Another bleak day for Alfreton Town on Saturday saw Chester snatch a late, late winner at the Swansway Stadium on the Welsh border, to consign the Reds to their 11th defeat from the last dozen away games.
Manager Nicky Law had only a bare 15 players to choose from, with Paul Clayton and Dan Gray the latest injury victims following the televised win over Torquay United, so Joe Ironside was reinstalled as Karl Hawley’s strike partner and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner reverted to left-back to allow the inclusion of loanee Tom Davies.
As it happened the Fleetwood Town central defender had a baptism of mixed fortunes, being booked as early as the 12th minute for a mistimed tackle, then making a vital block to prevent a certain goal at one end before missing a sitter at the other, but his towering presence certainly helped overall at the back.
Duane Courtney’s early shot was blocked after Ironside had carefully controlled an Anthony Howell pass to set up the second minute opportunity, but three minutes later Chester were on the hunt for that first goal with Gareth Roberts forcing Luke Graham to clear his dangerous cross.
Reds’ keeper Cameron Dawson was soon in the thick of the action, magnificently tipping over a rasping drive from Matt Hughes from another Roberts cross, then Sean McConville’s low drive was deflected behind for a corner in the 13th minute.
McConville took the inswinging delivery himself, which required a hasty punch clear from Dawson, then two minutes later Chester were put under pressure themselves as David Mellor’s pass along the left flank picked out Ironside, who set up the opening goal.
Ironside held the ball up, cut inside and delivered the perfect pass for Tom Shaw to run on to and squeeze past last season’s Reds’ keeper Jon Worsnop from the tightest of angles, goal-line technology thankfully not required as the assistant referee had spotted the ball entering the net before Michael Kay’s clearance.
The aforementioned block by Davies prevented John Rooney from bursting the net with a 26th minute thunderbolt, but a clear header by the new arrival two minutes later flew over the Chester crossbar from close range from a Shaw corner.
Further pressure from the home team saw Craig Hobson waste a good opportunity by blazing over from a Hughes cross, but the equaliser duly arrived in the 29th minute when Hughes found the far corner of Dawson’s net after cutting in from McConville’s ball down the left.
Shaw hooked over from the edge of the area as Alfreton responded, then Rooney missed another easy chance at the other end after McConville had sent Roberts down the left.
Shaw then saw his 37th minute shot from Hawley’s by-line pull-back blocked, then Dawson needed to be vigilant as he dealt with McConville’s angled drive.
Three minutes after the break McConville fired over after taking a return pass from Hughes, then Rooney missed again when he scuffed wide from the edge of the area after McConville had once again caused problems with a precision pass to Hughes.
Two superb saves by Dawson on 55 minutes prevented Rooney from scoring as he ran on to a Hughes pass, then in the same move Kingsley James set up Hobson for another attempt to be thwarted.
McConville sent Hobson through three minutes later, but the recipient dragged his shot wide from virtually the same spot that Shaw had succeeded, then Rooney’s effort from all of 25 yards was routinely held by Dawson.
A rare moment of uncertainty befell Hughes, who was presented with a clear chance from a Craig Mahon cross in the 68th minute, with James slicing the loose ball wide and it took a further 15 minutes before Alfreton replied with their most promising move
of the second half.
Subs Dan Bradley and Massiah McDonald were involved as Courtney sent them down the right before picking up the eventual return pass and just failing to reach the overlapping Rowe-Turner.
Another solid clearance by Davies halted Hughes’ progress from McConville’s through-ball as the game entered added time, but two minutes in Chester sent their fans home happy when Mahon stretched to divert Jamie Menagh’s cross past Dawson at the back post.
ALFRETON: Dawson; Wood, Davies, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Courtney, Shaw, Howell, Mellor (Bradley 49), Hawley (Keane 79), Ironside (McDonald 63).
Subs not used: Sheridan.
Att: 2,084 (93).