Chester City 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden suffered a disappointing defeat at The Saunders Honda Stadium as Chester won a crucial six pointer.

Taiwa Atieno put the home side in front on 15 minutes before Sean Hessey’s bullet free -kick doubled the lead seven minutes before the interval. Joe O’Neill made the game safe late on before Billy Sharp scored his first Diamond goal four minutes from time.

Diamonds were hoping to bounce back from last week’s defeat at Rochdale but caretaker manager Barry Hunter received a blow on Friday when Southampton recalled on-loan goalkeeper Alan Blayney. Lee Worgan was recalled in goal with youth team goalkeeper Scott Chalmers – Stevens making his first appearance on the bench.

Rob Gier failed a pre-match fitness test so Graham Allen came into central defence. Meanwhile, Stuart Gray had recovered from his long standing toe injury and subsequent illness and he took his place on the bench.

Chester were looking to end a run of 6 games without a win and manager Ian Rush made wholesale changes to the side that lost 3 – 0 at home to Cheltenham in midweek. Wayne Brown was recalled in goal in place of Chris MacKenzie while right back Darren Edmonson had recovered from injury to resume in place of Stephen Vaughan. David Bayliss was suspended while George Elokobi was relegated to the substitute’s bench. In came Paul Carden and Hessey.

Diamonds kicked off against the end housing the home fans but it was Chester who made the early progress. Michael Branch scuffed an early shot in the penalty area Graham Allen twice produced important blocks to break down attacks. In the 10th minute, Stuart Drummond rose to meet Edmonson’s fine cross but the header was weak.

However, that miss was forgotten 5 minutes later when the home side took the lead. David Bell gave the ball away adjacent to the right hand side of the penalty area and when the cross came in from Branch, Worgan dropped the ball under pressure from Taiwa Atieno and the on-loan striker picked himself up to slide the loose ball home. Diamonds fans were incensed with the decision but the goal stood.

Diamonds just could not get into the game and another chance went begging for Chester on 20 minutes when Ben Davies failed to keep his long range effort down while three minutes later the same player missed an even better opportunity from the edge of the penalty area but again the midfielder was unable to trouble Worgan.

The home side continued to dominate the game with Diamonds midfield ineffectual.Just before the half hour, Richard Hope saw his header from Branch’s left wing corner deflected for another flag kick

Seven minutes before half time, Chester scored a second goal following a free-kick awarded against Allen straight in front of goal 20 yards out. Hessey stepped up and gave Worgan no chance with a fiercely struck shot into the right hand roof of the net.

It took Diamonds 43 minutes to register their first shot of the game but Craig Dove was high and wide with his speculative shot. That was Dove’s last involvement in a disappointing first half for Diamonds. Manager Hunter replaced the left sided midfielder with Gray allowing Burgess to move to the left.

Diamonds made another change at the start of the second half when Alex Hay replaced Adrian Littlejohn up front. It was almost an inspired substitution as the former Tranmere man found himself unmarked in the penalty area 5 yards out only to shoot narrowly wide. Three minutes later, Bell latched onto Burgess’ fine cross but the midfielder should have done better with his close range header

Diamonds had obviously heeded the manager’s interval team talk and you could feel the air of expectancy amongst the travelling fans.

Burgess almost squeezed a shot home following excellent approach play from Billy Sharp while on the hour Hay shot wide again.

The introduction of Gray had given Diamonds midfield plenty of impetus and it wasn’t until the 62nd minute that Chester had their first shot of the second period. Atieno’s shot failed to trouble Worgan.

After a period of inactivity, Chester almost scored a third goal on 74 minutes when a fine run from Branch ended with a superb pass which Joe O’Neill failed to put away. However, moments later, the home side made the game safe. Paul Carden’s rasping shot from outside the area was only parried by Worgan and O’Neill following up touched the ball home.

So a disappointing result and much for Barry Hunter to think about before next weeks home game against Wycombe Wanderers.

Chester City: Brown, Carden, Bolland, Drummond, Branch, Davies, Hessey, Hope, Edmonson (Hillier 83), O’Neill

Subs unused: Vaughan, Elokobi, Harris, MacKenzie

Diamonds: Worgan, Connelly, Hawkins, Allen, Sharp, Bell, Burgess, Littlejohn (Hay 46), Gulliver, Dove (Gray 43), McCafferty

Subs unused: Dempster, Kelly, Chalmers -Stevens

Referee: Clive Oliver

Goals: Atieno 15, Hessey 38, O’Neill 75, Sharp 86

Bookings: Connelly 19, Edmonson 73, Atieno 90

Attendance: 2,340

Diamonds MOM: Phil Gulliver

Match report by Chris Barritt

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