Chester FC are, once again, staring relegation in the face, despite a courageous showing in their 1-0 Easter Monday defeat to champions-elect Macclesfield Town at the Moss Rose.
Marcus Bignot’s battling Blues now sit ten points from safety, with only five games left to play, whilst the table-topping Silkmen move to within just nine points of the National League title, and their first appearance in the Football League since 2012.
The visitors started the game brightly, Harry White rolling his first of many tame efforts wide of the far post, before fellow forward James Akintunde headed over from a corner.
Despite the announcement from City Fans United, the governing body that owns the football club, stating that Marcus Bignot would be departing come the end of the season, the players presented their desire to play for him and continued to have the better of the first half, Harry White’s one-on-one effort with Shwan Jalal, again, trickling wide of the far post.
However an all-too recognisable slow start to the second 45 minutes saw the East Cheshire hosts take the lead, the ever-reliable Danny Whitehead picking out his near corner from Mitch Hancox’s cross, placing the ball out of Blues ‘keeper Andy Firth’s reach.
Chester fought back with a golden opportunity just ten minutes later, academy graduate James Jones’ eight-yard volley was miraculously kept out of the roof of the net by Silkmen ‘keeper Jalal.
And following another strong Jalal save from a Harry White effort, the Blues’ pressure was nullified as the Silkmen took home the three points and marched one step closer to the Football League. Here are my player ratings…
Andy Firth – 6/10
Can’t really criticise Firth, because he didn’t have much to do in all honesty. Macclesfield had chances in numbers, but it wasn’t until they finally produced a shot-on-target, on 55 minutes, that they challenged, and thus consequently beat the young goalkeeper, with Whitehead’s effort far from his reach. Was solid in any situation he had to be, apart from that strike.
Shaun Hobson – 5/10
Moved the ball forward well and tried really hard to be the catalyst for the Blues’ attacking threat. Came to blows with Macc boss John Askey in the final ten minutes of the game which appeared to rattle him slightly.
James Jones – 6/10
Decent, overall, and only a miraculous piece of goalkeeping prevented him from levelling the contest, although for me it’s a goal if it’s stabbed into either corner of the net. Other than that, a solid performance.
Ryan Astles – 6/10
Won the aerial battle with ease at the back and provided a threat from corners, this proving ineffective. Caught in possession a few times in awkward situations at the back.
Myles Anderson – 5/10
Anderson worked hard and was much better than he has been. Got the ball forward, especially in the second half, and was partly decent in the tackle but allowed plenty of balls to be floated into the Chester penalty area, as the hosts favoured inswinging deliveries as their main attacking threat, Hancox’s example of which providing the assist for the only goal of the game.
Andy Halls – 7/10
The pantomime villain of the afternoon, having made the switch across Cheshire to the Deva in the summer, I was impressed by Halls. Provided our finishing wasn’t as weak as it was, he could have had two, maybe even three assists for Harry White, repeatedly winning the flick-on and releasing the ball in behind the Macclesfield backline.
Gary Roberts – 7/10
Solid, his numerous deliveries from corners and free kicks caused a threat for the Silkmen but the work in the box to get the ball moved on to the forwards was mostly ineffective. Worked really hard, both offensively and defensively.
Tom Crawford – 7/10
Man of the Match, with Gary Roberts an incredibly close second. Despite defeat this was one of Crawford’s best performances for Chester. As youth academy prospects go, he’s had me gripped since Day One and yesterday saw no difference. Weaved in and out of the Silkmen’s pressure and provided plenty of chances for forward Harry White. His off-the-ball movement was also excellent, and had decision making from the aforementioned White been sound, he’d have had a tap-in early on, not to mention his claims for a penalty that were questionably waved off. Everything ran through himself and Roberts and, as a result, one would imagine he’s very proud of his showing.
Craig Mahon – 7/10
Consistently caused a suspect Macclesfield defence problems on the wing, although his tiredness became evident in the latter stages of the tie. Created plenty of chances , taking on the hosts’ defensive pressure down the left-hand-side, and winning on the majority of these occasions. Mahon revealed last week that he’d love to stay at Chester next season, and based off Monday’s performance I’d bite his hand off.
Harry White – 6/10
Had chances in abundance, but his finishing lacked quality. The link-up play in the midfield was fantastic, and thus he can’t have any complaints about the service, but there were two to three occasions, in the first half alone, where his efforts were agonisingly wide of the far post. Can’t fault the effort, but his finishing was the difference between victory and defeat.
James Akintunde – 5/10
Proved ineffective, as most of Chester’s attacking threat ran through Mahon, White and Crawford. His best opportunity came in the first half following Astles’ flick-on, but he was quiet for the remainder of his appearance before being substituted with twenty minutes to go.
Do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!