Dorchester 1 Chelmsford City 2

First published in Sport

CHELMSFORD City overcame exceptionally difficult circumstances according to manager Glenn Pennyfather as he welcomed first half goals from new striker Jamie Slabber and defender Adam Tann before listing the reasons why the game was particularly tough to tackle.

The City boss was exultant with the three points his team could bring back from Dorset, shrugging aside a recent patch of poor form to move six points ahead of sixth-placed Dover Athletic, who have two games in hand.

His back line also stayed solid in the closing stages after Ryan Dovell halved the arrears.

He explained: “This was a notoriously difficult place to come, with the additional aggravation of travelling midweek.

"The players have all worked this morning and the pitch was not good for football and we’d not been winning. It was a very difficult situation but we’ve still managed to pull a result out of the bag.

“I’m proud that we worked our socks off from the first minute to the last and, even when we conceded a sloppy goal to offer them a lifeline, we stood strong.

"Right from the outset I’ve said we have to work hard, and when you’re on a losing run you have to work even harder than that to turn things round.”

Goalkeeper Conor Gough, signed on loan earlier in the day, made his debut in place of Stuart Searle, who was suffering from concussion.

Another Tuesday arrival in Slabber was also named for the first time as Ishmael Welsh sat out. Skipper David Rainford returned to the centre of midfield ahead of Sam Corcoran.

In a feisty opening sequence there was little in the way of flowing football by either side as play was broken up by a succession of dead balls.

Dorchester threatened when Kyle Critchell’s shot almost turned into a cross for a team mate as it sailed wide.

Then, half way through the first period, Warren Whitely attempted a shot from a tight angle, with Slabber lurking in search of a square ball close to goal.

Further wing play saw a cross to Slabber whose header didn’t trouble goalkeeper Alan Walker-Harris, while Ben Nunn and Kenny Clark were quick to clear up a 27th-minute foray from the hosts as the long-serving Nick Crittenden caused a nuisance in the penalty area.

However, some tidy hold-up play by Cliff Akurang on the edge of the box saw the ball floated to Slabber on 32 minutes and he headed home.

“I thought he was fantastic tonight and he showed the class we know he’s got,” said Glenn of his new marksman, who’d only officially joined from Eastleigh a few hours earlier.

“We’re delighted to have eventually got him on board and he’s determined to show he’s got the goals in him to help us into a play-off situation.”

That goal distressed Dorchester, who had played their part going forward to that point, but their defence was breached further a minute into stoppage time after Akurang’s effort from a few yards forced Walker-Harris to push wide for a corner.

An initial effort by Clark was beaten back out by the home ‘keeper, but only as far as Tann who was able to pick up the pieces and give the Clarets a two-goal interval lead.

Alex Osborn slipped when attempting a header at goal for the Clarets early in the second half, with Town’s Mark Jermyn trying his luck unsuccessfully from distance.

Though the home team gave Chelmsford cause for concern when they pulled a goal back on 62 minutes as Gough spilled into the path of Dovell, who accepted gratefully and put his side firmly back into the game.

This initiated a final 20 minutes which were entertaining for the neutral, but nerve-wracking for the management teams and supporters. Whitely’s goalbound dead ball made its way through the defensive wall but no further than the goal line, where it was cleared by a Magpies saviour. Then Gough was called upon to knock Jake Smeeton’s strike inches round the post, while Sam Malsom threatened from the corner.

Chelmsford thought they’d earned a penalty 15 minutes from the end, Rainford being sent to ground and getting up to see the Assistant Referee with his flag across his chest. However, Referee Adam Bromley opted to play on. A nervy spell followed as time ticked away, Gough getting a vital low touch to shepherd Nichols away from goal.

There were just two minutes of normal time remaining as Smeeton smashed at goal from distance and a wicked deflection looped his shot up and down and onto the crossbar before bouncing over. Dorchester applied further intense pressure on City’s goal through corners and long throws, but it was to be the Clarets’ night. It heaped pressure on Dover to keep up, but Glenn portrayed that City have to stay focussed.

“The pressure’s on all of us,” he said. “Sutton would never have thought they’d get beaten 6-1 at Dartford and they’ve got tough games coming up.

"We can only influence what goes on in our games and we’ve not got an easy one against Basingstoke on Saturday.

"They’ve won again tonight and will be waiting to pounce just outside the top five. Every game now is exciting, and fraught with danger!”

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