Their desire to get the new year off on the right foot went awry when Lee Vaughan’s foot clattered into the shin of Chester’s Luke Clark in first-half injury time. Already a goal behind, Vaughan’s subsequent red card will mean the Bucks losing his services to suspension, and it put his team into a deep, deep hole at the Deva Stadium, writes Rich Worton.
Things went askew early on for the Bucks; only eight minutes were on the clock when the Seals’ Josh Askew departed his position on the left to pop up on the right instead, and when team-mate Anthony Dudley’s intelligent pass found Askew, he had no-one between him and the goal but Bucks keeper Russ Griffiths.
The defender-cum-midfielder poked the ball home under the advancing custodian to open the score, registering a first goal for the club since his recent arrival from Boston United and capping a lively opening, having been booked after six minutes for a foul on Theo Streete.
Between those two moments the Bucks had spurned a decent chance of their own, left-back Eddy Jones was found by Dom McHale’s pass inside the opposing full-back but the Stoke City loan player could only find the side netting with his shot. At the opposite end, Declan Weeks then fired a 25-yard shot too high, before Askew’s goal changed the complexion of things.
The Seals soon went close again, John Johnston arriving in a similar position to Askew but steering his shot wide of Griffiths’s left post. But the Bucks weren’t taking it lying down and they won a succession of corners. Sadly, the delivery of them, whether taken short or long, failed to really test the Chester defence.
Both sides continued to look for the game’s next goal as play switched quickly. Another Askew run delivered a cross from the right that no-one in blue and white could convert, while at the other end, the Bucks almost had an opening on 26 minutes as Vaughan’s tenacity won the ball in a sliding challenge with Jamie Morgan. The right-back then clipped over a cross that was glanced away for a corner off the head of the waiting Aaron Williams.
The in-form Dudley, with goals in his last four matches, turned to put a weak low shot straight at Griffiths, and when Jack Byrne was overrun by George Glendon to lose possession the Chester skipper’s final pass was too heavy and drove his side wide, losing a chance with the Bucks undermanned.
The away side’s clearest opportunity arrived on 33 minutes, and it was a gilt-edged chance. Jordan Davies arrived at the far post to meet a low ball played in from the left, but he lacked composure and rifled his shot over the angle of post and bar instead of testing Louis Gray.
With Chester defender Danny Livesey struggling with a knock, the Bucks might have made better use of a couple of corners. Byrne’s deflected attempt won another corner which was cleared to McHale, the midfielder volleying the return effort over the crossbar.
Morgan and Glendon responded with quick-fire efforts that were blocked and then volleyed over the crossbar, but incidents in the last few minutes of the half were to swing the balance heavily in the hosts’ favour.
When Andy Bond was fouled in midfield referee Daniel Locker played an advantage and in the resulting play Vaughan then fouled a Chester player.
The referee called back play to where the offence on Bond took place but Chester weren’t happy with Vaughan’s challenge and that incident may still have been fresh in the minds of those on the field when Vaughan and the Seals’ Luke Clark went into a crunching challenge in added time.
Clark came off worst, Vaughan appearing to go over the top of the ball, and as the Chester man rolled in pain holding his shin players from both sides jostled and shoved each other, with the home team’s management and substitutes also on their feet remonstrating.
Referee Locker didn’t brandish the red card immediately but there was a dreadful sense of inevitability about the moment and, sure enough, Vaughan was dismissed, with the Bucks’ Byrne and Chester’s Livesey also booked.
The Bucks had been making some impression with 11 men, but with the extra man and extra space that Chester now had, the second half looked set to be an uphill struggle.
Bond switched to right-back to cover Vaughan’s absence, but Chester could now lure the Bucks in. Askew had a shot saved early in the half by Griffiths before Bucks captain Adam Walker planted a shot wide from 25 yards in reply.
But, on 56 minutes, the Seals extended their lead. Johnston made ground down the Bucks left and when his cross was delivered no-one picked up Weeks, who had almost weeks in which to guide home a side-footed effort.
The Bucks made a double change with Williams and McHale replaced by Jason Oswell and Brendon Daniels, and the latter would go on to try his luck with a couple of free-kicks without testing Gray.
The Bucks enjoyed some decent possession, but you sensed that Chester were content to allow them to have the ball in areas where they could pose little threat. And when the visitors did give up possession the hosts counter-attacked swiftly on 76 minutes with Weeks and Johnston combining to set up Dudley for goal number three.
The Bucks had one late chance to spoil Gray’s clean sheet, but Courtney Meppen-Walters’ volley was blocked in the six-yard box before Oswell put the rebound wide.
AFC Telford United: Griffiths, Vaughan, Jones, Streete, Meppen-Walters, Byrne (Hardy 71), Walker, Davies, Bond, McHale (Daniels 64), Williams (Oswell 64).
Unused substitutes: Lilly, White.
Cautions: Jones, Byrne.
Chester FC: Gray, Morgan, Askew (Elliott 58), Roberts, Livesey (Taylor 46), Grand (Waring 58), Weeks, Glendon (c), Clark, Dudley, Johnston.
Unused substitutes: Bauress, Goodwin.
Scorers: Askew (8), Weeks (56), Dudley (76).
Cautions: Askew, Livesey, Weeks.
Referees: Daniel Locker.
Assistants: Karl Buckley, David Burton.