Jon McCarthy was left clinging to his job as Chester FC manager after falling to a 2-0 loss at ten-man, second-bottom Solihull Moors.
Already under pressure after a poor start to the season, McCarthy needed his side to pull something out of the bag at Damson Park but, sadly, all that was served up was a listless performance from a side who looked void of confidence from front to back.
Chester fans made their feelings known towards the manager at the final whistle after Oladapo Afolayan’s double bagged an easy win for the struggling home side, who saw the final 15 minutes of the game out with ten men after Zain Westbrooke saw red.
It was an ugly end to an thoroughly dire game.
Ross Hannah’s late leveller at Torquay United earned a point from a 1-1 draw but manager McCarthy came into the clash under enormous pressure to deliver a result.
And his cause wasn’t aided by the absence of defensive colossus Ryan Astles who picked up a foot injury in the draw at Plainmoor, with the Blues managing to secure a short-term loan deal for Fleetwood Town teenage defender Nathan Sheron, with Cod Army man coming straight in to the back four for his debut.
Solihull Moors came into the clash sitting just one place off the bottom with four points from their opening seven games, with their solitary victory coming against Torquay.
After the season opener between the two sides was postponed owing to safety concerns over Solihull’s Damson Park home there were no such issues this time, although a torrential downpour an hour before kick off that flooded the away substitutes bench did briefly give some cause for concern.
The opening 15 minutes saw very little in the way of goalmouth action as both teams struggled to get a foothold.
But any hopes of Chester making a strong start were dashed on 16 minutes when Solihull cut through the centre of the Blues defence with ease, with two quick passes down the centre finding Afolayan to smash beyond Alex Lynch from 18 yards.
The goal didn’t spark a response from the Blues as they continued to labour and struggled for any kind of quality delivery into the box, where Nyal Bell was operatting as a lone striker.
But Solihull, although playing with more confidence than their visitors, were also finding their efforts coming undone in the final third.
Jordan Chapell had a great chance just after the half-hour mark when he latched on to a through ball and raced clear only to see Jordan Liburd slide in and clear the ball to safety when the Chester winger was about to pull the trigger from 12 yards.
Chapell had another chance to find the target shortly before the break as he raced on a loose ball but, under some pressure, fired well wide from just inside the box when really he should have found the target.
It was to be the last meaningful action of a pretty turgid first half. It was also to be the last action of Chapell’s evening as he made way for Ross Hannah to come on and partner Bell in attack.
The home side had a fine chance to double their advantage just after the restart when Afolayan’s nod across goal found an unmarked Tahvon Campbell, but the West Bromwich Albion loanee could only head over when well placed.
At the other end Bell went close with a low drive after picking up a loose ball before Solihull’s Joel Kettle saw his header from a corner loop over the top of Lynch’s crossbar.
McCarthy opted to throw on winger Craig Mahon in a bid to ignite the Blues and he caused some headaches almost immediately after coming on, jinking his way past his markers before teeing up Paul Turnbull from 20 yards whose effort dragged wide.
And Mahon and Turnbull would combine once again moments later when the winger drew a foul on the edge of the area.
Turnbull, back in the side after missing the Torquay draw owing to a family bereavement, whipped in a vicious free kick towards goal but found Moors keeper Nathan Vaughan equal to it, pushing it wide for a corner.
Chester’s chances of gleaning something from the game were given a boost on 73 minutes when Zain Westbrooke saw red for a reckless tackle on Wade Joyce.
But any hopes of a fightback were scuppered when, with a man less, Solihull doubled their advantage when Shepherd Murombedzi crossed low for a lurking Afolayan who stabbed high into the net from close range.
The goals sparked angry cries of ‘out, out, out’ from some of the visiting Blues faithful, who made their feelings known to McCarthy after another woefully inept display from his side against a team who, in truth, weren’t up to much.
There was to be no grandstand finish, no saving grace. The positivity of just weeks ago is a distant memory now.
Solihull Moors: Vaughan, K Green, Carter, Kettle, Murombedzi, Liburd, Afolayan (Dunkley 84), Carline, Daly, Campbell (P Green 67), Westbrooke. Subs not used: Thomas, Cleary, Kelleher.
Sent off: Westbrooke.
Goals: Afolayan 16, 77.
Chester FC: Lynch, Halls, Sheron, McCombe (Shaw 71), Rowe-Turner, Chapell (Hannah 46), Dawson (Mahon 56), James, Turnbull, Joyce. Subs not used: Akintunde, Davies.
Bookings: Shenton, Halls, Bell.
Attendance: 651 (216 from Chester).
Referee: Thomas Bramall.
Star man: Craig Mahon.