Saturday 28 April 2001
Woking 1 Chester City 0
Attendance: 2,264 Half-time
Woking: Matasa, Reeks, Hollingdale,
West, Boardman, Metcalf, Perkins (Hayfield 75), Roddis,
Steepe (Kadi 45), Griffin, Randall (Edghill 65),
Subs not used: Smith, Ruggles.
Chester City: Priestly, Woodyatt, Doughty, Lancaster, Gaunt, Fisher,
Wright, Blackburn (Ruscoe 46), M.Beesley, Whitehall (Kerr 75), Moss.
Subs not used: Haarhoff, Berry, Porter.
was a much improved City performance from that of
recent weeks and the Blues can count themselves very
unfortunate not to come away from Woking with at
least a share of the spoils, and but for the heroics
of home keeper Vince Matasse they may have got even
Bright sunshine bathed the rather
lop-sided, but none the less pleasant, surroundings
of Kingsmeadow Lane at 3pm. The entrance fee (free
for under 16's) allowed the choice of standing on
the terraces or sitting in the spectacular stand
behind one of the goals; a structure that wouldn't
look out of place in the first division, most City
fans opted for the former and the now familiar SMITH
OUT chanting provided the backdrop from there for
most of the 90 minutes.
The first chance of the game came
on two minutes with a static defence looking on as
striker Griffin headed wide from six yards. Minutes
later and the striker was through again only be be
blocked by a strong challenge from Criag Gaunt. Darren
Moss had City's first effort, his long range shot
being tipped over. But the best effort to open the
scoring fell to Mark Beesley on 30 minutes.
Steve Whitehall played a long cross-field
through ball from the right leaving Beesley in the
clear, he looked certain to score bbut the onrushing
Matassa saved at the strikers feet and a glorious
opportunity had gone begging. Beesley and Matt Doughty
tested the keeper again before darren Wright hit
the bar from a narrow angle as City ended the half
on a high. Scott Ruscoe replaced Chris Blackburn
(had been hobbling after a first-half clearance)
at the break as the heavens opened and torrential
rain began to fall.
The Cardinals almost too the lead
straight after as Woodyatt's clearance was blocked
by the lively Kadi couldn't convert the ensuing cross.
This was Woodyatt's only mistake
all afternoon and the compsure shown by the youngster
earned him many peoples man-of-the-match vote.
missed another glorious chance to take the lead before
Darren Wright, having a good game in difficult conditions,
tried his luck from 25 yards only to see Matassa
tip over once again to the frustration of the 150+
City fans behind the goal.
Two minutes from time the Cardinals
took the lead. A left wing corner was headed home
by Griffin past Phil Priestly in the City goal. Priestly
was deputising for Wayne Brown who was involved in
a car crash at the weekend.
There was still time for City to
press for a deserved qualiser and it almost came.
Deep into stoppage time following a City corner the
ball fell invitingly to Martyn Lancaster 10 yards
out. He struck a low shot that hit the foot of the
post and rebounded to safety with Matassa, for once,
rooted to the spot.
An appreciative City contingent
applauded the players off seconds later and after the
game home manager Colin Lippiatt was full of praise
for City's effort: "I thought it was daylight robbery
as they had far the greater possession."
26 April 2001
Chester City 0 Kingstonian 0
Attendance: 834 Half-time
Chester City: Brown (Priestly
46), Gaunt, Blackburn, Doughty (Ruscoe 59), Lancaster,
Fisher, Carden, Woodyatt, Wright, Whitehall, M.Beesley
(Haarhoff 75). Subs not used: Moss, Berry.
Kingstonian: Glass, Beard (Akuamoah 46), Luckett, Allan, Stewart,
Harris (Green 73), Boyce, Pitcher, Patterson, Wingfield (Jones
73), Winston. Subs not used: Bass, Blake.
Referee: A.Smith (Castleford).
predictably small crowd greeted both sides in a meaningless
end of season tussle. City's mid week thrashing at
Kettering was a sobering reminder, if one was needed,
of the uphill struggles awaiting us next season.
This very point was bluntly made
in the programme where two pages were dedicated with
thinly disguised anonymity from the "Chester City
Board of Directors". In these the notes spoke of "large
changes in the playing personnel for next season".
Whatever your viewpoint it was of course only going
to polerise the respective positions between and
Mr Smith and the fans.
