| Monday 29 April
Cheltenham Town 1 Chester
Cheltenham Town: Book,
Howarth (McAuley 26), Freeman, Banks, Walker, Griffin,
Howells, Yates, Victory, Brough, Devaney. Subs not
used: Bloomer, Grayson, Higgs, Jackson.
Chester City: Brown, Woods, Hicks, Hobson, Fisher (Eve
78), Hemmings (Doughty 78), Porter, Richardson (Moss 50), Carden, Beckett,
Heggs. Subs not used: Finney, Lancaster.
Referee: W.Jordan (Tring).
was another great turn out of City support on Saturday.
The gates on the away end were closed with twenty
minutes to go. Some of those locked out found their
way into the Cheltenham section. If nothing else
Chester’s valiant attempts to avoid the drop have
galvanised the fans and encouraged quite a few
to come back who had previously had enough.
Chester had the better of the
opening exchanges. Hemmings especially saw a lot
of the ball on the left but he couldn’t really
make it tell against a tough home defence. It’s easy
to see why Cheltenham don’t concede
many. Heggs was the pick of the City forwards but
find any clear cut openings. He went down in the
penalty area after a lunging tackle but Mr Jordan
was unconvinced it was a penalty – I have
to say I agree with him. Carden – superb
again today – nutmegged
a defender on the edge of the box and then saw
his shot tipped over the bar. It was City’s
best moment of the match. Goalkeeper Book had a
narrow squeak just before half time as he lifted
the ball over an onrushing Beckett.
Cheltenham – who needed to win
to get back into play off contention – began to
dominate as the half wore on. A header clipped
the top of the crossbar and the tricky Devaney
had a shot just wide.
After the break the home side
continued to take the game to City and their quick
passing game had them at full stretch. Hicks was
again splendid at leading the rearguard action.
Brough should have done better with the goal at
his mercy though. Chester didn't threaten a great
deal – Beckett probably had the best chance but
his shot lacked power.
On 75 minutes Hemmings, playing
more at left back than left wing gave away a free
kick on the edge of the box, diving in to a tackle
(though I doubt, actually that he needed to or
made contact with the player). From the cross Woods
headed away for a corner – and that’s when
the goal came. Poor defending on the near post
Brough to glance the ball into the net.
Atkins threw on Eve and Doughty
but City never really looked like they would equalise.
Fisher got through on the edge of the area but
ballooned the ball hopelessly over. The quality
into the box had been poor all game.
So it all goes down to the last
game as we feared it would. We have to go for a
win against Peterborough – themselves such
an unpredictable team. I’m sure that City are capable
the win they need but it is going to be such an
emotional occasion that nerves are bound to play
a part. See you there!
Monday 24 April 2000
Chester City 2 York City 0
Chester City: Brown,
Fisher, Woods, Hicks, Hobson, Hemmings (Richardson
90), Carden, Porter, Eve (Doughty 61), Heggs, Beckett.
Subs not used: Finney, Lancaster, Wright.
York City: Fettis, Edmondson (Thompson 61), Swann, Fairclough,
Bower, Talbot (Skinner 45), Agney (Sertori 71), Jordan, Hawkins, Conlon,
Williams. Subs not used: Howarth, Turley.
Referee: G.Laws (Whitley Bay).
Not a pretty match to watch but
few Chester fans were complaining at the end as
City had leapfrogged both Shrewsbury and Carlisle
to set up an almost unbearably exciting finish
to the season.
Eve replaced Richardson in the
starting line-up as Atkins went for a more attacking
formation in a match we had to win. York visited
the Deva on the crest of a good run – undefeated
since Terry Dolan took over seven matches ago.
They are a strong and well organised side and Chester
found little room to play against them. Still three
chances were carved out for Heggs. First he turned
on an awkward bouncing ball in the box to get a
shot in which Fettis just managed to turn over
the bar. Then a cross from Eve found Heggs' head
but found him also a bit flat footed and his header
lacked power. Thrdly, he took the ball on from
Hemmings' left wing run and cut across the edge
of the penalty area before shooting narrowly wide.
