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Darlington (A) | Chorley (H) | Southport (A) | Farsley Celtic (H) | Kettering Town (A) | Buxton (H)
Saturday 29 April
Chester 4 Buxton 0
National League North
Attendance: 3,528 (411 Buxton) Half Time: 2-0
Booked: Williams.

Chester: Tyrer, Brown, Weeks (Stephenson 79), Kenyon, Dudley (Willoughby 52), Williams (Burke 65), Coates, Earl, Nmai, Caton, Whitehouse. Subs not used: Lynch, Edwards.
Buxton: Richardson, Brown, Conway, Granite, Kirby, De Girolamo, Brisley, McCourt, Osborne, Jackson (Boden 53), Ackroyd (Elliott 53). Subs not used: Moult, Barnet, Poole.
Referee: Paul Cooper.

Chester finished the regular season with a four star performance.

Buxton came into the fixture as the form team in the division, having won seven out of the last eight. Theirs has been a season of two halves after a remarkable revival since Christmas following a shaky start to the campaign.

Although City had already booked their place in the play offs, the situation below them was so fluid that the visitors needed a win to guarantee their participation. Just four points separated Brackley in fourth and Darlington in thirteenth positions and all were in with a shout of qualifying.

The Bucks, backed by a strong following, came needing the points more than the hosts but Calum McIntyre had spoken of the need to maintain momentum and the importance of not drifting into the play offs. This showed in the opening quarter of an hour as City pinned Buxton back in their own half. Charlie Caton beat keeper Richardson to the ball as he rushed out of his area but, in knocking it past him, took it too far wide and his shot from the angle was cleared away. Weeks had Richardson at full stretch to save before Williams was booked for an infringement that nipped a Buxton breakaway in the bud.

City’s dominance was rewarded after twenty minutes when Dudley rounded off a remarkable sequence of head tennis with a looping header over a stranded Richardson. Eight minutes later Dudley was the architect of a move which sent Coates clear to cross into the danger area. Caton’s first time effort struck the post but Whitehouse was on hand to snap up the rebound and double City’s advantage.

Buxton were stunned but tried to make inroads back into the game – switching long balls to either flank. Former Blue Brad Jackson, on loan to the Bucks from Altrincham, showed glimpses of the attacking threat that City fans remembered fondly but despite a couple of incisive passes he was unable to unlock the home defence.

Buxton made a couple of substitutions shortly after the break and began to have a greater share of possession. The experienced McCourt directed operations and took corners from either side but it was still City who looked the more dangerous as they counter attacked with pace. Caton picked up the loose ball after Weeks’ mazy run into the box and came within a whisker of scoring as his shot was deflected wide. Then Caton was denied again as his shot at the far post was cleared off the line and Willoughby – on as a replacement for Dudley – saw his effort saved by Richardson.

Weeks too had an angled shot from the edge of the box tipped round the post as Chester continued to press. And eventually the skipper’s excellent pass found Caton in space to score Chester’s third. Nmai added a fourth that his unstinting efforts deserved and the result was put beyond doubt.

Both sets of fans respected the appeals not to encroach on the pitch at the end, allowing players of both sides to receive deserved congratulations. Blues go to the play off semi-final a week tomorrow with a spring in their step and Bucks supporters were loyal to the end as they applauded their team after a great late surge, albeit unsuccessful, to get to the promotion eliminators too.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

Final League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 22 April
Kettering Town 0 Chester 1
National League North
Attendance: 1,247 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: -.

Kettering Town: Mason, Gascoigne, Stohrer, Knowles (Bennett 46), Ward, Sharpe, Cooper, Hill (White 81), Myles, Forsyth, Sault (Shreiff 78). Subs not used: Hogg, Lewthwaite.
Chester: Tyrer, Morgan, Edwards, Kenyon, Brown, Lynch, Whitehouse, Murray, Nmai (Stephenson 61), Caton, Hall (Dudley 72). Subs not used: Coates, Earl, Heywood.
Referee: David McNamara.

