Chester City: Spencer, Rule, Roberts,
Kelly (Platt 78), Barry, Owen, Mannix (Jones 61), Harris,
Wilson, Ellams, Lowe. Subs not used: Partridge, Rutherford,
Smith. Darlington: Kazimierczak, Purdie (Fortune
68), Austin, Miller, Valentine, Poole (Main 58), Kennedy
(Groves 77), Ravenhill, Burgmeier, Griffin, Abbott. Subs
not used: Liversedge, Hulbert. Referee: Mike Russell (Hertfordshire).
It was an understandably subdued atmosphere at Deva Stadium
for the final game of the season. Relegation had to
intents and purposes been confirmed seven days before
with the 2-2 draw at Aldershot Town. Prior to the match
Ryan Lowe, who with the absence of Paul Linwood, was
made captain of the day, picked up a thoroughly deserved
of the season award. John Danby came runners-up.
Manager Mark Wright
made a couple of changes for this final match. James
Vaughan, who leaves for Australia soon, and the injured
skipper Linwood missed out so there was a starting place
for David Mannix and Glenn Rule.
City, looking to end the disappointing
season with a win, came closest to breaking the deadlock
in the opening stages. Lowe headed a Laurence Wilson
cross wide within five minutes and moments later Przemyslaw
Kazimierczak in the visitors goal collected another
inswinging Wilson effort.
At the other end Jamie Spencer was
called in to save a fierce shot from Adam Griffin and
repeat the feat when saving from Jason Kennedy. Spencer
then had to head clear for the edge of the box to deny
A poor back pass from ex-City player
Ricky Ravenhill almost let in Lowe but Kazimierczak
cleared before the loose ball could be turned home.
The best chance of the half fell to
top scorer Lowe on 30 minutes who really should have
done better than to shoot straight at Kazimierczak after
being played in with a great through ball from the City
Chester started the second period
in positive fashion as Kevin Roberts met an Anthony
Barry corner but could only direct his header over
James Owen saw a shot from 18 yards
go wide of the target before Lowe combined well with
Lloyd Ellams, who was having a good game, in a move
that saw the youngster pull a shot just past the far
However on 70 minutes the Blues fell
behind. A Glenn Rules back pass caught Spencer out of
this goal on the left of the penalty area. With no forward
near him a frantic scramble back saw Spencer drop on
the ball and handle it off the line. Referee Mike Russell
had no hesitation in awarding an indirect free-kick
six yards from goal.
The City players lined up along the
goal line but couldn’t prevent the ball being
tapped to Pawel Abbott who fired the ball home inside
the left post and cue a rather bizarre forward roll
celebration routine involving half the team in front
of the 500 away fans!
In the closing stages Wilson saw a
great shot tipped over by Kazimierczak but he couldn’t
prevent City getting the equaliser they deserved in
the last minute as Barry’s dipping right wing
cross was spectacularly headed into his own net by Ian
However the scoring wasn’t
over and Darlo hit the winner deep into stoppage time.
Following a quick interchange of passes on the left
the ball was played back to dangerman Abbott in the
area by Curtis Main, the City defence failed to clear
and the striker was given time and space to smash home
his second goal at the near post from close range.
A battling draw for City but it’s not enough as
the Blues are relegated to non-league for the second time
in nine years. The main problem for City’s demise
this season has been a lack of firepower and once again
this was exposed as a number of chances were created but
not converted at the Recreation ground.
Needing to win to take their
survival hopes to the last game of the season the Blues
couldn’t have got off to a better start.
There was barely a minute on the clock when Ryan Lowe
intercepted a poor back pass and shot at Nikki Bull, the
keeper could only parry the effort to 18-year-old Lloyd
Ellams, making his first start for City, who was pushed
over in the box by Ricky Newman and referee Gibbs had
no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Ryan Lowe stepped up but saw his spot kick saved by Bull
diving low to his right but City’s top scorer was
quickest to react and score from the rebound to the delight
of the 200+ City fans in the corner of the ground.