It was a nervy half time interval.
The news came that Shrewsbury were losing at the
Shay but really that was a diversion. The most
important thing was that City had to win today.
The crowd got behind the Blues again in the second
half as they kicked towards the York supporters.
A visiting streaker appeared but not a patch on
the Moss Rose Merryman. he left his Y-fronts on
for a start (Not a very prepossessing pair either)
AND his shoes and socks!
City won a free kick on the edge
of the area just in the spot where David Beckham
likes them. Fisher ballooned it spectacularly over
the bar. A brilliant Tony Hemmings run ended with
a fine cross which found Fisher in space at the
far post. He hit the ball first time and not cleanly
either, Fettis had a simple save to make. Beckett
too had a header back across goal which the keeper
dealt with comfortably.
The tension was getting unbearable.
The longer it went on the more it resembled the
Carlisle game and we would fall to a sucker punch.
But then a nice little ball over the top found
Heggs pulling away from his marker. Fettis half
saved his shot but then Bower, following up, shinned
it into the back of the net. We didn't mind how
it got there – GOAL! We were still buzzing when
Heggs got free again this time on the left and
cut to the touchline pulled it back and there was
Beckett with time to trap the ball and then hammer
it into the corner of the net. Brilliant.
About five minutes later I became
vaguely aware that the match was continuing. York
strove to get a goal back. Strong man Conlon tried
several shots from the edge of the area – fortunately
all of them were wayward. Once again the defence
held firm. Matty Woods headed clear from under
his own crossbar after a mix up with Brownie. Stuart
("He wrestles bears") Hicks was revelling in his
clashes with the York forwards. You get the impression
Hicks would even have turned the Alamo round if
he had been there. Referee Laws had several opportunites
to get his cards out but must have forgotten to
bring them as no one was booked all match.
This was a mighty important win
– possibly one of the biggest in our history. The
results came in that both Shrewsbury and Carlisle
had lost, the former with an agonisingly late goal
after they had themselves equalised in stoppage
time. Once more the roller coaster had reached
another peak. There aren't many minutes left to
play now but you can be sure that there will be
more twists to come.
It's certainly no time for complacency.
The job is not done yet. We have two very tricky
looking matches to come – but at least we have
our noses slightly in front after Monday.
Saturday 22 April 2000
1 Chester City 1
Macclesfield Town: Martin, Tinson,
Collins, Ingram (Hitchen 69), Durkan, Wood, Sedgemore, Davies (Tomlinson
80), Askey, Whitehead. Subs not used: Munroe, Davenport, Ware.
Chester City: Brown, Fisher, Woods, Hicks, Hobson, Hemmings,
Carden, Porter, Richardson, Beckett, Heggs. Subs not used: Doughty, Finney,
Lancaster, Eve, Shelton.
Referee: Alan Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield)
The rain which had been falling constantly for half
an hour cascaded down as we made the short walk up the hill from the
Railway View. A clap of thunder was heard overhead. We were soaked in
ten minutes and the prospect of standing on an open terrace for a further
ninety was not inviting. But there are some things as a City fan you
have to do in the course of duty and nothing was going to stop us supporting
the Blues in their hour and a half of need.
The spirits of the supporters, some of whom had been
standing in the rain for forty minutes, certainly weren't doused. As
the teams came out the travelling army became a fermenting mass of fervent
It seemed highly dubious that the match would last
its full course. As the plaeyers ran out water splashed out from under
their boots. As the game began the ball frequently became stuck in the
waterlogged surface. City began brightest, however, and took the game
to our former landlords. Once again Porter and Carden were in superb
form, wresting the ball from the opposition and getting City's attack
moving. Fisher also put in a couple of delightful crosses from the right
and gave Rioch a torrid time. From one of these centres Beckett headed
narrowly wide. Then Luke found himself through on the keeper but, possibly
because of the heavy surface, could not get round Martin who saved bravely.
