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Saturday 21 April
Chester 4 Marine 0
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 3,686 Half Time 3-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Smith, McGinn, Booth, A.Williams (Brownhill 75), Brown (Mackin 66), Howard (Sarcevic 58), Simm, M.Williams. Subs: Powell, Glennon.
Marine: McMahon, Lundon, Barnes, Brown, Shaw, Rogan (Byers 75), Lawton, Barnes, Dawson (Harvey 55), Moore, Leal Pezan (Rey 55). Subs: Latham, Williams.
Referee: Philip Dermot (Wigan).

Chester ended their Northern Premier League season in style, with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Marine and a hat-trick from striker Chris Simm.

The fixture started on a poignant note with a minute’s applause to mark the tragic death of seven-year-old supporter Ciaran Geddes.

The team’s following performance would have made young Ciaran proud as they controlled the game from start to finish and ensured they ended the season a remarkable 17 points ahead of runners-up, Northwich Victoria.

John Danby was back in the Chester line-up, along with Christian Smith and Alex Brown, replacing Matt Glennon, Liam Brownhill and Antoni Sarcevic.

Brown had a lively game and had a shot cleared off the line not long after kick-off. Soon after, Simm managed to beat the offside trap, but his opening salvo was easily saved by the Marine goalkeeper.

Simm was back in action soon after, playing his part in the opening goal. He collected a pass from Robbie Booth and unselfishly passed to Marc Williams, who had no trouble putting the Blues ahead.

With Chester now on 99 goals scored in the season, it was Simm’s turn to hit home the 100th goal on the 39th minute. It was another Simm-Williams combination, when Williams provided a good cross for Simm to head home and double the scoreline.

And Simm then marked the centenary of goals with a fittingly fantastic 25-yard shot into the corner. There was nothing the Marine ‘keeper could have done to stop Chester going 3-0 up.

By now the Blues were simply in the different class from their opponents, who, admittedly, had nothing to play for in this game. So when half-time came, Chester fans were confidently relishing the delight of a season ending with the Blues on top of the league on 100 points.

Marine weren’t without their chances, but the Chester defence were resolute throughout and Danby was only really called into making one good save. And by then, the Blues were 4-0 up and coasting.

The fourth goal had been scored by that man Simm – who became the first Chester player to score a hat-trick in the 2011-12 season. And it was another quality goal, when Simm collected a good ball from substitute Levi Mackin, before hitting another thunderous strike into the back of the net.

Chester hadn’t quite finished when Mattie McGinn came inches close to scoring a fifth goal inside stoppage time. His long-range strike would have been a fitting end to the season, but it just crashed onto the crossbar and went over.

That was just moments before the referee blew his whistle to bring an end to an excellent season from Neil Young's team. The Chester fans whose nerves had been shredded at Garforth a year ago, were then rewarded with a trophy presentation atop a stage, complete with Champagne and blue-and-white paper streamers flying.

The team attempted to run the circuit of the pitch to thank the faithful supporters, but they didn’t quite make all sides of the ground when the exuberant fans in the Harry Mac broke ranks and ran onto the field. So it was cue the pitch invasion and a chance for everyone to have their photo taken with their favourite championship hero. It's been a great season to be a Chester fan, now when does the 2012-13 season kick-off?

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Wednesday 18 April
Chorley 0 Chester 2
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 2,213 (813 Chester) Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chorley: Saunders, Ross, Walwyn (Cunliffe 56), Teague, Russell, Roscoe, Denham, Flitcroft, Parillon (Williams 60), Foster, Ince. Subs not used: Brown, Vermiglio, Bowen.
Chester: Glennon, Baynes, Horan, Taylor, McGinn, Booth (Sarcevic 77), A.Williams, Mackin (Smith 79), Howard, Simm, M.Williams. Subs not used: Brownhill, Brown, Wright.
Referee: John Brooks (Melton Mowbray).

Chester turned in a performance worthy of their champions status as they dominated for much of this encounter to complete the double over Chorley.

Manager Neil Young made no less than five changes, some enforced, from the side that beat Mickleover Sports on Saturday. Iain Howard , Robbie Booth, Wes Baynes, Michael Taylor and Levi Mackin all made the starting X1 in place of Michael Wilde, Liam Brownhill, Christian Smith, Antoni Sarcevic and Alex brown.

