A LATE winner for Southend could be mistaken for a hard luck story for Chester. But don't be fooled. This game could, and should, have been all over by half-time.
City were never outplayed, but Southend were the slicker outfit and will be annoyed they didn't make the most of their chances, particularly in the first half when the visitors didn't look to have made much improvement since their unimpressive home draw with Shrewsbury Town.
It didn't help, though, when striker Michael Branch limped out of the action after only 15 minutes with a hamstring injury and Rob Booth, who replaced him,wassubstitutedhimself in favour of Kevin Rapley with six minutes left.
All Chester eyes were on their two loan debutants, Ian Hillier and David Bayliss, who had steady first outings. And the two new boys, graduates of a different school of football, showed they had been encouraged at Luton Town to play the ball out of defence, rather than the more familiar Chester style of getting the ball up front as quickly as possible
It made a refreshing change, while skipper Paul Carden gave his usual industrious performance, although his combative style earned him yet another booking which will lead sooner or later to a costly suspension.
Unfortunately, City were without Kevin Ellison, whose suspension diminished their goalscoring options, not just from open play, but from free kicks and more than once the Southend goalkeeper Bart Griemink should have been more severely tested from free-kicks outside the box.
A couple of good saves from Wayne Brown justified his selection ahead of Chris Mackenzie again and although his defence lived dangerously at times as the clock ticked by and Southend continued to be wayward in front of goal there seemed a chance Chester could collect a point which would have send their loyal fans back on their long journey with something to celebrate.
But a poor clearance by Andy Harris presented his former club with the opportunity to grab three points which, after 88 minutes of near misses, they dared not squander.
And substitute Lawrie Dudfield didn't disappoint the home fans as he turned the ball past Brown with the simplest of chances to send City home pointless.