30 August 2004
Boston United 3 Chester City
Attendance: 2,698 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Ellison, Vaughan, Branch, Belle, Davies.
Boston United: Abbey,
Beevers, Ellender, Greaves, McCann, Holland, Bennett,
Gascoigne (Thompson 69), Thomas (Carruthers 82),
Lee, Abbey (Pitt 56). Subs not used: Bastock, Rusk.
Chester City: Brown, Bolland, Collins,
Hessey, Vaughan, Ellison (Drummond 66), Davies, Navarro, McIntyre, Branch,
Belle. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Carden, Rapley, Edmondson.
Ian Rush took charge of his
first game as manager and with it made a couple of
changes from Saturday’s starting line-up that
lost so badly to Darlington. In came Ben Davies for
Drummond in midfield while Cortez Belle replaced
Kevin Rapley up front alongside Michael Branch. Hosts
Boston United fielded Paul Gascoigne for his home
debut after signing as a coach in the summer.
Unlike on Saturday, Rush took to
the dug-out at York Street, and, only three minutes
into management found his side
down. Jason Lee knocked down Beevers’ cross for
the unmarked Danny Thomas to fire home past Wayne Brown
from close range.
Not the start City had wanted and
it was another ten minutes before they had their first
chance on goal with on-loan Alan Navarro shooting wide
from 25 yards.
Minutes later Gascoigne should have
doubled the Pilgrims lead when he headed wide from
close range when he met Thomas’ corner.
Davies and Kevin Ellison both had
efforts on goal, Ellison in fact saw a shot deflected
onto a post, and Branch had a long range effort caught
by Abbey before
stroke of half-time as Zema Abbey, on loan from Norwich
City, headed home following build-up work from Thomas
Gascoigne was booked for a foul on
Davies and was fortunate to stay on the pitch after
another tackle on McIntyre minutes later.
A half-time downpour caused a few
problems after the break. Manager Rush gave Davis a
man marking role on Gascoigne for the second period.
Davies went close but the United forward line of Abbey,
Thomas and Lee were threatening everytime they went
Boston added a third goal in controversial
circumstances on 70 minutes. Danny Collins was adjudged
to have fouled substitute Courtney Pitt, referee Lewis
pointed to the spot. Pitt took the spot-kick himself
but saw his effort saved well by Wayne Brown, however
Lewis ordered a retake that Pitt dispatched. Steve
Vaughan and Michael Branch found themselves in the
referee's book for protesting.
Six minutes from time City themselves
were awarded a penalty as Ellender was adjudged to
have handled a McIntyre cross. Branch coolly slotted
the consolation penalty into the bottom left corner
in front of the traveling City fans. Branch saw a volley
pushed wide by Abbey injury time but, as on Saturday,
City ended the game well beaten.
Pics: Richie Goodier
Chester City 0 Darlington 3
Attendance: 2,392 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Ellison, Branch.
City: Brown, Vaughan, McIntyre,
Hessey, Bolland, Collins, Navarro (Carden 66), Drummond (Davies
Rapley (Belle 56), Branch. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Edmondson.
Valentine, Liddle (Fleming 70), Hutchinson, Kendrick,
Wainwright (Hughes 50), Close, Keltie (Thomas
60), Clark, C.Russell, Clarke. Subs not used: Convery,
now three home games and three defeats for City who are finding life back in
the Football League a little tougher than they
to emphasise the fact they have yet to muster a goal at the Deva this season.
On a day when former player and goalscoring legend Ian Rush was announced as
the new first team manager, the Blues turned in an inept display for over
an hour all too reminiscent of
the bad old days under former chairman Terry Smith.
Once again midfielders Paul Carden and Ben Davies, stalwarts
of last seasons promotion campaign, started on the bench, Ray Mathias opting
instead for Stewart Drummond and on-loan Alan Navarro. Michael Branch recovered
from a midweek knock to take his place in attack.
The game started in quite a scrappy fashion with City having
the first effort on goal as Kevin Ellison saw his cross cut-out by Russell
in the Darlo goal following a free-kick on the left.
The Quakers should have taken the lead minutes later as Craig
Russell missed a golden chance following a Ryan Vallentine cross. It wasn't
long before the visitors opened the scoring though. Valentine’s free-kick
following a Ellison foul found its way through to Ian Clarke in acres of space
down the left. He shot for goal, Wayne Brown did well to get a save in but
could only parry the ball across
goal, Danny Collins racing back managed to get a foot to the ball but only
diverted it straight to Neil Wainwright eight yards out who had all the time
in the world to pick his spot.
the Blues found themselves two goals down. City failed to deal with an inswinging
left-wing Wainwright corner with the ball falling to Joseph Kendrick who smashed
it into the roof
of the net from ten yards, plenty of accusing fingers pointing in the City
Despite the lions share of possession City failed to really
test Russell in the Darlo goal, one chance fell to Kevin Rapley who could only
head into the ‘keeper’s arms from close range following a Branch
cross as the half ended with the Blues two goals down.