We felt that missed opportunity could prove to be a
turning point and so it proved when Macc scored from a right wing free
kick (Harshly awarded against Hemmings). Askey glanced home Durkan's
Still City came back and tried to draw level before
the break. The closest they got was when Hicks won a header and Richardson's
follow on was saved at point blank range by Martin. So they went in a
goal behind after having the better of the play.
As the teams came out for the second half (The rain
had eased a little by now), the cabaret began. A streaker broke out of
the City ranks with only his flag to cover his modesty (And, to be frank,
he wasn't actually using it to cover anything). He got all the way to
the centre circle before throwing himself in the mud. Then, seeing that
he was going to be allowed to do an encore, he headed back towards the
Silkman End and launched himself spectacularly into the huge puddle by
the conrer flag. It was just about the funniest thing I've seen in thirty
years of watching football. Brownie was doubled up with laughter in goal.
As the naked invader was escorted from the pitch every single person
in the ground applauded him. A prize mirthful moment that united everyone.
The second half began and soon we were celebrating
an equaliser. Ingram committed the cardinal sin of trying to find his
keeper with a back pass on a dodgy pitch. Heggs pounced and squared the
ball to Beckett who seemed to take an age to score an open goal. But
score he did and we were back in it. Macclesfield, chasing a play-off
place, upped their game after this but City held firm. One saving tackle
from Carden was memorably superb but there were several others. Either
side might have shaded it in the final minutes. First Beckett curled
a shot to the far post which Martin parried and just managed to retrieve
as Richardson endeavoured to turn it in. Then at our end Whitehead's
shot hit the side netting much to our relief and the disappointment of
the Macc fans in the paddock who thought it was a goal.
Over a pint in the Fool's Nook we wrung out sodden
clothing and reflected on the game. Our joy at a hard fought point had
been tempered with the news that Shrewsbury had snatched a win after
being behind. I expected them to win but they had left it late and we
were back on the bottom. The Scarborough-supporting landlord did his
best to cheer us up - he's been there after all. But the important thing
is that City had played well, the fans had played their part again and
one of them in particular had provided an immortal moment of merriment
which will be chuckled over for years to come.
Saturday 15 April 2000
Leyton Orient 1 Chester City 2
Leyton Orient: Barrett, Jospeh,
Smith, Downer, Lockwood, Gough, Walschaerts, Ampadu (Christie 62), Brkovic,
Watts (Murray 77), Griffiths. Subs not used: Bayes, Beall, McGhee.
Chester City: Brown, Woods, Hicks, Hobson, Fisher, Hemmings
(Keister 89), Porter, Richardson (Doughty 56), Carden, Beckett, Heggs.
Subs not used: Lancaster, Wright, Finney.
Referee: G.Poll (Tring).
It was a tough match at Orient demanding great reserves
of courage, physical stamina and mental endurance. And the team were
magnificent as well.
With more intense devotion than an army of fanatical
Buddhist monks City fans kept up their incessant chanting all through
the second half. Still the insistent mantra “Ian Atkins Blue and
White Army” pounds on through my head even now, two days later. The only
came when we went bananas as Neil Fisher bagged what proved to be the
winning goal. There was still an agonising half an hour to go at the
The match kicked off, along with the rest of the country
at 3.06 as a mark of respect for the victims of the Hilsborough tragedy.
It was eleven years to the very day that ninety six football fans had
gone to watch a match and never come back.
We were honoured to have the Cup Final referee designate,
Mr Poll, to take charge of our game – which was of course far more important
to us than any Villa – Chelsea affair in May. I felt, though, that the
ref’s judgement was at fault when Orient took the lead after only nine
minutes. Brown went up to deal with a harmless looking up and under,
lost the ball and Griffiths bundled it in to the net after a melee. I
felt sure that Brown had been nudged off it by an Orient player – though
I'd like to see the replay. Opinion was equally divided among the Chester
fans I spoke to.