The Blues, kicking towards their 800+ supporters in the opening half made a dream start opening the scoring after just six minutes as Robbie Booth’s pass saw Chris Simm run through on goal, he rounded ‘keeper Russ Saunders and saw his goalbound shot from a narrow angle cleared from the line by a defender but the ball ran straight to the in rushing Howard who scored with ease from a couple of yards.

Chester were bossing the early stages and Marc Williams saw a header flash wide following Howard’s cross. The woodwork came to the rescue of The Magpies as Mackin was unlucky to see his long range effort cannon back from the corner of the post and crossbar to safety.

It wasn’t until midway through the opening half before Chorley registered their first effort as Matt Walwyn sent a shot wide from long range. Andy Teague then sent a shot over from close range as the Chester defence failed to clear their lines.

Seven minutes before the break Marc Williams almost added a second when his swerving long range shot hit the bar with Saunders well beaten. At the other end, just two minutes later, Matt Glennon made a great save to deny Walwyn and Michael Taylor cleared the lines as Steve Foster homed in on the loose ball.

Chorley saw a bit more of the possession after the break. Ince blazed a free kick over the bar and manager Flitcroft introduced John Cunliffe as the home side looked to get on level terms.

Chester still created chances at the other end though as Simm saw a shot fly wide following a through ball from Marc Williams. The Blues finally doubled their advantage on 67 minutes as Marc Williams pounced at the back post after Wes Baynes’ near post corner had been flicked on by Taylor.

With two minutes remaining Matt Glennon was on hand to make a superb save to deny Cunliffe’s goalbound strike and preserve another clean sheet for the champions.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 14 April
Mickleover Sports 1 Chester 3
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 660 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Mickleover Sports: Clarke, Ramsey-Dickson, Hoyle, Walshe (Nwadike 74), McAughtrie, Wood, Graves, Simpson (Farthing 80), Ashton, Guy (Smythe 74), Steadman. Subs not used: Moon, Smith.
Chester: Glennon, Brownhill, Horan, Smith (Howard 71), McGinn, A.Williams, Brown (Mackin 60), Sarcevic, M.Williams, Wilde, Simm (Booth 57). Subs not used: Danby, Wright.
Referee: Stuart England.

Goals from Chris Simm, Robbie Booth and Iain Howard give Chester three more points at Mickleover Sports. With the championship sewn-up and the pressure off manager Neil Young made changes to the side that drew with Northwich. In came Christian Smith, Liam Brownhill, Ashley Williams and Chris Simm who replaced Michael Taylor, Iain Howard, Wes Baynes and Michael Powell.

The champions were given a guard of honour by the Mickleover players as they took to the Raygar Stadium pitch. The game started quietly with the home side having the opening effort on 16 minutes when John Guy hit the post with a free kick from the edge of the box. A minute later though the Blues opened the scoring. Matty McGinn robbed Kristian Ramsay of the ball on the edge of the box, he set up Antoni Sarcevic who hit an inviting left-wing cross for Simm to head home from close range.

The Blues pushed for a second. Alex Brown saw a 25-yarder saved by Damon Clarke at the second attempt in the home goal, and Sarcevic should have done better in the 34th minute after being set up by good Alex Brown and Simm play only for the midfielder to blaze the ball over from 15 yards.

Two minutes before the break Michael Wilde missed a great opportunity to double the lead heading Brownhill’s cross wide from close range. The Blues almost paid for this mistake in first half stoppage time when John Guy failed to make a proper contact from a Karl Ashton throw in and Matt Glennon saved.

Spurred by their chance at the end of the first period, Mickleover carried on the pressure after the break and Guy saw an effort cleared over the bar by Brown four minutes after the restart.

Marc Williams saw an effort blocked in the area after he latched onto a punched Clarke clearance. Young made some substitutions and one of those Robbie Booth, on for Simm, started and finished the move that gave Chester a two goal advantage. The midfielder had shot just wide on the post following a mazy run but was on hand a minute later to score from close range following a Sarcevic cross.

Booth saw another effort deflected wide and Clarke was well placed to save a powerful Marc Williams shot in the 72nd minute. With two minutes remaining Mickleover pulled a goal back as Karl Ashton’s shot from twelve yards went in off the post.