Anthony Barry tested Bull with a swirling cross and Lowe
shot over as City started the better of the two sides.
The home side leveled on 14 minutes however as the pacy
Kirk Hudson raced through on the right to meet John Grants
through ball and lob the advancing Jamie Spencer in the
City goal. Hudson almost added a second minutes later
but this time Spencer was on hand to save his low shot.
It was an open game and City created two more great chances
before the break, both falling to Lowe. The first chance
saw Lowe shoot wide from an acute angle, the second he
was put through ono-on-one with Bull but as he attempted
to round the ‘keeper in the edge of the box saw
the ball taken off his feet by Bull.
At the other end Spencer did well to palm away a Jake
Robinson long range effort for a corner as the two sides
finished the half on level terms.
The start of the second half was bizarrely delayed while
the players lined up as the Kohima Band and Corps of the
3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment
stoically trooped off, referee Gibbs showing them the
red card in the process!
Just after the break manager Mark Wright was forced to
replace the injured skipper Paul Linwood by Glenn Rule.
With the visitor’s defence reshaping the home side
took advantage. Both Hudson and Robinson tested Spencer
before Hudson scored his second goal of the game to put
the Shots ahead. He intercepted a Scott Davies through
ball on his chest, turned, and sent an unstoppable first-time
volley screaming past Spencer.
Spencer did well to deny Hudson a hat-trick moments later
as City were rocked on the back foot. To their credit
through the snatched a lifeline through Ellams on 63 minutes.
Both Lowe and substitute Richie Partridge failed to convert
from close range, and with Bull lying injured in the six
yard box, the ball fell to Ellams to score with ease.
Bull played no further part in the game and was replaced
by the substitute goalkeeper.
Partridge had a great chance to give the Blues the lead
but he elected to shoot instead of perhaps squaring for
the better placed Lowe and saw his shot saved by Mikhael
Jaimez-Ruiz. With the game entering added time Partridge
was presented with a free header six yards out but could
only head straight at the ‘keeper.
fragile hopes of avoiding relegation wilted in the sunshine
as Bournemouth turned up the heat and won this crucial
Thanks to a hard-earned victory at Accrington on Easter
Monday while Bournemouth lost at home to leaders Brentford,
Chester’s destiny lay in their own hands. All they
had to do was win their remaining three fixtures to guarantee
survival in the Football League for another season. But
this was easier said than done and when you bear in mind
that City have not recorded consecutive wins since October
2007 – eighteen months ago.
Chester’s Lilliputian army lined up against the
comparative giants of Bournemouth – who were literally
man for man head and shoulders above City’s players.
Ellison and Lowe lead the line but didn’t win a
header between them all afternoon. All the more frustrating
because City could find no width and their attacking ideas
were limited to hopeful airborne punts forward.
Confidence was not helped by conceding a calamitous early
goal. A harsh free kick was awarded when Lowe scrapped
for the ball with Anton Robinson following an equally
harshly awarded corner. Pitman floated a cross towards
the far post which eluded everyone and drifted into the
net. ‘Keeper Spencer was guarding the same post
but must have taken his eye off the ball as players jostled
for position in front of him.
City were then out-muscled by a hard-working Bournemouth
side who did enough to stifle any hopes Chester had of
getting level again. Chances were few – Molesley
had the best effort for the Cherries – his volley
from outside the area was well parried by Spencer. At
the other end Chester hardly got a look in – Ellison
less potent playing centrally than lurking on the left
Confusion reigned when Cherries ‘keeper Jalal handled
the ball outside his area. Referee brandished a yellow
card straight away when it might easily have been red.
Partridge replaced a labouring Ellison after half time
but could prompt no improvement in City’s play.
