Chelmsford City 3 Staines Town 1
Staines made it no points from nine after this third successive defeat against strong opponents, in the shape of Chelmsford City.
Steve Cordery made three changes to the side beaten in midweek, as Simon Jackson, André Scarlett.
Warren Harris returned after injury, suspension, and bench duty, to replace Richard Butler, who is possibly facing a long lay-off), and the benched Elliot Onochie and Dom Sterling.
Scarlett was in fact appearing against one of his previous clubs, but lining up in claret against Staines was Ali Chaaban, something of a cult hero for the Swans for his FA Cup exploits, who recently joined City after a spell at Boreham Wood.
Although breezy, the afternoon was warm and bright, and it was disappointing therefore that a below average (by their standards) crowd of 590 showed up.
The far end of the ground had been shorn of its usual portable terrace on the area inside running track, ready for a new construction to be fitted early next week, and it was this end that Staines attacked in the first half.
The pitch was well grassed, but has been heavily watered in some areas, whilst remaining firm and rather bumpy in others, overall making for a treacherous surface that saw a number of players from both sides slipping over.
It was Staines who might have drawn first blood as early as the second minute, when a long ball found Howard Newton in space, but his shot was deflected wide for an early corner.
At the other end, ‘Tako’ Ake (who has been doing sterling work collecting for the Japanese disaster fund) emerged from the hammer-netting to loft a corner which Gray powerfully headed over after just four minutes both Gordon and Wells having slithered over when trying to defend the initial attack.
Newton tried another shot from distance, but soon after Staines took a 21st minute lead in what had been a fairly even encounter up till that point.
A City free kick was played by Gray to Chaaban but his ball into Rainford was wasted when the midfielder slipped under pressure from Dwane Lee, who then played an accurate long ball forward for Marc Charles-Smith, who ran onto it and kept his cool and his footing to despatch it low into the bottom corner of Pentney’s net.
Almost from the kick off, Martin was presented with a good chance to equalise, but he shot wide from close range.
However, Staines were unfortunate to lose Gordon to a knee injury, and although he had been beckoned back on after treatment, he was unable to get into the centre of defence in time to halt a surging City burst on the half hour that produced their equaliser.
Following a deep long throw, Martin and Chaaban combined and when appeals for a penalty came to nought, Ricky Modeste carried the ball into a dangerous spot to the right of goal and clipped it into the far corner of the net with an expert finish.
Gordon’s return proved futile, and Staines once again lost their skipper – this time for good – just two minutes later.
Chaaban’s angled shot drew a save from Louis Wells and there was an acrobatic attempt from Gray, but Staines were not taking this set-back lying down, as René Steer got upfield to force a corner from a deflected shot.
As the interval approached, Chelmsford forced a corner which led to Wells relying on his reflexes to save a deflected shot from Rainford.
There were two additional minutes, and their highlight was a scramble in the home penalty box following a foul on André Scarlett for which Tann was booked, but no-one in an old gold shirt could provide the final finish.
Staines could not fail to be disappointed by the manner of the Chelmsford goal that put them ahead on 49 minutes.
A long kick from ‘keeper Edwards was headed back over the halfway line by Steer, and from a position way out near the right touchline, and a good 15 yards inside his own half, Mark Haines pumped the ball back upfield.
It bounced once on the edge of the 18-yard box, then again just outside the six-yard area as Orlu and Chaaban converged on it, but the Staines defender missed his clearance and as Chaaban closed in, the ball took one further bounce before skittering past Wells and into the net.
Chaaban was credited with the goal at the time, but later admitted that he did not touch it.
Charles-Smith seemed unfortunate not to get at least a free kick when he chased a long Wells ball into the danger area at the other end, and seemed to get struck on the head by the covering defender, El-Abd.
In contrast, a body check by Steer earned him a booking as City tried to break away.
Moments beforehand, a Steer corner was clawed away by Pentney but Orlu closed in on the loose ball, but could not keep his shot down.
Chaaban was withdrawn in the 67th minute, but it did not signal an end to Swans torment, as City added a third goal just two minutes later.
There was some controversy about this one, as their sub Edmans seemed to do little more than stumble backwards into a Staines defender who had already slipped over.
However, a free kick was awarded and taken quickly by Modeste to Takumi Ake, who was bundled over in the box by Steer, leaving the ref no option but to point to the spot.
After Lee was cautioned for kicking the ball upfield, skipper David Rainford was unfazed and slammed home the penalty with his right foot.
Taylor became the third and final Staines name to go into the book for a foul a minute later, Rainford’s long free kick being comfortably saved by Wells.
Onochie and Alex Duffy were thrown on in an effort to add firepower, but the next save that Pentney had to make was from the unlikely source of a 70 yard Sterling free kick.
Staines might have got a consolation four minutes from time, as Scott Taylor’s quick free kick found Charles-Smith, and he laid it off for Harris, but his shot was pushed away for a corner.
Once Ake had volleyed over at the other end, the final whistle blew for time.
Adam Tann was selected as the Chelmsford and the Non-League Paper’s Man of the Match.
With Weston-super-Mare suffering a heavier defeat (4-1), Staines actually climbed a place to 12th, and are now mathematically safe from going down, whilst catapulting a useful looking Chelmsford back up to 5th and towards a second successive tilt at the play-offs.
Staines: Wells; Jackson, Steer, Gordon © (Sterling 32), Orlu, A Scarlett, Newton (Duffy 79), D Lee (Onochie 73), Charles-Smith, Taylor, Harris; unused Allaway (gk).
Chelmsford: Pentney; Tann, Robinson, Haines, El-Abd, Rainford © (Sanderson 90), Ake, Martin, Gray, Chaaban (Edmans 67), Modeste; unused Lapada, T Scarlett, Williams.
Ref: Antony Coggins (Bicester); ARs: Craig R Pullen (Ilford), Sean Smith (London).