strange end of season atmosphere pervaded the Deva Stadium
as Chester’s season drew to a close in this fixture
with Boreham Wood. Though it was still mathematically
possible for City to go down it needed all the teams below
to win and York to make up a goal difference of nine in
the process. In the end York failed to beat Forest Green
Rovers and they were relegated along with Braintree, North
Ferriby and Southport. News of the other games came filtering
through as Chester’s match unfolded. The play was
fairly evenly balanced in the first half – though
the visitors seemed the better organised and City seemed
to be running on empty.
The Blues made a slow start and the visitors came closest
to scoring when midfield dynamo Kenny Davis curled a shot
just wide of the upright. Chester began to find an attacking
rhythm as the half wore on but just as it was petering
out to a blank scoreline at the interval; as one minute
of stoppage time was announced ‘ Wood took the lead.
Davis’ careful shot from the edge of the box was
heading straight for Lynch until Hughes lunged to deflect
it past the helpless ‘keeper. It was a hugely deflating
time to score from Chester’s point of view and the
Blues went in for their half-time cuppa under a metaphorical
cloud even though it was a sunny day.
Chester improved slightly after the break but still were
outmuscled too often on the ball as they looked to threaten.
Soon Durrell was surprisingly replaced by Waters. Shaw
had a long range shot over the bar which raised spirits
slightly. Then both he and Davies were replaced by Dawson
and Joyce respectively. By then City were two goals down.
The ball was given away sloppily in midfield and Balanta
ran through unchallenged to score into the corner. For
a few minutes it looked as though City would go to pieces
and that nine-goal difference over York would be whittled
away - but in fact they rallied to finish the game on
the front foot and were unfortunate not to get at least
a goal back, Closest was Alabi with a header from the
six yard line, following an overlap and cross by Jonny
Hunt. Smith flicked it over the bar
A goal would have lifted the home supporters and given
them something to hold on to but it was not to be and
Chester succumbed to a record-equalling eighth consecutive
home defeat. Alabi led the players in applauding the crowd
as they departed. There were half-hearted attempts to
encroach on the pitch, in time-honoured tradition, by
some of the youthful fans – but their efforts were
snuffed out by the stewards.
It was a subdued end to the season but when the dust settles
Cestrians should reflect that this was a good achievement
to maintain National League status for another season.
York, having parachuted down from the EFL with all the
financial support of that had still gone down despite
a valiant attempt to escape in recent weeks. An attempt
which has involved them in spending next season’s
budget already. Credit is due to Jon McCarthy and all
the players and staff for keeping the Blues afloat despite
a relatively limited budget. Memories of the first half
of the season – sweeping wins against Dagenham,
Sutton and Dover; a dramatic late equaliser at Tranmere
which elevated Ryan Astles to legendary status; Elliott
Durrell’s goal-of-the-season from the halfway line
against today’s visitors and an emphatic win away
at Eastleigh are all evidence that this season has not
been a disappointing one in the scheme of things.
Anyone who watched Chester's
last appearance on a plastic pitch - when they went three
goals behind inside 14 minutes at Maidstone - must have
had a feeling of deja vous as they saw the Blues let in
two goals within eight minutes.
Exiles banner was still being put in place after an
excellent pre-match visit to the social club at the
Borough Sports Ground, when Sutton's Adam Coombes found
the net with a great strike after just five minutes.
Chester didn't learn from that early
setback by tightening up at the back, as Adam May found
himself in space two minutes after the re-start. He
put Sutton two ahead with another well-taken shot past
Blues' goalkeeper, Alex Lynch
The visitors made little impression
in the first half apart from sending the 200-ish travelling
fans into despair when they went 3-0 behind on the 41st
minute thanks to a quality free kick from Sutton's captain
It couldn't have got much worse for
Chester not long after the re-start when they let in
the 4th goal on the 46th minute, thanks to an Adam Coombes
header. There was no way Chester could get a look-in
during this game and soon enough they were 5-0 down
after Nicky Bailey found the net with 20 minutes left
on the clock.
