TORQUAY United gave everything and played with vastly improved vigour and desire, but the final result was yet another tough one to take.
Chester scored the only goal of the game through George Thomson on 29 minutes and the visitors then withstood a Yellow barrage in the second period to skulk off with the points.
It was harsh luck on the Gulls and typifies recent fortunes at TQ1, but there is a trip to Nuneaton Town on the weekend and a chance to find the right formula that did not look so far away on this showing.
United boss Chris Hargreaves made four changes to the side beaten 1-0 by Telford on the weekend, starting with Levi Ives being given a rest at left-back. Ollivier Gueguen came in at right-back, allowing Aaron Dawson to shuffle over to the opposite flank.
Toby Ajala was preferred to Jamie Reid on the left wing and Ben Harding made his first appearance in midfield since the end of January, replacing James McQuilkin in the engine room. Louis Briscoe started up front ahead of John Campbell.
Chester manager Steve Burr knew the pressure was on after the narrow loss to Wrexham in the massive cross-border derby game on Saturday and his team started like a train, with Thomson rifling in a low shot that had Martin Rice diving full length to turn wide in the opening 30 seconds.
The Blues then attempted football suicide with a crazy back-pass and Ryan Bowman was able to skip past goalkeeper Jon Worsnop, but the recovering Chester defence squeezed out the angle for United’s number nine to slot home.
Bowman instead worked a pass wide to Jordan Chapell, who attempted to slip a pass through to Briscoe. The ball squirmed back to Chapell and his return cross was headed marginally over by Bowman.
The relentless pace continued in front of a sparse crowd at the Launa Windows Stadium and Chester were looking the brighter side with some neat work through the midfield area. United responded with Harding and Luke Young biting into some tasty tackles.
Despite the visitors’ enthusiasm, there was definitely a better tempo about the Gulls and a fierce shot from Bowman after decent work by Chapell forced Worsnop into a decent block, although the assistant’s flag would have ruled out the goal.
Chester came back with a terrific piece of skill from John Rooney on the right, flicking a pass inside for Thomson, who controlled the ball on his chest before lashing in a volley that Rice did well to turn around the post.
United’s desperate recent luck was then typified by a well struck free-kick from Young taking a huge deflection off the wall and looping on to the cross-bar for a massive Chester escape.
From the very next attack, the visitors were in front, as a dinked pass over the top of the Yellow defence found a darting run from Thomson, who took a quick touch before rifling a low shot past the stranded Rice.
While it was slightly harsh on United to be behind in the game, it was down to sleepy defending that Thomson was able to sneak into space and score from what was a routine pass over the top.
After a bleak fortnight, it was now a huge test of Yellow resolve and Chester knew they were up against a wounded animal, piling on the pressure by throwing men forward with the confidence that comes from taking the lead.
United hobbled into the interval but then emerged with renewed belief, and a sharp pass from Ajala released Young on the edge of the box, only for his low shot to be expertly turned wide by a sprawling Worsnop.
Young was looking back to his old self and a fabulous cross-field pass to Ajala after the skipper had the won ball in midfield allowed United’s intrepid winger to beat his full-back and fire in a low cross that was deflected narrowly over.
The Gulls were well on top and it was mainly down to the drive of Young and Briscoe forcing Chester back to their own penalty area. There was more urgency in United’s work and, although one looped cross from Bowman was nodded comfortably wide by Briscoe, it was a positive opening 15 minutes to the second half.
The same pair combined moments later with an exchange of headed passes culminating in Bowman steering the final header narrowly over. Aaron Downes then came within a whisker of getting enough purchase on a Young corner to seriously test Worsnop.
United did have a real moment of concern on 73 minutes, as Oliver McBurnie latched on to a soft header back from Downes but Rice stood tall in making the save. Thomson was replaced soon after by Matty Hughes.
The first Yellow changes saw Harding and Briscoe withdrawn for Courtney Richards and Ashley Yeoman, but the focus immediately switched to Rice producing a superb save to deny McBurnie’s header from a corner.
Young swiftly grabbed back the impetus, switching passes with Richards before rifling in a low shot toward the near-post that Worsnop quickly got down to block in a solid all-round display from the visiting custodian.
Ajala was next to pose a threat, brilliantly skipping around his full-back and firing in a low cross that was crying out for a Yellow boot to convert, but the Chester defence again found the clearance at the right time.
Campbell replaced Dawson for the final five minutes and United changed to all-out attack, but there was nothing more in the Yellow tank and Chester went home with the points.
United (4-4-2): 1 Martin Rice; 26 Ollivier Gueguen, 5 Krystian Pearce, 4 Aaron Downes, 29 Aaron Dawson (32 John Campbell 85); 12 Jordan Chapell, 8 Luke Young (capt), 6 Ben Harding (16 Courtney Richards 76), 10 Toby Ajala; 7 Louis Briscoe (14 Ashley Yeoman 76), 9 Ryan Bowman. Substitutes (not used): 11 Courtney Cameron, 20 Jamie Reid.
Booked: Pearce 71
Chester (4-4-2): 1 Jon Worsnop; 23 Ryan Higgins, 22 Ben Henaghan, 4 Michael Kay (capt) (5 Matty Brown 90), 3 Gareth Roberts; 10 John Rooney, 8 Kingsley James, 18 Brad Abbott, 7 Craig Mahon; 2 George Thomson (27 Matty Hughes 74), 17 Oliver McBurnie (19 Craig Hobson 90). Substitutes (not used):, 13 Jonathan Viscosi, 15 Kane Richards.
Booked: Hobson 90
Referee: David Rock
Attendance: 1,221 (62 away).