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Saturday 6 May 2005
Oxford United 0 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 5,055 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Bolland

Oxford United: Tardif, Mackay (Burton 70), Wanless, Molyneaux, Robinson, Hackett, Quinn, Bradbury, Corbo (Davies 45), Mooney (Beechers 78), Basham. Subs not used: Clarke, Cominelli.
Chester City: MacKenzie, Vaughan, Bolland, Hope, Regan, Drummond, Davies, Carden (Harris 85), M.Brown, Lowe, Booth (Walsh 73). Subs not used: Lynch, Ventre, Brookfield.
Referee: M Russell (Hertfordshire).

That’s more like it! After last week’s disappointing end to Chester’s home campaign for 2004/5, the blue boys ended the season in style with a last-gasp winner at Oxford's impressive Kassam Stadium.

Ryan Lowe made his case for a place on Keith Curles retained list when the ball came to him just over the halfway line on the 90th minute. He sped into the box, rode a defenders challenge, and thwacked the ball home past Us ‘keeper Chris Tardif.

It was no more than City deserved after one of the better of the 27 performances Ive seen this season and it was a fitting thanks to the 374 travelling supporters who were enthused to hail their heroes when the final whistle blew a couple of minutes later.

Both ‘keepers had been tested almost from the off, with Chris MacKenzie saving from Oxfords Lee Bradbury not long after kick-off and Lowe marking his intentions with a shot across Tardifs goal. The Us ‘keeper had barely put down the two player-of-the-season awards hed been given before kick-off.

But it was MacKenzie who was back in action next – this time called on to make a save from Oxfords leading scorer – the much-travelled Tommy Mooney. Oxford then hashed the chance of a re-bound. This was a much more open and exciting game than Citys last away day at Leyton Orient.

Stewart Drummond, who seems to have come on leaps and bounds since the turn of the year, had another good midfield performance. I also have to give 100% for effort to Ben Davies, who seemed to be playing to earn himself a place in next seasons team. I lost count of the number of corners Chester won in the first half, but Im afraid Davies didnt make the most of taking them – it was almost as if he was actually trying too hard.

Chester also seemed to be trying a new tactic – the off-side trap. I cant say Ive seen City use it quite so often and so effectively as they did during this match – or perhaps its because 33-year-old Mooney has lost a yard or two of pace since his Watford days.

Mooney gave us all a chuckle not long after the second half re-start when he ran dangerously clear, then tapped the ball just too far forward for his own good. He belted after it, but it went out of play, and he crashed angrily into an advertising hoarding – which came off a little worse for wear!

Both sides continued to play some reasonably entertaining football as the weather turned – British-style – from warm sunshine to dark clouds, torrential rain and even hailstones. Both Davies and Drummond continued to run the midfield, and had their own bursts into the box, but they came to nothing without real support.

Oxford made a claim for a penalty when Steve Basham fell over in the box, but the referee waved their claims away. Soon after he got out his only his yellow card of the game when he booked Phil Bolland, who was making his first return to Oxford, where he made 20 appearances under Mark Wright.

The nearest we came to a goal until the death was when Drummond managed to slice a clearance against his own post. Captain Paul Carden was replaced by Andy Harris on the 84th minute. Carden handed his captains armband to Bolland and received a standing ovation from the away fans– I wonder if well see him in a City shirt next season? He certainly seemed to give us a big farewell wave, as if it really was for the final time.

Just when we were settling for the last match of the season to end honours even and to leave us reflecting on a decent morning in historic Oxford city centre, a pre-match drink with the Us fans in the 12th century haunted Priory Arms, which is oddly situated next to the 21st century ground, cinema and bowling alley complex, and with thoughts drifting to our summer holidays, up popped Lowe and his spectacular goal.

After the final whistle, the City players came over to celebrate with the Blues supporters. Ryan Lowe was soon stripped of almost all his clothes – taking the sweatshirt off another players back to restore some decency! Phil Bolland also joined in the Full Monty show, in scenes nearly reminiscent of last seasons end-of-season display at Hereford.

As we left the Kassam Stadium there was a rainbow overhead and a few smiling Chester fans were clutching boots, shorts and shirts from various players. It could actually be the last time we'll see many of them in a City shirt – but thanks to them for giving us a final day to remember.

Sue Choularton

Final League Two table.
2004/05 Match Programme covers

Saturday 30 April 2005
Chester City 0 Northampton Town 2
League Two
Attendance: 3,455 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Davies.

Chester City:
MacKenzie, Vaughan, Bolland, Hope, Regan, Davies, Drummond, Carden, Foy, Booth (M.Brown 55), Lowe. Subs not used: W.Brown, Harris, Walsh, Lynch.
Northampton Town: Harper, Togwell, Chambers, Willmott, Murray, Low, Rowson (Richards 89), Hearn, Smith (Williamson 45), Kirk (Sabin 78), McGleish. Subs not used: Bojic, Galbraith.
Referee: R.Booth (Nottinghamshire).

The 2004/05 home campaign came to a disappointing end with this defeat at the hands of play-off contenders Northampton Town. A goal in each half from Andy Kirk was enough to see off a poor City who were also guilty of missing a golden chance to reduce the arrears towards the end.

New manager Keith Curle greeted the supporters on the pitch prior to the kick-off. He takes over his duties on Monday so it was left to David Bell to take charge for his fourth match.

With both Sean Hessey and Joe O’Neill suspended, Stephen Vaughan and Robbie Booth were drafted in to the side that were well beaten at Leyton Orient last Saturday. Phil Bolland played despite suffering in the week from double vision while forward Michael Branch missed the game with a groin injury.

This was a must-win game for Northampton who started the afternoon one place behind the play-off zone and they were backed by a large following.

It was The Cobblers who forced the early initiative, with both Chris MacKenzie and then Ben Davies clearing a succession of corners in the fifth minute.

Northampton took the lead midway through the first half as Hearn’s through ball caught out a static City defence leaving Kirk the chance to score in the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Five minutes later City forced their first corner of he game but Robbie Foy’s inswinging effort was easily cleared by a Cobblers defender.

As the game wore on it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score. Sam Togwell shot over when well placed after the Blues defence had failed to clear a corner. Minutes later Martin Smith screwed a shot wide as Northampton pressed again.

Scott McGleish saw a header his the bar before City had Carl Regan to thank for keeping the score down as he headed a Hearn header off the line.

The best Chester could offer before the break were a couple of cross shots following good work from Foy and Ryan Lowe but City couldn’t get a blue shirt on the end of them as Stewart Drummond arrived late at the back post.

It didn’t take long after the restart for the City defence to be breached once again. McGleish picked the ball up in midfield and slipped a though ball to Kirk, he reacted quicker than Richard Hope to find himself through on goal to slot the ball past MacKenzie in front of the ecstatic traveling support.

It was all Northampton and minutes later MacKenzie pulled off a great save to deny Kirk his hat-trick from 20 yards and then produced a double save to twice deny Rowson from close range.

Bell attempted to change things bringing on Michael Brown for winger Robbie Booth. Indeed the next effort came City’s way as Bolland stole in at the back post to direct a Lowe free-kick onto the post with Harper well beaten.

Five minutes later the post was hit at the other end as Kirk jinked past two defenders before shooting across MacKenzie only to see his shot rebound off the woodwork.

With ten minutes remaining City had a great chance to pull a goal back as Davies was brought down in the area by Chris Willmott. The midfielder picked himself up and retrieved the ball to take the spot-kick himself, which he duly dispatched yards wide of the right hand post. Two minutes later he found himself in the referee’s book for unsporting behaviour.

In the closing minutes The Cobblers hit the post again as City’s home campaign ended in an eighth defeat. Fifteen minutes after the final whistle the players trudged out to acknowledge the couple of hundred City fans who had stayed behind to give them one last ovation. I wonder how many will be seen again at the Deva come August?

2-0 Missed penalty

Saturday 23 April 2005
Leyton Orient 2 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,192 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Carden, Lowe. Sent-off: Hessey, O’Neill.

Leyton Orient:
Harrison, Barnard, Lockwood, Miller, Zakuani, Simpson, Mackie, Duncan (Carlisle 87), McMahon, Alexander, Echanomi (Youngs 81). Subs not used: Morris, Saah, Palmer.
Chester City: MacKenzie, Carden, Bolland (Vaughan 16), Hessey, Hope, Drummond, Davies, Regan, Lowe (M.Brown 86), Branch (O’Neill 83), Foy. Subs not used: W.Brown, Booth.
Referee: K.Wright (Cambridgeshire).

It says it all that the highlight of our return to London’s East End was when the false teeth of a middle-aged Orient fan taunting the neighbouring City supporters nearly dropped out of his mouth in mid-jeer!

