IT'S five home defeats in a row for Chester but they can count themselves unlucky to leave this one empty handed.
Jon McCarthy’s Blues were more than equal to Barrow for the majority of the contest, but couldn’t convert their chances and paid the price as Paul Cox’s men left the Deva with all three points with a 2-1 victory.
Richie Bennett opened Barrow’s account after just 90 seconds and they doubled their advantage with 15 minutes left as Jordan Williams’ shot crept underneath Alex Lynch into the bottom corner.
That was harsh on Chester, who deserved a point for 90 minutes of hard graft, and Tom Shaw got one back on 88 minutes as he fired home from 10 yards out.
Referee Peter Wright was at the centre of several controversial decisions and waved away appeals for a stonewall penalty on Kane Richards in the second-half, who was brought down when clear through on goal by full-back Dan Rowe.
There were two changes to the Chester line-up with Blaine Hudson and Evan Horwood replacing Lucas Dawson and Sam Hughes who dropped to the bench. Hughes not starting was a blow for several scouts who had made the journey to the Deva, notably from Crystal Palace and Fleetwood Town, to take a closer look at the talented 19-year-old.
Just 90 seconds had elapsed when the Blues’ defence was carved open and the visitors took an early lead.
Williams thread a terrific through ball into the path of centre-forward Bennett who, despite appeals for offside, took the pass in his stride and calmly slotted the ball past an on-rushing Lynch into the net. It was a dream start for the Bluebirds as they looked to keep their play-off hopes alive.
Ryan Lloyd’s shot was deflected wide and from the resulting corner, Durrell’s inswinging delivery caused havoc in the area as Danny Livesey eventually headed clear from underneath Jon Flatt’s nose in the Barrow goal.
Bennett looked really lively and he thought he’d made it two with a near post volley but he was flagged offside. Lindon Miekle hit a fierce shot on 10 minutes which was well blocked by Hudson.
Alex-Ray Harvey got away with a poor tackle from behind on Durrell, referee Peter Wright waving play on despite the winger clearly being caught on the back of the ankle.
On 17 minutes, Flatt’s kick out of his hands was charged down by Richards, with referee Wright correctly deeming it a free-kick to the visitors. However, the home crowd were riled by this decision as the atmosphere become heated.
Richards weaved past towering centre-back Moussa Diarra but his shot was ultimately a tame one, before Lynch got a glove on Bennett’s cross to clear.
Richards did well to initially hold the ball up before exchanging a neat one-two with Lloyd, and was subsequently wiped out by a terrible challenge from Matt Platt, who was cautioned and could have been sent off such was the malicious nature of the tackle.
Theo Vassell was given the runaround on 29 minutes by Williams whose cross was cut out by Ryan Astles, before the dangerous Miekle cut past Vassell and fired his cross over the bar.
The circus was in town in the stadium car park but there was no clowning about from Astles as his interception sparked a fine Blues’ move as Horwood sprayed a 50-yard crossfield ball to Durrell, who ran at Rowe and unleashed a rasping drive which stung the palms of Flatt.
Bennett then went close to doubling the Bluebirds’ lead as his 25-yard shot narrowly flashed wide. Johnny Hunt linked up superbly with Richards on 40 minutes and the left-back was only denied by a last-ditch saving tackle from Livesey.
Shaw escaped a caution when he left a leg in when challenging Flatt, but referee Wright was incurring the wrath of the Deva crowd with a number of bemusing calls, with howls of derision meeting the half-time whistle.
Barrow boss Cox had spoken in the build-up to the game that he ‘didn’t care’ if his side were amongst the least popular teams in the division, and a clear reason for that was becoming apparant with their time-wasting tactics, before Williams drove a shot high and over the bar on 55 minutes.
Miekle was booked was a rash lunge on Vassell, before the full-back’s timely intervention prevented Miekle converting a back post cross.
Hudson, who produced a fine display at centre-half, carried the ball 40 yards, laid the ball to Vassell who neatly chipped a pass into the path of Richards, who galloped into the area and was clumsily brought down by Rowe, but the referee waved away the appeals for a penalty. It looked a stonewall spotkick and McCarthy was livid on the touchline.
Ross Hannah, last season’s top scorer for Chester, was introduced on 64 minutes by Cox in place of Miekle, and the forward nipped in behind Astles and rounded Lynch almost straight away but was flagged offside.
Hannah then tried a spectacular effort from fully 60 yards which forced Lynch into a tip over the bar, as Dawson replaced Horwood, who had a solid evening on the left.
Blues’ appeals for handball were turned down as Durrell span away from Rowe, before Hunt’s surging run and lob forward just evaded Alabi.
Shaw overhit his pass to Dawson as Chester pressed for a leveller, before Durrell’s 20 yard volley was blocked by Diarra. Richards’ neat footwork nearly created an opening for Alabi, with the Blues now deserving of an equaliser. But unfortunately, Lynch’s error cost them dear.
On 76 minutes Williams found himself in space on the left-hand side of the area, cut inside and drilled a low shot at the near post, so often food and drink for Lynch, however the 21-year-old goalkeeper allowed the ball to squirm underneath his body and creep across the line.
The Blues grabbed a lifeline in the 88th minute as Vassell’s through ball found Shaw, who took the ball into the area and drilled it past Flatt.
Williams was cautioned for a nasty foul on Vassell but the Blues couldn’t force an equaliser on a frustrating night.
Chester: Lynch 5, Vassell 6 (Joyce 88), Hudson 7, Astles 6, Hunt 8; Shaw 7, Lloyd 7, Durrell 7, Horwood 7 (Dawson 68); Richards 7, Alabi 6. Subs not used: Roberts, Hughes, Waters.
Barrow: Flatt 7, Platt 6, Rowe 6, Livesey 7, Diarra 7; Hughes 7, Turnbull 7, Harvey 6 (Wright 56); Williams 7, Miekle 7 (Hannah 64), Bennett 8 (Tutton 78); Subs not used: Coughlin, Effiong.
Referee: Peter Wright (2/10) – I've got a lot of sympathy for match officials but Wright simply lost the plot with a number of bizarre decisions.
Match rating: 7/10
See full story in the Chester Leader