Chester wrapped up the points in the last minute as Iain Howard scored the goal of the game. Sarcevic passed to Howard who played a neat one-two with Marc Williams before shooting powerfully past Clarke for his eleventh goal of the season.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Monday 9 April
Chester 1 Northwich Victoria 1
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 5,009 (366 Northwich) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Horan.

Chester: Glennon, Baynes, Horan, Taylor, McGinn, Sarcevic (Brownhill 76), Brown, Powell, Howard (Simm 58), M.Williams (Booth 58), Wilde. Subs not used: A.Williams, Danby.
Northwich Victoria: Hinchcliffe, Law (Smyth 53), Fitzpatrick, Collins, Kearney, Armstrong, Roddy, Field, Clarke (Budrys 76), Wade (Abbott 80), Woolfe. Subs not used: Evans, Johnson.
Referee: Ian Siddall (Bolton).

Matty McGinn’s spectacular goal five minutes from time secured the one point Chester needed to claim the title and sparked prolonged celebrations at the Exacta Stadium and on into the city.

McGinn, licensed to push further forward after Brownhill came on for Sarcevic in the seventy-seventh minute, cut in from the left and struck a sweet left-footed strike into the far corner. For all long-suffering Cestrians it was a sight to behold and remember always. I was right in line with the flight of the ball as it beat the despairing dive of the ‘keeper and when it hit the back of the net I swear you would have been able to hear the roar back to the City centre and beyond – who knows – even as far a field as Widnes?

My feet didn’t touch the ground for the next few minutes as the Harry Mac Terrace became a mass of riotous joy and City played out the remaining minutes of the match to make sure that the title was won. True, Michael Wilde might even have notched a winning goal in that time, but it mattered not when the final whistle blew and the game was over.

City’s Cheshire rivals Northwich were the only team capable of catching Chester after the weekend’s results and proved doughty opponents once again. The Vics played the better football and frustrated City without creating a lot of scoring opportunities. It was a game dominated by defences and City were rarely given the chance to play the ball on the ground. When they did Brown and Powell combined brilliantly and Sarcevic swept forward but his touch let him down and the glimmer of a chance was gone.

No one was too disappointed with nil-nil at half time as a point was all City needed but then Vics took the lead shortly after the break. Horan and Clarke tangled under a high ball and the referee awarded a free kick Northwich's way. Field floated the ball to the far post and Collins rose to head it across goal. The ball hit the post and everyone seemed to hesitate for split second before Armstrong popped up to head it home.

City hit back straight away and forced a corner – there still seemed plenty of time to go but the anxious tension began to be ratcheted up and the time dripped relentlessly away until it looked like City would have to claim the point they needed from another of the remaining three matches. Neil Young freshened things up by throwing on Booth and Simm. Only a last ditch block by Collins prevented the latter from firing an equaliser. Horan’s header from the following corner was cleared off the line by a pair of defenders.

As the clock ticked down, Simm got behind the Vics defence again. He was tripped by Kearney who earned a second yellow card and the visitors were reduced to ten men. McGinn hit the free kick well over the bar. He was not so profligate a few minutes later as he skipped into the gap vacated, not so much by Kearney but by full-back Law who limped off shortly after Northwich scored. It was astute of Young to spot the weakness and send Brownhill on to cover for McGinn.

City’s top scorer timed his goal well – just before the Man of the Match award was announced – so he scooped that prize too. More importantly for City, it earned a second successive promotion and probably brought the club to parity with where they would have ended up before their demise under the previous regime. A significant achievement then, and one in which the manager and players and officials, board members and supporters of this fan-owned club can take immense pride and satisfaction. Northwich themselves appear to be in a similar predicament off the field to Chester’s darkest hour two years ago – if they are able to follow the supporters’ trust-led path to the future I would hope that City will lend them support. The generosity and graciousness shown by their fans who remained in their hundreds to applaud City’s lap of honour deserves no less.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 7 April
Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 Chester 2
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 1,009 Half Time 0-2
Booked: McGinn, Brown.

Stocksbridge Park Steels: Scott, Weston, Whitehouse, Haigh, McGiven (Hogan 33), Tansley (Coleman 80), Stirrup, Telling, Muldoon, Turner, Calllery. Subs not used: Harrison, Denton, Collinge.

Chester: Glennon, Baynes, Horan, Taylor, McGinn, Booth, A.Williams (Brown 64), Powell, Wright (Sarcevic 80), Simm (Howard 53), M.Williams. Subs not used: Brownhill, Mackin.