The embarrassed O’s fan gave me one of the biggest laughs I’d had at a football match – and there was certainly nothing on the pitch to give the 235 travelling supporters nearly as much entertainment.

Hopes had been high that we’d recreate our last visit to Brisbane Road when we won 2-1 in one of Chester’s most memorable performances of recent years. And City, welcoming back Michael Branch from injury, did make a relatively bright start, winning two corners within the first few minutes.

But Chester made no impact with the corners and the Blues’ defence were soon caught napping by the Orient attack. The O’s had a couple of chances on goal, before really seizing the opportunity on the 14th minute. The ball was crossed to Efe Echanomi on the left-hand side. He took the ball well and shot into the right-hand corner past the outstretched Chris MacKenzie.

The 18-year-old Nigerian, standing in for Orient’s flu-struck leading scorer, Lee Steele, certainly earned himself one of the most flamboyant goal celebrations I’ve ever seen. Was it three back flips and a somersault? If I was a gymnastics judge, I’d have given him ‘10’ for that display.

Soon after, Chester’s chances of getting back into the match were made less likely when Phil Bolland limped off with an injury, to be replaced by Stephen Vaughan Junior, freshly recovered from a bout of mumps.

It wasn’t long before Echanomi was back in the spotlight, when Sean Hessey bought him down in the box to earn a penalty for the O’s. Matt Lockwood had no problem slotting the ball home in the right-hand corner. It certainly marked a miserable return to Brisbane Road for MacKenzie, who made 35 appearances for Orient in 1998-9.

The City ‘keeper was lucky to see another Orient attempt hit the post before the half-time whistle, and the O’s also had a goal disallowed for offside. At the other end, Orient’s Lee Harrison was largely untroubled. Robbie Foy ran clear and had a chance on goal, but his shot went straight at Harrison.

City set their stall out in the second half – frankly, that of a team who had nothing to play for and couldn’t really care less who went home with the three points.

Within four minutes of the re-start, Hessey was red-carded for a foul on Gary Alexander. I was just emerging from the excellent tea-bar as he sloped off, but most of my fellow City fans seemed baffled by his sending-off.

If Chester actually had a shot on target in the second half, I missed it. Perhaps it happened when I was watching in amusement at the City fans who strolled into the Orient enclosure and cheekily sat next to Mr False Teeth, much to his surprise! I do know that Orient had at least three near misses, rattling the post with one of them. They also had another goal disallowed.

There was one glimmer of hope when Ben Davies, who seemed to be one of Chester’s only real tryers, took a free kick just outside the area towards the end of the game. But his shot went straight into the Orient wall.

The final drama came when Joe O’Neill, who had replaced Michael Branch just six minutes earlier, was dismissed for leading with his elbow as he jumped to challenge with Gabriel Zakuani. It seemed another harsh sending-off, taking City’s seasonal red card total to 11.

Referee Kevin Wright blew up soon after, and was roundly jeered by City fans as he walked off the pitch. But he wasn’t the only reason for Chester’s defeat. I suppose it would have been different if we’d needed a point to secure our League Two future – I’d like to think so.

Sue Choularton

Saturday 16 April 2005
Chester City 2 Bristol Rovers 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,475 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Hessey, Bolland.

Chester City:
MacKenzie, Edmondson (Regan 36), Bolland, Hope, Hessey, Drummond, Carden, Davies, Booth (O’Neill 59), Foy (M.Brown 90), Lowe. Subs not used: W.Brown, Walsh.
Bristol Rovers: Clarke, Edwards, Anderson, Elliott, Lescott, Williams, Hunt, Savage (Disley 74), Ryan, Walker, Agogo. Subs not used: Forrester, Trollope, Bass, Sinclair.
Referee: L.Mason (Lancashire).

Caretaker manager David Bell was delighted after seeing his side stage a spirited second-half fight back to pick up the point that guarantees League Two football for the Blues next season.

Phil Bolland returned to the City side for Andy Nicholas but there was still no appearance from injured striker Michael Branch with Robbie Booth once again partnering Robbie Foy and Ryan Lowe up front.

The Pirates manager Ian Atkins received a fitting ovation from the crowd that was nearly 500 up on last Saturday’s – albeit boosted by a healthy away following of 460.

City started the brighter of the sides though it was ex-City striker, the golden-booted Junior Agogo, who tested Chris MacKenzie with a long range header that the Blues keeper dealt with comfortably.