Support for the Chester players,
was clear inside and outside the ground. "I'm Backing
The Blues" and "I'm Backing Beesley" leaflets were
circulated liberally outside the stadium. Even the
small band of Kingstonian followers obliged holding
up the now familiar "Smith Out" banner. It was passionate
if not desperate stuff and had Terry decided to break
his recent absence he would have had left quite clear
again as to the strength of feeling amongst the City
This sombre background however
was in stark contrast to the weather which, while
the sun remained, bathed the ground in warm sunshine
at both teams assembled for their pre match routines.
Kingstonian appeared in their familiar
red and white hoped jerseys looking at the very least
for a win to escape relegation and almost found it
after just two minutes. A mistake by Carden allowed
their forward to move moving unchallenged to the
edge of the box hitting a shot just inches wide.
Although an early scare, it was
otherwise a comfortable first half for Chester who
created the only chances of note. Beesley (Mark of
course) twice lost his defender got behind the defence.
One first occasion his shot was blocked by the quickly
advancing Jimmy Glass. On the other he managed one
better taking the ball around the keeper but too
wide to profit with the ball squirming eventually
to safety. As so many times before, it was difficult
to feel that one of these chances at the very least
should have been buried.
Whitehall showed his customary
coolness on the ball but spoilt things with a couple
of wasteful shots when better options were available.
Wright ran his heart out covering every inch of the
pitch but perhaps to coin a phrase it may have been
because his first touch was so bad. It was not a
bad performance by any means but it lacked real incident
with the feel of a pre season friendly. The crowd
tried hard to lift the players but after half an
hour some of those behind the goal had turned their
attentions to origamiing "Backing the Blues" leaflets
into paper planes. With some grace and design many
found their way over the cross bar and assisted by
the warm evening breeze glided tantilisingly for
few seconds before nosediving into the six yard box
watched in double take by a bemused Wayne Brown.
In injury time, City strung together
what was their best move of the half. Four passes
were exchanged on the edge of the box and from the
left delivered an excellent cross into the feet of
the Wright who running in at the near post whose
decent contact but lacked direction. It was n't much
to get excited over forty five minutes but it reminded
the players and the crowd that they could actually
play some decent football now and again.
Half time was greeted by polite
applause leaving City ahead on points if not on goals.
The second half began with a surprise. Brown was
substituted, and replaced by Priestley. It was to
be an inspired choice and along with Glass both men
between the sticks conspired to turn in commendable
The second forty-five was far more
open with both teams looking hard to break the deadlock.
Ruscoe was sent on to replace Doughty who to that
point had had a fair game. On the hour, Blackburn
moved purposively into the box. Out went a leg and
over he tumbled. The referee pointed straight for
a penalty. Kingstonian protested and even some home
supporters would have understood why. It seemed a
harsh decision but it lifted the crowd. Would we
see a goal at home at last? Whitehall stepped up
and struck a powerful shot to the goalkeeper's left.
The goalkeeper guessed right managing the faintest
of touches to deflect the ball on to the bar. Whitehall
was quick to first to react but although first to
the ball, volleyed high under pressure.
Soon after Chester turned on the
familiar self-destruct button. Priestley appear to
clatter down an advancing Kingstonian attacker but
the referee to much relief gave only a corner. The
ensuing kick resulted in huge chaos with Kingstonian
spurning an excellent chance. Unable to clear, Kingstonian
pressed again forward. Carden taking a leaf from
the Moss school of petulance made a reckless attempt
at a tackle bringing down their forward inside the
box - an easy decision this time for the referee.
Surely a goal - but no. Just as we thought we were
staring another home defeat in the face, Priestly
hurled himself to his left to make a save of Herculean
proportions. It was a save of real class and deserved
a bigger stage than the 834 brave spread thinly around
The rest of the game belonged largely
to Chester. Beesley got on the end of an impressive
final pass and although connecting well, struck straight
at the goalkeeper. Ruscoe not to be outdone squandered
the simpliest of chances poking the ball wide after
hesistation in the Kingstonian defence. A later flurry
of bookings after some minor spats added to what
could loosely be described as excitement as the game
turned into rather a spunky last thirty minutes.
But whilst the ball remained inflated this was a
game in which neither team was going to score.
Their was a brief appearance from
Jimmy Haarhoff but he neither had the time or service
to make his prescence felt. The final whistle brought
faithful applause from the supporters. It mattered
little of course that it was two points dropped.