This was a huge setback as we know that City struggle
once they go behind. The magnificent away support was not going to take
this lying down or even sitting down as they rose to get behind the team.
They did not have to wait too long for a response as – from a free kick
on the right, Beckett won a knock down for Heggs to plough through the
defence with the ball and slide it into the back of the net.
City began to be more competetive – Porter and
Carden got through an immense amount of work, throwing themselves into
tackle – Orient looked to have more ability and slicker passing.
It was Chester who went the closest to scoring a second before half time.
the ball just went the wrong side of the post in a game of six yard box
ping pong and then the O’s had a lucky escape when Dean Smith’s
lunging clearance from eighteen yards clanged against his own crossbar.
A reasonable first half then – but how would
it go in the second half? There was everything to play for – Shrewsbury
reported to be losing – a draw would be creditable but a win would
be priceless. City’s travelling faithful took up the challenge in the
half and willed them to go forward. Becketts’ shot was parried
by Barrett and Fisher tiptoed his way through the area to finish crisply
defenders on the line. I can't remember too much about the next two minutes
- being delerious with joy and eyes brimming with tears.
It seemed an age that City had to hold on – the longest
half an hour I’ve experienced. The closer the final whistle came
- the greater would be the sense of pain when Orient grabbed an inevitable
equaliser. It seemed to have arrived when substitute Christie headed
in but the ref’s whistle had gone just before for pushing. Brown made
one really superb save low down to an angled shot.
Atkins, who had patrolled the edge of his little box
throughout the second half turned with delight to the fans as the final
whistle went. Back in the Birkbeck we nursed ravaged throats with some
northern guest ales and compared hands bruised and calloused from so
There is still a long way for us to go to survival
but at least we are still in there with a chance.
Saturday 8 April 2000
Chester City 0 Carlisle United 1
Chester City: Brown, Woods, Hicks,
Hobson, Fisher, Hemmings, Porter, Eve, Carden, Beckett, Heggs (Finney 81).
Subs not used: Doughty, Lancaster, Richardson, Keister.
Carlisle United: Weaver, Clarke, Whitehead, Brightwell,
Soley, Pitts Reid, Teale, Durnin (Dobie 86), McJinnon (Searle 77), Halliday.
Subs not used: Bowman, Tracey, Keen.
Referee: K.Lynch (Kirk Hammerton).
Cruel is not the word. Dame Fortune is developing a
sadisitc streak as far as Chester are concerned. The excellent work of
the last fortnight was undone in the third minute of injury time as City
were dealt a shattering – but not yet fatal – blow to their chances of
escaping the clutches of the Conference.
The atmosphere at the Deva as the teams came out was
fantastic – though Cleggy did whip up even more hysteria with a false
alarm announcement. The ISA chequered flags fluttered spectacularly.
Chester settled better of the two nervy relegation
battlers and soon had the Cumbrians rattled in defence. Some wild tackles
flew in from the visitors and Mr Lynch soon had to get his cards out.
First booking was for Halliday putting his hand in Porter's face as they
waited for a corner. Halliday had already managed to start about three
runnning battles with City players and appeared very mouthy – the only
surprise was that it took him so long to get sent off.
Laid back Mr Lynch who warned in the press that he
had sent off more players than any other this season had his hands full
as tempers flared all over the pitch. Chances were few and far between.
Beckett got through on the keeper and then rounded him as Weaver half-saved
but a Carlisle defender headed Beckett's shot off the line. Eve worked
hard to jink and turn past the massed Cumbrian defence but no one was
able to get on the end of his whipped cross. The most spectacular effort
of the first hald was Matty Woods piledriver which Weaver tipped round
the post. If it was a boxing match City would have won the first half
on points. But they could not get the goal they so desperately wanted.
