CHESTER are staring the non-league abyss in the face after they suffered a potentially fatal defeat to their relegation rivals this afternoon.
The biggest crowd for a League Two match at the Deva Stadium this season could not inspire Mark Wright’s men, whose defeat to a physically-superior Cherries side means they must win their penultimate game of the campaign to stand any chance of beating the drop.
Kevin Ellison passed a late fitness test which allowed Blues boss Wright to name an unchanged team to the one that started at Accrington Stanley on Easter Monday.
That vital victory meant City went into their biggest match for years knowing a first home win since Boxing Day would take them above their visitors from the South coast. But they made the worse start imaginable by conceding a third-minute opener.
There seemed to be little danger when Brett Pitman stood over a free kick 35 yards from goal not far from the touchline. Pitman had other ideas, however, whipping in a delicious delivery which evaded everyone in the box and nestled in the bottom corner.
And it could have got worse for the hosts moments later when Pitman raced on to a long ball. But from a difficult angle, the livewire winger’s first-time effort flew over the bar.
With both sets of fans making themselves heard, it made for a white-hot atmosphere.
And the decibel levels would have been turned up a notch had Chester been able to take their first chance of what was a high-octane start to the game.
James Owen and Kevin Roberts combined to find Lowe, but, with two defenders around him, he poked the ball over from 10 yards.
But it was Bournemouth who were looking the more dangerous and after Pitman saw a shot deflect inches wide, James Spencer produced a spectacular one-handed save to prevent Mark Molesley from doubling the advantage with a tremendous 20-yard volley.
Then, midway through the half, came a moment of real controversy as referee Paul Taylor chose only to book Shwan Jalal after the Cherries goalkeeper clearly handled outside of his area when Ellison was baring down on goal.
Justice would have been served had the Blues equalised from the resulting free kick, but Eddie Howe’s side survived Lowe’s initial attempt and the scramble that followed.
Although Bournemouth were fortunate to go into half-time with their full complement of players on the pitch, they deserved their interval lead having coped relatively easily with City’s direct approach since Jalal’s reprieve.
With Richie Partridge on for the struggling Ellison, Chester needed to start the second period positively.
Now playing 4-4-2, that is exactly what they did as Laurence Wilson collected Anthony Barry’s low cross into the box and fired over before Kevin Roberts just failed to get a telling connection to a Wilson corner.
But the Cherries weathered the storm and twice could have killed the contest shortly after Wright replaced Barry with Paul Rutherford on the hour.
The excellent Molesley was involved on both occasions, forcing Spencer into a smart low stop after a free kick fell to him before he produced a sublime piece of skill and let fly with a volley that Spencer did well to palm away from danger.
A Partridge half chance aside which Jalal saved comfortably, the match was drifting away from the Blues.
And their hopes of levelling the contest were ended 11 minutes from time. A cross-field pass found substitute Liam Feeney in the space on the right side of the box and, although his fierce angled drive was well kept out by Spencer, Anton Robinson was on hand to tap in from six yards.
CHESTER: Spencer, Vaughan, Kelly (Jones 80), Roberts, Linwood, Wilson, Harris, Owen, Barry (Rutherford 60), Lowe, Ellison (Partridge 46). Subs: Rule, Mannix.
BOURNEMOUTH: Jalal, Cooper, Garry, Pearce, Wiggins, Pitman (Connell 90), Molesley, Robinson, Hollands, Goulding (Feeney 58), Fletcher (Bradbury 90). Subs: Pryce, Guyett.
BOOKED: Jalal, Garry.
GOALS: Pitman 3, Robinson 79.
REFEREE: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire).