Two goals in three minutes condemned Chester to a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge this afternoon.
A brace from Fejiri Okenabirhie and an own goal from Andy Halls mean Chester leave East London empty-handed on a day when they could have easily taken all three.
The Blues looked impressive for the majority, but were left to rue numerous missed chances as Dagenham fought back to deliver a major blow in the race for National League survival.
The game started brightly and the Seals settled instantly, with Dominic Vose proving to be a constant menace to Dagenham right-back Ben Nunn.
Despite the promising start, Chester found themselves behind after 11 minutes as Okenabirhie fired in a stunning right-footed effort from the edge of the area.
The Blues responded well in spite of the one goal deficit, enjoying some positive spells of possession. Tom Crawford and Gary Roberts pulled the strings as Marcus Bignot’s side looked to stretch their opposition.
And Dagenham looked to be stretched on the 20 minute mark as Matty Waters left Jake Howells in a twist before delivering a delightful chip which just grazed the crossbar.
Chester were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 32nd minute. The Blues were patient in their build-up play, giving Roberts space on the right. The Chester born midfielder curled in a sumptuous cross with his trusty right peg, which allowed Jordan Archer to smash home his first goal away from home this season.
The goal ignited a spark in Blues’ attacking prowess and Bignot’s side finished the half strongly, with Vose causing the Dagenham defence problems once again.
Chester started the second-half slightly on the back foot with Hobson and Astles being tested, but the Blues were able to harness whatever Dagenham thrown at them.
After weathering the storm, the Blues began to ask questions of their opponents defence. A corner to the back post from Roberts was met by the charging figure of Astles, but his header glanced just wide of the post.
Chester continued to attack with intent, as Vose and Hannah enjoyed success down the left hand side. The Seals found themselves two-on-two but Hannah’s intended cross for Archer was over-hit.
It was on the 62 minute mark when Chester’s sustained pressure finally bore fruit. Vose found a bit of space on the edge of the box to unleash a testing shot that Mark Cousins could only parry, and the rebound fell kindly to the feet of Waters who slotted home in front of a jubilant Chester following.
Bignot’s men continued to create chances, with Hannah and Archer proving to be thorns in the Daggers’ side. A long ball from Hornby was brought down by Hannah and latched onto by Archer, but his half-volley sailed over.
The Blues’ top scorer was it again moments later as he beat the offside trap to race through, but Dagenham captain Craig Robson was there to provide a heroic block and deny Hannah from killing the game.
Then it was Archer’s turn to get in behind the home sides back four, but his touch let him down as the ball trickled into the hands of keeper Cousins.
The Daggers responded with the arrival of substitute Chike Kandi causing problems, but Chester proved to be resilient against John Still’s outfit.
Chester looked to kill the game off, and Vose looked to be the main outlet. Bignot’s latest recruit collected the ball on the halfway line, skipped past the Dagenham defence but his low effort was easily held by Cousins.
However, the Blues were made to pay for their missed chances in a damaging final five minutes. Dagenham equalised on the 85th minute as Okenabirhie blasted the ball past Hornby from the edge of the 18-yard-box. It was a case of deja vu just three minutes later as the home side found themselves securing a last-minute winner when a Matt Robinson free-kick forced Andy Halls to head into his own net.
The Blues had little time to respond, with the own goal condemning Chester to a sickening defeat in a game where they could have won comfortably. Positives can certainly be taken into the next National League fixture against Bromley.
Chester team: Hornby, Halls, Astles ©, Anderson, Hobson, Waters, Crawford, Roberts, Vose, Archer, Hannah (Akintunde)
Subs not used: Firth, Mahon, White, Dawson,
Dagenham team: Cousins, Nunn, Robson ©, N’Gala, Howells, Adams, Robinson, Sparkes, Howell (Kandi), Okenabirhie (Bloomfield), Cheek
Subs not used: Moore, Gordon, Bonds
Attendance: 1,254 (137 Chester fans)
Match Report by Jaquob Crooke
Photo courtesy of Rick Matthews