Referee: Richard Bartlett (Sale).

Chester were made to fight all the way by a determined Stocksbridge outfit attempting to avoid relegation, but first half goals from Chris Simm and Robbie Booth paved the way for three more points and a ninth successive victory.

Manager Neil Young was without the suspended Michael Wilde and started with Jerome right, Ashley Williams and Mark Williams in place of injured Christian Smith, Iain Howard and Wilde.

The Blues got off to a great start and scored the opening goal as early as the sixth minute as Simm raced on to a Booth through ball from Booth, rounded ‘keeper Ben Scott before coolly slotting the ball home from an acute angle.

Chester continued to press and Matty McGinn saw a long range effort well saved by Scott but minutes later Chester doubled their advantage. George Horan headed back a far post Wes Baynes corner for Booth whose shot deflected past Scott from 18 yards out into the bottom corner of the net.

Stocksbridge responded well and Jack Muldoon saw an effort blocked by the Blues defence and minutes later sent another effort just over the bar. The busy striker saw another effort blocked by Michael Taylor as the Steels finished the half strongly.

Seven minutes into the second half the home side reduced the arrears with a deserved goal. Matt Glennon did well to save and effort from substitute Scott Hogan but the Blues defence failed to clear the resulting corner and Daryl Weston netted from ten yards.

Chester looked nervous as the home side began to exert more and more pressure in the closing stages but Booth had a great chance to settle the nerves but side-footed Marc Williams pass wide from close range. However the defence, with Horan and Taylor outstanding, held firm to take the Blues within a point of the title.

Manager Neil Young said: “It was all about getting the three points on the board here. If we didn’t win here and then didn’t win on Monday then the pressure would have been right on. So this was a massive three points for us – in my opinion the biggest three points of the season.”

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 3 April
Kendal Town 0 Chester 3
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 701 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Kendal Town: Newton, Tucker, Winters, Melling, Joseph, Dunn, Farrell, Kilford, McKevatt (Osman 75), Taylor, Williams. Subs not used: Donnelly, Foster, Knowles, McGahon.

Chester: Gannon, Baynes, Horan, Taylor, McGinn, Booth, Powell, Smith (A.Williams 87), Howard, Wilde, Simm (M.Williams 57). Subs not used: Brown, Brownhill, Wright.

Referee: Gary Hilton (Upholland).

Chester had to dig deep to record their eighth consecutive win as they overcome the wintry conditions and their dogged opponents to remain eleven points clear.

Manager Neil Young made a couple of changes from the team that beat Whitby Town on Saturday as Chris Simm and Robbie Booth started ahead of Marc Williams, who started on the bench, and Antoni Sarcevic.

Another large away following had made the trip to Cumbria and they saw Chester kicking up the Parkside Road slope and into the win in the opening period. Iain Howard almost brought a dream start hitting the bar after just two minutes following good build up play by Robbie Booth.

Wilde saw a shot deflected wide before the home side also struck the woodwork with a 25-yarder from Adam Farrell bouncing back into play off the crossbar.

Matt Gannon was called into action in the ninth minute as he tipped an Ashley Dunn effort round the post as the hosts pressed. Two minutes later though Chester were ahead as Simm had the simplest task of scoring from close range after being set up with a fine pass from Booth.

Gannon produced another fine save to keep Chester's lead as he pushed an Ashley Dunne free kick round the post for a corner.

The windy conditions were making play difficult but it was Kendal who had the better opportunities. Dunne shot inches wide and Farrell saw a free kick cleared by the Blues defence. Gannon made another important save on the stroke of half-time denying Rory Winters with George Horan heading clear from the resulting corner to ensure the Blues maintained their interval lead.

Despite having the slope and wind advantage in the second half Chester struggled to take advantage. Ian Kilford missed a great chance to equalise for Kendal on the hour mark, moments later Michael Powell shot over when well placed from 15 yards.

On 70 minutes Chester doubled their advantage as Wes Baynes' corner was glanced goalwards by Marc Williams with Christian Smith adding the final touch at the far post.

Kendal continued to press with Danny Williams seeing a long range effort fly over the bar but it was Chester who has the last word three minute from time as substitute Ashley Williams drove the ball home from close range under the dive of Tom Newton following a clever back-heel pass from Michael Wilde.

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