Too often midfielders seemed to be wading through treacle
trying to make a pass when nothing much was on –
so quickly were they closed down. The nearest they came
to equalising was when Roberts just failed to connect
with Wilson's right wing corner. It made for a very disjointed
and disappointing performance in front of a decent sized
crowd tempted to the Deva at the prospect of a potential
great escape for the Blues. When Robinson latched on to
the loose ball following Spencer’s save and drove
it into the net for a second Bournemouth goal, reality
began to sink in for the City faithful.
Now a win at Aldershot next Saturday is a minimum requirement
for survival followed by beating Darlington the following
week. Even then City will be reliant on other results
going their way. It would be a miracle if City stayed
up – perhaps the real miracle is, given the circumstances,
that Mark Wright and City's paper thin squad are still
in contention even at this late stage.
A penalty from Ryan Lowe was enough to bring three points
from Accrington Stanley and complete the double of the
Lancashire side. City still remain in the bottom two but
have closed the gap on relegation rivals Bournemouth to
just one point and boosted their chances of escaping relegation.
Mark Wright wielded the changes following
Saturday's disappointing display against Macclesfield
Town. In came Kevin Ellison, Shaun Kelly, Jay Harris
and James Owen at the expense of Richie Partridge, Paul
Rutherford, Glenn Rule and David Mannix.
It was Harris, playing against his
former side, who saw the first opening but shot high
and wide in the opening five minutes. At the other end
City fans had Kelly to thank as he headed over a dangerous
Peter Cavanagh free-kick for a home corner. Colin Murdock
also went close for the home side heading a John Miles
corner wide at the far post.
Lowe saw home goalkeeper Kenny Arthur
make a fine save as City's leading scorer almost added
to his total following an Anthony Barry corner.
Unlike Saturday’s performance
City were taking control of the game in the opening
period. Good build up play involving Ellison and Lowe
set up Barry who saw a shot from outside the box fly
just wide. Youngster James Owen, making his first start
for City, also shot wide when well placed.
On-loan ‘keeper James Spencer
tipped over a Robbie Williams cross moments before City
took the lead in the 41st minute. Lowe worked his way
into the box and was brought down by Murdock. Lowe dusted
himself down before sending Arthur the wrong way from
the penalty spot to the delight of the City fans behind
The Blues started the second half
as they ended the first. Ellison saw an angled shot
fly just wide before he was replaced by Ben Jones. Jones
almost made an immediate impact as he shot over from
six yards after Paul Linwood had flicked on a Barry
Jones was to be denied again as Phil
Edwards tackled the young striker after good work down
the right from Lowe had set him through.
At the other end Spencer had little
to do but was on hand to save a John Miles effort 15 minutes
from time and was crucially in the right place to deny
Cavanagh effort in the final minute as City hung on for
a deserved victory.
City followers arrived at the Deva hopeful of a resurrection
on this Easter weekend. But the stone lay firmly fixed
over the entrance to the tomb as such hopes were dashed
by Cheshire cousins Macclesfield.
Chester had been lifted by a long overdue win last week
at Notts County and Macclesfield, without a win in five,
looked fair game to be dragged into the relegation vortex.
But in truth this was a hugely disappointing performance
from City – their confidence and more worryingly,
fighting spirit, seemed to desert them again.
The Silkmen soon had a stranglehold on the game with two
goals in the first half an hour. The first came following
a free kick needlessly given away on City’s right.
Bell's driven effort rebounded to the edge of the area
where John Rooney drilled in a shot through a crowd of
players and into the back of the net. Spencer, City’s
new loan signing in goal could not be faulted as his view
of the ball must have been obscured but he might have
wished City’s outfield players had closed down Rooney
Spencer kept City in the game when Evans sprung the home
defence with ease down the left flank, parrying his shot
round the post. He could do nothing to keep out Evans’
next effort though. A clever ball from Daniel set him
though and his thunderbolt of a shot cannoned in off the
Mannix was substituted shortly after he had misdirected
a pass woefully and Harris came on. The pair of them both
had the cloud of FA allegations of a betting scandal hanging
over them to occupy their thoughts.
