Ross Hannah's sixth goal in seven games could not save Chester FC from a 3-1 defeat at Cheltenham Town, who moved four points clear at the National League summit.

Two goals from the outstanding Billy Waters and a late third from ex-Wrexham strike Danny Wright made it five games without a win for the Blues, who had equalised at the end of the first-half through Hannah.

Cheltenham began with the confidence of a team at the top of the table and Billy Waters should have put them ahead in the ninth minute when he scuffed wide from six yards.

Chester came through unscathed and might have taken the lead themselves on 12 minutes when Ross Hannah broke and released Danny Hattersley but he failed to trouble keeper Dillon Phillips.

Hannah was causing problems for the hosts and created two shooting opportunities for himself in quick succession but the defence kept him out and the Robins then found the opening goal on 18 minutes. Harry Pell smacked a free-kick against the upright and the rebound fell for Ryan Jennings who square for Billy Waters to tap home from close range.

The goal came during Chester's best spell but the home side grew in confidence having gone in front with the visitors having to contend with a wave of pressure, although restricting the Robins to half-chances.

Jon Worsnop denied Danny Wright and Jordan Chapell stung the palms of Dillon Phillips at the other end but Cheltenham seemed to be heading into half-time with the lead.

Ryan Lloyd in action against Cheltenham
Ryan Lloyd in action against Cheltenham

However, with 44 minutes on the clock Ross Hannah equalised after a Ryan Higgins cross had been half-cleared and Tom Shaw headed back across goal towards the striker. Phillips kept out his first attempt with a fine save but Hannah showed a poacher's instinct to nod in the rebound for his 10th goal of the season.

Both teams attempted to get on the front foot in the early stages of the second period but clear chances were hard to find with a strong, swirling wind affecting the flow of the game.

Chester started to gain the upper hand and went close to hitting the front on 57 minutes when Alex Whitmore had two chances in quick succesions His first shot was blocked on the line and then following a scramble Phillips clung on to his second attempt.

And once more the visitors paid the price with Cheltenham regaining the lead on the hour mark when Wright hooked a hopeful cross into the box and Waters stole in between defenders to poke past Worsnop to make it 2-1.

It was an awful goal to concede from a defensive perspective and Cheltenham went searching for a killer third with Worsnop making routine saves from Wright and Ryan Jennings.

Chester introduced Craig Mahon in an attempt to draw level for a second time but it was the Robins, and in particular Waters, who looked the more threatening.

Cheltenham did find a third goal on 87 minutes when substitute Andrija Novakovich's shot struck Ryan Higgins and fell into the path of Wright who tapped home for one of the easiest goals of his career to wrap up the three points.

Talking points

Ross Hannah: There was plenty of excitement when Hannah arrived in the summer and over the past two months he's demonstrated his class. To have 10 goals before Christmas is more than respectale, to do so in a team that has not come close to finding top gear is impressive.

He was slow to find his stride, perhaps because he was being asked to fill a role he was not accustomed too, and it's not surprise his performances improved once he was provided with better service and support. He's still feeding on scraps to an extent and if Chester can start to use his strengths even more effectively then there could be plenty of goals to come over the second half of the season.

Match facts

Cheltenham Town: Phillips, Dickie (Rowe 88), Downers, Parslow, McLennan, Jennings, Storer, Pell, Munns (Novakovich 55), Waters (Hall 84), Wright.

Subs: Kitscha, Barthram.

Goal: Waters 18 and 60, Wright 87.

Booked: Munns.

Chester FC: Worsnop, Higgins, Sharps, Whitmore, Hunt (Mahon 75), Chapell, Shaw, George, Lloyd, Hattersely, Hannah.

Subs: Rooney, Forth, Richards, Hobson.

Goal: Hannah 44.

Booked: Hunt.

Referee: Stephen Ross (Boston).

Attendance: 2,501.

Star man: Ross Hannah.


Mistakes, missed chances and poor decisions at critical times are killing the Blues.

This was another of those games, like Gateshead last weekend, which could easily have had a different outcome.

That's not to overlook the quality of Cheltenham who, on the evidence of the two games against them this season, have a real chance of celebrating promotion come the end of the season.

But the Blues can again reflect on potential game-changing moments that went in favour of the Robins.

Clear-cut opportunities went to waste before minutes Cheltenham's first two goals and the defending for the second was unforgivable. If those chances are taken and the defence avoids switching off then the pattern of the game can change.

But that didn't happen and the Robins, as a good side will, took full advantage and Chester have to stop making life so easy for opponents.