(H) | Grimsby
Town (A) | Wrexham
(H) | Cambridge
United (A) | Salisbury City (H)Saturday
26 April Chester
2 Salisbury City 2
Attendance: 3,588 Half Time 1-1
Booked: -. Chester:
Chapman, Kay, Linwood (Mahon 45), Brown, McIntyre, L.Turner,
Jarrett, Bond, Menagh (Seddon 45), Rooney, Carlton (Hobson
78). Subs not used: Danby, Ashworth. Salisbury City: Chapman, Kay, Linwood
(Mahon 45), Brown, McIntyre, Turner, Jarrett, Bond, Menagh
(Seddon 45), Rooney, Carlton (Hobson 78). Subs: Danby,
Ashworth. Referee: Adrian Holmes (Castleford).
were relegated to the Conference North after a dramatic
end to their final home game of the season. The Blues
leading with four minutes remaining conceded an equaliser
at the same time Hereford United grabbed a winner at Aldershot
Town to send Chester down on goal difference.
Both Matty Brown and Michael
Kay returned from suspension and took to the starting
line-up at the expense of Andy Griffin and the injured
George Horan. With their future in the conference hanging
on the result Chester made a nervy start in front of
of the BT Sport cameras.
Paul Linwood made a great block
to deny Theo Lewis in the opening minutes as Salisbury
settled quicker, Aaron Chapman did well to hold onto
White’s powerful shot and Elliot Frear saw an
effort sail high over the bar after the Blues defence
failed to clear a throw-in.
Chester began to up the tempo
and on 12 minutes muster a couple of chances as Danny
Carlton first pulled a shot wide then missed his kick
entirely after a Rooney free-kick had found its way
through to the striker.
Minutes later Chester took the
lead as Jason Jarrett shot from the right, the ball
was heading across goal but Carlton got his foot to
it and diverted it into the bottom corner to give Will
Puddy no chance in the goal and spark jubilant scenes
in the home terrace behind the goal.
Carlton sent Jamie Menagh through
on goal but Puddy moved from his line quickly to clear
from the edge of the box.
Eight minutes before the break
Salisbury equalised as Stuart Sinclair’s left
wing corner was headed home by the unmarked Charlie
The goal sparked the visitors
who took control for the rest of the half. Chapman made
a smart block to deny Lewis’ powerful drive at
the near post and Sherringham headed over after again
being left unmarked at the back post.
A double substitution at the break
saw Gareth Seddon and Craig Mahon replace Linwood and
Meenagh but Salisbury continued to dominate as they
had done since drawing level.
Despite being on the back foot the
Blues took the lead on 58 minutes with an outstanding
effort as Jarrett’s
pass to Rooney on the edge of the box led to the the
midfielder curing a 20-yarder past Puddy into the bottom
Chester came close to adding a third
in the dying minutes as Seddon found the side netting
after Puddy had tipped another Rooney effort onto the
With just four minutes remaining Chester
conceded a soft second goal as a poor clearance from
Brown saw Kevin Amankwah cross to the back post, his
effort was knocked across goal by Frear for Jamie White
to head into the empty net to almost complete silence
in the ground.
The misery was compounded with the
almost simultaneous news that Hereford had taken the
lead at Aldershot. Four minutes of added time saw Chester
push for the winner but they only had a half volley
from Seddon that was comfortably saved by Puddy to show
for their efforts.
A stunned silence greeted the final
whistle as the reality of those last dramatic four minutes
finally began to sink in.
Danny Carlton goal brings a fantastic win for Chester
who will guarantee Conference Premier safety with home
a win over Salisbury City on Saturday.
Steve Burr was forced into one change from the side
that drew with Wrexham on Saturday as Gareth Seddon
missed out with a broken toe, Jamie Menagh taking his
place in the starting line-up.
Carlton had the first effort of the
match forcing a save from Will Norris in the home goal
after he’d flicked on a John Rooney corner. Aaron
Chapman was also involved in the opening exchanges saving
well from Luke Chadwick who should have done better
from six yards out with a free header.
On twelve minutes the Blues took the
lead as Menagh sent a cross field pass to Lewis Turner
over on the right, his first time cross into the box
looped over Norris to Carlton ghosting in at the back
post to head home from three yards out.
Burr was forced into a change with
captain George Horan struggling with an ankle problem
and being replaced by Luke Ashworth after 25 minutes.
Twice Chapman had to rush out to collect long through
balls as Cambridge looked to split the Chester defence.
Cambridge came close to drawing level
just after the half hour as Andy Pugh’s right
wing cross was met by Tom Elliott who steered the ball
wide from ten yards out.
Paul Linwood headed wide from a Rooney
free kick, though the linesman’s flag was raised
for offside. Chester’s rearguard were holding
firm as the home side became more frustrated in their
failure to break through.
Ten minutes after the break a Menagh
cross was met by Carlton but the striker couldn’t
keep his effort on target. The home side made two substitutions
bringing on Ashley Chambers and Matthew Barnes-Homer
as they looked to get level but Chester remained patient
and continued to create chances themselves, urged on
by their vociferous following of over 300.