Ten minutes into the second period Mathias made a double
substitution bringing on Cortez Belle and Ben Davies for Rapley and the ineffective
Drummond. The change almost brought instant dividends with Davies, linking
up with Branch and Stephen Vaughan shot just wide. But minutes after this glimmer
of hope Matthew Clarke headed home unmarked from a right wing corner with Wayne
Brown rooted to the spot to give Darlo a 3-0 lead.
Paul Carden was eventually introduced at the expense of Navarro
to the cheers of the home crowd. For once City started to play the ball around
on the ground with Carden and Davies buzzing around in midfield, bringing other
players into the game, creating chances for Belle and Branch. Danny Collins
headed over from a McIntyre corner
he should have found the target as City pressed for a consolation goal.
Michael Branch, who worked tirelessly all afternoon, responded
with a snap-shot that was saved by Russell. City forced a series of corners
and from one of these Belle went close to scoring his first goal for the club
after a getting in a point
managed to push over the bar for a great save.
Ben Davies saw his free-kick hit the side netting as Chester
finished with a flourish. It was all too late though, the damage had been done
in the first hour as Darlington took their chances presented to them by poor
defending and ran out comfortable winners.
Ray Mathias said after the latest defeat: “We’re
letting in some ridiculous goals. Our concentration goes at the wrong times.
in a few
We weren’t mean enough at the back and we weren’t ruthless enough
enough up front. I think we played too many long balls and although Michael
strong and wiling to work, he wasn’t given the right distribution. At
half-time we told the defenders they had to get things right. By and large
we did that
in the second half and there were enough positives in the second half to give
us hope when we go to York Street on Monday for our game against Boston.”
24 August 2004
Sunderland 3 Chester City
Carling Cup Round 1
Attendance: 11,450 Half Time 1-0
(Poom 61), Arca (Lawrence 76), Breen, Stephen Caldwell, Lynch, Whitehead,
Robinson, Thornton, Oster, Stewart (Elliott 72), Kyle. Subs not used: Collins,
Chester City: Brown,
Vaughan, Collins, Hessey, Bolland, McIntyre, Drummond,
Navarro, Ellison, Branch (Davies 64), Belle (Carden
90). Subs not used: MacKenzie, Edmondson, Hope.
not very often you get to see Chester run out into a 49,000 capacity stadium
to the strains of Prokofiev, but I’m afraid the impressive surroundings
Sunderland’s Stadium of Light didn’t inspire the Blues to any sort of
shock cup result.
Most of the 400 or so City fans would actually have settled for a single goal
to give them some cheer on a night when Chester shots on target were, once
again, noticeably absent.
Manager Ray Mathias opted for essentially the same
team which ground out a draw against Bury, with the exception of Cortez “Tezza” Belle
playing up front in place of the injured Kevin Rapley. Just a few months
ago when Belle
was playing at Merthyr Tydfil, he must only have dreamt of
at such a venue.
To be honest, the gulf in quality between Belle and Sunderland’s
big striking targetman, Kevin Kyle, was clearly evident. But most of the other
also failed to come anywhere near their Championship counterparts.
Sunderland set their stall out almost from the off when midfielder Sean Thornton
forced Wayne Brown into a save in the first minute. Brown had to make another
stop just a few minutes later, this time from Dean Whitehead.
For much of the next 20 minutes it was a case of Chester soaking up the pressure
from pacey Sunderland, who had made just two changes following their weekend
Championship defeat at Plymouth Argyle.
Chester’s main chance
of the entire match came halfway through the first half when Alan Navarro,
probably City’s man-of-the-match, won the
ball near the
Chester area. He laid on a perfect diagonal pass to Michael Branch. He
found himself in a one-on-one with Black Cats ‘keeper Thomas Myhre,
shot was blocked by the Norwegian.
The only real Chester sparks from that point came from Stuart Drummond, who
beat a couple of Sunderland players, before failing to lay off a decent pass
he approached the box, and then Branch, who also rode a number of challenges
before earning a corner.
But Myrhe had no problem making the catch from the corner and Sunderland were
racing forward yet again. Brown had to run out of his goal, leaving captain
Phil Bolland and Danny Collins guarding the net. They made a good job of
clearing the ball out of the area.
