Akwasi Asante’s hat-trick moved Chester up to second after a commanding 3-1 victory at the New Bucks Head over AFC Telford United.
A first-half brace from the Dutchman was coupled with a close-range finish after the break to put the Blues out of sight after just an hour on the clock.
However this wasn’t without drama. Substitute Lewis Reilly nodded the hosts back into it and a late red card for Jamie Morgan had the visitors worried briefly, though they held on and showed great strength.
Asante moves to 11 goals and Chester leapfrog King’s Lynn into second place in the National League North.
The Blues made two changes to the side that beat Guiseley 3-1 last weekend. Danny Livesey returned to the fray in place of James Jones, having served his suspension, whilst Morgan replaced the injured Kevin Roberts.
The hosts were well up for the contest in the first ten minutes, giving Chester little room to breathe and attempting to punish down the flanks.
However it was the Blues who had the best chance of the opening exchanges. The usual combination of Brad Jackson and top scorer Asante were up to their usual tricks, the former sprinting to the byline and squaring for the latter who squandered a huge chance just a few yards out.
Nevertheless it didn’t take much longer for the Dutch talisman to take his chance. A floated ball from Matty Hughes on the right side of the penalty area gave Asante a headed opportunity at the near post which he nodded across Andrew Wycherley to give Chester the lead after just eleven minutes.
Joel Taylor stormed down the left channel moments later and curled an audacious effort on his left foot just wide of the far post from the edge of the box. The loud, proud support were in tremendous voice and well behind their side.
Forget groundhog day, it was groundhog minute as, in a mirror image of the first goal, Asante found himself in front of goal and tucked an effort wide shortly before adding yet another to his tally. The Dutchman was sent through one-on-one by full-back Taylor, his pass opening up the Telford defence. He dinked a woodwork-bound shot beyond Wycherley but slammed home the rebound to recommence the raptures in the packed away section. Two up on 22 minutes.
A lofted ball down the right side from Livesey was chased down by the rapid Jackson, who won a corner for the Blues. This was sent in for the centre-half at the far post who slammed over under immense pressure.
The game could’ve been out of sight at half-time. Asante’s powerful drive from the edge was on target and parried into the path of Hughes. His backheel for Anthony Dudley gave the forward a shooting opportunity which was duly blocked. Asante came next in line stabbing at the ball from 18-yards, also blocked, before Morgan launched well over from the edge to end the chance just before the break.
Asante nearly had his hat-trick shortly after the restart as he turned his marker well and attempted to squeeze an effort under Wycherley from close range, but the hosts’ ‘keeper stopped bravely.
The lively Morgan wasn’t taking his chance in the first-team for granted as he charged down the right, guiding the ball through the legs of a Bucks defender, but his square ball was easily cut out. Chester were still in control with an hour gone, despite Telford needing to chase the game.
On his goals-to-minute average, Asante was predicted to complete his hat-trick on 61 minutes. Just 11 seconds out, he netted his third. Great work from Jackson down the right channel saw the winger beat two white shirts and cross. Wycherley made a mess of gathering the ball and parried towards the Dutchman who, on the half volley, found the back of the net and his 11th of the campaign.
Telford finally began to push after the latest goal, but a tremendous save from Russ Griffiths denied Darryl Knights from a few yards out. Their spell of pressure continued and eventually the home side got their breakthrough with 20 left to play, as Chris Lait crossed for Lewis Reilly and his headed effort couldn’t be kept out.
A tremendous travelling support of 775 Chester supporters was confirmed as a poor challenge on Lait from Morgan saw referee Ed Duckworth forced to dismiss the youngster on 81 minutes. Still, an excellent performance from the summer signing shouldn’t be forgotten.
Still, despite the one man deficit, Chester looked dangerous on the counter with substitutes George Waring and Danny Elliott leading the line. The latter broke through late on but was well kept out.
A game that looked beyond reach for Telford suddenly felt a lot closer and a challenge from Simon Grand on the edge of the penalty area gave the hosts a questionable free-kick. Brendon Daniels stepped up and smashed the left corner of Griffiths’ crossbar.
A nervy four minutes of stoppage time started with McQuilkin’s high effort and concluded with the relieving blast of the referee’s whistle. In the end. Chester recorded a deserved seventh victory of the season and move up to second.
The Blues begin their FA Cup journey on Saturday with a tough game at home to Altrincham. Be there!
CHESTER: Griffiths, Morgan, Taylor, Burton, Livesey, Grand, Jackson, Glendon, Asante (Waring 70), Hughes (Roberts 67), Dudley (Elliott 73).
SUBS NOT USED: Mahon, Jones.
ATTENDANCE: 2,085 (775 Chester)
Match Report by Alex Bullions