By contrast the second half was a huge disappointment.
We thought we would be able to suck the ball in to the net but in truth
City didn't manage to dominate play as they had done earlier. Hemmings
all but burst through in the first minute and then later Beckett found
him on the left but as he cut in this time his shot lacked power. Generally
City could not find enough width and Heggs seemed to get the ball with
his back to goal and too deep most of the time. Hicks had City's best
chance from a corner but glanced his header wide when he probably should
have hit the target.
As the match seemed to be grinding to a stalemate,
proceedings were enlivened slightly as first Whitehead for a second bookable
offence was sent off and then in the closing minute Halliday's mouth
got him into trouble again and he was off too. With four minutes of added
time was there a chance that Chester could snatch the points? Incredibly
they not only failed to do this but allowed Carlisle to grab a dramatic
winner. From a throw in Fisher and Carden left the ball for each other
allowing Clark to carry the ball forward and find Scott Dobie. His fresh
legs took him to the edge of the box and his shot hit the top right hand
corner. It was Carlisle's one and only shot on target for the entire
match. An absolute sickener.
We all know how dramatic football can be but fortune
hardly ever seems to smile on City. They did not deserve to lose but
then again they failed to score and were always liable to the sucker
Back in the subdued social club the excitement continued
as Shaun Teale – who had made discourteous remarks about Ian Atkins in
the press – was given a taste of his own medicine when he showed his
face round the door.
As everyone keeps saying – it's not over till the obese
diva warbles at the Deva. So Orient here we come!
Saturday 1 April 2000
Halifax Town 0 Chester City 1
Halifax Town: Butler,
Wilder, Stansfield, Mitchell, Jules, Paterson, Middleton, Richards,
Reilly (Fitzpatrick 46), Kerrigan, Jones. Subs not used: Parks,
Lucas, Potter, Painter.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Hicks, Woods, Hobson, Fisher,
Carden, Porter, Hemmings, Beckett, Heggs, Subs not used: Richardson, Finney,
Doughty, Lancaster, Keister.
Referee: R.Furnandiz (Doncaster).
© Photo Giles
What a day! City recorded their first
double and completed successive victories, both for
the first time this season.
A travelling army of 800, many taking
advantage of the ISA's half-price travel offer were
rewarded for their efforts with a gutsy professional
performance from the Blues. Luke Beckett scored the
only goal off the game on 14 minutes from the penalty
spot; another first here – our first league penalty
of the season which was despatched with ease.
With captain Stuart Hicks magnificent
in defence and Paul Carden running midfield. Indeed
it was Carden's fine through ball which set up the
goal. Darren Moss broke down the right to accept it
and was poleaxed in the box by home 'keeper Lee Butler.
It took a couple of minutes from Joe Hinnigan's magic
sponge before Moss got to his feet again. Beckett,
waiting patiently, sent Butler the wrong way.
Carl Heggs was ruled offside minutes
later when he was again put through with a defence-splitting
ball, but as the half wore on Halifax came more into
the game and it took a couple of fine saves by Wayne
Brown to preserve the lead. Just before half-time Brown
had to dive smartly high to his right to tip round
a superb volley from Ian Richards.
There were more heart-stopping moments
in the City penalty area. Kerrigan sent a low shot
from the right right across the box and just past the
far post, and man-of-the-match Hicks cleared off the
line following a goalmouth scramble from a Town corner.
Luke Beckett was an inch away from
getting a second after the break as he just failed
to make contact with Neil Fisher's low free kick. Hemmings
shot over when well placed, and all-action Heggs almost
glanced in at the near post.
The agony continued right until the
last minute when the woodwork saved City. Kerrigan
beat Brown inside the box to a right wing cross but
his header which looped over the keeper glanced the
top of the bar.
That's the kind of luck that's
deserted City in recent weeks and with all the other
important scorelines at the bottom going in our favour
it leaves the Blues right back in the thick of the relegation