There are bigger issues now at stake. Between now
and the start of next season will be interesting
24 April 2001
Kettering Town 4 Chester City 0
Attendance: 1,216 Half-time 2-0
Kettering Town: Bowling, Matthews,
Voden, Lenagh, Cowling, Fisher, Murray (Inman 46), Diuk,
Collins (Fothergill 70), Watkins (Hudson 73), McNamara. Subs
not used: Wilson, Perkins.
Chester City: Brown, Woods (Doughty 64), Gaunt, Ruscoe, Lancaster,
Fisher, Carden (Moss 78), Blackburn, Woodyatt, M.Beesley, Wright. Subs
not used: Priestly, Berry, Whitehall.
the rain wazzed down torrentially all the way between Birmingham
and Northants and the windscreen wipers worked at hyper speed
it seemed that the match must surely be off tonight. But
as we pulled into Kettering conditions eased from monsoon
to steady downpour and the car park attendant at Rockingham
Road assured us that the pitch was a good drainer.
Time, then, to acquaint ourselves with
the vagaries of the local one way system where traffic is
sent into orbit round a town centre where hardly a living
soul was to be seen. The Exiles began to gather and it was
soon time to commence the All-comers Exiles Cheese Skittles
competition for another season. Sensationally, the tournament
was won by Howard who held his nerve to fend off Steve Mansley's
determined challenge. Howard admitted afterwards that he
doesn't even like cheese.
With the Poppies needing to win or bust
tonight and the strong possiblility that neighbours Rushden
might disappear from the other end of the division, cheese
skittles possibilities may become limited next year.
Phil Davies' car purred into the car park
as the fans poured into the ground the rain had now
It was a heavy pitch. There was no excuse
however for the home side's opening goal which arrived with
a mere two minutes on the clock and was presented gift wrapped
and on a silver platter by Wayne Brown. Having safely gathered
the ball he chose to roll it a couple of yards to Matt Woods,
one of three defenders close by. Unfortunately neither Matt
or the other two were looking in the right direction and
they allowed Collins to lumber in and scuff the ball into
an unguarded net. Worse was to follow four minutes later
as Collins took advantage of more shambolic marking to ram
the ball home from an unmarked position despite Gaunt's despairing
Would either of these disasters have occurred
without the absence of the experienced Paul Beesley, left
behind because of Terry Smith's most recent and despicable
display of petulance? I think not.
After this the match was fairly even for
the rest of the first half. Wayne made some amends with two
first class saves. At the other end Fisher and Mark Beesley
went close as City came into the game more. The referee,
Mr B Sygmuta, according to the programme, mistakenly gave
Kettering a corner when it should have been a goal kick and
smiled benignly. When I asked him if he was going to knock
the next goal in himself, "I'll see what I can do", he replied.
The rain started to lash down again just
before the interval, prompting several to hope for the conditions
to rescue Chester. We sought cover down the side and were
delighted when the home fans took up our chants of "Smith
Was it true, that Graham Barrow spent the
whole of the half time interval in the dugout and not the
dressing room? I didn't notice but one Exile assures me this
is what he saw.
The tea bar having run out of their excellent
chips, there was only the vague possibility of a City revival
to look forward to for the next forty-five minutes. Nine
minutes into the second half all such hope was crushed. Collins'
back heel sent Watkins clear on the right and his angled
shot from the edge of the box went in off a post. Shortly
after this Diuk got free on the right and his shot from an
even narrower angle looked to be going in Collins
ran it in over the line to make sure and complete his hat
All that was left for the City fans was
to carry on singing "Graham Barrow's blue and white army
(etc. You know the rest) Gregorian style with the
stewards behind the goal echoing the fans under cover.
Oh Yes, and Darren Wright had a good chance
to pull a goal back but his shot was turned round the post.
Given such abject and demoralised recent
performances against Hednesford, Forest Green and now Kettering
surely we owe Kingstonian another on Thursday?
21 April 2001
Chester City 1 Dagengham & Redbridge
Attendance: 1,202 Half-time 0-0
Chester City: Brown, Gaunt, P.Beesley,
Woods, Lancaster, Fisher, Carden, Blackburn (M.Beesley 64),
Ruscoe (Doughty 72), Whitehall (Woodyatt 80), Wright. Subs
not used: Moss, Priestly.
Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Cole, Rooney, Goodwin, Lock (Cobb
46), Terry, Janney, Heffer (Brennan 62 (Forbes 80)), Jones, McDougald,
Shipp. Subs not used: Hazelden, Wignall
Referee: S. Procter (Rotherham).
was an air of expectation around the Deva on Saturday. In
bright sunshine Chester fans wandered about with broad grins
on their faces and clustered in groups to discuss the latest
rumours, the red card protest, who was going to hold which
end of the "Smith Out" banner and so on. The general consensus
has swept across this City since Thursday that this time,
with the banning of Barrie Hipkiss, Terry Smith has shot
himself in both feet.
There was no way Terry could have put in
an appearance yesterday but the protests continued throughout
the game in his absence. Barrie Hipkiss was introduced by
Cleggy saying that it had been an emotional week. Cleggy
demanded and got a standing ovation for Barrie. It wasn't
quite as long as Maggie Thatcher's at the Brighton Conference
but was prolonged and made the point. Barrie received several
chants of approval from the Sealand End as did Neil Turner*,
who along with the other media have now taken the gloves
off as far as Smith is concerned and been superb champions
of the long suffering City supporters.
The match, with little at stake for either
side, wasn't at all bad. City began with a flat back four,
Paul Beesley filling the left back berth. Fisher, who has
begun to hit a rich vein of form began alongside Blackburn
in the centre of midfield surely his best position.
First real chance came to City when Carden
found Ruscoe whose shot rebounded off the post to safety.
Fisher dipped a direct free kick past the post and then Wright
had a great chance to score following good wing play by Paul
Beesley. His downward header from a handful of yards out
lacked power however and was straight at Roberts.
The Daggers keeper came in for some stick
from the home fans in the second half for no other
reason that was clear to me apart from being Welsh. He was
also very very lucky when Woods' header from Fisher's sublime
cross got tangled in his legs and allowed him to drop on
the ball and save it on the line. City had a purple patch
just after half time but could not press home the advantage.
Carden had a great chance following Whitehall's clever flick
but his shot hit the post and side netting.
Dagenham then scored against the run of
play from their first corner. Lee Goodwin rose unchallenged
at the far post to head home. City's response was sluggish
at first and the visitors might have had another goal from
an identical position but the referee ruled it out for pushing.
Whitheall charged at Roberts forcing a spectacular miskick
from the custodian but again he recovered to clear the danger.
Whitehall also appeared to be hauled down by a central defender
but the referee correctly saw through him.
Blues now piled the pressure on and the
Daggers had an incredible escape when Fisher burst throught
with the goal at his mercy and prodded the ball wide when
it seemed easier to score.
The crowd had just begun to drift towards
the exits and the man of the match award had been granted
to Matty Woods. He duly obliged by glancing the ball off
his shoulder from a left wing cross. Roberts' despairing
dive could not prevent it entering the top corner.
A just result. City deserved something
from this game.
*PS Neil Turner's comment in the Echo on
Saturday was so good I can't resist repeating it:
.."It appears that Deva Stadium officials
are looking for a set of subservient supporters, a media
that acts as a noticeboard for crackpot schemes and a Supporters
Club Association that dutifully performs every normally remunerated
task at the Deva Stadium free of charge."
18 April 2001
Leigh RMI 0 Chester City 1
Attendance: 501 Half-time 0-1
Leigh RMI: Dootson, Trees, German,
Farrell, Durkin (Spooner 54), Swann, Ridings, Kielty, Jones,
Black, Monk (Hayder 82). Subs not used: Gardner, Connelly,
Chester City: Brown, Woods, Lancaster, Doughty (Gaunt 85), Ruscoe,
Fisher, Carden, Blackburn, Woodyatt, Whitehall, Wright (M.Beesley 66).
Subs not used; Moss, Haarhoff, Priestly.
Referee: G. Salisbury (Preston).
at Stevenage two days earlier, manager Graham Barrow decided
to play Steve Whitehall as a lone striker and pack the midfield
with five players and once again City came away with three
Again, as on Monday City started the game
brightly and had he ball in the net after only five minutes.
However Whitehalls strike, following a fine flowing move
that started in City's half, was ruled out for offiside.
Neil Fisher and Chris Blackburn were once
again beginning to run the midfield and it was Blackburn
who had City's next real effort on target when he almost
broke the crossbar with a 30-yarder, the home keeper Dootson
beaten all ends up.