Carlton raced through beating the
offside trap only to see his shot deflected to safety
and Rooney set Andy Bond free only for the midfielder
to shoot over with just Norris to beat from 20 yards
out. Rooney also saw a curling free-kick zip just past
Andy Griffin was forced off with a
hamstring injury with 22 minutes remaining. A superb
block by Linwood prevented a Barnes-Homer effort from
finding the target as Chadwick sent the loose ball wide.
The Chester defence was coming under more and more pressure
as the game went on.
Chapman was commanding his area
well and came to gather crosses on several occasions.
As stoppage time approached he was forced into a vital
save as Chambers beat Turner to a loose ball, rounded
Chapman but before he could fire the ball home the big
shot-stopped clawed the ball away from his feet and
preserve the three precious points.
19 April Chester
0 Wrexham 0
Attendance: 4,326 (1,180 Wrexham) Half Time 0-0
Booked: L.Turner, Griffin, Carlton. Chester:
Chapman, Griffin, Horan (Ashworth 63), Linwood, McIntyre,
L.Turner (Menagh 87), Bond (Mahon 71), Jarrett, Rooney,
Seddon, Carlton. Subs not used: Danby, Hobson. Wrexham: Mayebi, Ashton, Livesey, Clarke,
Bishop, Keates, Hunt, Bailey-Jones, Anyinsah (Reid 63),
Artell, Carrington. Subs not used: Wright, Williams, Tomassen,
Evans. Referee: Darren Handley (Bolton).
followed the crocodile of supporters’ coaches
down from the A55 along Sealand Road and towards the
Deva Stadium. The police escort was heavy – vans
before and in front, motorbike outriders too. Foot patrols
in high visibility jackets lined the footpath as we
crossed the brook next to Blacon. The police helicopter
circled over the stadium. As we approached the ground
two officers interviewed a fan in a Wrexham shirt who
had somehow escaped the hermetically sealed bubble.
It was a surreal atmosphere as we
parked up and walked to the ground – like a glimpse
of a totalitarian state – but it made for a fairly
relaxed environment too. We were all frisked for flares.
“I thought they went out in the ‘seventies”
joked one wag in the queue behind the Harry Mac. As
the police officer on duty rummaged through my lunch
box, he hoped that I wouldn’t throw my apple towards
Inside the noise was intense as the
kick off approached. Despite all the security at least
a couple of smoke bombs were released – one sounding
like a mortar near the away end and another emitting
blue smoke in the North Stand. The players emerged from
the tunnel to a persistent roar. This was an eagerly
anticipated derby – six seasons in the making
and eight months since the return fixture in which City
claimed their first points of the season and the bragging
rights with a fine 2-0 victory. Now the Blues needed
to win desperately to preserve their hard-won Conference
status – the Reds need for points was less pressing
but pride remained and they came seeking revenge.
As the game started a pattern of play
emerged and it was that there was no pattern –
neither side giving quarter to the other, misplaced
passes, strong tackles. The first flash point emerged
in the tenth minute when Anyinsah clattered into McIntyre
as he was clearing the ball. The home fans bayed for
a red card but referee Darren Handley produced only
yellow. Wrexham’s new manager Kevin Wilkin said
afterwards that it was “never a sending off”
but when he had visited as manager of Nuneaton a few
weeks ago his team had benefited from Jarrett’s
dismissal at a similar stage in the game for a not dissimilar
challenge. Where was Ben Toner when you needed him?
To be fair to Wilkin he commented at the time that he
thought the red card was harsh.
The match proceeded attritionally.
Chances were as rare as rubies. Turner threatened as
he cut in from the right. At the other end Chapman dealt
with Keates’ shot from outside the box and later
saved Ashton’s effort under the bar. Chester had
the lion’s share of possession in the first half
and had a solid look about them. George Horan had made
a surprise and inspirational appearance at centre half
after recovering from an operation. Bond and Jarrett
were robust in the middle of the park.
After the break City continued to
press but struggled to find a cutting edge. Carlton
and Seddon were a handful for the visitors’ defence
but did not have the pace to get behind them often.
Rooney’s free kick was parried by Mayebi but the
rebound came too quickly for Turner who couldn’t
control it before it rebounded away. The best chance
of breaking the deadlock fell again to Rooney whose
crisp shot from the edge of the box was met at full
stretch by Mayebi.
Horan limped off after an hour to
be replaced by Ashworth and Mahon came on instead of
Bond. Wrexham though, finished the stronger. Blues fans
breathed a sigh of relief when a deflected shot ended
up in Chapman’s arms. As the game wore on both
sides seemed to be settling for not losing and the raucous
atmosphere dipped a little.
The stalemate was ultimately disappointing
– especially for City who are now vulnerable to
being caught by rivals in the battle to avoid relegation.
This was Holy Saturday after all – the day in
between crucifixion and resurrection. For the Blues
this was a betwixt and between result – they must
travel to Cambridge on Monday knowing that they need
to get something from the game in order to be masters
of their own destiny.