After the break Wright threw Ben Jones on instead of defender
Glenn Rule as City tried to salvage something from the
game. Nat Brown, on loan from Wrexham in the visitors’
defence was continuing to have an outstanding game and
Chester’s youngster found the going tough against
Shaun Kelly replaced Partridge just after the hour mark
as Chester tried increasingly desperately to claw their
way back into the game but they struggled to make clear
opportunities despite hard graft. Rutherford’s curling
shot was caught comfortably by Brain. Despite a succession
of corners City failed to test Brain further. Kelly was
close to getting his head on to a Lowe cross but could
not quite react quickly enough. Lowe saw a snapshot whizz
just the wrong side of the post.
City’s sluggish start to the game had cost them
dear and Macclesfield’s band of supporters celebrated
almost certain safety in the sunshine. The only scant
consolation for Chester was that Grimsby had lost as well
but on this showing even a one point gap seems like a
4 April Notts County
1 Chester City 2
Attendance: 4,035 (230 Chester) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Rutherford, Mannix.
finally got their first win in 2009 thanks to a great
all-round performance by the team, with some added drama
during the 90 minutes making it a real outing to remember
for the 230 travelling fans.
made three changes from the home draw against Bradford,
with Paul Rutherford, Lawrence Wilson and David Mannix
joining the starting-XI. And after an inauspicious start
by both sides, it was Mannix who made the first significant
Chester won a corner when a cross
from Ryan Lowe was deflected out by a Notts defender.
When the ball came over, the home defence were caught
totally napping and an unmarked Mannix headed the ball
home to send the City fans, housed alongside the pitch
in the Jimmy Sirrel stand, into wild celebrations.
There was only 13 minutes on the clock
at that stage, with four of those minutes used up for
treatment to City captain, Paul Linwood. More injury
drama came on the 16th minute when an injured Wilson
was replaced by James Owen.
By now City were playing with five
at the back, with Anthony Barry putting in a great performance
as a makeshift left-back. Notts only had a couple of
half chances in the first 45 minutes and a scuffle on
the terrace when stewards and police escorted a City
fan out of the stand caused more interest for most of
Meadow Lane than the action on the field.
The second half had barely started
when the ball came to a lively Paul Rutherford, who
dinked the ball over on-rushing ‘keeper Kevin
Pilkington, with unmarked Ryan Lowe running toward the
goal on hand to tap the ball in. City fans almost couldn’t
believe their eyes, and it was so soon after the re-start
that a number of them missed the vital strike as they
lingered over their half-time beer.
County got more into the game and
came close with a couple of attempts, but one went into
the side netting and the other was well held by John
Danby. The closest they came in that spell was another
strike which hit the crossbar.
Just as the game looked to be heading
for an inevitable Chester victory there was more drama
to come when Danby got himself badly injured making
another save. He was treated for a long time, leading
to booing from the County fans, who assumed he was time-wasting.
He made a brave attempt to continue,
but, in obvious pain, he desperately indicated for a
sub. There was another attempt at an on-the-field fix,
but he had no choice but to come off. He was replaced
by Ben Smith, but it was striker Lowe who had no hesitation
in donning the gloves and green shirt.
It was heart-in-mouth time for City
fans, with five minutes of normal time and then seven
minutes of injury time to play with a striker between
the posts. County responded as you’d expect with
an out-and-out attack.
An inevitable goal came on the 88th
minute, but not before Lowe had pulled off one good
save and only saw the ball go past him when one of the
countless Notts forwards pounced on a rebound from another
The seven minutes of injury time seemed
to go on forever, but Notts attempts to score were just
a bit too wild and Chester kept thwacking the ball away.
Any Chester runs forward were just attempts to hold
onto the ball for as long as possible.
Full-time came with a massive sense
of relief to the Chester team, and they all came over
to celebrate with their fans, with the goal scorer-turned-keeper
chucking his gloves into the crowd. It was a moment to
treasure and the team spirit on view must have boosted
City’s survival hopes