JON McCARTHY criticised his players for not executing their game plan after a bitterly disappointing first-half display against Sutton United.

The Blues - trailing 2-0 after 44 minutes – lacked any poise, organisation or spirit and handed the U’s a two-goal advantage through Louis John and Tommy Wright’s strikes.

Although the Blues rallied in the second-half and levelled up through Craig Mahon and Lucas Dawson’s goals, Sutton’s Kieron Cadogan grabbed a last-gasp winner and McCarthy was left ‘frustrated’ that ‘one or two’ of his players didn’t fulfil their defensive duties.

“They’ve played a diamond, very narrow, so we have to play with our full-backs getting forward,” he explained. “First thing we did was get Andy Halls going forward, that was the game plan. Our full-backs getting forward then completely disrupted their midfield.

“People had their men to mark, we’ve gone with one up top and two in behind.

“Our two strikers didn’t do what they were supposed to do, they didn’t go with their full-backs liked we’d been through in training. That's what is frustrating, they knew their jobs so to not go out and do that is really frustrating.

“It’s frustrating because the fans are watching it saying: ‘What’s going on?’ I think by the end of the game they’d have recognised what should have happened tactically.

“We were timid, there was fear and we’re lacking a bit of confidence but it’s a Sutton team right at the top of the table and people must appreciate the players they’ve got.

“If we’d stuck to the game plan first-half, we’d have had a chance. We did it second-half, Sutton smashed balls into the box and put us under pressure and that’s an element of the players they’ve gone out to buy.

“The fact they’ve scored three goals, it means it’s worked for them. But I think our fans recognised a good performance and it’s frustrating they aren’t going home with what they wanted.”

Craig Mahon’s superb display and stunning goal was a real highlight for Chester and McCarthy added: “There was some good football in there.

“Craig Mahon is getting back to his best, and why we’ve done what we’ve done to get him back to this level. That’s really pleasing and Mahon can spark things off for us. He’s been around long enough to give us that lift and everyone has jumped on top of that.

“He’s one who raises the spirits and that makes a massive impact. The fans recognised that and they’ve been really important to us today, I hope they realise that, the fans got us back into the game and fed off that. If we can keep doing that together, there’s plenty of points we can pick up.”

Chester were turgid, disorganised and lacked any fighting spirit in that opening period, with groans and jeers echoing around the Swansway Chester Stadium and under-pressure boss McCarthy embroiled in verbal exchanges with angry Blues’ fans.

Mahon’s terrific goal changed the whole mood around the ground and after Sutton’s Nicky Bailey had a 50th minute free-kick chalked off controversially for offside, Chester seized the momentum and produced their best half of football so far this term.

“I feel for everybody who has put a lot into that today, to the staff, players, the fans as well, the whole club came together against a Sutton team that have gone top,” added McCarthy. “We knew how strong they were when they were coming to us, and we’ve gone 2-0 down. They play direct football, they’re strong and we knew we had to pass.

“We’ve lost three strikers, Ross comes off early on. It was the game plan to get our full-backs forward and on the ball and I think the crowd realised what we were trying to do.

“Then we’ve had success with it and dragged ourselves back into the game, which was great, but the goal has killed us at the end. It’s hard to take but it’s done now and we move onto Aldershot.

“I thank everybody for their support and it really hurts. We’ll look at why we’ve conceded three goals because that’s the real negative today but the work-rate and response, I’m really grateful for that.

“This would’ve been a really significant result for us. To stay unbeaten from this and Hartlepool in midweek, I thought we could win that game. It hurts now but I’ll keep everyone’s spirits up.”