CHESTER were thoroughly outplayed by promotion-chasing Forest Green Rovers who claimed a 2-0 win at The New Lawn.
Jon McCarthy's Blues failed to register a single shot on target during 90 minutes the 143 travelling supporters will wish to forget, and now lie just four points above the National League relegation zone with three matches remaining.
Forest Green had to be patient in order to breakdown the visitors but eventually took the lead on 50 minutes through 25-goal marksman Christian Doidge and cemented the points with Liam Noble's sublime effort on 74 minutes.
Mark Cooper's Rovers were stronger in every department and their winning margin could have been far greater had they not struck the woodwork on three occasions, Chester's Alex Lynch also making a string of fine saves to keep the score respectable.
There were widespread changes to McCarthy’s side. Blaine Hudson, Ryan Lloyd (injury) and Kane Richards (suspension) missed out, while Tom Shaw dropped to the bench. In came Johnny Hunt, Lucas Dawson, Theo Vassell and Liam Davies, making his first Blues appearance.
The hosts began the game at a fierce pace and top scorer Doidge struck the post inside 60 seconds after being played in by Charlie Cooper.
From the corner which followed, Omar Bugiel rose highest off all five yards out but his powerful header was hooked off the line by Elliott Durrell, with Rovers’ appeals that it had crossed the line dismissed by the officials.
Doidge went close with a third minute turn and shot, before Sam Hughes was the next defender to be called into action as he produced a terrific block with his chest to deny Kaiyne Woolery’s 25-yard drive.
Rovers’ keeper Sam Russell got in all sorts of bother as he tried an audacious flick past Durrell, eventually hacking the ball away for a corner, but he made amends with a resulting catch.
Lynch was soon at full stretch to produce a fantastic diving save to prevent Woolery’s long-range shot finding the top corner, before Bugiel’s deflected effort looped up and struck the crossbar as the one-way traffic continued.
James Alabi’s appeals for a penalty were waved away on 34 minutes following a collision with Curtis Tilt, Dawson was booked for a rash tackle on Dale Bennett, before Hughes got yet another block in to deny Woolery’s low shot.
Rovers had dominated the first-half and didn’t have to wait long to break the deadlock in the second period. Bugiel’s delightful through ball was perfectly weighted into the path of Doidge, who clinically fired the ball right-footed past Lynch much to the relief of the home fans.
Just two minutes and the hosts nearly doubled the advantage. The dangerous Bugiel drifted in behind Hunt, who had switched to left-back from a holding midfield role, and his cross-shot was deflected and forced Lynch into a fine reaction stop.
Luke George joined Dawson in the notebook for a tackle on Cooper, before Dawson bundled into the tricky midfielder and was given a final warning.
Woolery weaved into the penalty area, danced past Hughes, and smashed a low left-footed shot past Lynch which thudded against the inside of the near post and away from danger.
Alabi had endured a frustrating afternoon and was taken off along with Dawson and Hunt as McCarthy brought on Shaw, Matty Waters and James Akintunde, who was making a welcome return from a six-month lay-off.
Forest Green soon put the game to bed however, as Noble curled a terrific finish into the top corner on 74 minutes, just five minutes after his introduction off the bench.
Durrell’s industry nearly led to a Blues’ goal but he was stopped in his tracks by Russell, before Shaw entered the notebook for dissent.
Durrell mustered Chester's first shot of the game on 87 minutes as his effort dipped over the bar before Doidge nearly bagged his second with a neat flick on the stroke of full-time.
Forest Green: Russell, Tilt, Ellis, Monthe; Traore, Bennett, Bugiel (Noble 68), Wishart (Kelly 74), Cooper; Doidge, WoolerY (Mullings 80).
Chester: Lynch, Vassell, Hughes, Astles; George, Joyce, Hunt (Waters 71), Dawson (Shaw 71), Davies; Durrell, Alabi (Akintunde 71).