Chester sunk further into a relegation crisis after an appalling first-half showing cost them dear against fellow strugglers Guiseley.

The Blues suffered a real Christmas hangover and clearly still feeling the confidence-sapping effects of their 4-0 battering at Halifax Town just three days earlier, as the players crumbled in the opening 30 minutes, shipping twice after early strikes from Callum McFazdean and the impressive James Roberts.

To compound Marcus Bignot’s misery, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, whose performance was nothing short of disgraceful, was sent off on 26 minutes for a two-footed lunge on Roberts, with the striker doing well to avoid full contact and serious damage.

Chester actually improved without Rowe-Turner, and both James Akintunde and Jordan Archer came close to scoring off the bench, yet the damage was done by this point and Bignot’s side have now plumetted to 22rd in the National League, eight points adrift of safety.

But never mind safety, it’s hard to see where the next win is going to come from, with a side – now full-time professionals – completely lacking in heart, spirit or desire to win football matches.

The past two performances have been utterly gutless and it will take a minor miracle in 2018 for Chester to avoid relegation into National League North.

Bignot made three changes to the side who were thrashed at The Shay with Ross Hannah, Harry White and Rowe-Turner recalled in place of James Akintunde, Daniel Udoh and John McCombe, the latter duo dropped from the 16 altogether. It was a surprise however that Bignot hadn't opted to make more changes to a team that underperformed so badly prior to Christmas.

Tom Shaw's early floated cross almost found teenage defender James Jones at the back post but Ashley Palmer headed clear.

It took the visitors just over 180 seconds to open the scoring and what a strike it was. Some hesitant play in midfield from the Blues saw Alex Purver lay the ball to McFadzean, who let fly from 20 yards with a terrific hit into the top corner which left Sam Hornby with no chance.

It was a sublime goal although Kingsley James and Rowe-Turner both stood their motionless when either could have charged down the Lions' forward.

It was a dreadful start for Bignot and his struggling side, who looked devoid of any confidence after the pummelling they suffered at The Shay just days earlier, and heads dropped moments after that goal going in.

On 12 minutes the visitors nearly doubled their lead, as a cross from Alex Purver was allowed to bounce in the area and Jones almost turned the ball into his own net with a mis-directed back header, before Jake Lawlor's fierce shot from eight yards was well blocked on the line by a combination of Jones and Reece Hall-Johnson.

Paul Cox didn't have to wait long for a second goal however, as two minutes later Roberts robbed the ball off Ryan Astles inside his own area – who mistimed a headed clearance – took a touch and fired a low shot which crept underneath Hornby at his near post and ricochetted into the roof of the net as the jeers began to ring out around the Deva.

Rowe-Turner and James both had a stab at converting in a goalmouth scramble from a Lucas Dawson corner after Hall-Johnson's surge down the right wing had earned a set-piece.

Things went from bad to worse for the Blues after 26 minutes as Rowe-Turner was given his marching orders for a reckless two-footed tackle on Roberts on the halfway line.

Approaching the challenge as a 50-50, the Blues' left-back, a summer signing from Torquay, lunged in over the top of the ball with his studs showing and referee Karl Evans was in no doubt as to brandish a straight red card, with Chester now facing an uphill battle with just 10 men.

And as if Bignot's problems weren't mounting up already, Sheffield-born striker Hannah pulled up sharply having challenged for a ball against Lawlor and had to limp off injured, replaced by Akintunde.

The Blues had their best moment of the half on 37 minutes as Dawson's diagonal pass found James on the left flank, he cut inside and pulled the ball back for Shaw 12 yards out, but his shot lacked serious power and was pushed clear by Jonathan Maxted.

The Blues were actually playing better since going down to 10, and Jordan Gough's neat ball to White saw the striker spin Lawlor but his low shot was held by Maxted.

Akintunde then found Maxted in inspired form on the stroke of the interval as he broke the offside trap from Gough's long ball forward but couldn't find the corner with his right-footed shot, parried clear by the Lions keeper.

Hornby dropped a routine catch from a deep corner but was saved by skipper Astles who put in a crunching tackle to deny Roberts, as half-time arrived with the Blues getting up a head of steam.

The Blues made a spirited start to the second period as White's goalbound effort was deflected wide for a corner, with Dawson finding Hall-Johnson from a short-corner routine but the right-wing back wasted the opportunity with a loose through ball.

Guiseley were almost out of sight on 56 minutes as Roberts' low shot was parried away by Hornby but only to the feet of Fondop who curled a delightful shot past Hornby but Shaw was on hand to make a superb clearance off the line with a diving header.

It was a reasonable effort from Chester with their man disadvantage in the second period but the damage looked to have been done in the opening 45 minutes and, with news of Leyton Orient's earlier 2-0 win over Dagenham coming in, it was clear the Blues would now be facing an eight-point gap in their bid to get out of the drop zone.

Archer and Craig Mahon were sent on for White and Shaw, with Jones the next to test Maxted with a glancing header from eight yards out which the goalkeeper was equal to.

Hall-Johnson was a constant threat on the right and his dangerous cross was headed clear by the towering Lawlor as time began to run out for the Blues.

Roberts out-jumped Hall-Johnson at the back post and really should have put the game to bed, before McFadzean was cautioned for pushing Hall-Johnson over on the halfway line as he tried to take a throw-in.

Mahon was quickly into the action and his pass found James, who swung a dangerous ball in for Archer who headed inches wide from 10 yards out, Astles blazing a left-footed well over the bar shortly afterwards.

Maxted was cautioned for time-wasting over a free-kick inside his own half, but Cox's men knew the importance of three points and who can blame them for wanting to see it out.

Fondop should have converted Connor Brown's low cross on 82 minutes, and was subsequently withdrawn with Kayode Odejayi coming on. Gough’s late free-kick was saved and the final whistle brought with it further boos from the Blues’ long-suffering faithful.


Chester: Hornby 4, Jones 5, Astles 4, Rowe-Turner 1, Hall-Johnson 5, Dawson 3, James 5, Shaw 5 (Mahon 74), Gough 4, White 5 (Archer 65), Hannah 5 (Akintunde 33); Subs: Turnbull, Halls.

Guiseley: Maxted 8, Brown 7, Palmer 7, Lawlor 6, McFadzean 7, Purver 6, Lenighan 7, Fondrop (Odejayi 83) 7, Harvey 7, Crookes 6, Roberts 8 (Correia 86); Subs: Koue, Holden, Hughes.

Attendance: 1,634