CHESTER returned to action with a much-needed win as a first half header from defender Simon Grand saw off Darlington at Blackwell Meadows and kept alive the Blues' slender play off hopes.

A long 18 day break after their game with Stockport was rearranged and the original date with Darlington was postponed meant Chester arrived in the North East with fresh legs and renewed hope that their chances of a top seven finish were still a possibility if they could pick up maximum points.

Akwasi Asante, who scored a hat-trick in the return fixture, had the first sniff of goal for the visitors when his shot was blocked before Ben McKenna and Bradley Jackson both missed first chances.

At the other end Grant Shenton was called into action, tipping over superbly to deny Simon Ainge's header from a Jordan Nicholson cross.

The only goal of the first half came from a Chester free-kick, one that owed that something to both good planning and good fortune.

Luke Trotman had conceded the kick, one that saw Chester hoodwink Quakers with a cunning act of deception, pretending their set-piece routine had gone wrong before eventually Gary Roberts passed to Anthony Dudley, he played in Asanti who got his attempted shot all wrong, but the ball fell kindly to Grand to force home at close-range.

On the resumption Darlington were far more of a threat with Shenton pulling off another brilliant save to claw away Grand's misdirected header before successive corners saw the hosts ramp up the pressure.

Moments later Shenton again saved from a team-mate when Dan Livesey miskicked on the edge of his own area when attempting to boot clear Nicholson’s grasscutter, the deflected shot rolling through to the goalkeeper.

George Waring came on for the tiring Asante before a double substitution saw Craig Mahon and the impressive Ben McKenna replaced by Dan Mooney and Iwan Murray with 12 minutes to go.

The final ten minutes saw a number of nervy moments with the brilliant Shenton getting down well to save from Harvey Saunders but Chester survived and now look forward to a visit from top of the table Chorley with the play offs still tantalisingly within reach.

DARLINGTON: Turner, Trotman, Galbraith, T Elliott, Ainge, Holness, Saunders, Palmer, Kneeshaw, Nicholson, Thompson. Subs not used: Jackson, Maddison, Henshall, Bascome, K Elliott.

CHESTER: Shenton, Jackson, Grand, Livesey, Waters, Roberts, McKenna (Murray 78), McAllister, Asante (Waring 71), Dudley, Mahon (Mooney 78). Subs not used: Marsh-Hughes, Howson.

Referee: Adam Williamson

Attendance: 1,116