By Alex Bullions
Chester slumped to a first league defeat of 2018, as visitors Gateshead pushed the Blues further into the National League relegation mire at the Deva.
The first half started relatively evenly before Ryan Astles smashed his volley off the woodwork from six yards.
Gateshead, however, then proceeded to dominate possession, with Chester ‘keeper Sam Hornby the only blockade stopping the Heed from taking the lead.
And it wasn’t long before the break that the visitors finally managed to break through – Paddy McLaughlin turning onto his left foot and slotting home, before Jordan Burrow took a York cut-back into his feet, turned and found the net to give Gateshead a quickfire two-goal lead at the break.
Things got even worse for the Blues after the interval: Jordan Preston escaped the offside trap with ease and curled sumptuously past Hornby into the far corner.
Searching for an improbable comeback, Jordan Gough made a surging run down the left-hand side for Chester, before cutting the ball back for striker Harry White, who netted his third league goal in as many games.
This wasn’t enough, however, as the Blues fell further into the abyss, still five points off safety with a crunch clash against fellow strugglers Hartlepool United to come on Tuesday night.
Here are my player ratings from Chester’s disappointing defeat…
Sam Hornby – 6/10
The Blues’ loanee goalkeeper was certainly a star performer, despite what the scoreline may suggest. Following a magnificent save from a Gateshead corner in the latter stages of the first half, Hornby received a lack of support from his defence and conceded twice before the interval and another shortly after.
Andy Halls – 6/10
In amongst several poor performances from his fellow defenders, Halls stood out as a man who can hold his head high following the defeat. The Blues’ full-back struggled initially but a remarkable recovery run and tackle from a sloppy pass raised his confidence in the early stages. His key negative has to be allowing low crosses into the box so easily, which eventually punished the hosts.
James Jones – 6/10
Chester’s youth academy prospects continue to impress, but it’s Jones that has stood out from the rest in recent weeks. Despite this, Saturday’s defeat could cause his confidence to take a tumble. Initially, Jones kept up well with the onslaught of low deliveries into the box, stopping each from locking on to a forward. Eventually, though, Gateshead found the net twice which forced a change in tactics, with the young defender having to defend the Heed’s counter attacking prowess – something that was tough for him.
Ryan Astles – 5/10
Astles has certainly seen better days in a Chester shirt than Saturday. Following a chance from which he hit the post from close range – a moment which would have changed the game – Astles struggled to keep up with the pace of the visitors’ attack, eventually resulting in a three-goal deficit that should have been more.
Jordan Gough – 5/10
A constant theme of recent weeks, Gough continues to struggle to contain deliveries into the box and it was this that eventually caused the Blues to fall behind before half-time. The full-back’s solitary moment of grace was his excellent assist for Harry White on 70 minutes, but it was just this that the defender could take away following the defeat.
Kingsley James – 4/10
It’s been clear for weeks that Kingsley James is not a strong performer on the right-hand side of the pitch but, even with the signing of winger Murombedzi and Craig Mahon on the bench, Bignot continues to persist. On the contrary, James’ initial crossing for Harry White was of a respectable standard and gave Chester the opportunity to take an early lead. Following the interval, however, his attempts at giving Chester a slight glimmer of hope were of no use as the midfielder produced another poor showing.
Lucas Dawson – 3/10
Chester’s biggest problem this season is, without doubt, their lack of goals and lack of ability to overturn probable defeat. This can be blamed on the midfield, as the Blues’ forwards simply cannot score if they have no service, as presented on Saturday. As a creative midfielder, it is Dawson’s job to provide chances for White and Akintunde to run on to, yet Dawson is part of the reason that Chester only got one shot away in the entirety of the first half.
Paul Turnbull – 6/10
Continuously under the radar, Turnbull has produced several solid performances in the centre of midfield this season. Saturday wasn’t quite as impressive, but this has to come down to a lack of support from the rest of his midfield. It’s almost as if he is expected to cover every blade of grass whilst both the midfield and defence provide absolutely no support. Saying that, the midfielder still played well and made a remarkable goal-line clearance that kept the Blues in the game in the second half, albeit for a very short space of time.
Shepherd Murombedzi – 4/10
I can understand the decision to give Murombedzi his first start for Chester, despite only having signed 24 hours beforehand. However, the debutant was poor in the midfield. Whether he was asked to play on the wing or in the attacking midfield role, it’s difficult to tell due to his consistent drifting between the two. Despite a couple of positives, the winger looked out of his depth and this meant he was substituted after just 45 minutes.
Harry White – 7/10
My Man of the Match in a poor team, White tried desperately to get the Blues back into the game. Having tucked home the goal, the forward looked rejuvenated and full of confidence, tracking back and winning the ball before making attacking runs and taking on defenders. Despite a couple of questionable decisions in front of goal, White’s performance was one of few positives for Blues fans to take from the game.
James Akintunde – 6/10
As usual, Akintunde worked hard to move the ball forward but couldn’t produce any magic in front of goal. Partly down to a lack of midfield support, the forward often lost the ball when closed down by the Heed defence.
Tom Crawford – 6/10
Given only 45 minutes to inject hope into the Blues, youth prospect Crawford put in a bigger and better shift than several of the senior players selected to start. His eagerness and creativity was clear to see, successfully distributing the ball out to the flanks, but these moves eventually broke down and came to nothing.
Craig Mahon – 6/10
Similarly, but not as clearly as last Saturday, Mahon came off the bench and made a difference. The winger was not afraid to take on the Heed’s defence and try to create chances, but a couple of sloppy moments bring his rating down.