Chester are up and running in pre-season after a 1-0 win at Ramsbottom United as Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley made a successful return to their former club.

The Blues struggled for fluency in the first-half but improved markedly after the break and sealed a comfortable victory as John Pritchard converted a penalty on 62 minutes.

Pritchard missed a second penalty eight minutes later after Matty Hughes was brought down, and Grant Shenton was forced into two decent saves, but this all-in-all this was a good workout for the new-look Chester against their Evo-Stik West opponents, the club where Chester's new bosses began their managerial careers.

Johnson and Morley picked a strong side at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium, with new signings Steve Howson, Dom Smalley, Gary Stopforth and new club captain Scott Burton all included.

The Rams were forced into an early change as Grest Daniels limped off after a hefty challenge from Gary Stopforth.

He was replaced by Lee Gaskell, who had the game’s first meaningful chance on 10 minutes which he blazed over onto the railway track behind the goal from 20 yards.

The Blues, with two trialists up front, began to dictate the tempo, with Scott Burton and Gary Roberts linking up nicely. Gaskell then failed to take advantage of a poor clearance by Grant Shenton, lofting a first-time effort high and wide.

New signing Dan Mooney looked a decent option on the left wing, although the players were struggling for fluency on an extremely dry and bobbly surface.

Jerome Wright charged into the box on the left flank, but his shot was blocked by Steve Howson. Luke Thompson’s header from the subsequent corner flew over the bar.

Chester came close an opener on the stroke of half-time. Firstly, Dom Smalley’s powerful drive was tipped over the bar, before Trialist C struck the upright in a one-on-one opening.

Shenton was called into a sharp stop early in the second-half from Dom Marie, before a triple change for the Blues with Craig Mahon, Matty Hughes and Iwan Murray all introduced.

On 62 minutes, the energetic Gary Stopforth won a penalty as he darted into the area and was brought down in stages by Rob Henry.

Left-back John Pritchard stepped up and calmly stroked the spot-kick home from 12 yards.

Mahon stung the palms of Ramsbottom’s trialist goalie with a 25-yard strike before Hughes curled a shot narrowly wide of the upright.

Pritchard had the chance to double the lead from the spot after Hughes was pushed in the box by Phil Dean when looking likely to score. Pritchard strode up but thrashed the ball way over the bar.

Irish winger Mahon looked sharper than he has for a long while and he cut inside once more but his left-foot drive was gathered by the keeper.

Alex Downes went on a mazy dribble late on but fired wide, before Hughes shot over as the Blues closed out the final knockings to secure a first win of the Morley/Johnson era.

Ramsbottom: Trialist A, Henry, Dean, Trialist B, Thompson, Ellison, Jordan, Trialist C, Marie, Daniels (Gaskell 8), Wright; Subs: Fould, Brooks, Trialist D, Trialist E.

Chester: Shenton, Smalley (Moran 72), Howson (Thomson 72), Trialist A, Pritchard (Downes 74), Burton, Stopforth, Roberts (Mahon 56), Mooney (Hellawell 72), Trialist B (Hughes 56), Trialist C (Murray 56).

Referee: Ian Walsh

Man-of-the-match: Gary Stopforth – Full of energy and neat in possession, Stopforth looks a good addition in midfield.