This seemed to spur Chester into action,
and quick-witted James Alabi scored a consultation goal
after a rare mistake from Sutton goalkeeper Will Puddy.
Chester's leading scorer struck again with a close finish
on the 82nd minute. He had a chance to get his hat-trick,
but it wasn't to be and Chester had to settle for another
17 April Chester
2 Woking 3
Attendance: 1,770 Half Time 0-0
Chester: Lynch, George, Astles, Vassell,
Hughes, Durrell, Shaw, Lloyd, Joyce (Akintunde 74), Davies,
Alabi. Subs not used: Roberts, Hunt, Waters, Dawson. Woking: Poke, Caprice (84), Thomas, Jones,
Saah, Murtagh, Ugwu, Ralph, Saraiva (Kretzschmar 71),
Sam-Yorke (Lucas 65), Ferdinand. Subs not used: B.Hall,
Lewis. Referee: Steven Rushton.
a calamitous last eight minutes Chester lost this see-saw
thriller with Woking. Elliott Durrell seemed to have struck
the winner in the eighty-second minute as the culmination
of a great and hard fought fight back by the Blues –
but Woking responded as substitute Conor Hall struck seconds
after coming on. Worse followed in the final minute as
George handled from a corner and the Cards were granted
a spot kick. Ugwu just managed to squeeze the penalty
past Lynch’s dive to make Woking’s Houdini
from a shaky start as Vassell headed Ugwu’s effort
off the line and escaped when Sam-Yorke latched on to
Lloyd’s kamikaze back-pass and rounded Lynch only
to hit the side netting. But as the half wore on Chester
got first a foothold and then more of a grip on the
game. First Vassell prodded a shot goalwards –
to be saved by the keeper; then Hughes headed just wide
from a corner. Astles went on a surging run from the
back and passed out to Lloyd on the left. The big man’s
momentum carried him in to the box to meet Lloyd’s
cross but he couldn’t direct his header past the
keeper. What a legendary goal it would have been. As
City grew in confidence Durrell had a shot which stung
Poke’s hands in the goal and the keeper also pulled
off an incredible save when Alabi got clean through.
After the break City continued to
pick up where they left off and pressed forward but
they were caught out when Joyce was adjudged to have
fouled Ralph on the left side. The resultant free kick
was not cleared properly and the ball fell to centre
back Saah who slammed Woking into the lead. The advantage
was short-lived though as Joyce delivered a superb cross
from the right for debutant Liam Davies to head home
with aplomb. Davies had struggled defensively in the
first half as a left wing back but showed a good eye
for goal as he scored with a beautiful effort.
Blues now tended to have the ascendancy
in a very open game. George was in inspired form breaking
up play in midfield and driving City forward. Alabi
headed narrowly wide from a Davies corner and similarly
Hughes too went close. Akintunde was introduced to replace
Joyce on 74 minutes and his skill seemed to have carved
open the golden opportunity as he got behind on the
right side and pulled the ball back to Shaw. As his
shot was blocked it fell to Durrell who smashed the
ball in past a couple of defenders. Blues players and
fans celebrated wildly thinking that safety had been
achieved – but they proved to be premature after
a stunning couple of sucker punches from the Cardinals.
In truth this was a good and
characterful performance by the Blues but marred by
the cruel last-gasp ending. The result heaps more pressure
on Jon McCarthy who must be wondering what more he has
to do to help Chester win at home. The last couple of
games will call for cool heads, discipline and confidence,
the hard-working and decent Chester manager deserves
all of these from both players and fans as the season
draws to a close. Keep the faith, City, keep the faith!
14 April Forest
Green Rovers 2 Chester 0
Attendance: 1,936 (143 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Forest Green Rovers: Russell, Tilt,
Monthe, Traore, Ellis, Bennett, Doidge, Bugiel (Noble
68), Woolery (Mullings) 78, Wishart (Kelly 74), Cooper.
