Analysis: Rough justice leaves sour taste for AFC Telford
An early Christmas present would have been a welcome boost for the Bucks going into a hectic festive period, writes Jonny Drury.
But Chester, and indeed at times the officials, were in no mood to give Telford a gift at the Swansway Stadium on Saturday.
On the balance of play, Chester, who boast the league’s best home record, probably deserved to win.
However, a flashpoint on the hour mark when a perfectly good Telford goal was ruled out changed the course of the game.
The Bucks would have got themselves back into the play-off places with a win and boss Gavin Cowan opted for two changes and reverted to a back four to combat Akwasi Asante, the striker with four goals in his previous two games.
Amari Morgan-Smith replaced Andre Brown, with Brendon Daniels being handed his first start in place of Ryan Barnett.
Early on the Chester players reacted to the 2,000-strong crowd by ramping up the early pressure on the Bucks rearguard.
Asante glanced a header into the net on 10 minutes, but his effort was chalked off for offside. Anthony Dudley then headed wide as Chester went in search of an opener.
But after absorbing the early onslaught, Telford grabbed the lead after 20 minutes, Morgan-Smith repaying his manager’s faith by powering in a header from a Steph Morley free-kick.
That sparked jubilant scenes among the 200-odd travelling fans, who let off a smoke bomb to celebrate the opener.
But as the mist went, so did the lead.
A long ball was flicked on by Dudley and Asante sprung the offside trap to hold off Theo Streete and slot the ball home.
Chester were the side on top and playing for their £2,500 per win bonus split across the squad that was dangled in front of them by businessesman Stuart Murphy earlier this week.
Asante struck the side netting, before a loose Henry Cowans pass was picked up by Craig Mahon, but he could only fire wide.
Six minutes into the second half, and with Cowan’s instructions still ringing in their ears, Telford were undone.
Dudley had two bites at the cherry, before finding the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
From then on, despite a few counter-attacks from Chester, it was all Telford. Then came the big talking point. Daniels’ corner was hooked back in by Cowans, Streete headed it across the box and keeper Grant Shenton came but spilled the ball, with Morgan-Smith sweeping home.
It appeared he had been impeded by one of his own players, but referee Sam Barrott was having none of it and waved away the Bucks’ protests.
His performance was summed up by Cowan after as playing up to the crowd. And although that may not be the general consensus, he certainly got this one wrong.
Ten minutes later the hill got harder to climb.
Dudley got the wrong side of Shane Sutton and the skipper saw red for pulling the Chester man down.
To their credit, Telford came again and had chances.
Daniel Udoh, surprisingly quiet by his standards, fired wide, with Streete heading two Daniels corners wide.
It was almost spectacular from the winger in the dying minutes as his flag kick almost flew straight in but for some desperate Chester defending.
It’s three National North defeats on the spin for Telford, which on the face of it doesn’t look great.
They’ll soon be forgotten with three positive Christmas results though.