Dootson was soon in the action again saving
well from a close range Scott Ruscoe volley but he had no
chance minutes later as City opened the scoring.
Neil Fisher played a short pass to Darren
Wright who turned and smashed home an unstoppable shot from
25-yards for one of City's best goals of the season. This
was Wright's second goal in successive games after spending
most of the season on the bench.
City almost doubled the lead through Matt
Woods whose free header was saved. Leigh threatened little
in the firast half and when they did Lee Woodyatt and Martyn
Lancaster coped well at the back.
Following the break the home side came
more into the game. Young Woodyatt did well to clear a Gorman
shot off the line and the home side went close to equalising
through Black and Jones.
But it wasn't all one way traffic and
once again Matt Woods tested the home keeper folowing a Fisher
corner and it was Fisher who had the final say in t matters
bravely blocking a Black drive to secure the points for City.
16 April 2001
Stevenage Borough 1 Chester City 2
Attendance: 1,748 Half-time 1-2
Stevenage Borough: Taylor, Hamsher,
Trott (Miller 86), Sodje, Cort (Armstrong 59), Martin.
Abbot, McMahon, Morgan, Clarke, Illman. Subs not used:
D.Phillips, Wilkerson, Smith.
Chester City: Brown, Lancaster, P.Beesley, Woods, Gaunt, Fisher,
Carden, Blackburn, Ruscoe (Doughty 65), Whitehall, Wright (M.Beesley
78). Subs not used: Moss, Haarhoff, Priestly.
Referee: M.Yerby (Ashford).
wonders never cease. Against all odds Chester produce a
truly professional performance to see off one of the better
sides in the Conference on their own patch. It is a very
typical of City in this topsy tuvey season that there was
only 78 visiting fans to witness this victory (I was informed
and not sad enough to count!).
In truth this was a very good game. Barrow
changed his tactics and played four at the back and five
in midfield. It worked. Fisher and Carden were outstanding
in midfield with Fisher everywhere (honest!). City had
a great start when Fisher lobbed the goalkeeper from twenty
yards to score Citys first goal for....ages!! This gave
Chester the confidence as Fisher went close with a free
kick as the "new" formation worked a treat. However on
26 minutes Stevenage levelled out of the blue when Dean
Martin, in true Hollywood style, lobbed Brown from 30 yards
after the City keeper had made a complete hash of a clearance
passing the ball straight to Martin. This gave Stevenage
the impetus and a couple of free kicks shaved the City
post, before right on half time, Fishers free kick was
half cleared and Wright scored from 15 yards with a right
foot shot. He celebrated with a double somersault slightly
out of place in The Conference try Sydney 2000.!
Stevenage came out predictably fighting
in the second half and had the ball in the net within 40
seconds only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.
Chester tasks was made even harder four minutes later when
Gaunt was dismissed for a second bookable offence after
bodychecking Illman, Chester then reshuffled and looked
solid under fairly constant Stevenage pressure. However
rare Chester attacks saw Woods go close from a corner and
Whitehall denied by a Stevenage defender who deflected
the shot wide for a ...goal kick!(?). Mark Beesley should
have finished it near the end, but shot wide.
Three minutes of stoppage time allocated
coincided with four or five Stevenage corners but Chester
held out for three probably surprising points, but welcome
all the same.
14 April 2001
Chester City 0 Forest Green Rovers 1
Attendance: 1,292 Half-time 0-0
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty
(Fisher 75), Lancaster, Woods, P.Beeley, Carden, Blackburn,
M.Beesley (Wright 60), Whitehall, Ruscoe. Subs not used:
Gaunt, Woodyatt, Priestly.
Forest Green Rovers: Perrin, Cousins, Lockwood, Clark, M.Foster,
Cooper, Middleton, Slater, A.Foster (Olney 86), Meecham, Sykes (Shaw
77). Subs not used: Daley, Ghent, Burns.
Another disappointing home performance
from City against a side fighting for points to stay in
City had the better of the opening exchanges
and there were loud appeals for a penalty as Darren Moss
was sent sprawling in the box by Foster on five minutes.
Ruscoe and Whitehall both forced saves from the visiting
keeper Perrin but once again City were found lacking any
real punch up front.
Matt Doughty stretched Perrin again on
25 minutes as his free kick was tipped over the bar, and
the keeper was on hand on the stroke of half-time to once
again deny Whitehall. The loudest cheer of the opening
period was reserved for the Forest Green Rovers fans who
unfurled a large SMITH OUT! banner on the away terrace,
adding to the two in the west stand. Chairman Smith didn't
make an appearance at the Deva all afternoon.
