LEWIS TAFFEE’s close-range strike midway through the first half brought an abrupt end to the Clarets’ three match unbeaten run as City had to play the whole of the second-half with ten men.
Michael Cheek had a superb chance to level the scoring moments later when Concord Rangers ‘keeper Aaron Lennox tripped Luke Callander, but the striker saw his effort saved, summing up a frustrating evening for Mark Hawkes’s men in a match where full-back James Love was harshly shown a straight red on the stroke of half-time.
The Clarets continued with the same team that were triumphant at St Albans City at the weekend, with Nicky Eyre – who returned to the starting line-up on Saturday following a one-match suspension – keeping his place in the City goal.
The opening twenty minutes saw little in the way of chances, although Clarets’ skipper Mark Hughes linked-up well with Lee Sawyer in the middle of the park as they looked to supply Michael Cheek and Luke Callander with some service. The final ball was perhaps lacking, although that’s partly due to the impressive performances of Concord’s captain, Steve King, and one-time Claret Matt Fry.
Spectators had to wait until the 22nd minute for the game’s first shot on target when Concord’s Gary Ogilvie found space on the edge of the area, but his half-volley was tame and ended up straight into the arms of Nicky Eyre.
Michael Cheek then registered City’s first real attempt, but he could only flick over Joe Ward’s long-throw, a chance that was punished just a minute later as the game suddenly burst into life.
Nicky Eyre dived low to keep out Steve Cawley’s drilled effort but it was parried into the path of Lewis Taaffe, and the Beach Boys striker made no mistake in tucking it home.
But the drama didn’t end there; City striker Luke Callander was tripped by Rangers keeper Aaron Lennox, leaving referee Mr Lloyd Wood no choice but to point to the spot. The Concord custodian was only booked for the foul, perhaps correctly so, and made up for his error when he saved Michael Cheek’s spot-kick, the second time the front man has seen his penalty stopped in as many games. Cheek – City’s top scorer this season with seven goals – was also denied by twelve yards from St Albans ‘keeper Joe Welch in the Clarets’ 2-0 win at the weekend.
Cheek almost made amends for the penalty miss when he narrowly headed over following a surging run and pin-point cross from Leon Redwood as first-half proceedings drew to a close.
But just prior to the half-time interval the Clarets were dealt another major blow when full-back James Love was shown a straight red card for an unnecessary tackle on Concord’s Gary Ogilvie. On first viewing it looked the correct decision, although on second showing it appears it’s a fair tackle with Love’s trailing leg making slight contact with Ogilvie. Harsh indeed.
The Clarets responded at half-time with manager Mark Hawkes replacing forward Luke Callander for young centre-half Marvin Ekpiteta as Mark Haines shifted across to right-back. Michael Cheek was acting as the lone striker with Nicky Nicolau and Joe Ward occupying the wings as they did in the first half.
Sam Collins had Nicky Eyre momentarily scrapping on the hour mark in a second-half that saw fewer chances than the first. Not a lot, in other words.
Gary Ogilvie awakened the ground, who could be forgiven if they opted to have a little doze, when he aimed a thunderous left-footed effort from outside the area which Nicky Eyre instinctively deflected on to the post as City survived.
Yado Mambo – who opened his account for the Clarets at the weekend – wasted a golden chance to draw level when Marvin Ekpiteta set the centre-back up following Nicky Nicolau’s corner, but he got underneath the shot and fired it over from four yards.
Mark Haines then slid in at the far post in an attempt to meet Joe Ward’s fired cross, but it was too pacey and evaded the City player.
It set-up for a close final ten minutes but it was all in vain for City as their impressive form was momentarily halted by Concord Rangers who responded well from Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Basingstoke Town.
1. Nicky Eyre
2. James Love
3. Leon Redwood
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Yado Mambo
7. Lee Sawyer
8. Joe Ward
9. Luke Callander
10. Michael Cheek
11. Nicky Nicolau
12. Marvin Ekpiteta (On for Luke Callander, 46)
14. Harry Morgan
15. Sam Gregory
16. Christian Smith
19. Niklas Freund
1. Aaron Lennox
2. Jeremy Walker
3. Danny Glozier
4. Alex Woodyard
5. Steve King (C)
6. Matt Fry
7. Gary Oglivie
8. James White
9. Lewis Taaffe
10. Sam Collins
11. Steve Cawley
12. Jack Lampe (On for Steve King, 68)
14. Cheye Alexander
15. Taylor Miles
16. Joe Gardner (On for Lewis Taaffe, 51)
19. Tony Stokes (On for Steve Cawley, 76)
Referee: Mr Lloyd Wood
Assistant Referees: Mr David Smart and Mr Phillip Rowley
Bookings: Chelmsford City: Mark Haines (31, foul) Mark Hughes (55, foul)
Concord Rangers: Aaron Lennox (27, foul), Joe Gardner (66, delaying the restart of play)
Sent off: Chelmsford City: James Love (45, dangerous play)
Concord Rangers: None.
Scorers: Chelmsford City: None.
Concord Rangers: Lewis Taaffe (26)
City Man of the Match: Joe Ward