CHESTER’S miserable run without a home win continued as they slumped to a bitterly disappointing defeat.
Buoyed by their surprise 2-1 victory at Aldershot Town just 48 hours earlier, hopes were high that Jon McCarthy’s side could register their first home victory of 2017, but goals from Mitch Hancox and Kieran Kennedy gave John Askey’s visitors a deserved three points in this Cheshire derby.
This was another lacklusture display from the Blues as their winless run at home extended to 14 matches. A chorus of boos met the full-time whistle and loud cries of ‘McCarthy out’ could be clearly heard from The Harry McNally Terrace.
Quite simply, there needs to be major improvement ahead of back-to-back away trips to fellow National League strugglers Torquay United and Solihull Moors.
It now feels those two upcoming fixtures are crucial for the future of under-pressure boss McCarthy, who is now facing a battle for save his job.
McCarthy fielded the side who had finished that second-half in superb fashion, with just one change in goal as Alex Lynch replaced Conor Mitchell, who has headed off on international duty with Northern Ireland under 21s.
With Nyal Bell, Ross Hannah and Harry White all out injured, and James Akintunde only fit enough to make the bench, Lucas Dawson was again up top as a makeshift centre-forward, with the Blues adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation with Craig Mahon, Kingsley James and Jordan Chapell in behind the striker.
Elliott Durrell, released by Chester at the end of last season, was straight onto the ball in Macc’s midfield, dribbling past three defenders before being brought to a halt by Paul Turnbull.
Chapell was involved early on as he got to the byline and chipped a cross in for Ryan Astles, who couldn’t connect from close range.
Just eight minutes had elapsed when the Silkmen grabbed the early iniative. Tyrone Marsh whipped a terrific cross in from the right-hand side which was smartly glanced into the far corner by Hancox.
It was another sluggish start from the Blues, who had struggled to get going in the opening half of both their past two games against Sutton and Aldershot.
Ex-Wrexham trialist Gime Toure made an excellent start to proceedings on the left wing, with former Macc skipper Andy Halls given a tough time of it in the opening 20 minutes.
Mahon had Chester’s first shot on 19 minutes but blazed over from 30 yards, before Lathaniel Rowe-Turner displayed good pace to cover Marsh’s run. Astles was then equal to Marsh in a foot race and calmly nodded back to Lynch.
Macc almost doubled the lead on the half hour mark as Toure managed to power his close range header over the bar after Adam Yates’ pinpoint cross.
It was proving a frustrating afternoon for McCarthy’s side, with the lack of an actual striker on the pitch clearly evident as Dawson and Chapell struggled to hold the ball up in attack.
The Blues were forced to punt balls into the penalty area and Halls’ long throw was met by an Astles header, but Kennedy got enough of a deflection to see the ball bounced into the side-netting.
For a derby encounter, this was a poor spectacle in the warm late summer sunshine with Chapell failing to make inroads behind the Silkmen back four, with Kennedy and Keith Lowe looking all too comfortable.
On the stroke of half-time, Durrell left Rowe-Turner for dead down the right, cut in towards the byline and delivered a low cross which was hacked clear by Astles.
Referee Peter Wright blew for half-time and put an end to another uninspiring 45 minutes from the Blues.
A reaction was needed after the break and Chester began brightly, Mahon feeding Dawson who drove into the box but fired a left-footed effort into the hoardings.
Chapell found Halls on the overlap and the right-back won a corner, which Turnbull swung in but Kennedy headed clear.
Astles stood in the way of Durrell’s powerful 53rd minute shot before James came closest to a leveller for the Blues, receiving the ball on the left wing, driving at the defence and unleashing a shot from 18 yards which was beaten away by Jalal.
Chapell’s floated cross found Dawson but his tame effort was held by Jalal, before Wade Joyce’s diagonal pass was again met by Dawson but he nodded wide.
Joyce made a meal of a defensive clearance from Durrell’s corner, after the winger had been chopped down in the far corner by Rowe-Turner, who was booked for his troubles.
Just after the hour mark, Macc doubled the advantage. Durrell did well to win a corner off Halls, and he swung his delivery to the backpost where Kennedy was on hand to slam the ball home into the top corner in front of the travelling fans.
Mahon’s appeals for a 64th minute penalty were waved away by the officials, as McCarthy rang the changes with Akintunde and Matty Waters on for the ineffective Chapell and Joyce.
Toure was cautioned for a late challenge on Astles, as Halls’ poor afternoon continued with a rotten free-kick which was met with jeers from the home faithful.
Marsh was close to stabbing home a third for Macc after further good work from the diminutive Durrell, as Astles went up front for Chester for the final 25 minutes.
Durrell was running rings around his former club and clearly relishing his roving role down the right flank, and Marsh nearly stabbed home a third after a good pass from the ex-Wrexham man.
Durrell then delivered a devilish right-wing cross that Marsh thumped goalwards but his header struck the crossbar and bounced out for a goal-kick.
Scott Burgess carried the ball fully 60 yards and unleashed a right-footed drive which whistled over Lynch’s bar, before Askey made a triple substitution which saw Durrell withdrawn and he was afforded a warm ovation from the Blues’ fans.
It felt like one of those days for Chester when the ball just wouldn’t go in and James should really have done better with his effort from six yards out which he poked over the bar after an intelligent ball over the top from Mahon.
James again went close as his glancing header went wide from Dawson’s free-kick, before Tom Crawford’s introduction raised the biggest cheer of the day, the 18-year-old from Blacon on for his debut.
A late goalmouth scramble almost yielded a consolation for the Blues, but the jeers rang out around the ground at full-time as McCarthy was met with calls to resign by supporters in the main stand.
See full story in the Chester Leader