Typically, in a scrappy game, it was
an own goal from Matty Doughty on 68 minutes that gifted
the points; the young defender turning in a left wing cross
past Wayne Brown while attempting to clear.
Barrow replaced Mark Beesley and Scott
Ruscoe with Darren Wright and Neil Fisher but City, playing
without much pattern or cohesion, failed to snatch an equaliser,
Steve Whitehall's header against the foot of a post the
nearest we got to it.
Rovers battled well and stuck to their
task to secure the points from a game that lifts them closer
City's problems off the pitch are
not surprisingly having a big effect on the players performances
on it. The chairman even banned radio Merseyside's Neil Turner
from the press box on Saturday and several players, including
the promising Chris Blackburn and Carl Ruffer have already
slapped in transfer requests highlighting their unrest at
what's going on behind the scenes and there can only be one
reason for that...
7 April 2001
Chester City 0 Canvey Island 2
FA Umbro Trophy Semi-Final 2nd
Attendance: 2,647 Half-time 0-1
Chester City: Brown, Fisher (Haarhoff
45), Doughty, Lancaster, Woods, P.Beesley (Gaunt 65), Carden,
Blackburn, M.Beesley, Whitehall, Ruscoe. Subs not used:
Priestly, Moss, Wright.
Canvey Island: Harrison, Kennedy, Duffy, Chenery, Bodley, Ward, Tilson,
Stimson, Gregory, Vaughan (Jones 67), Parmenter. Subs not used: Bennett,
Miller, Smith, Tanner.
Referee: M.Warren (Walsall).
one at the Deva on Saturday needed persuading that Spring
is late in arriving this year as the rain lashed down and
the cold wind blew. Chester City's season seems condemned
to eteranl winter by this defeat.
There was a degree of measured optimism
among fans beforehand. If things went well for us there
was surely the possibility of overturning the first leg
deficit. At least we wouldn't have to guard against complacency.
But there was also no margin for error
and when Scott Ruscoe was caught in possession in the attacking
third of the pitch Canvey broke with speed and purpose.
Stimson found space on the left and a neat exchange of
passes followed, including one fortunate ricochet which
left the ball at Parmenter's feet with only Brown to beat.
His first time shot was dispatched with aplomb. The goal
on the half hour knocked the stuffing out of City.
Prior to this Chester had made a bright
start, kicking towards their own fans and in the teeth
of a stiff breeze, they took the game to Canvey. From the
word go the visitors sought to disrupt the flow of the
game with blatant time wasting. Their players stayed down
after every tackle and waited for treatment, they pretended
not to know where the ball had gone before ambling over
to take a throw in, the keeper chose to take every goal
kick from the opposite side to where it went out of play.
The referee seemed to turn a blind eye to all of this,
infuriating City fans, but the tactics worked as City failed
to establish any kind of rhythm or hold on the game.
Blackburn made a welcome return in midfield
and seemed to give City an extra dimension. Ruscoe got
in the clear in the inside left position and might have
shot but squared the ball for Mark Beesley who was quickly
closed down by two on-rushing Islanders. Paul Beesley headed
back across goal from a Fisher cross but Lancaster, reacting
instantly, could only head over.
Apart from these half chances, City created
very little. Canvey, to their credit were swift to close
down any Chester player on the ball. As a consequence,
as has happened before this season, Chester just did not
play as a unit at all. A City player on the ball was always
struggling to find a colleague. No width, no pattern to
City's play. Canvey in contrast were hungry for victory
and played with purpose.
Shortly after Canvey's first goal Brown
did really well to keep out a screamer of a shot from Stimson.
Jimmy came on at half time for Fisher.
But he got to see little of the ball and when City could
get it to his feet he was often in a wide position where
he can do little damage to the opposition. When Whitehall
got through and a despairing tackle from a Canvey defender
saw the ball hit the inside of the post, stick in the mud
and allow the goalie to recover and save it, we got the
feeling that the ball just wasn't going to run for City.
Whitehall ended another good move with a volley straight
into the arms of their keeper.
Canvey's second goal of the afternoon
finally put paid to any flickering hopes of a City revival.
Stimson's shot through a forest of legs took a slight deflection
into the bottom corner to give Wayne absolutely no chance.
