A LACKLUSTRE performance from the Blues saw them fall to a narrow defeat at the Deva Stadium this afternoon.
Striker Andy Barcham bagged a predatory goal 11 minutes from time as the Gills wrapped up a League Two double over Chester. The hosts’ makeshift line-up struggled to carve out many presentable chances in a dull, lifeless game.
Blues boss Mark Wright sprang a selection surprise by recalling Shaun Kelly. The young centre-back has been sidelined with a knee injury in recent weeks and had not been expected to be fit for this weekend. Damien Mozika’s hamstring injury once again ruled him out, so Jay Harris was drafted into midfield as Laurence Wilson and Glenn Rule began suspensions.
Neither keeper was seriously tested during a tightly-contested first half. Harris, arguably Chester’s brightest performer, came closest to breaking the deadlock on 11 minutes. He collected a square pass from Richie Partridge and unleashed a 25-yard drive which whistled the wrong side of Simon Royce’s left upright.
Otherwise there was little to report as both defences were on top.
The Gills made an upbeat start to the second half and City keeper John Danby was called on to collect a low 20-yard drive from visiting skipper Adam Miller.
On 67 minutes, there was another scare for the Blues when John Nutter crossed from the left and Nicky Southall, arriving at pace at the far post, headed just wide.
Chester’s forwards were struggling to make an impact on the game, but 18 minutes from time Partridge’s low left-footed shot from the edge of the box tested Royce. From the resulting corner by Ryan Lowe, Blues skipper Paul Linwood headed over the crossbar.
With 11 minutes to go, the visitors stole into the lead. Sub Jamie Peters sprinted into space down the right and delivered a prefect centre for Barcham, who applied the finishing touch in the six-yard box.
As time ticked away, Kevin Roberts had a header cleared off the line from a Lowe corner. But that was as good as it got for the Blues as they slumped to a second successive defeat.
Chester: Danby, Kelly, Linwood, Roberts, James Vaughan, Harris, Hughes, Barry, Ellison, Lowe, Partridge (Rutherford 87). Subs: Dinning, Mitchell, McManus, Jones. Booked: Hughes.
Gillingham: Royce, Lewis, Bentley, King (Richards 46), Nutter, Southall, Weston (Peters 73), Miller, Barcham, Jackson, Oli (Mulligan 64). Subs: Julian, Steer. Booked: Weston, Nutter, Miller. Goal: Barcham 79.
Referee: David Webb (Co Durham).
Attendance: 1,541 (340).