Subs not used: Robert, Gosling. Chester: Lynch, Vassell, Astles, Hughes,
Hunt (Waters 70), George, Joyce, Dawson (Shaw 70), Durrell,
Davies, Alabi (Akintunde 70). Subs not used: Roberts,
Marsh. Referee: Adrian Quelch.
Chester never looked like they expected to get anything
from their trip to promotion hopefuls Forest Green Rovers
and - without a shot on target - were lucky to lose by
only a two-goal margin.
Green were livelier from the off, with prolific striker
Christian Doidge hitting the post within the first few
minutes. Soon after that, Elliott Durrell cleared the
ball off the line from a corner.
Durrell went on to be the best Chester
player on the park, with a second half strike which
blazed over the crossbar being about the closest the
Blues came to finding the net.
Forest Green almost went ahead halfway
through the first half when the ball hit the woodwork
again. At this stage, Chester had barely moved out of
their own half and it looked inevitable that the home
side would make the pressure count at some stage.
In fairness, Forest Green have got
quality players oozing through their ranks and Theo
Vassell, Sam Hughes, Ryan Astles and Alex Lynch gave
respectable performances as the Chester defence were
put under siege. Under that pressure, it actually seemed
remarkable that it remained 0-0 at half-time.
But the scoreline didn't stay that
way for long when Doidge seized on an opportunity on
the 50th minute after a good pass was fed to him. He
shot past the aquamarine-clad Chester goalkeeper to
put the hosts ahead.
Forest Green's booming announcer -
one of many things that still seem a bit incongruous
about a vegan village team on a hillside with a relatively
small following - made it seemed like Doidge had scored
in front of 100,000 at Wembley. In truth, it certainly
put his team well on the way to a play-off appearance
at the home of football.
Chester made another treble substitution
on the 70th minute when Matty Waters, Tom Shaw and James
Akintunde came on to replace the largely anonymous James
Alabi, Johnny Hunt and Lucas Dawson.
But Forest Green secured their play-off
berth when substitute Liam Noble found the net with
an excellent strike just three minutes later. Chester's
best spell of the game came in the final 10 minutes,
including that Durrell shot, as well as a penalty shout
for Akintunde. But as they never seriously threatened
their opponents' goal, it had to be a relief their goal
difference was not too seriously impacted by their trip
to The New Lawn.
Full-time came with the Chester fans
looking nervously at their phones for results elsewhere.
It must be near the end of the season again, as the
Blues fans hope for a vital point or three from somewhere.
11 April Lincoln
City 1 Chester 0
Attendance: 7,401 (97 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Durrell, Lloyd.
Lincoln City: Farman, Wood, Habergham,
Whitehouse (Power 72), Waterfall, Raggett, Arnold, Woodyard,
Angol (Anderson 30), Knott (Ginnelly 68), Rhead. Subs
not used: Marriott, Long. Chester: Lynch, Hudson (Vassell 67),
Astles, Hughes, George, Joyce (Dawson 87), Shaw, Lloyd
(Hunt 87), Durrell, Alabi, Richards. Subs not used: Roberts,
Davies. Referee: Alan Young.
Chester are beaten at league leaders Lincoln City and
finish with ten men following a Kane Richards red card.
8 April Chester
0 York City 2
Attendance: 2,235 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Dawson, Shaw.
Chester: Lynch, Hughes, Astles, Hudson
(Vassell 65), Hunt (George 65), Durrell, Shaw, Lloyd,
Waters, Dawson (Richards 65), Alabi. Subs not used: Roberts,
Joyce. York City: Loach, Whittle, Heslop, Hall,
Oliver, Morgan-Smith (Moke 89), Newton, Holmes, Parslow,
Bencherif, Parkin. Subs not used: Fenwick, Rooney, Connolly,
Muggleton. Referee: David Rock.
