While their financial issues are the most pertinent at present, Chester FC’s slide towards relegation from the National League continued with a miserable 3-0 loss at home to Maidenhead United.
It was, as has been the case for much of this utterly dreadful campaign, it was dismal. They were up against it after 11 minutes when James Jones saw a straight red for a professional foul, with Harry Pritchard netting the resulting penalty.
Pritchard made it 2-0 three minutes later and Sam Barratt rounded off the scoring on 34 minutes to seal a comfortable success for the home side, a success that could have been by an even greater margin had it not been for goalkeeper Sam Hornby’s efforts.
It was disjointed from the start and the players looked bereft of confidence and belief and it is hard to imagine, should the club survive that long, that they will be playing National League football next season. It now seems a bridge too far in the circumstances.
It had been the most difficult of weeks for the football club.
Thursday’s CFU meeting laid bare the financial issues facing the Blues, with the club needing £50,000 in the short term just to remain in business.
The severity of the situation almost made matters on the field in the immediate aftermath feel almost irrelevant. But with the club battling to remain in the National League and facing an uphill battle it was anything but.
Chester named an unchanged starting XI from the side that drew 1-1 with Hartlepool United on Tuesday night, although there was a spot on the bench for goalkeeper Andy Firth, a loan signing from Liverpool on Friday, and academy player Rhain Hellawell.
On a heavy pitch Maidenhead looked to make the early running against a beleaguered Chester side.
Barratt came close on five minutes when he got to a James Comley cross and turned it goalwards with his effort dropping over Sam Hornby and on to the crossbar and out of play.
But the pivotal moment came just 11 minutes into the contest when Barratt rifled an effort at Hornby, with the Chester keeper beating it away into the path of Pritchard who was deemed to have been pushed by Jones.
The 18-year-old was show a straight red by referee Carl Brook and Pritchard dusted himself down to fire the spot kick beyond Hornby.
The Blues didn’t regroup and it was 2-0 just three minutes later.
Chester were all at sea at the back and a loose ball in the area was rifled home by Pritchard for his second and what frail confidence the Blues did have seemed obliterated.
Maidenhead kept on pushing and wanting to kill the game with Sean Marks, Barratt and James Comley all going close, with Hornby doing his level best to keep the score respectable.
Tom Crawford came closest for Chester in their only effort of the half, seeing his curled free kick tipped over by Carl Pentney.
But the third goal came on 34 minutes and killed the game of a contest.
A Ryan Astles mistake at the back let Barratt in, and the Maidenhead man showed composure to check on his left and curl beyond Hornby and nestle his effort in the bottom corner.
HALF TIME: MAIDENHEAD 3 CHESTER 0
Bignot opted to throw on Jordan Archer in place of James Akintunde at the break in an effort to offer some physicality up front.
It was Chester who fashioned the first chance of the game when Crawford fizzed a well-struck effort just over Pentney’s crossbar.
But the home side continued to make their numerical advantage count and Hornby had to be alert to save a low Barratt effort, and Barratt’s weighted free kick found the head of Marks six yards out but he could only glance just wide of Hornby’s left-hand post.
It should have been 4-0 just before the hour mark when a Lathaniel Rowe-Turner mistake gave up possession 30 yards out, with Comley advancing and beating Astles in the box before scooping over from 12 yards with plenty of time at his disposal.
Marks saw another header drift wide when well placed while Hornby did well to hold a fierce Barratt free kick as the hosts looked to add the gloss on their performance.
It was hard to find too many positives from this, although another competent display from Crawford and a first senior appearance in the league for teenager Nathan Brown, a late substitute, did at least provide a brief high note.
Hornby was called into action once again on 87 minutes, pushing away Pritchard’s angled effort, and he denied the same player his hat-trick three minutes later when he managed to turn away a 20 yard free kick.
There were to be no futher goals as Alan Devonshire’s men ran out comfortable winners.
Maidenhead: Pentney, Clerima, Steer, Odametey, Massey, Comley (Smith 67), Marks, Barratt (Hyde 73), Pritchard, Upward, Goodman. Subs not used: Owusu, Clifton, Peters.
Goals: Pritchard 11, 14, Barratt 34.
Chester: Hornby, Halls, Astles, Jones, Rowe-Turner, Dawson (McCombe 13), James, Crawford, Mahon, Akintunde (Archer 46), White (Brown 80): Subs not used: Firth, Hellawell.
Bookings: White, Crawford.
Sent off: Jones.
Referee: Carl Brook.
Star man: Sam Hornby - Helped make the score respectable.