Chester fans – and possibly the team – were
still getting used to the sunny climes and plastic pitch
at Maidstone when this game seemed to be over inside five
minutes. First an early corner saw Stones defender Kevin
Lokko having no trouble finding the net. Then the Chester
defence were caught napping from another corner, with
Delano Sam-Yorke putting the home side 2-0 up.
With just five minutes gone at that
stage, it looked like Chester had too much of an uphill
struggle to get anything out of their visit to the Gallagher
Stadium. All seemed to be confirmed on the 14th minute
when a high Maidstone pass into the box also failed
to be cleared by the Blues' defenders. This time it
was Joe Piggott who was in the right place to score
a third goal for his side.
Chester never looked likely to score
at all in the first half, with only a James Alibi effort
across the goal coming closest. To make matters worse,
Maidstone went four ahead on the 44th minute when poor
defending from another corner gave Lokko enough space
to score his second goal.
Chester had to change in the second
half, and there was a definite improvement after a half-time
change saw Kane Richards come on for Wade Joyce and
Ross Killock replace Tom Shaw. There was also a move
to a 4-4-2 formation, which gave more support to Alibi.
The changes soon paid off when Evan
Horwood, who seemed much more at home in the new formation,
was fouled in the area. Alabi scored a solid penalty
to give the Blues some faint hope on the 52nd minute.
Chester were undoubtedly the dominant
team of the second half, with Sam Hughes netting a header
from a Ryan Lloyd free kick with 23 minutes of normal
time still on the clock. Richards and Alabi both had
chances to make it a nervy finish for Maidstone. But
it wasn't to be, and the Blues were left regretting
the game's opening 14 minutes.
4 February Dagenham
& Redbridge 3 Chester 2
Attendance: 1,250 (161 Chester) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Shaw, Astles, Durrell.
Dagenham & Redbridge: Justham,
Widdowson, Robson, Raymond (Maguire-Drew 61), Guttridge
(Howell 61), Okenabirhie (Benson 76), Hawkins, Boucaud,
Whitely, Donnellan, Sheppard. Subs: Cousins, Doe. Chester: Roberts, Hunt, Vassell,
Astles, Hudson, Shaw, George, Joyce, Durrell (O’Brien
90), Horwood (Hughes 75), Alabi. Subs not used: Lynch,
Mahon, Waters. Referee: Alan Young.
the age-old cliché of “defeat from the jaws
of victory” was being muttered by many of the 161
Chester fans as they trooped out of Dagenham's Chigwell
had been 2-1 up with just four minutes of normal time
remaining, when the home side scored two late goals
to help them move up to runner-up spot in the National
It was a great game for a neutral,
with Liam Roberts making a penalty save for Chester
in the game's opening 10 minutes. This had followed
a tackle by Blues’
defender Blaine Hudson.
Both sides had a couple of good chances
in the first half hour, including Elliott Durrell –
who seems a much better performer away from home –
having an eye on a repeat of his wonder goal at Boreham
Wood. He missed out this time, but was a threatening
figure for most of the game.
It was the Daggers who drew the first
blood, when Jake Sheppard struck a low shot past Roberts
almost on the stroke of the second half. However, the
half-time chat amongst the Chester fans housed together
in Dagenham’s impressive
Stand centred around the fightback their side would
make at the re-start. They were soon proved right when
a pass by Wade Joyce came to Luke George who evened
the score up on the 50th minute.
Not long after that, Evan Horwood
started a great move and laid on a perfect pass for
Tom Shaw. His shot was impossible for Dagenham goalkeeper
Elliot Justham to stop and it meant Chester had a deserved
lead against their hosts.
But the remaining 32 minutes, as well
as an extra six minutes of injury time, was a long time
for Chester to hold on. Sam Hughes came on for Horwood
on the 75th minute, with the balance of the team changing
Soon after the substitution, Tom Shaw
was booked and the Blues started looking nervous. A
good Dagenham header was goal-bound when Johnny Hunt
made a clear handball to keep the ball out of the net.
Referee Alan Young had no choice but to send him off,
and Corey Whitely then scored from the penalty spot.
Chester still couldn't find their
composure, with a booking for Ryan Astles for time wasting
adding to the tension. As Dagenham continued to press
against Chester’s 10-men, the ball fell well for
them amongst a crowd of players in the box. Substitute
Jordan Maguire-Drew was on hand to score the winning
goal on the 90th minute. It was a goal that confirmed
Dagenham’s promotion hopes and must have shattered
Chester’s slender play-off ambitions.