New Chester FC manager Steve Watson said there is still room for improvement but was delighted to start his reign with a 3-1 win at AFC Telford United.
Watson only took his first training session on Thursday but was pleased with the response from his players as James Hardy’s 13th-minute strike, Anthony Dudley’s 73rd–minute penalty and Darren Stephenson’s effort five minutes later wrapped up three points before Carl Baker pulled a goal back for bottom-of-the-table Telford in injury time.
Chester were well worth their first away win and Watson was encouraged by the 90 minutes in front of around 500 travelling fans.
He said: “The main thing is to get that first win. I am probably not as pleased as I would have been, having that goal go in against us at the end.
“I was disappointed with that for everybody really because I thought the lads had defended brilliantly, put their bodies on the line and put in lots of blocks and were winning first headers in the box.
“But we just got a little bit deep and I think that probably comes with not winning away from home and the nerves maybe start a bit.
“I thought we were a little bit wasteful with the ball in the second half as well, considering the quality of footballers we have.
“So, there is lots to work on but we have to be delighted to start with three points.”
Chester didn’t have it all their own way, having had to withstand a spell of pressure at the start of the second half, but they defended solidly until Baker’s curling effort gave the home side a consolation goal.
But 16th-placed Chester had already done enough to win the game, a result that lifts them going into Tuesday’s game at home to second-placed Fylde.
Watson added: “We knew if we got to half time with a lead then they would have a spell. They are going to, they are a home team and have some good players, so we had to weather that spell well.
“I think we could still make better decisions with the ball, but I only met the lads on Thursday. We have shoehorned as much as we could into two days and now they have to recover as best they can to play arguably one of the best teams in the league.
“It will be tough going forward but that makes the fact we got three points all the better.”
Watson’s options were limited because of injury and illness so he made four changes to the side as George Waring, Dan Cowan, Jack Redshaw and Luke Clark missed out and were replaced by Darren Stephenson, Josh Askew, Simon Grand and James Hardy who was back in the side after an ankle injury.
Chester started brightly with George Glendon’s clever ball to Hardy before the versatile forward’s low cross was blocked in the area.
Simon Grand had to produce a vital clearance on the edge of his six-yard box to clear Carl Baker’s dangerous cross but the Blues were back on the attack as Stephenson found Glendon in the area.
Glendon and Dudley got in each other’s way initially before both had shots blocked before the home side scrambled the ball away.
But the visitors took the lead on 13 minutes when Stephenson’s low cross almost broke to Glendon. He was denied but the rebound fell to Hardy who swept the ball home from close range.
Matty Williams produced a well-timed sliding challenge to deny the dangerous Kai Williams before Louis Gray confidently punched the corner clear.
Telford keeper Ted Cann was less confident as he met a corner with a punch that span straight up in the air before he was able to claim it at the second attempt.
Chester looked the better side but Telford remained a threat, as Kai Williams underlined with a low cross that Grand did well to meet with a sliding clearance at the near post.
Askew lined up a free kick when Kev Roberts was tripped just outside the area but, although the left back bent his effort around the wall, it was too close to keeper Cann.
Telford enjoyed their best effort of the half in the final minute when Gray’s punch from Arlen Birch’s cross dropped to Adam Walker on the edge of the area but his powerful, goalbound volley was blocked by Glendon.
But the home side had their best spell in the 15 minutes after the break only to meet a resolute defence. Matty Williams threw himself in the way of Adam Walker’s low strike and Gray denied Baker at his near post as the home side’s best efforts were repelled.
Williams was forced off with a cut on his head and replaced by Danny Livesey on 59 minutes before the visitors started to gain the upper hand.
Hardy sidefooted wide from Stephenson’s cut back and Anthony Dudley had an effort blocked at the near post before Chester doubled their lead after Stephenson was pulled down in the area.
Dudley took the penalty, waiting for the keeper to commit himself before sliding the ball down the middle to give his side some breathing space.
And it was virtually game over on 78 minutes when Chester’s outstanding performer, Stephenson, looked up from the left edge of the area and walloped a shot inside the far post.
That would have been the goal of most games but Baker bettered it in the second of six minutes’ stoppage time when he brilliantly bent the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area.
So, no clean sheet but a richly deserved three points for Chester and their new manager.
AFC TELFORD UNITED
Cann, Birch, White (Benett, 66), Shotton, Bood, Lilly, Walker (McHale, 74), Bange (Oswell, 66), Williams, Baker, Goodridge.
Subs: Abbey, Daniels.
Gray, Roberts, Horsfield, Williams (Livesey, 59), Grand, Askew, Weeks, Glendon, Stephenson, Hardy (Cowan, 80), Dudley.
Subs: Smith, Morgan, Burke.