With third place and a play-off spot secured, it was good for the travelling Chester fans to slightly relax as they gathered within sniffing distance of the Weetabix factory next door to Kettering Town’s Latimer Park ground.

But there was still an important record to extend – an unbeaten away run in the league dating back to August – as well as the need to have a confidence-boosting performance ahead of May’s National League North play-offs.

There were four changes from the team which faced Farsley Celtic the previous week, with Declan Weeks, Anthony Dudley, Adam Thomas and suspended Kevin Roberts not featuring in the starting line-up. Replacing them came Iwan Murray, Charlie Caton, Kole Hall and Joe Lynch.

The bumpy pitch did not make for classy football, and Chester didn’t really get a chance until they won a corner halfway through the first half. Murray’s corner came to Caton, but his shot was saved and so was the rebound.

Chester goalkeeper Harry Tyrer was called on twice in the first half, but again proved to be a reliable pair of hands. What a difference he has made this season, as well as being a real fans’ favourite!

The second half saw Murray continue to draw fouls from the Poppies’ defence, and after 60 minutes a foul from Kettering captain Gary Stohrers saw him sent off for his second yellow card. It was a blow for a team fighting for their Conference North survival.

The game didn’t really liven up unto Darren Stephenson came on for Chester just after the red card incident. On the 74th minute he took a great cross from Lynch, turned in the box and struck an excellent ball into the bottom corner.

Chester were on the up now, and there were chances from Murray and substitute Dudley, but Kettering goalkeeper Owen Mason had easy saves to make from their efforts. Still it was no surprise that Chester held onto their lead, as well as their excellent away record, when referee David McNamara blew for full-time.

There had been a few fan exchanges during this unsegregated game and as the Chester fans left the terrace the atmosphere around the outside bar was not as welcoming as before the game. If we return to Latimer Park next season, I think it will be a segregated encounter.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Saturday 15 April
Chester 2 Farsley Celtic 2
National League North
Attendance: 2,522 Half Time: 1-2
Booked: Kenyon, Whitehouse, Tyrer, Edwards, Weeks.
Sent-off: Roberts.

Chester: Tyrer, Morgan (Caton 46), Brown, Weeks, Kenyon, Dudley (Earl 55), Thomas (Heywood 59), Roberts, Nmai, Whitehouse, Edwards. Subs not used: Murray, Hall.
Farsley Celtic: Dearnley, Scales, Butroid, Turner, Butley, Clayton, Allan, Unbaezuonu, Jessop (Syers 73), Mulhern, Williams (Muggleton 90). Subs not used: Ingham, Morgan.
Referee: Richard Aspinall.

On the day that Chester unveiled their new kit designs in the programme for next season, they turned out for this home fixture in this season’s away kit. Farsley had packed their away kit – an all sky blue number – and because one of the players is colour blind Chester opted to play in their yellow and black.

City fans could be forgiven for thinking that the kit change was to encourage a performance that has seen them go unbeaten since last August. But if that was the case then they were rudely awakened as the Yellows conceded two mirror-image goals within the first twenty-five minutes. Twice Clayton nodded in at the far post from Butroid’s corner delivery, once from the left and then from the right.

Celtic, fighting for survival in this league came with a plan to press high, stop City playing through the middle and play their own ball over the top to catch Chester out. When Kenyon’s pass was cut out by one of Farsley’s centre-backs he hoisted a long ball through for Mulhern to run on to. Tyrer came out to parry the ball away but the corner led to Celtic’s second goal.

Former Blue Lewis Turner went down in the box but was booked for simulation. He went down again minutes later as he ducked into Roberts’ high boot for which the latter was shown a red card. Shortly after this however, the ten men halved the deficit as Dudley picked up on a poor clearance and fed a pass through to Thomas to score past Dearnley five minutes before the break.

Having begun the match with a seeming end-of-season approach, City began the second half with a much higher intensity. Calum McIntyre made a tactical switch at the break replacing Jamie Morgan with Charlie Caton and appearing to go for three at the back.

