LIKE leftover turkey Chester will be sick of the sight of Southport come the end of Christmas after their third clash with the Sandgrounders this winter ended in a chastening 3-0 defeat which put the brakes on talk of a tilt at the title in 2019.

Having faced the Sandgrounders twice in the FA Trophy in November, clashes which saw the Blues exit the competition after a goalless draw, joint managers Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson's side fared no better on their latest visit to Haig Avenue in a match in which the home side dominated for long patches and secured their first home league win of the season with an excellent first half display.

In fairness, Chester received a double blow before kick off with the news that in-form striker Akwasi Asante had failed to shake off a knee injury he picked up in the win against AFC Telford while the inspirational Gary Stopforth also missed out with Gary Roberts and Dan Mooney coming in as replacements.

A scrappy opening saw the Sandgrounders gradually gain the upper hand with former Blue Nathan Astles going close with a headed chance from a corner and the skilful Bradley Bauress causing problems down the left.

On 18 minutes it was Bauress who carved out the first chance as the former Colwyn Bay left footer swung over a delightful cross beyond Grant Shenton to Jason Gilchrist who inexplicably headed over when it looked easier to score.

The visitors were rattled and 10 minutes later the Blues experienced another massive let off when a defensive mix up between Shenton, Steve Howson and Jon Moran saw the ball find its way to Gilchrist who rushed his pass and found Archer in an offside position with only the keeper to beat.

Looking lethargic and lacking the ever willing Asante to aim at, Chester looked pretty bereft of ideas going forward and it wasn't until Dawson's curling free kick just went over the bar that they had a clear sight of goal.

Five minutes before the break the deadlock was broken and it was Southport who deservedly took the lead after Dion Charles bundled his way through some weak challenges down the right before slipping in David Morgan who slotted home coolly beyond the onrushing Shenton.

It was no more than the Sandgrounders were due but things were about to get a lot worse for the Blues who capped one of their worst 45 minutes of the season by going further behind on the stroke of half time when a Reagan Ogle long throw caused mayhem in the visitor's box before the ball found its way to Bauress who drove the ball through the crowd into the net from 18 yards.

Southport looked a different side from the one which had started the season so badly and they almost immediately increased their league after the resumption through Charles who forced a good diving save from Shenton with further relief coming as Morgan headed the resultant corner over the bar.

With the fog rolling in Chester at last began to create some chances. First an Anthony Dudley header looped into the keeper's arms before a Cain Noble volley from 15 yards flew just over. Then came a boost for the Blues as fans finally got a glimpse of George Green who came on for his debut in place of Noble to a warm reception from the visiting supporters.

On the hour mark Chester enjoyed their best moment of the match when a corner found the busy Craig Mahon in the area with the Irishman's clever chip superbly tipped over by Dan Hanford who suddenly found himself under pressure as the Blues surged forward.

With 20 minutes left Johnson and Morley changed to a back three with Deane Smalley coming on for the excellent Matthew Thompson as the Blues tried to conjure up something in the gathering gloom. It almost worked when Mooney galloped down the right and cut the ball back to Bradley Jackson whose first time effort looked set to hit the back of the net only to be denied by Dean Winnard’s brilliant block.

Threadbare at the back at pushing forward at every opportunity there was always a risk Chester would be caught out and it was left to the superb Morgan to round off a miserable day for Chester as the game entered added time, with the skipper finding space on the edge of the area and drilling a low shot past Shenton. A chastening day all round.