If Chester FC are to have any hope of avoiding plummeting into the National League North then they have to do better than this. Much better.

Defending straight from the school playground in the second half saw the Blues go down 4-0 at home to Dagenham & Redbridge as Sam Ling, Luke Howell and Michael Cheek - twice - all profited from lapses at the back to earn the three points and further plunge Chester into the relegation mire.

The defeat came after the Blues had put in an assured display in the first half but their showing in the second was embarrassing - a real Jekyll and Hyde performance, although a punishing week on the road had clearly taken its toll on an already stretched group.

The Blues came into the clash with the fifth-placed Daggers on the back of two long away trips to London where they picked up draws at Bromley and Leyton Orient.

But having failed to put 10-men Orient to the sword at Brisbane Road, Chester were sat three points off safety and needing a result to ensure that those above them in the National League didn’t gain further ground.

Paul Turnbull returned from a one-match suspension while there was a place on the bench for defender Ryan Astles who missed the last two games through a ankle injury sustained against Wrexham earlier in the month.

Under the glare of the BT Sport television cameras it was Chester who fashioned the first chance on four minutes when Nyal Bell did well to swivel and turn his man in the box before sending a low curled effort just wide of Mark Cousins’ left-hand post.

The Daggers then found their shape and began probing for an opening in the Blues defence in the opening exchanges, although aside from a left-wing cross that caused some panic in the Chester defence before being hacked clear, they had little to show going forward inside the first 15 minutes.

Chester had an opening on 17 minutes when Kingsley James broke from midfield and found Ryan Rainey, with the Wolves loanee crossing low first-time to Ross Hannah whose stabbed effort goalwards cannoned away off the legs of Craig Robson and out to safety.

Despite their lowly league position it was the Blues who were growing and looking the stronger of the two sides as the first half wore on.

James Akintunde was bright, always looking for the ball in pockets of space, and he dragged a shot wide just after the half hour mark after taking an Andy Halls ball forward in his stride superbly.

And Akintunde came close again shortly after when he jinked past his marker 25 yards out before driving a powerful effort towards goal that was beaten away by Cousins. Bell should have reacted quicker to the rebound.

But despite looking the stronger of the side the Blues couldn’t break down a resilient Daggers defence and Chester’s lack of a cutting edge in the final third was on show again, although Akintunde was in sparkling form in the first 45 minutes to shoulder much of the attacking burden.


Dagenham had the first effort of the second half when Scott Doe glanced a Whitely corner wide at the near post as John Still’s side looked to find another gear after a sluggish first half.

And the visitors were now the side in the ascedancy and had a golden opportunity to take the lead on 55 minutes after a sloppy tackle from Lucas Dawon saw Morgan Ferrier brought down in the box.

But, thankfully, Whitely got his spot kick all wrong as he sidefooted wide from 12 yards out, much to the disbelief of both sets of fans, not to mention the Daggers man himself.

It wasn’t to act as a catalyst for the Blues, though, as a minute later they did fall behind.

Ferrier twisted and turned on the byline and flashed a ball across goal that was bundled in by Ling from close range after some pretty pitiful Chester defending.

It was now all Dagenham and they very nearly doubled their advantage on the hour mark.

A ball into the area caused havoc before eventually finding striker Michael Cheek, whose effort from 15 yards thundered off the crossbar and away.

Ling then had a chance to add to his tally but he could only head wide when well placed from a Whitely corner. ball.

In what looked an act of desperation, Bignot threw on defender Ryan Astles up front in place of the ineffective Bell, seemingly in a bid to add some physical presence. It highlighted just how stretched this Chester side is.

The Blues were struggling to make any inroads in the Daggers defence and a couple of blocked Hannah efforts from the edge of the area was about as close as they came.

And the visitors didn’t have to wait too long to double their advantage.

Lynch batted away a Ferrier 20-yarder, but some slack defending from the Blues allowed the same player to pick up the rebound and cross to Howell to give him the simplest of tasks in tapping home from six yards.

Chester were crumbling.

And if the defending for the second goal was bad, the third was simply atrocious.

A mix-up between Halls and Lynch allowed Cheek to take advantage, nipping in to stroke the ball into an empty net from close range. It was schoolboy stuff.

And the misery was compounded on 90 minutes a ball over the top had Jordan Gough all at sea and Cheek brushed him off before coolly firing beyond Lynch to make it 4-0.

The games are running out if this season isn’t to end in disaster.


Chester: Lynch, Halls, McCombe, Rowe-Turner, James, Gough, Dawson, Rainey (Slew 67), Akintunde, Hannah, Bell (Astles 64). Subs not used: Vaughan, Turnbull, Anderson.



Dagenham & Redbridge: Cousins, Doe, Robson, Howell, Ferrier (Kandi 85), Boucaud, Lokko, Ling, Cheek, Whitely (Sparkes 73), Howells. Subs not used: Moore, Adams, Bloomfield.

Bookings: Robson, Boucaud.

Goals: Ling 56, Howell 75, Cheek 79, 90.

Referee: Daniel Middleton.

Attendance: 1,638.

Star man: James Akintunde.