TEN man Chester were left to lick their wounds after suffering defeat in their first home league match of the season.

The Blues were undone on the stroke of half time when Hereford skipper Luke Graham headed home from a Rob Purdie corner.

Defender Michael Kay was then dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 48th minute as Chester faced a proverbial mountain to climb.

And Hereford were 2-0 in front seconds later when Sam Smith drilled home from close range after Michael Rankine had knocked down Kingsley James’ free kick. 

The Blues, just like at Barnet on Saturday, failed to take the few chances they created in front of goal and paid a heavy price.

Chester made three changes to the side that had started in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Barnet.

Striker Marc Williams and twins Nathan and Lewis Turner all earned places in the Blues starting line-up in place of Paul Linwood, Jason Jarrett and Jamie Reed.

Craig Lindfield produced the Blues’ first shot in the opening minute but his off balance 20 yard effort flew well over the bar.

The visitors, who started with an unchanged side from Saturday’s 1-1 home draw against Braintree, responded in the fifth minute when skipper Luke Graham pulled the ball back to Sam Smith whose cross was comfortably gathered by Blues keeper John Danby.

Lewis Turner looked lively during the opening exchanges and hoisted a deep right wing cross in the sixth minute which found Craig Mahon, but his looping header flew beyond visiting keeper Rhys Evans and landed on the roof of the net.

Nathan Turner was presented with a shooting opportunity in the 14th minute, but his goalbound attempt was easily saved by Evans.

Hereford hit back two minutes later when Chris Bush unleashed a low 20 yard drive that Danby had to collect at the second time of asking.

And Bush steered along free kick towards Michael Rankine after 20 minutes, but Rankine’s headed effort was directed well wide of the target.

Chester were working hard to create openings, but Marc Williams’ long range shot sailed well over the target after Mahon’s punt forward had deflected off the heel of Gareth Seddon.

And Evans was kept on his toes when he caught a cross from Craig Lindfield on the right edge of the area after Marc Williams had done well to cut his way in from the right byline before seeing his cross blocked.

Michael Kay was booked for a cynical foul on Dan Walker seconds later, but Kingsley James’ free kick resulted in a foul in the area and a free kick being awarded for the Blues.

Hereford believed they had broken the deadlock in the 31st minute, but an offside flag ruled out Sam Smith’s goal after a powerful run and assist from Rankine.

Chester responded almost immedately with Lindfield charging forward but seeing his close range effort blocked and cleared.

Lindfield looked determined to make an impact from setpieces, but saw his left sided free kick promptly headed away, and Mahon screwed a 25 yard shot well wide of the mark seconds later.

Chester then conceded on the stroke of half time when Rob Purdie’s left sided corner found Luke Graham at the back post and his header was powered into the top right corner of the net.

The Blues suffered a disastrous start to the second half when they were reduced to 10 men and then fell 2-0 behind.

Michael Kay committed a second yellow card offence on Sam Smith in the 48th minute, and within the next minute Smith smashed home low after Rankine had knocked down James’ free kick.

Blues boss Neil Young attempted to strengthen his rearguard in the 52nd minute when he introduced Paul Linwood in place of Mahon.

Linwood then tangled with Rankine and both players received a few quiet words from the referee who decided against any punishment.

Chester then replaced Williams and Lindfield respectively for Reed and Jarrett respectively on the hour mark as they tried to inject more urgency into the Blues’ performance.

But Reed was a fraction away from connecting with a superbly executed left wing delivery from McIntyre as Chester pressed in a bid to reduce their arrears.

But McIntyre was booked for a late tackle on Danny Leadbitter in the 68th minute, and the Blues looked relieved after nearly falling 3-0 behind two minutes later.

Chris Bush rifled a 30 yard free kick which Danby was unable to catch, but Smith’s close range follow up crashed against the bar. 

And Hereford looked in control after extending their advantage as they looked to counter-attack after introducing substitutes Chris Sharp and Frank Artus.

Rankine unleashed a fierce shot which Danby tipped round his near post in the 81st minute as Hereford piled on the pressure.

Danby was forced into another fine save towards the end of the match from a close range shot by Bush as Hereford neared the finishing line.