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Wednesday 30 August 2000
Boston United 0 Chester City 0
Attendance: 2,078 Half-time 0-0

Boston United: Bastock, Gowshall, Lucas, Hoyle, Howarth, P Lodge (Fewings 84), Stanhope, De Souza, Rawle, Livett, Raynor. Subs not used: Rennie, Minett, Costello, Martin.
Chester City:
Brown, Lancaster, Doughty, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods, Carden, Blackburn, Evans, M.Beesley (Finney 53), Ruffer (Kerr 78). Subs not used: Richardson, Greygoose, Shelton.
Referee: P.Canadine (Rotherham).

[Match Programme]The Stump, visible from eight miles away as we approached Boston, stood silent sentinel behind the Town End against the backdrop of a clear evening sky. About a hundred City fans had made the cross country trip to South Lincolnshire.

Cheshire's finest took to the field in their fetching all white strip whilst the Pilgrims had reverted to their renowned black and anmber stripes. If automatic promotion had been in force in the sixties and seventies surely Boston would have dipped their toes in League football by now. Their ground seems easily capable of hosting League status – apart from the fact that just two portaloos were available to the travelling supporters. Tormented bladders were the order of the evening. When Doncaster visit, the suffering could be extreme.

The Pilgrims are adjusting to life in the Conference as much as we are. They won the Dr Martens League by a country mile last season, having migrated south from the Unibond the previous year. Still looking for their first win, Boston settled earlier of the two teams on the night. Paul Raynor, turning up like a bad penny to haunt City, blazed a long range shot well over the bar.

Barrow chose Brown in preference to Greygoose who was nevertheless on the bench. Earlydoors Rawle might have made more of confusion between Beesley and Brown when he nipped in between them and his lobbed shot dropped wide of the goal.

As the half wore on City came more into the game and seemed to have more imagination going forward. Their best spell came before the interval when Beesley (M) got clear and his shot was dropped by Bastock, who recovered sufficiently to smother Blackburn's follow up. Evans then had a promising effort which was unconvincingly saved by Bastock.

Soon after the break Barrow replaced Beesley with Finney. But City were making little headway in scoring that all important goal. They really needed the three points to be within touching distance of Rushden's coat tails. Lancaster had a superb half volleyed shot which fizzed towards the top corner but again Bastock got his hands to it.

Boston began to exert some pressure but never really looked like scoring. City's defence looked fairly solid and the midfield tackled back when danger threatened. Gaunt was booked in a tussle with Rawle and then Beesley was harshly judged to have fouled Lodge (who nevertheless was carried off) and was booked also. Miguel DeSouza threatened occasionally with the odd classy touch but in truth Brown didn't have a save to make all evening.

Not a classic by any means but at least we came away with a point and another clean sheet.

We went for a pint in the Ship Inn and returned to the chip shop by the ground – only to find that the City squad had beaten us to it and scoffed the lot. Hope they pay for it in training this afternoon.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 26 August 2000
Chester City 1 Dover Athletic 0
Attendance: 2,273 Half-time 0-0

Chester City: Greygoose, Lancaster (Shelton 53), Doughty, Gaunt, P Beesley, Woods, Carden, Blackburn, Finney (Evans 53), M Beesley (Wright 82), Ruffer. Subs not used: Richardson, Kerr.
Dover Athletic: Hyde, Munday, Norman, Leberl (Hudson 15), Shearer, Strouts, Carruthers, Le Bihan (Hogg 38), Vansittart, Pinnock (Browne 45), Beard (McRobert 87). Sub not used: Moore.
Referee: A.Marriner (Coventry).

[Match Programme]After Tuesday night's classic against Doncaster this was bound to be an anticlimax. The contrast could not have been greater. Portents did not look good as we stared at a completely empty away end. It obviously wasn't worth staffing as Dover's travelling support of 54 (I counted them during one of the innumerable stoppages) were easily accomodated in the West Stand. But it was a soul destroying sight and the reality of being stuck in the Conference began to hit home.