Blues were not good enough to match a resurgent York City
and slumped to their sixth successive home defeat. Danny
Mills has rebuilt his side since they last met Chester
in October. Only Whittle and Heslop survived from that
encounter. Today they sported squad numbers in the late
thirties and in total York have used – including
one unused substitute – a mind boggling fifty players
this season as they strive desperately to remain in this
Chester in contrast were down to the bare bones. Horwood
is the latest to have been ruled out by injury until after
the end of the season. Matty Waters came in to the starting
line-up for him.
As the game unfolded in bright sunshine both sides started
tentatively. But the Blues were guilty of giving the ball
away under pressure from the visitors and – after
a couple of warnings – another mistake led to York
taking the lead. Morgan-Smith wrested possession from
Dawson and ran forward to put a tantalising ball through
for Oliver. The striker just beat the onrushing Lynch
to the ball and took it round him to tuck in the opening
Durrell had a great chance to equalise when set through
by Lloyd but could not beat Loach in the visitors’
goal. Shortly afterwards Durrell flicked the ball up in
the penalty area and made contact with Parslow’s
hand – but his appeals for a penalty were waved
away by the referee. At the other end Parkin’s first-time
shot from well outside the area cannoned back into play
off the inside of the post. After the break Dawson had
a decent effort just wide but then Chester were given
another scare as this time Morgan-Smith hit the post after
being teed up by Parkin. Johnny Hunt ran through into
the box to latch on to Shaw’s pass and looked certain
to equalise until a last ditch block tackle by Holmes
saved the day for York.
Jon McCarthy made a triple substitution in an effort to
revamp Chester into a 4-4-2 formation with Richards providing
support for Alabi. Blues were livelier as an attacking
threat as a result but still struggled to make clear-cut
openings. And when Holmes went up to the other end and
slammed home a second goal – blasting Morgan-Smith’s
lay-off into the net there was a sense that the game was
Fans of both sides crammed in to the Blues Bar afterwards
to watch the Grand National and were joined by some of
the players. Jon Parkin – head and shoulders above
the crowd – enjoyed a drink of San Miguel and chatted
with supporters. The York Juggernaut looks to be turning
around just in time to avoid relegation whilst Chester
look as though they might just sneak over the finishing
line – though neither are quite there yet.
1 April Torquay
United 0 Chester 1
Attendance: 1,881 Half Time 0-0
Torquay United: Moore, Rowe-Turner,
Lathrope, Gallifuoco, Young, Harrad (Lee 44), Verma, McGinty,
Anderson, Reid (Williams 75), Keating (Sparkes 75). Subs:
Chaney, Nicholson. Chester: Lynch, Hughes, Hunt, Astles,
Hudson, Horwood (Waters 30), Dawson, Joyce (Durrell 71),
Lloyd, Alabi, Richards (Shaw 79). Subs: Roberts, George. Referee: Sam Allison.
Chester secured a remarkable third away win in a row,
and all but secured National League football for another
season, thanks to an 80th minute goal from captain Sam
The teenage defender
gave another outstanding performance and deserved the
deflection that caused his 25 yard strike to find the
net in front of the 160-plus travelling Blues' fans.
On a day which saw glorious seaside
weather turn to April showers, there were also stand-out
showings from Ryan Astles and Alex Lynch. The goalkeeper
kept Chester in the match earlier in the second half
with a fantastic double save which saw him tip Jamie
Reid's strike just out of reach.
Referee Sam Allison had given the
struggling home site a mountain to climb when he red-carded
Myles Anderson on the 43rd minute for bringing down
James Alabi on the edge of the box. Chester couldn't
make the free kick count, but they definitely had the
upper hand throughout the second half and deserved their
One downside for Chester was Evan
Horwood limping off with an injury on the half hour,
but his young replacement, Matty Watters, proved to
be an able substitute and helped ensure the Blues enjoyed
a memorable visit to the English Riviera.