Weeks beckoned debutant Nmai over to him as he took a free kick on the right of the area and the Salford loanee tiptoed past a couple of defenders to lay it back for Whitehouse. The latter didn’t make a good initial connection but his follow up shot was saved at the near post by Dearnley. A couple of minutes later though Chester did find an equaliser when Weeks met Brown’s diagonal ball into the box and showed superb close control before smashing it into the roof of the net.

Chester were in the ascendancy now, despite their numerical disadvantage. Nmai found space to fire in a shot which Dearnley stretched to tip round the post. Dudley was replaced by Earl but shortly after Thomas went down injured and had to be substituted with Heywood coming on in his place. When Nmai went down fatigued too he gamely carried on but was clearly not fit.

The momentum swung Farsley’s way and they had Chester under the cosh for a spell but City held firm and with a couple of minutes to go might even have won the game. Earl’s ball found Caton in space to run at goal but he hurried his shot and dragged it wide.

In the end it was a creditable draw and a point that ensured a third place finish in the League and a home tie in the play-off semi-finals. A remarkable achievement and one that’s appreciated by every Chester supporter. Calum McIntyre has forged real bonds of togetherness between players, fans and board this season. Whenever the season ends – they will deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table |
Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Monday 10 April
Southport 1 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 2,638 (1,336 Chester) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Hall.

Southport: McMillan, Oliver, J.Doyle, Anson, Evans, Archer (Watson 31), Walton, Heath (Adams 84), Hmami, Vassallo (Carberry 57), Bainbridge. Subs not used: Wade, Munro.
Chester: Tyrer, Coates, Williams (Lynch 83), Edwards, Heywood, Roberts, Weeks, Murray (Thomas 46), Whitehouse, Caton, Willoughby (Hall 65). Subs not used: Brown, Dudley.
Referee: Stuart Morland.

Chester continued their fine away form with a battling win at Southport in a game that provided three first class goals. The Blues were backed by an incredible support of 1,336 – just over half of the Haig Avenue crowd on the day and they went away happy following second half strikes by Elliott Whitehouse and Kurt Willoughby.

With the games coming thick and fast manager Calum
McIntyre made three changes to the side that were held at home on Good Friday by Chorley. Out from the starting X1 went Alex Kenyon, Adam Thomas and Lewis Earl to be replaced by Kevin Roberts, Liam Edwards and Iwan Murray.

After a cagey start the first real chance of the game went to Connor Heath who raced past a Kieran Coates challenge but pulled his shot wide. Midway through the half the Sandgrounders were reduced to ten men as Jack Doyle, after a talking to from referee Stuart Morland, was give a straight red card following a late challenge on Kevin Roberts.

Four minutes into the second period Chester took the lead as Whitehouse picked up a Declan Weeks pass to fire home from long range to the delight of the travelling support packed behind the goal.

The lead lasted seven minutes though as Southport drew level goal with another quality strike as Niall Watson scored from distance after a Josh Hmami free-kick had been partially cleared by the Blues defence, ‘keeper Harry Tyrer had no chance of stopping it.

Chester restored their lead in style on 63 minutes, a quick goal kick from Tyrer was chested down by Adam Thomas to Weeks, his raking cross field ball found Willoughby 35 yards out and he curled an exquisite shot over goalkeeper Anthony McMillan and in off the crossbar injuring an ankle in the process.

There were two late scares for City as Southport looked to get back on level terms, first Tyrer made a great save to deny Adam Anson in the last minute then deep into stoppage time Hmami struck the post direct from a corner kick.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs |
Match highlights [YouTube]
Friday 7 April
Chester 0 Chorley 0
National League North
Attendance: 3,487 (190 Chorley) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Earl, Roberts.