The pattern of play was soon set in concrete and no side seemed to be able to vary it from the scrappy, abysmally dull spectacle it provided. The visitors packed the midfield and gave City no room for manouvre. As a result the ball was in the air more than it was on the pitch and Chester's midfield engine, so effective against Doncaster, tended to be by-passed.

City's main threat came from the left. Blackburn with a clever turn and cross set up Lancaster but his diving header crept just wide. Beesley (P) heded over from a corner when he might have done better. Woods had tremendous power but no direction behind another headed chance. The least said about Finney's diving header the better. Dover did not threaten much although one lobbed effort went close and hit the side netting - Some Dover fans thought it went in and we heard them shout for about the only time in the game.

Soon after the break Barrow made a double substitution replacing Finney – who showed some good touches but still seems to lack confidence – with new loan signing Andy Evans from Barnsley. He nearly got his head on a corner straight away and a minute later rounded the keeper only to see his narrowly angled shot cleared off the line. The other substitution was Shelton for Lancaster. City were not getting the ball out wide often enough and as a result were reduced to pumping hopeless balls forward which were easily dealt with by the tall Dover centre backs. You could say it was like waves breaking on the white cliffs of Dover but on the other hand....

The odd booking apart it was desperate stuff and a poor advert for football. Dover's time wasting tactics were infuriating. The left back pretended not to have noticed where the ball had gone every time it went out for a throw.

Mark Beesley had run himself ragged to little avail and could hardly summon up the strength to get off the pitch when he was replaced by Darren Wright. A last throw of the dice for City this. Dazza made an almost immediate impact playing a one-two and dashing into the box before being clobbered by the gargantuan Lee Shearer. To our trepidation Dazza picked up the ball for the resultant spot kick and shuffled awkwardly backwards. He blasted his penalty into the top right hand corner of the net to our immense relief and swiftly followed this with his trademark back flip and somersault.

Three points ground out at least made the previous 86 minutes of tedium almost bearable. Dover had defended well but City also played into their hands. It made for an absolutely dire game. The last four minutes, however, were quite entertaining – an early goal for City might have made a lot of difference.

Colin Mansley

Tuesday 22 August 2000
Chester City 3 Doncaster Rovers 0
Attendance: 2,616 Half-time 1-0

Chester City: Greygoose, Lancaster, Doughty, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods, Carden, Blackburn, Finney (Wright), M.Beesley (Shelton), Ruffer. Subs not used: Richardson, Fisher, Kerr.
Doncaster Rovers: Warrington, Marples (Watson 78), Ryan (Shaw 13), Atkins, Walling, Barnard, Paterson, Kelly, Alford, Halliday (Duerden 73), McIntyre. Subs not used: Foster, Richardson.
Referee: Mr A Butler (Wigan)

If all Conference football is like this, all I can say is: Where have we been for the last 69 years? It was a cracking match with action from start to finish.

It didn't take long for Chester to open their Conference account – 45 seconds to be precise. Mark Beesley, starting in preference to Wright – hit a left foot screamer from the edge of the box which flew into the far corner. The move had begun down the left with Matt Doughty hitting a probing ball forward. Beesley retrieved it and crossed into the box. When the Doncaster defence failed to clear properly, Carden picked up the pieces and fed the ball back to Beesley in space and he did the business to put us one-nil up.

A tough tackling, swashbuckling game ensued. Doncaster, all brawn and Yorkshire grit – Chester bristlin and combative in reply. Ruffer made an impressive debut, covering backwards and forwards and not afraid to tackle. He and Carden were like a couple of pocket battleships all night.

Chester carved out the better of the chances. Finney made a great opportunity for Beesley to get another. Lancaster got behind the defence and Ruffer shot narrowly wide from his knock back. Finney chested down a Paul Beesley free kick and smacked his shot goalwards but Warrington parried to safety.

There were some familiar faces in the crowd once again and on the pitch. Halliday, late of Carlisle, played up front for them but looked a lot less lean than when he was last at the Deva. Jamie Paterson brought his considerable experience to Rovers' Midfield. The closest Donny came to scoring was when Ruffer muffed a clearance and Paterson popped up to send a shot into the side netting.