Lowe was prompting and probing for City up font and saw an 18-yarder disappear over the bar into the away fans on five minutes after a swift counter attack, minutes later Lowe saw another similar effort saved by Ryan Clarke.

With City continuing to push forward Shaun Hessey tried his luck from over 30 yards but saw his shot fizz wide, minutes later he became the first player in the book following a challenge on the tricky Agogo. Christian Edwards lifting the resulting free-kick over the bar.

City were looking to set Foy free and in one smart move the forward was given the ball out on the left wing, he cut inside and sent over a first time cross that was met on the half-volley by Stewart Drummond only for his flicked effort to just clear the bar with Clarke beaten.

Rovers took the lead halfway through the first period. City failed to clear an attack from half-way, Ben Davies, dived in but failed to make his tackle. The ball broke to Agogo who’s shot was defected into the path of Ryan Williams. The Blues rearguard appealed in vein for offside as Williams smashed the ball past MacKenzie.

Lowe tested Clarke again before the Pirates doubled their lead on 29 minutes. Williams raced away down the left and was allowed to get a pinpoint far post cross for Agogo to head home unchallenged at the back post.

Carl Regan replaced the injured Darren Edmondson at right back and with Booth making little or no impressing down the right, he swapped wings with Foy as City looked to get something from the game before the interval. However, despite their early dominance it was Rovers who looked more likely to add to their tally before the break as David Savidge and James Hunt went close.

City forced two quick corners after the break, and on 59 minutes reduced the arrears. Davies’ cross fell to Drummond near the penalty spot and he steered a right foot shot into the top corner. Drummond was in the right place again seconds later only to see his header clear the bar.

The was a flare-up involving several players right in front of the dugouts as Phil Bolland took exception to a kick on the shin from Richard Walker as the players battled for a ball heading into touch. Both players entered the book for their troubles.

Anderson had the ball in the net for Rovers, following up a flick-on from a corner, minutes later though the assistant's flag came to City’s rescue and the score remained 2-1.

Joe O’Neill replaced the ineffective Booth and City’s persistence paid off with an equaliser on 72 minutes as Drummond forced the ball home from close range to the delight of the City fans behind the goal.

Both sides had chances to grab the winner but the best fell to O’Neill. He was sent racing through, the flag stayed down and he slipped his shot past Clarke but agonisingly just wide of the right hand post.

As the game entered the final minutes Rovers were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the box following a foul by Richard Hope. City’s six-man wall did its job and the ball was cleared for a corner that Mackenzie met with a safe pair of hands to preserve City’s point.

Caretaker manager David Bell said after the win: “I thought Stewart thoroughly deserved his man of the match award for managing to keep the players going. To be fair to Stewart, in the dressing room at half-time he was the one who was most positive and he wanted to get the players going, and showed that in his second half performance.

We believed we could get back into the match at half-time. I said to the players that we could still cause Rovers problems if we remained confident and positive in what we did. Eventually I thought we could have won the game if Joe O’Neill had scored after we had equalised, but he unfortunately didn’t – but you’ve got to get into that position to miss.”

David Bell Ian Atkins

Saturday 9 April 2005
Chester City 2 Boston United 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,040 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Davies, Hessey, Carden.

Chester City:
MacKenzie, Edmondson, Hope, Hessey, Nicholas, Drummond, Carden, Davies, Lowe, Foy, Booth. Subs not used: W.Brown, M.Brown, O’Neill, Regan, Walsh.
Boston United: Abbey, White, Ellender, McCann, Maylett, Holland, Rusk, Noble (O’Donnell 45), Pitt (Thomas 80), Easter (Thompson 57), Lee. Subs not used: Raynor, West.

Referee: K.Stroud.

Caretaker manager David Bell saw his side get off to a winning start as goals from Robbie Booth and Ryan Lowe brought victory and three precious points against Boston United.

With central defender Phil Bolland suspended and striker Michael Branch injured Bell was forced into a couple of changes and in came Sean Hessey and Booth.

For the second home match on the run though the Blues had to fight back after conceding an early goal to the opposition following a sluggish start in a game that saw eight bookings.

A low crowd of just over 2,000 saw the visitors open the quicker with Simon Rusk shooting over from long range in the first minute and Darren Edmondson clearing a near post corner minutes later.

