CITY’S revival under Jim Harvey continued at the New Recreation Ground this afternoon as Nick Chadwick’s sixth and seventh goals of the season and Michael Coulson’s first for the club ensured a third Blue Square Premier triumph on the trot.
The win moves Harvey’s men within 19 points of fifth-from-bottom Gateshead and leaves them just four from the magical zero-point mark.
Now the news all Chester fans desperately want to hear is that the club have settled their off-the-field issues with the Conference – because, under the leadership of the former Morecambe and Forest Green Rovers manager, there is a growing belief in the Blues camp that they could yet escape the drop.
Despite the impressive nature of the victory over AFC Wimbledon seven days earlier, boss Harvey made two changes to the team that achieved back-to-back league wins for the first time in 99 games as James Owen and Rhys Meynell replaced Glenn Rule and Adam Kay.
The confidence generated by that Dons success was evident in the early stages as City twice went close through Clark Keltie set-pieces. Firstly, Chadwick headed an inviting corner from the on-loan Darlington midfielder over when it looked easier to score before Kevin Roberts flicked a free kick harmlessly wide.
Grays’ biggest threat was coming from Fola Onibuje. The Nigerian-born former Great Britain Under 20s and U23s sprinter was a handful throughout and he created his side’s first chance of a scrappy but entertaining opening period when he beat John Danby to a diagonal cross into the box. The ball fell kindly to Onibuje’s strike-partner Jamie Slabber, but with Danby out of position, the ex-Tottenham Hotspur youngster blazed his volley over.
Chester’s response was to open the scoring on the half-hour mark and in some style, too, as Roberts played a delightful one-two with Owen before pulling the ball back to Coulson on the edge of the area. The on-loan Blackburn Rovers winger still had plenty to do, but that did stop him from flashing a superb first-time right-footed effort into the roof of the net.
The lead lasted just two minutes, though, and it was no surprise that it was the 6ft 6in Onibuje who provided the equaliser. After he used massive his frame to outmuscle Neil Ashton, Onibuje’s goal-bound shot was bravely blocked by Tim Ryan. The well-travelled frontman was not to be denied, however, as he headed in from virtually underneath the crossbar after the visitors failed to clear Danny Bunce’s resulting corner.
The strike sparked a period of sustained pressure by the hosts so it came against the run of play when the Blues went back in front a minute before the break thanks to a goalkeeping error and a quick piece of thinking. There seemed little danger when Preston Edwards came to collect a long ball, but the Grays number one dallied, allowing Coulson to nip and set-up top-scorer Chadwick for a simple tap-in.
And two would have become three moments later had Edwards not redeemed himself with a smart save low to his right to deny Coulson.
City continued in the ascendancy after the restart and Mark Beesley, playing his final match before his loan from Cambridge United expires, was picked out by Meynell and saw his close-range valley cleared off the line by Anwar Uddin.
Although Danby was forced to turn an Onibuje volley over the bar, fourth-from-bottom Grays were now distinctly second best.
And after Owen and Beesley went close, Chadwick settled the contest in the 78th minute by converting another killer cross from man of the match Coulson.
Beesley and substitute Gregg Blundell had chances to make the final scoreline even more emphatic, but those misses could not take the smile off Harvey’s face at the end of another richly-deserved win.
GRAYS: Edwards, Davis (Asllani 76), Uddin, Mawer, Bunce, Graham (Prendergast 60), Robson, Lashy (Agumbar 55), Poole, Onibuje, Slabber. Subs: Rnkovic, Charge.
GOAL: Onibujie 32.
CHESTER: Danby, Roberts, Flynn, Ryan, Ashton, Owen, Keltie, Meynell (Wilkinson 87), Beesley, Coulson (Kay 90), Chadwick (Blundell 80). Subs: Murphy, Rule.
GOALS: Couslon 30, Chadwick 44, 78.
REFEREE: John Farries (Oxfordshire).