Stortford stunned the Clarets within the opening four minutes when Christian Dibble was unable to claw away Frankie Merrifield’s effort that hit an upright, but it didn’t take too long for the hosts to net a reply with centre-back Mark Haines nodding home an arrowed Bagasan Graham cross.
Little goalmouth action followed as both sides were somewhat wasteful in possession, but Jack Bridge struck on the stroke of half-time to give the Clarets the edge going into the break.
Jason Williams then swept home another cross from Graham in the early stages of the second-half to put the game out of reach of Stortford.
Mark Hughes made sure of the three points and City’s fifth home win of the season when he spectacularly found the top corner before Stortford’s Ashley Miller was sent off for two yellow cards.
It was the third back-to-back win that Chelmsford have mustered this season – their first since August – as they are now three points clear of the relegation zone before the other teams play on Tuesday night. It was Stortford’s fifth straight defeat and struggled to contain a City side who have looked to gain some confidence and composure.
With the Clarets recording their second win in twelve League games on Saturday – a comprehensive 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Weston-super-Mare – caretaker boss Kevin Maher fielded an unchanged starting eleven while Sandro Semedo, who was ruled out through sickness at Weston, replaced goalkeeper Connor Pearce on the substitutes’ bench.
Chelmsford failed to continue their form into the early stages of this local derby however as the Blues took a fourth minute lead. Robbie Willmott turned inside to cross from the right and when Frankie Merrifield’s shot cannoned off the foot of the post it hit the back of the scrambling Christian Dibble, who could only claw it away from behind the line.
The worst possible start for the Clarets, but they had plenty of time to put Stortford on the back foot, and they did just that five minutes later. Bagasan Graham’s corner was cleared back towards the winger who with a timely drop of the shoulder fired in a cross towards the penalty spot. It was met by the leaping Mark Haines, the ball arrowing into the far corner. His first goal of the season. City back on track.
It was exactly the start the match needed on a chilly evening at the Melbourne Community Stadium, and the 630-strong crowd were treated to some pleasing build-up play from both sides with the final product lacking somewhat.
The Blues had a penalty appeal turned down midway through the half when the ball appeared to bounce on to Reece Prestege’s forearm before he hacked it clear. It would’ve perhaps been harsh against their former skipper, but one of those ‘seen them given’ numbers.
But for some brief moments of promise – Williams was set free by Bricknell in the middle but strayed miles offside – the Clarets didn’t trouble ex-City shot stopper Tom Lovelock with himself, as well as Dibble, mere spectators until just before half-time.
Dibble did have to be alert when Morgan Ferrier’s shot looked to be heading into the net, and his fingertip stop proved crucial as, on the stroke of half-time, the Clarets gained an invaluable lead when Jack Bridge picked up Williams’ ball from inside the box. The winger showed a quick change of pace to fire a shot into the far corner – his fourth goal in five matches – before Merrifield’s volley was deflected over in an almost instant reply from the Blues.
The second-half saw plenty of intent from the Clarets and 9 minutes in they doubled their lead. Some superb wing-play from Graham saw him beat Miller for pace before making his way to the by-line. His cut-back found Williams who swept home from close-range, his fourth goal in five games too – the Southend loanees showing their worth in front of their boss Phil Brown as he was casting an eye from the directors’ box.
Christian Dibble kept the Clarets’ two goal lead in tact with a strong hand at his near post to deny Corby Moore a second for the Blues as they looked to force their way back into it.
The game then had an erratic minute when Mark Hughes netted a scorcher that fired its way into the top-corner while, in the aftermath of the Chelmsford celebrations, Miller was shown a red for the Blues. Two yellow cards for dissent in the space of around twenty seconds, and it all but put Stortford out of the match as Maher was able to claim his third win as City boss.
On the basis of this performance and result, he will be more than convinced that his side has what it takes to beat the drop.
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Marvel Ekpiteta
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Rory McAuley
7. Jack Bridge
8. Reece Prestedge
9. Jason Williams
10. Billy Bricknell
11. Bagasan Graham
12. Luke Daley (On for Jack Bridge, 90+1)
14. Harry Moran
15. Marvin Ekpiteta
16. Lee Sawyer (On for Reece Prestedge, 81’)
17. Sandro Semedo (On for Bagasan Graham, 76’)
1. Tom Lovelock
2. Ashley Miller
3. Johnny Herd
4. Alli Abdullahi
5. Kenzer Lee
6. Chris M’Boungou
7. Robbie Willmott
8. Corby Moore
9. Mikel Suarez (C)
10. Frankie Merrifield
11. Morgan Ferrier
12. Elliott Buchanan (On for Alli Abdullahi, 60’)
14. George Allen (On for Mikel Suarez, 64’)
15. Byron Lawrence
16. Josh Ekim
17. Anthony Church (On for Frankie Merrifield, 55’)
Referee: Mr. Matthew Buonassisi (Rushden)
Assistant Referees: Mr. Wayne Cartmel and Mr. Christopher Francis
Bookings: Chelmsford City: Jack Bridge (30’, cynical foul)
Bishop’s Stortford: Alli Abdullahi (12’, cynical foul), Ashley Miller (72’, dissent), Corby Moore (90’)
Sent off: Chelmsford City: None
Bishop’s Stortford: Ashley Miller (73’, dissent, second yellow card)
Scorers: Chelmsford City: Mark Haines (9’), Jack Bridge (45’), Jason Williams (54’), Mark Hughes (71’)
Bishop’s Stortford: Christian Dibble (4’, OG)
HT Score: 2-1
FT Score: 4-1
City Man of the Match: Jason Williams