Chester: Tyrer, Weeks, Kenyon, Willoughby, Thomas (Dudley 60), Williams, Coates, Earl (Roberts 46), Heywood, Caton, Whitehouse. Subs not used: Nmai, Murray, Edwards.
Chorley: Urwin, Henley, Wilson, Leatherm, Nolan (Tomlinson 72), Whitehouse (Shenton 72), Calveley, Sampson, Ustabasi, Finney, Rus. Subs not used: Blakman, Johnson, Scarborough.
Referee: John Mulligan.

The Blues toiled somewhat in the sun against a Chorley side looking to get back into the play-off positions.

City lost the toss and began kicking towards the Harry Mac. Weeks had the glimmer of a shooting opportunity in the first minute but declined it and the chance was gone. The visitors broke through Chester’s defences with alarming ease in the early minutes and twice Billy Whitehouse was through on goal but twice Tyrer came out to save.

The match settled into a stalemate pattern with the Magpies having the better possession and the Blues rarely offering attacking threat. As the break approached Calveley was booked for fouling Chester’s Whitehouse and then Rus also saw yellow as he felled Tyrer with a desperately late lunge. In between Earl earned a caution for a tackle from behind and was withdrawn at half-time in favour of Kevin Roberts.

As City took the attack to Chorley, Thomas got a dangerous cross in from the right but could not find Willoughby. Then Weeks’ corner from the right found Roberts at the far post but his header looped over the bar. Dudley replaced Thomas on the hour mark and looked inventive. Caton, quiet in the first half saw more of the ball in the second as Chester livened up going forward. Weeks and Willoughby were well marshalled by the visitors who increasingly looked to hit City with a quick counter attack. As they charged forward into the last minutes, Williams recovered well to make an important saving tackle.

Despite much endeavour, neither keeper had to make a save, as Calum McIntyre remarked after the game “Two good sides don’t necessarily make for a good game” as both had to settle for a scoreless stalemate. The point was arguably of greater value to Chester who all but qualified for the play-offs as a result. Chorley will have to make more ground on the clubs around them to meet City there.

Out of the bumper crowd of over 3,400, two rogues saw fit to invade the pitch. One ran the length of the pitch to goad the away fans whilst play was still in progress. Another encroached after the final whistle to lob a Chorley flare back in amongst them. The Chester Board made a statement condemning them both – frustrated by these isolated incidents despite prior appeals to fans to behave.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs
| Match highlights [YouTube]
Saturday 1 April
Darlington 1 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 1,912 Half Time: 0-1
Booked: Heywood, Weeks, Roberts.

Darlington: Taylor, Sukar, Griffiths (Brookwell 26), Cooper, Lawlor, Moke, Purver (Howe 73), Rose, Blyth (Felix 59), Nelson, Hazel. Subs not used: Wheater, Newall.
Chester: Tyrer, Coates, Williams, Kenyon, Heywood, Earl, Weeks, Whitehouse, Murray (Roberts 81), Caton (Hall 72), Willoughby (Thomas 89). Subs not used: Dudley, Edwards.
Referee: J.Westgate.

Seven days after their victory at Croft Park, Chester returned to the north east as goals either side of the break from Declan Weeks and Elliott Whitehouse brought victory at play-off rivals Darlington.

With no injury worries manager Calum McIntyre named an unchanged side for the visit to Blackwell Meadows, and after several weeks our Kole Hall returned to take a place on the bench.

Chances were at a premium in the opening stages, Harry Tyrer was called upon to save from Jacob Hazel’s 20-yard effort. Five minutes before the break Chester opened the scoring as Charlie Caton won the ball on the left took it past a defender to the goal-line before crossing low for Weeks to crash the ball home from four yards.

The Blues doubled their lead on 64minutes, another cross from Caton on the left found Iwan Murray, he controlled and shielded the ball well laying it off for Whitehouse to score low into the bottom corner.

Chester brought on Hall and the striker almost marked his return with a goal heading just wide of the post. With the game heading into added time the Quakers pulled a goal back through Jake Lawlor who poked the ball home from close range. Despite this late setback Chester held firm to secure all three points and avenge a home defeat from Darlo earlier in the season.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]























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