Ryan Lowe shot with with City’s first effort on goal before Boston’s early pressure paid off with the opening goal on nine minutes. David Noble who was left in space as the City defence failed to clear Maylett’s cross and had as easy task to score from close range.

City slowly came into the game, their best efforts coming from set pieces. Pilgrims ‘keeper Nathan Abbey was in the right pace to save from a Stewart Drummond header and he did well to push a well-worked Lowe free-kick round the post for a corner.

Ben Davies, Paul Carden and Sean Hessey all found themselves in referee Stroud’s notebook before the Blues equalised in first-half stoppage time as Lowe’s clever back-heel played in Robbie Booth who beat a defender to score his first senior goal for the club – and what a great time to get it.

City fans breathed a sigh of relief just after the break when Jermaine Easter missed a golden opportunity to restore Boston’s lead as he headed wide from six yards out when well placed. At the other end Robbie Foy saw shot saved and Drummond saw a header sail over the bar from an inswinging Lowe free-kick.

Drummond shot wide from a Foy corner, before City had a slice of luckand they havent had many this seasonas they took the lead on 77 minutes. Foy tapped a short free-kick to Lowe who saw his 20-yard shot deflected by a Pilgrims player to leave Abbey no chance in the Boston goal. That was Lowe’s third goal in four appearances since his deadline day signing from Shrewsbury Town.

City forced a series of corners as they looked for a third goal to kill the game, but Abbey dealt comfortably with the flag-kicks.

As the game drew to a close Bradley Maylett saw a shot saved by Chris MacKenzie in the City goal, with the shot-stopper also saving from Danny Thomas during the five minutes of added time as the Blues held out for a crucial victory to leave them three points from guaranteed safety.

Saturday 2 April 2005
Darlington 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,778 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Lowe. Sent-off: Bolland.

S.Russell, Fleming, Clarke, Appleby, Hughes, Gregorio (Convery 67), Webster, Dickman (Valentine 13), St’Juste, C.Russell (Sodje 69), Wijnhard. Subs not used: Petta, Wainwright.
Chester City: MacKenzie, Edmondson, Hope, Bolland, Nicholas, Drummond, Davies (M.Brown 85), Carden (O’Neill 85), Lowe (Sestanovich 80), Branch, Foy. Subs not used: Hessey, Regan.

Referee: P.Prosser (West Yorkshire).

City came away pointless from their first-ever visit to the Williamson Motors Stadium. A penalty, conceded by Darren Edmondson, fifteen minutes from time was enough to ensure the double for Darlo over City that drops them to 21st.

Ian Rush made one change from the side that started the last game against Bury with Edmondson coming in for Carl Regan as City once again took the field in their third kit of all maroon, without a sponsors logo.

There’s no doubt that this has to be one of the grandest stadiums in League Two, but with the crowd of under 4,000 dwarfed by the rows of thousands of empty seats there was little or no atmosphere at all.

The game got off to a slow start with City enjoying the greater share of the play though neither goalkeeper was seriously tested in the opening 45, with most efforts coming from long range.

Robbie Foy saw a shot pushed out for a flag-kick, while Lowe’s free-kick suffered a similar fate. In fact City’s best efforts were coming as a result of Lowe’s corners, though most were dealt comfortably by the home defence while at the other end Chris MacKenzie was catching everything that came his way.

Stewart Drummond should have done better as he saw a shot from six yards saved by Sam Russell and just before the break Lowe picked up another booking for dissent before the sides left goalless.

City had a great chance to take the lead just after the restart. Michael Branch was sent racing through by Foy on the left, but instead of taking the ball on into the box he elected to feed Ben Davies whose shot lacked power and was comfortably gathered by Russell in front of the travelling fans.

It was the home side though who had the lions share of the game for the second period. MacKenzie’s goal came under a barrage of corners and a double substitution seemed to give the home side fresh impetus. On a rare foray up the other end Phil Bolland headed over from a Lowe cross.

The goal that finally decided the match came on 74 minutes. Edmondson clumsily impeded Webster with his arm on the six yard box and referee Prosser had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Wijnhard sending MacKenzie the wrong way with the resulting penalty kick.

Rush’s reaction was to bring on Ashley Sestanovich for Lowe and Michael Brown and Joe O’Neill at the expense of the midfield pair, Davies and Paul Carden, who had another good game for City.

Despite the changes City never threatened Russell and were reduced to ten men at the end after Bolland had inexplicably kicked out at goalscorer Wijnhard with three minutes remaining.
















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