the Skrill South drop zone, but with a game in hand over 20th placed Whitehawk who currently occupy the final relegation spot.
And City had looked destined for defeat in Bishop’s Stortford as they pushed for an equaliser.
The side were second best in the first half, as Brian Woodall hit the foot of the post and the top of the bar with long range efforts. Clarets went in at half time lucky not to be behind.
But they were better in the second half and with the introduction of Luke Callander early on, they seemed to carry a greater threat up top.
Right winger Joe Ward’s pace was troubling Johnny Herd. Quarter of an hour into the half, Ward scorched beyond the left back only to see his cross diverted over the bar by Callander.
Seven minutes later, Michael Cheek went close with an 18 yard shot.
But it was the hosts who took the lead in the 75th minute. Carl Pentney made a super point-blank range save from McNaughton, who got up to divert Matt Johnson’s corner goalward.
Christian Smith whacked the ball clear only to see it ricochet into the back of the net off the back of McNaughton.
As time ticked on, City failed to test Joe Wright in the Stortford goal. And it was Rod Stringer’s side who looked more likely to find the net.
In a frantic final few minutes, Stortford might have wrapped up the three points. But Harry Baker failed to turn home Ryan Melaugh’s cross from the right and Pentney made a decent stop to deny Reece Prestedge after a smart exchange of passes on the edge of the box with Baker.
Then with seconds to play, Hughes – who had taken the captain’s armband from the subbed Tom Davis – scrambled home after Cheek battled on the touchline to get the ball across.
That goal means City will go into Saturday’s game at home to Eastleigh feeling a little more optimistic about their survival chances – but aware there’s still work to do.
Chelmsford City: Pentney; Miller, Patterson, Hickford, Smith; Nicolau (Greene, 55’), Hughes, Davis (Lock, 75’), Ward; St Aime (Callander, 65’); Cheek.
Unused subs: Avery, Haines.
Attendance: 755 Weekly News MoM: Tom Davis