12 April Grimsby
Town 2 Chester 1
Attendance: 4,174 (239 Chester) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Hobson, Kay, Jarrett. Grimsby Town:
McKeown, Hatton, Pearson, Boyce, McLaughlin,
Rodman (Winfarrah 88), Kerr, Disley, Neilson, Tounkara
(Cook 69), Jennings (Thanoj 80). Subs not used: McDonald,
Hannah. Chester: Chapman, Griffin, Ashworth,
Kay, McIntyre, L.Turner (Caton 45), Bond (Seddon 65),
Jarrett, Mahon, Rooney, Hobson (Carlton 56). Subs not
used: Danby, Linwood. Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (Doncaster).
Steve Burr made two changes to the side that scraped
home against Hyde last week. Andy Griffin and Luke Ashworth
came in for the suspended Matty Brown and Gareth Seddon,
who started on the bench.
Grimsby, playing their fourth game
in a week and looking to cement a play-off spot, pushed
from the off with Scott Kerr firing a shot just over
the bar after five minutes following good quick work
from Scott Neilson. Goalkeeper Aaron Chapman was forced
into a save moments later as Alex Rodman shot from 15
yards when well placed to open the scoring.
It came as no surprise when the Mariners took the lead
on 17 minutes as a quick build up involving Neilson
and Rodman allowed Oumare Tounkara to shoot from 12
yards with his effort deflecting past Chapman.
A minute later Chester, and their
239 supporters, thought they’d equalised when
Craig Hobson found the net but his effort was ruled
out for offside.
Just after the half hour a foul by
Jason Jarrett on Tounkara in the penalty area saw the
Blues concede a penalty. Up stepped Neilson but Chapman
made a great save from the spot-kick diving low to keep
the ball out.
Chester’s only chances of note
came late in the opening period as Hobson shot over
from 25 yards and Jarrett saw an effort blocked by Craig
James Caton replaced Lewis Turner
at the break as Jennings twice went close for the home
side forcing a save from Chapman with the second effort.
Ten minutes after the restart Seddon replaced Andy Bond
and Chester began to look more of a threat. Craig Mahon
saw a well struck effort deflected round the post by
the Shaun Pearson on 75 minutes.
John Rooney saw an effort partially
saved by the underworked James McKeown in the home goal,
the ball fell to Seddon who fired over.
Five minutes from time Grimsby added
a second goal through Andy Cook who slotted home from
close range following a fine run to the goal line by
Chester grabbed a consolation goal
in stoppage time as Caton’s left wing cross deceived
everyone to go over McKeown and in off the far post.
held on to win a vital three points but they certainly
made it hard for themselves.
It had all seemed so comfortable when
Hobson nodded in Rooney’s corner to make it 3-0
after fifty minutes. When Blakeman reduced the arrears
for the visitors with a well-placed free kick from the
right hand edge of the penalty area, his goal was greeted
with polite applause by many home fans – so sure
of the points did they feel.
Shortly after this, however, it all
began to go pear-shaped. First Kay was pulled up for
a free kick on the half way line and referee Toner prepared
to show him the yellow card (harshly in my opinion).
Before he could get it out of his pocket Matt Brown
got involved in an altercation and threw the ball in
an opponent’s face. Toner reached for his other
pocket and produced the red card for the Spireite loanee.
Who knows why he did it – there seemed little
animosity in the match up to this point.
Moments later Blakeman was lining
up another direct free kick on the edge of the box and
proceeded to bend it into the opposite corner of the
net to his first effort. So twenty-six minutes plus
added time of agony were assured as City’s ten
men tried to hold on to the lead.
Play became even more error-strewn
as nerves jangled both on and off the pitch.New signing
Adam Griffin was introduced to the defence and Seddon
withdrawn as the Blues had to readjust. Jarrett had
a golden chance to ease the pressure but couldn’t
control the ball with the goal at his mercy. At the
other end the long-haired Walker glanced a header wide
when it looked easier to score. In injury time Chapman
caught and then dropped the ball on the edge of the
area and in the scramble that ensued, Hyde somehow failed
to score. City survived – just.
In the calmer times of the first half
both teams passed up good opportunities to open the
scoring. Seddon’s tame shot when clean through
might have been thee earliest goal ever recorded had
it gone in. Hyde’s Hughes ghosted in on the right
a few minutes later but skied his shot well over the
bar from point blank range. Blues forged ahead when
Seddon latched on to Brown’s long forward pass
and lobbed the keeper from the right side of the penalty
area – almost but not quite as spectacular as
Amalfitano’s goal for West Brom against Cardiff
last weekend. The Tigers then gifted Chester a second
when another Brown long ball towards the box was headed
into his own net by Brizell – keeper Kettings
having gone AWOL.
Results around the rest of the
Conference favoured Chester but with challenging away
trips to Grimsby and Cambridge to come they needed a
bit of leeway. Blues fans joined the long queues for
tickets to the Wrexham game drained of all feeling and
wondering how their shredded nerves will cope. Later,
in the Blues Bar, referee Toner sipped his drink and
gamely justified some of his decision-making to shell-shocked