It then became hard for City to play with any purpose and
in any case Canvey didn't let them the visitors
stuck to their task right through to the final whistle.
Those City fans who remained at the final
whistle sportingly applauded the Essex boys' lap of honour.
No-one could deny that they had comprehensively outplayed
Chester over both legs of the semi-final. It was extremely
unfortunate that their fans were denied access to the supporters
club after the game why was this necessary when
away fans have been admitted all season previously?
City fans at least had the diversion
of a Smith Out! (A proper printed affair complete with
exclamation mark) banner being unfurled in the West stand
- right in his sight line. It came out in the first half
only for it to be taken down after a lengthy confrontation
with stewards. In the second half it remained tactically
positioned over an exit unchallenged.
Smith would appear to be on his way out
now. It had been revealed that he had resigned as a director
on 17th March (St Patrick's Day) in yesterday's Chronicle.
Speculation was rife that he would want to bask in the
glory of a Villa Park Trophy final if City got there. Now
it seems that even that door has been closed to him. Every
cloud has a silver lining.
Tuesday 3 April
Dover Athletic 1 Chester City 1
Attendance: 1,112 Half-time 1-0
Dover Athletic: Hyde, Munday,
Norman, Leberl, Shearer, Beard, Strouts, Chapman, Vansittart,
Brown (Hockton 75), Carruthers (McRobert 17). Subs
not used: Hales, Le Bihan, Okafar.
Chester City: Priestly, Ruscoe, Moss, P.Beesley, Woods, Lancaster,
Blackburn, Haarhoff (Berry 69), Porter (Woodyatt 75), Whitehall, Wright.
Subs not used: Gaunt, Roberts.
Referee: K.Reynolds (East Barnet).
City's disastrous performance on Saturday it was a different
looking side that took the field at Dover's picturesque
Crabble Athletic ground.
Situated up a hill a couple of miles
from the town the Crabble's setting, surrounded by tall
trees, borought back memories of Brighton's Withdean Stadium
we visited early last season. One side of the pitch also
had a sloping grass bank, seen, in days past, at Exeter
City's St James Park.
City took to the pitch in their familiar
blue and white with Scott Ruscoe playing in an unfamiliar
full back role, deputising for the rested Matt Doughty.
Steve Whitehall and Jimmy Haarhoff were back in attack
and were soon in the action, though despite plenty of possession
and some neat approach play the home keeper was only troubled
on a couple of occasions with Haarhoff shooting wide and
Ruscoe sending a tame grass-cutter straight into the 'keeper's
At the other end Martyn Lancaster was
called upon on numerous occasions to mop up at the back
and made one great last ditch tackle to deny the lively
Lancaster was also in action at the other
end making an amazing 80 yards run from defence but by
the time he got ready to make his cross there was nobody
to receive it in the middle.
A minute before the break Dover took
the lead. Steve Norman's right wing corner was sent to
the far post for the unmarked Lee Shearer to head home
Half-time and the fans swapped ends.
The Wingers Tea Bar was doing a roaring trade in chips
as the rain started to lightly fall.
It didn't take City long to get back
on level terms. Following a goalmouth scramble the ball
fell to Chris Blackburn, his shot through a melee of legs
was going wide before the alert Steve Whitehall (who'd
run his legs off all night) pounced to stretch out a leg
and flick the ball past Hyde to the delight of the 50-60
travelling fans behind the goal.
Haarhoff was replaced by Paul Berry,
(who touched the ball about three times in his 20 minutes
on the pitch) but it was the home side who looked more
likely to add a second. Phil Priestly, who was prone to
running of his line at the sign of any danger, was almost
caught out as he made a hash of a high cross that sailed
over his mistimed jump, it needed Joe Hinnigan's magic
sponge to repair the damage caused by the keeper crashing
to the ground.
Minutes later and it was Martyn Lancaster
who came to the keepers rescue. Hockton received a superb
through ball down the right and took the ball past the
advancing Priestly. His diagonal shot however was bravely
headed off the line by Burt who did well to avoid crashing
into the post in the process.
A couple of half chances fell to both
sides in the dying minutes but in the end both had to be
content with a point.
Chris Blackburn making his first appearance
for a couple of months had an outstanding game and looks
set to start against Canvey Island on Saturday. Such was
City's injury crisis that they were only able to name four
substitutes on the bench.