Chester's National League North promotion hopes were dealt a blow as they fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at basement side Bradford Park Avenue.

Goals from Tom Clare and Oli Johnson condemned the Blues to a third successive away loss – despite Matty Waters levelling the scores early in the second half directly from a corner.

Chester made five changes from their last league game a fortnight ago – the home defeat to Brackley Town.

Goalkeeper Louis Gray came into the goal in place of Russ Griffiths, making his first league start following a loan move from Carlisle United.

One of those changes, Gary Stopforth, lasted just 14 minutes of what was a scrappy first half. Bravely throwing himself in front of an Alex Hurst shot – he was forced from the field on a stretcher due to injury.

At the other end, Chester had a big opportunity on 20 minutes. Anthony Dudley’s bobbling through ball found its way to John Johnston, who looked to square it to Danny Elliott in what was a ‘two versus one’ scenario with the keeper – but Tom Nicholson managed to gather the ball.

A half chance then came to Billy Priestley, who was unmarked and headed Jake Hibbs’ cross towards goal, but it was straight at Gray.

The Blues had their second big chance of the half when Elliott was set clear by Dudley however his looping shot over Nicholson dropped just the wrong side of the post.

Nevertheless, it was the hosts who went in one to the good at half time in bizarre fashion.

Johnston was caught in possession on the left, allowing right-back Ryan Toulson to send in a low near post cross, which saw Tom Clare strike the post. The ball trickled back towards goal and struck Clare on the line before finding the bottom corner.

After some confusion, the goal was eventually given with Simon Grand booked for his protests.

Chester applied themselves much better at the start of the second half though, and they were rewarded with a goal on 51 minutes.

Matty Waters’ left footed inswinging corner looped over the head of Tom Nicholson and into the back of the net in windy conditions.

But they couldn’t make the momentum count and didn’t conjure up an opportunity with the scores level. Taking advantage of that, Bradford put themselves on the verge of just their fourth victory all season when Johnson headed home following a long throw from Toulson to make it 2-1.

Akwasi Asante and George Waring entered the action as the Blues dominated the final 20 minutes in search of an equaliser – but it wasn’t to be.

Asante had a massive opportunity on 80 minutes, as Brad Jackson set up the Blues top scorer just inside the box, but he blazed over.

Chester had two more big chances from free kicks, Gary Roberts smashing off target before Waters curled straight at Nicholson with the last kick of the game.

Waring also headed wide at the back post from Jackson’s deep cross on 88 minutes to compound a frustrating afternoon for Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s side.