CHESTER'S miserable Christmas continued as they fell to a second consecutive away defeat after going down 2-0 to old football league rivals Hereford.

Despite a difficult start to life in National League North, the Bulls had enjoyed a run of four home wins in all competitions before this fixture and with Chester only winning twice on their travels this season, this always looked a tricky prospect, especially without the injured trio of Akwasi Asante, Gary Stopforth and Danny Livesey.

And after goals in each half from Danny Greenslade and Mike Symons condemned the Blues to another defeat on the road, joint manager Anthony Johnson was left regretting a performance which saw Chester slip to fifth in the table, eight points behind leaders Bradford Park Avenue.

"From minute one, defensively we looked all at sea and they got in behind us two or three times," said Johnson, whose problems mounted when full back Matty Thomson was stretchered off with a serious leg injury after 15 minutes.

"Matty picks his injury up and everyone shuffles across one. Matty Waters comes into the team and it was a struggle at times. Having said that, in the first half their keeper has pulled off two of the best saves I think I’ve ever seen live, but if we’d have scored either of them, I’d have been absolutely astounded and shocked because we didn’t deserve anything going our way at that point.

"I’ll be honest with you, that group today, excluding the youth team boys, lacked leadership. It lacked aggression. It lacked what I would say is a hallmark of mine and Bernard’s sides, which is a very high work ethic and a winning mentality.

"But then as I turned round and I see who is stood behind me: Danny Livesey, Scott Burton, Gary Stopforth, Akwasi Asante, Matty Hughes – and I’ve got my answers as to why we lacked them things. It’s still a group and it’s still a squad, but ultimately some of those players that are in that group need that experience and need that leadership next to them."

Hereford almost went ahead in the opening minute when a back-pass by Simon Grand was closed down by James Roberts but the ball trickled wide for a corner.

At the other end, Chester replied and Bradley Jackson, making his first start for the Blues, saw his close-range effort saved by Matt Yates who then gathered at the second attempt.

An already depleted Chester side suffered further when Thomson left the field on a stretcher with the Bulls almost breaking the deadlock from the restart as Kyle Finn got to the byline and crossed for Tom Owen-Evans but the midfielder failed to connect.

After much probing the opening Hereford goal came after 30 minutes when James Roberts beat his man down the left before crossing to Greenslade to fire home from inside the box.

George Lloyd should have doubled Hereford's lead on the 34th minute after Greenslade sent a searching ball across the box which just evaded the striker. At the other end Yates saved again blocking Craig Mahon's headed effort. Cheltenham loanee Lloyd almost made it two before the break after a neat one-two with Tommy O'Sullivan released the striker but he put his effort wide.

In first half stoppage time Lloyd went close again after Roberts found him with a ball over the top but the striker sent his effort over.

Chester started the second half with much more purpose, but it was Hereford striker Symons who went close first with a header at the back post which flew wide from a Finn free-kick.

Any home nerves were settled in the 72nd minute when the Bulls doubled their lead after Finn's ball into the box was only half cleared by Steven Howson allowing Jordan Cullinane-Liburd to head it back into the danger area where Symons bundled the ball home.

"I’m not looking to make excuses for anybody, but when six of your seven or eight top earners, best players – whatever you want to call them – are stood there, they’re your reasons as to why we’re seeing what we’re seeing on the pitch in the last two games," added Johnson, who confirmed that discussions were "ongoing" with Tamworth about signing Asante on a permanent basis following the end of the striker's loan period. "It’s not acceptable. In no way, shape or form some of the stuff I’ve seen today is acceptable.

"It’s not an excuse, but people have seen what we look like with the ball when we’ve got our players, but that’s rubbish, that’s absolute nonsense what I’ve just watched and what I watched on Boxing Day.

"But having said that, I said to the lads this is the reason why. That’s what happens in the sixth level of English football when your best players are missing and you come to a place like Hereford who got a great win on Saturday. Fair play to them, the best team won on the day."