Marcus Bignot’s youthful Chester side stared further into the face of relegation to the National League North, as they slumped to a sixth consecutive game without victory at the hands of new league leaders Sutton United.
Paul Doswell’s South London outfit took the lead on thirteen minutes following a defensive mishap from the visiting Blues, Harry Beautyman easily beating Chester ‘keeper Andy Firth and finding the bottom corner.
The hosts then doubled their lead in the first of three minutes of first half stoppage time, an inswinging delivery was eventually tapped home by Byron Harrison, following another scramble in the box.
But despite not managing a shot in the first 45 minutes of the tie, Bignot’s Blues emerged the stronger side, Ryan Astles’ flicked header falling to the feet of James Akintunde, who made no mistake with his finish on the hour-mark
But for all of the visitors’ hard work, the Amber and Chocolates were lifted by their strength in depth, first-half substitute Ross Stearn curling a sumptuous long-range effort against the inside of Firth’s far post and into the top corner.
There was late drama to come, however, as James Akintunde took a tumble in the Sutton penalty area, Harry White’s powerful spot-kick finding its way into the bottom corner, out of Sutton ‘keeper Butler’s reach.
But, not for a lack of trying in the second half at least, the Blues fell to a fifth defeat in six, the gap between themselves and safety now expanding to nine points. Here are my player ratings from Saturday’s loss…
Andy Firth – 6/10
Following his marvellous clean sheet in last weekend’s draw with promotion-chasing Aldershot Town, Firth will undoubtedly be disappointed to concede three in the capital, although he can’t have done much better with the hosts’ goals. The fault of the opening two has to lie with Chester’s underwhelming back four, whilst you genuinely question whether the likes of David De Gea could keep out Ross Stearn’s fantastic third.
Shaun Hobson – 5/10
None of Chester’s defence did themselves justice in South London, although equally the blame for Chester’s defensive mishaps can’t be solely pinned on Hobson. Did nothing to set the world alight, but equally did nothing individually to cost Chester a goal or, in the end, the game.
James Jones – 5/10
Just a matter of days following the young centre-half’s England C debut victory against Wales, Jones’ performance didn’t provide an accurate assessment of his ability. Every defender can be blamed collectively for their contribution to Sutton’s trio of goals, although fingers will be especially pointed toward the middle of the backline.
Ryan Astles – 5/10
It’s been an on and off season for Astles, the latter of that statement justified by his performance yesterday. Just minutes before Sutton’s opener, the defender allowed an inswinging delivery to run across the penalty area, despite incoming pressure from half a dozen Amber bodies, thankfully a smart save from Andy Firth spared his blushes. A rather rocky performance that lacked confidence as he seemed shaken following those first fifteen minutes. Bonus points for his clever assist to James Akintunde, however, that gave the Blues a glimmer of hope, as well as an overall improved second half showing.
Myles Anderson – 4/10
It’s a shame to see Anderson struggling since his recent return to the Blues. The centre-half turned full-back signed for Chester, on loan, in November 2017, becoming a favourite amongst the supporters in that short time. Since then, however, Anderson has suffered release from then parent-club Torquay United, and yesterday’s defeat added to a collection of below-par performances, albeit only 45 minutes long, since deciding to sign for the Blues on a permanent basis.
Andy Halls – 5/10
Didn’t do anything disastrous but, similarly to Hobson, scores only a five for doing nothing momentous to impact the contest. His effort was evident, though, especially in the latter stages of the match. Despite this, perhaps his most noteworthy moment was simply winning the Blues a free-kick in second half stoppage time, giving the visitors a chance to snatch a point on the road, although this came to nothing.
Gary Roberts – 6/10
Decent, but not as impactful in comparison to what Chester fans have been treated to in the past. Having said that, he delivered a fantastic, lofted free-kick which eventually resulted in Chester’s first goal of the game and in 358 minutes of football.
Tom Crawford – 5/10
Further pushing the theme of these ratings, Crawford was decent and tried hard but didn’t provide the quality to change the game. Struggled to grow into the contest, although that comes with experience – to which the youngster has very little.
Dom Vose – 5/10
Average at best. Vose started his Chester career superbly, leaving defenders for dead and starring as the catalyst for Chester’s attacking threat. However, since the Wrexham clash at least, the attacking midfielder now appears to have been found out. His persistence with taking on half a dozen opposition bodies is frustrating to watch, even at the best of times, as you feel a patient, team build-up would be a stronger approach.
Harry White – 7/10
A much improved performance in recent weeks, although a lack of service, or perhaps quality, meant his threat had to be presented in solely the second half. Having said that, it’s fantastic to see an out-of-form striker back on the scoresheet, albeit from the penalty spot, following the departure of Ross Hannah to Southport on Thursday.
James Akintunde – 8/10
Man of the match. A carbon copy of White’s first half, Akintunde struggled to provide anything until half-time. His fortunes turned, dramatically, contributing a well-taken finish to the goal tally and winning the Blues a penalty late on. For all his critics in recent weeks, he put in a hell of a shift and a sterling performance.
ATTENDANCE: 2,195 (116 Chester)