A SHOCKING first half performance condemned the Blues to a desperately disappointing defeat at the Deva Stadium tonight.

Chester could count themselves lucky to be only two down at the break before Kevin Roberts’ second goal of the season gave them hope of snatching a point against their fellow strugglers.

But revived Rovers held on to record a success which pulls them further clear of their rock-bottom hosts.

City showed two changes to the team that started Sunday’s derby at Wrexham as Shaun Kelly came in for knee-injury victim Chris Lynch and young striker Lloyd Ellams replaced the more experienced Gregg Blundell.

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The performance against the Dragons ranked among the Blues’ best this season and a fifth successive away draw stretched their impressive unbeaten run on the road.

Only wins will suffice at home, however, if they are to stand any chance of beating the Blue Square Premier drop – so the visit of a side with only one victory to their name represented the perfect opportunity to claw back three more points off their massive penalty.

Yet since the arrival of manager David Hockaday earlier this month, Forest Green have been transformed and the confidence generated by a sequence of five games without defeat was evident throughout the opening period.

The visitors had the run of Mick Wadsworth’s men right from the first whistle and after John Danby showed quick reflexes to turn aside Sean Rigg’s snap-shot, they took the lead in the 18th minute through Conal Platt.

The former Liverpool scholar was not closed down and he took full advantage to send a 20-yard left-footed drive into the bottom corner before running off to celebrate with the small band of travelling supporters – for which he got booked.

Jaded Chester were unrecognisable from the team that battled for every ball at the Racecourse two days earlier and they would have fallen further behind had Neil Ashton not made a goal-line clearance to keep out Jonathan Smith’s close-range header.

But that served to merely delay the inevitable and Rovers doubled their advantage in the 38th minute when a long ball from Lee Ayres cut City’s defence in two and allowed Rigg to turn inside and place a right-footed shot past the exposed Danby.

The Blues were booed off at the interval and the only consolation the home faithful could take was that their side had to improve after the restart – and with Blundell and Anthony Barry on for Ellams and Adam Kay, they did just that.

With manager Wadsworth’s harsh half-time words still ringing in their ears, Chester halved the deficit just three minutes into the second half after Terry Burton tipped Nick Chadwick’s header over the bar. The previously-underworked goalkeeper could do little, however, to prevent the ever-dependable Roberts from heading in Ashton’s resulting corner.

Forest Green were now on the back foot, although they remained dangerous on the break and Platt and Rigg had opportunities to add to their earlier strikes.

But the momentum was with City and the lively Blundell curled an effort wide before being denied by Burton when one-on-one with the Rovers stopper.

And with that, went the chance of an equaliser.

CHESTER: Danby, Roberts, Kelly, Ryan, Lea, Wilkinson (Meynell 84), Kay (Barry 46), Keltie, Ashton, Ellams (Blundell 46), Chadwick. Subs: Murphy, Rule.


GOAL: Roberts 48.

FOREST GREEN: Burton, Smith, Preece, Ayres, Stonehouse, Davies, Brown, Spence, Platt, Ameobi, Rigg. Subs: Carlin, Else, Pugh, Lloyd, Palmer.

BOOKED: Platt, Rigg.

GOALS: Platt 18, Rigg 38.

REFEREE: Peter Wright (Merseyside).

ATTENDANCE: 1,019 (36 away).