Chester FC 0 Woking 2: Honeymoon period over as Blues outclassed by impressive Cards

Reporter:

Charlie Croasdale

Marcus Bignot’s honeymoon period as Chester boss came to an abrupt end as they were outclassed by an excellent Woking performance.

The Cards, up to third in the National League after this win, were full value for the three points and impressed with their movement and high pressing game which earned them a first-half lead through Kane Ferdinand’s 10th minute header.

The Blues had some good opportunities to grab a vital point as Ross Hannah was denied at close range and Ryan Astles saw a 70th minute header crashed back off the post, but Chester were then architects of their own downfall as woeful defending from Andy Halls allowed Jamie Philpot to steal the ball off Alex Lynch and tuck home into an empty net.

It was a disappointing outcome for new manager Bignot with his side remaining in the relegation zone with this latest defeat, their sixth of the campaign.

The Blues were left frustrated last weekend by the late decision to postpone their clash at Eastleigh and hadn’t played since their 2-0 victory over Maidenhead 10 days ago, which had ended a nine-month wait for a home win and helped lift the gloom over the Deva.

Bignot named an unchanged line-up from that win, with Paul Turnbull again forced to settle for a spot on the bench.

The Cards had a good chance after just 40 seconds as Tom Shaw failed to clear a cross which fell to Charlie Carter, who volleyed wide from 10 yards out.

Chester regrouped and the high press which had been in evidence against Maidenhead was on display again here, James Akintunde hustling Josh Staunton into an early mistake.

Andy Halls overran the ball in his own half and gifted the ball to Regan Charles-Cook, who tried to win a free-kick off Ryan Astles but referee Glen Hart was having none of it.

Fabio Saraiva tried to catch Lynch out at his near post with a quick free-kick on eight minutes but it whistled narrowly wide.

Just 10 minutes had elapsed when Anthony Limbrick’s impressive young side – with an average age of just 22 – took the lead. Matt Young pinged a fine cross to the back post where Ferdinand powered home a header into the top corner past a motionless Lynch. It was a deserved lead for the in-form visitors and a disappointing start for Bignot.

Ross Hannah had a chance to reply just four minutes later but his left-footed effort was tame. Lathaniel Rowe-Turner then found Lucas Dawson but his 20 yard effort was straight at Cards keeper Nathan Baxter.

Bignot was forced into a 20th minute change as Craig Mahon limped off with a muscle strain, replaced by Liam Davies.

Halls was lucky to escape a booking when he lunged into a tackle on Saraiva, before Hannah did enter the notebook for kicking the ball away in frustration.

Carter was cautioned for a rash challenge on Astles, but it was Woking very much looking the brighter side as their movement and high press kept troubling the Blues.

Shaw crunched into two tackles in quick succession before his persistance gave Akintunde the chance to worry Baxter as his clearance richochetted out for a throw.

Full-back Rowe-Turner collected Shaw’s crossfield ball on 34 minutes, took a touch into the box and cracked a fine volley goalwards which Baxter parried clear.

The Blues came agonisingly close to levelling matters on 37 minutes. Davies found Akintunde 30 yards out, and the forward drove into the box and crossed low for Hannah, whose effort was saved at point-blank range by the excellent Baxter.

Charles-Cook was troubling the Blues with his rapid pace and earned a corner off John McCombe as the referee blew for half-time.

It was always going to be telling if Woking could keep up their high intensity performance for a full game and the visitors produced a sustained spell of pressure in the opening five minutes after the break, but didn’t test Lynch in the Blues goal.

The Blues broke forward on 53 minutes, Hannah holding the ball up nicely and laying it off to Dawson 20 yards out but once again his shot was straight at Baxter who didn’t have to move in order to comfortably save.

Nice link-up play down the right flank saw Halls find Hannah in the area and his low cross found its way to Davies at the backpost but the youngster’s shot was well blocked. Shaw then sliced a half-volley from 18 yards over the bar but it was much better from Chester, now the better side.

Kingsley James’ header was easily caught by Baxter, before Hannah bundled an effort onto the post but he had already been flagged for offside.

Shaw had shown Chester fans exactly what they’d been missing with a tremendous display in the heart of midfield but was withdrawn on 65 minutes, possibly with fitness levels telling, replaced by the hungry Turnbull.

James whipped in a cross from the right wing which Davies laid back for Dawson but his effort was blocked before Akintunde was hauled down by Jordan Wynter 35 yards from goal after fine defensive work from Astles, who slid in to time a tackle to perfection on Isaac.

The excellent Astles came desperately close to equalising on 70 minutes as he flicked on Dawson’s free-kick which hit the inside of the upright, rolled across Baxter’s goal-line and was hooked away to safety. It felt like it might be one of those nights.

Two minutes later and Woking got the decisive second, a goal gifted to them by woeful Blues defending.

There appeared no danger as Halls collected the ball 20 yards out but his underhit backpass left Lynch short, rushing out to try and clear, but his kick was blocked by Philpot who had the task of rolling the ball into an empty goal. Desperately disappointing stuff from a defensive aspect.

Nyal Bell was brought on to add some height up front before Inih Effiong nearly charged down Lynch again, the Blues keeper now a target at every opportunity following the second goal.

Ferdinand racked up a fourth foul of the night and was finally cautiond by referee Hart while the excellent Astles again did well to deny Effiong.

Turnbull’s turn and cross into a good area should have found Davies but he failed to throw himself at the ball in the air, with the former Tranmere trainee having a difficult night having been introduced as a first-half replacement.

The final 10 minutes rather petered out as a contest, with the second goal killing off the Blues and it was Limbrick’s Cards who are dreaming of the play-offs if they continue to produce away displays of this manner.

Email:

charlie.croasdale@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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