ONE of those ugly, scrappy games that are instantly unforgettable and yet so valuable when you win.
United achieved that objective with a 2-0 success on a fiery night at Chester City, when some questionable work from the officials threatened to ruin the game.
Fortunately for those with Yellow hearts, a powerful header from Aaron Downes on the hour-mark returned thoughts to football matters and a second from Ryan Bowman sealed a fully-deserved win for the Gulls.
United manager Chris Hargreaves made just one change from the side that demolished Nuneaton on the weekend. A hamstring injury ruled out Courtney Cameron, prompting a start for Jordan Chapell and Daniel Sullivan was promoted to the bench.
Unsurprisingly, Chester boss Steve Burr stuck with the same starting line-up and substitutes that helped secure a battling 1-0 win over Macclesfield Town on Saturday.
The Gulls came flying out of the blocks at the Swansway Chester Stadium, as home goalkeeper Jon Worsnop was forced into two excellent saves in the opening three minutes.
The strength of Duane Ofori-Acheampong created the first opening for Bowman and Worsnop did well to narrow the angle, only for a slip by former Gull Kieran Charnock to offer a second chance to United’s number nine but he was again thwarted by the Chester custodian.
It was a shock to the system for the Blues and the pressure continued with Ofori-Acheampong bullying the Chester defence at every opportunity, but his final shot after a break on eight minutes was comfortably wide.
As the game settled into a calmer rhythm, the home team won a succession of set-piece situations and United were in the end thankful to right-back Dale Tonge for some strong defensive work to clear the danger.
Luke Young responded with a devious free-kick aimed around the Chester wall and a slight deflection took the effort inches over the bar. Young’s next effort was also flicked wide by a home foot, as the Gulls attempted to crank up the pressure.
A scrappy spell calmed home nerves until a swift break from Toby Ajala and he fed the ball to Chapell, who was denied by the outstanding Worsnop racing off his line, but the game then took a hugely controversial turn.
Angus MacDonald started the Yellow move with a fine ball in behind for Bowman and when he was hauled down by Michael Kay, it looked like a certain red card. Referee Karl Evans initially brandished that colour but then changed his mind to allow Kay an unbelievable reprieve.
It appeared the man in the middle thought Kay had previously received a yellow card and was picking up a second caution, but Charnock was the man placed in the book earlier. Either way, it should have been a dismissal for Kay. The fact both sets of supporters were berating the referee tells the story of a man struggling with his whistle.
The net result was a feisty conclusion to the first period and it took more tremendous strength from Ofori-Acheampong to get minds back on the football, but the big striker was very unfortunate to see his shot on the turn bounce clear off the post.
MacDonald ended the half with a header over the bar from close-range. It probably should have been a goal but credit to the Chester defence for applying heavy pressure from the set-piece, and the two sides marched off with plenty of angry faces and a full-blown handbag exchange.
A nasty evening had basically emanated from a poor refereeing display and the interval was a welcome opportunity for everybody to calm down, and for Mr Evans to get hold of the game.
Sadly, the second-half started in similar fashion and Ofori-Acheampong was punished with a booking for his show of petulance, with the quality of football on show suffering as a consequence of the bickering.
United turned to a corner from Young as a possible avenue for success and a good delivery well met by Downes was only narrowly off target. Worsnop then denied Courtney Richards with a brave block low to the feet of the Yellow midfielder.
Chester were the first to make a change, as the quiet Jadan Hall was replaced in attack by Craig Mahon but the new man had barely set foot on the park before his side were behind.
Young delivered yet another delicious corner and Downes was more determined than anyone else in the box, powering to the near post and forcing a close-range header past the otherwise excellent Worsnop.
Burr instantly turned back to his bench, removing captain Danny Harrison for debutant Callum Morris. The third switch came soon after, as Sean McConville was withdrawn for Wayne Riley.
The fiery atmosphere was finally quelled by Bowman confirming the Yellow victory after Ajala pounced on sloppy defending to feed United’s centre-forward, and the finish was neatly placed through the legs of the hapless Worsnop.
Game over, seven games unbeaten, three wins in a row and knocking on the door of the play-off positions – good times.
Chester (4-4-2): 1 Jon Worsnop; 22 Ben Heneghan, 6 Kieran Charnock, 4 Michael Kay, 3 Gareth Roberts; 8 Kingsley James, 17 Danny Harrison (capt) (24 Callum Morris 65), 16 Sean McConville (18 Wayne Riley 71), 10 John Rooney; 15 Jadan Hall (7 Craig Mahon 58), 19 Craig Hobson. Substitutes (not used): 9 Chris Iwelumo, 13 Connor Roberts (GK).
Booked: Charnock 21, Kay 27, James 74, Rooney 86
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 21 Angus MacDonald, 4 Aaron Downes, 3 Tom Cruise; 12 Jordan Chapell, 8 Luke Young (capt), 16 Courtney Richards, 10 Toby Ajala; 9 Ryan Bowman, 24 Duane Ofori-Acheampong. Substitutes (not used): 5 Krystian Pearce, 14 Ashley Yeoman, 22 Josh Wakefield, 23 Jordan Seabright (GK), 26 Daniel Sullivan.
Booked: MacDonald 33, Ofori-Acheampong 52, Ajala 64, Richards 74
Referee: Karl Evans