So City went in to a 1-0 half-time lead and a standing ovation. Rovers came out strongly after the break and began to stir their travelling army of 5-600 or so into vocal support. Within a couple of seconds of the kick off Carl Alford clattered into Ruffer but the referee chose to ignore it. Paul Beesley contined to be in commanding form at the back. Breaking away, Blackburn's long ball found Finney who set up Mark Beesley to run at their defence. He foxed his defender and then shot low from outside the box to the keeper's right and into the net. Another classic goal – perhaps the keeper was a bit slow to get down.

Tempers began to fray when the referee who had bee inconsistent and weak all evening failed to stamp his authority on the game. A fracas involving about ten players broke out after a flurry of wild tackles. Kelly was rightly sent off for an outrageous two footed flying tackle. Warrington, the goal keeper who had raced fifty yards to get involved was also booked for his pains.

Doncaster were fired up now and appealed for a penalty when the ball struck the arm of a City defender. The referee gave it. Beesley was booked for protesting. Alford lumbered up to take the kick. He hit it very hard but straight at Greygoose who stopped it then dropped on it on the line. He grew in confidence after that and made several great saves to preserve Chester's lead.

Ruffer was sent off for two bookable (Hardly) offences – very hard done by I felt as the referee booked him on the strength of Paterson's reactions to his two tackles.

The coup de gras was applied when Carden's raking passw found Beesley who held the ball up on the left while re-inforcements arrived. He the played a beautiful one-two with Carden, for the latter to finish the move he had begun with a curling shot just inside the keeper's left hand post.

All in all an excellent performance against one of the sides fancied for promotion. Mark Beesley was awarded man of the match for his two superb goals. My vote would have gone to Paul Caden who had an absolutely magnificent match.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 19 August 2000
Rushden & Diamonds 2 Chester City 0
Attendance: 3.966 Half-time 0-0

Rushden & Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Rodwell, Warburton, Underwood, Brady, Butterworth, Mills, Burgess, Jackson, Darby. Subs: Sigere, Bradshaw, Setchell, Wormull, Naylor.
Chester City: Greygoose, Lancaster (M.Beesley 67), Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods, Doughty, Carden, Blackburn (Richardson 53), Kerr (Ruffer 53), Finney, Wright. Subs: Fisher, Shelton.
Referee: P.Barnes (Peterborough).

[Match Programme]A baking hot day welcomed City's opening Football Conference match at Nene Park with the team turning out in unfamiliar pale blue shirts (with sponsors name but no club crest!) with black shorts and socks. Is this our third strip or just a one-off?

A large and vociferous away support got behind the team from the start and following a flurry of free-kicks from the home side Chester eventually settled down. However it was Duane Darby who missed the best of the opening chances twice heading wide of Greygoose's goal, the second time from point blank.

City took time to settle down and when they did Steve Finney shot wide from 15 yard's and soon after, Matt Doughty's teasing left-wing cross was headed over from close range by Darren Wright. Another cross from the same source flashed agonisingly across an empty goal.

The half-time talk was on the lines of "if this is the best the Conference has to offer we've not got too much to worry about." Two minutes after the break we were a goal down, thanks to Darby's close range finish from Burgess's cross.

With City lacking any creativity in the midfield department. Barrow made a double substitution introducing Richardson for the ineffective Kerr and new-signing Carl Ruffer replaced Chris Blackburn. Gaunt hit his own bar from six yards as the home side piled on the pressure, but City weathered the storm.

Mark Beesley replaced Lancaster and for the last 20 minutes City pressed more for the equaliser, with the young forward finding space well. In fact Beesley came closest with a rasping shot that was tipped over the bar and Finney also had a shot smartly saved.

Paul Beesley had a close range shot hacked away following a rare City corner, but in injury time Jackson made it 2-0 to Rushden and was promptly booked for his unnecessary celebration antics in front of the City fans.

So, all in all a disappointing result but not too much to be worried about. More creativity in midfield and a little more punch up front is required at the moment. The main difference between the sides was the finishing, and Rushden paid £300,000 in the summer for just that.

Next up are Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday, another of the bookies favourites for promotion, it remains to be seen if Graham Barrow persists with the same formation or whether he opts to start with a bit more experience in the form of Fisher and Richardson.
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