After the joy of a home win on Saturday, Chester FC came back down to earth with a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient.
A James Brophy header on 67 minutes was all it took to settle the contest in favour of the Londoners, and while the Blues put in another determined display that wasn’t lacking in desire, they found themselves outbattled in the second half and were unable to pierce a miserly Orient rearguard. The Londoners were streetwise.
And with teams around them at the bottom picking up points the gap between the Blues and survival stretched to six points. It will take a Herculean effort to remain in the National League now, but we already knew that.
No lack of effort but no real quality where it mattered.
After Saturday’s 3-1 home success over Eastleigh, Chester came into the contest with some belief having put in their best performance of the season against the Spitfires.
Orient had endured a season of struggle but having appointed Justin Edinburgh in November they had pulled themselves away from danger, allthough a win for the Blues would have left them looking over their shoulder.
Marcus Bignot named an unchanged team from the one that beatn Eastleigh, and the Blues boss had been handed a boost coming into the game after right back Andy Halls had waived a clause in his contract that would have seen him trigger a new deal should he have reached 30 games.
Chester were bright in the opening exchanges and Ryan Astles saw his 12 yard header from a Gary Roberts free kick comfortably held by Orient stopper Dean Brill.
But the visitors hasd their first sniff moments later when Josh Koroma skipped past Myles Anderson and burst down the right, but his 20 yard effort on the run skewed well wide, much to the relief of Chester keeper Sam Hornby.
The game was an open one but the Blues were threatening, with Dominic Vose once again in the thick of it.
But Orient spurned a glorious chance with little over 10 minutes on the clock when, with Chester stretched, James Brophy managed to find Koroma at the far post, but the winger saw his close range effort blocked superbly by Myles Anderson.
Both sides were showing plenty of willingness to win the ball and Chester were using the ball well in phases of attacking play, although they were lacking in when it came to being clinical in the final third.
A Ross Hannah free kick from the right almost caught Brill by surprise, flashing just over the bar from distance.
But Orient, who were getting plenty of joy down the right hand side through Koroma and Jake Caprice, looked the more likely to make the breakthrough.
Brophy saw a 15 yard effort saved well by Hornby after the winger had broken into the area on 38 minutes before Koroma broke quickly and sprinted down the right to put in a dangerous cross across the six-yard box but there was no red shirt in sight to apply a finishing touch.
But when the first half was brought to a close it was met with warm applause from the home faithful after a 45 minutes that were full of endeavour, although lacking a final product.
HALF TIME: CHESTER FC 0 LEYTON ORIENT 0
The second half was a more cagey affair but there was still plenty of fight being shown, not least from teenage midfielder Tom Crawford who wasn’t afraid to mix it and was putting in another competent display that belied his young years.
Chester were stifling Orient early doors, but they weren’t finding much joy at the other end. Astles’ glanced header from a Roberts corner the closest they came to breaking the deadlock.
Orient’s first chance of the second half came just on the hour mark when Koroma was teed up on the edge of the box, firing low through a crowd of bodies only to see hos effort held by Hornby.
But the visitors would soon have the advantage when, on 68 minutes, a Caprice cross was whipped in with pace and found the head of Brophy whose glanced header beat Hornby and nestled in the far corner.
Chester tried to find a way back into the contest but however they tried they never looked like unlocking a miserly Orient rearguard that never gave the Blues an inch.
And as Chester pushed more space opened up for the home side, and Koroma broke quickly to cross for Macauley Bonne but the Orient striker could only scoop over from just two yards out, much to the relief of the home support.
Bonne almost connected with a Caprice cross shortly after as Orient exploited the space in the final third and the game was getting away from Chester.
Roberts tried his luck from 20 yards with five minutes of normal time left but his effort flew well over Brill’s upright.
Five minutes of added time were held aloft at the end of 90 minutes but there was to be no saviour for the home side as Orient held out.
Chester: Hornby, Halls, Hobson, Astles, Anderson (Waters 78), Mahon (Akintunde 78), Roberts, Crawford, Vose, Hannah, Archer (White 66). Subs not used: Firth, Dawson.
Bookings: Roberts, Mahon, Halls.
Leyton Orient: Brill, Caprice, Widdowson, Happe, Bonne, Coulson, Koroma (Ling 82), Clay, Brophy, Holman (Lawless 69), Adams (Harrold 69). Subs not used: Grainger, Reynolds.
Bookings: Coulson, Brophy.
Goals: Brophy 67.
Referee: Matthew Dicicco.
Star man: Shaun Hobson.