Stephen Vaughan Junior was in the right place to stop a shot
on the line, and a Black Cats goal was looking increasingly inevitable. The
stop cheering on their team, despite the drums being banned from the
but were briefly silenced on the 40th minute when Sean Hessey headed
Oster free kick into the back of the Chester net.
The Blues are making a worrying habit of faltering in the
second half, and we had no reason to believe today would be any different.
Within just ten minutes
of the re-start, the Mackems made it 2-0 when a corner was headed home by
an unmarked Kyle. Chester’s inability to cope with set pieces is also making
fans extremely jittery already this season.
Sunderland responded by scoring from another set piece on
the 68th minute when a free kick broke through the Chester wall. Brown could
only knock it
and it fell to another unmarked Black Cats’ player. Stephen Caldwell
no trouble finding the net.
Branch had been replaced by Ben Davies on the 64th minute and it was obvious
there was no coming back for Chester. Davies made a reasonable impression,
energetic performance up and down the park, including a great block
Another Chester substitute came on the 90th minute when Paul
Carden was introduced as a replacement for struggling Belle. For a few minutes
we had Davies and
Kevin Ellison playing up front. But by then I was just happy the
had been kept down to 3-0 and was relieved when referee Graham Salisbury
There were many similarities with our last League Cup encounter with Sunderland
in September 1998. We also got beaten 3-0, we faced some of the most officious
stewarding imaginable and we impressed the Mackems with our
support for our club.
Back in 1998, the Chester fixture then registered the
lowest attendance (20,618) at the Stadium of Light so far that season. Last
night, despite a £10
admission fee and £5 for concessions, the attendance was actually
the stadium’s lowest ever – a miserable
The Mackems are supposed to love their football and we mostly
had a warm welcome from any Sunderlander we met – including the driver
who spotted my Chester
scarf as I approached the city and offered to escort me all the way
ground. But their fans failed to turn out in any force for this fixture
and probably sat at home watching the Olympics instead. I didn’t
see any evidence of gold medal performances from Chester and wonder if I should
done the same. Improvements will have to be made when the club’s attention
turns back to the vital League fixtures over the holiday weekend.
Sue Choularton | more pictures
21 August 2004
Bury 1 Chester City 1
Attendance: 2,870 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Drummond, Ellison, Belle.
Scott, Challino, Woodthorpe, Unsworth (Whaley 68), Flitcroft, Mattis,
Barry-Murphy, Kennedy, Nugent, Porter (Dunfield 90). Subs not used: Newby,
Chester City: Brown,
Vaughan, Collins, Hessey, Bolland, McIntyre, Drummond, Navarro (Carden
85), Ellison, Branch, Rapley (Belle 72). Subs not used: MacKenzie,
emerged from Gigg Lane with a point they just about deserved. City had
to scrap hard to stay in the contest, especially after Bury had equalised
Branch’s first half goal. The home side established a grip on the game which
looked set to bring them victory but, by defending doggedly, City survived.
Hessey, making his first appearance for Chester impressed more and more as
the game wore on and helped shore up a creaking defence. In midfield, Navarro
made his debut on loan from Tranmere and added bite and strength to City’s
The Shakers were the more fleet of foot and quicker of thought too as they
moved the ball around purposefully, trying to get behind City’s flanks.
It was Chester’s defence that looked shaky and Bury might have had two or three
goals in the first half. Best chance of all fell to Dwayne Mattis who headed
Challinor’s cross just over the bar when everyone expected him to score.
Wayne Brown plucked a Challinor header from just below the bar and then did
to tip over a rasping effort from Flitcroft.
City scored first though when Rapley seized on an underhit back pass from Challinor
and squared the ball along the six yard line for Branch to clip it in the net
despite the close attention of his marker. The celebrations were long and ecstatic,
it’s been a frustrating start to City’s season.
Bury scored the equaliser they had been threatening on the hour. Porter nipped
in to beat Brown to a right wing cross and tap home at the near post. City
then had to weather quite a storm as Bury, with Flitcroft in commanding form,
established a stranglehold on midfield. Chester could barely string a couple
of passes together and Branch was visibly frustrated at the long balls over
the top or at being caught offside with monotonous regularity. But then, with
only a couple of minutes to go a misplaced header from Scott sent Branch clean
through. He looked certain to score when City old boy Woodthorpe clipped his
heels just on the edge of the penalty area. Woodthorpe received his second
red card of the season but the resultant free kick was smothered in the wall
Both sides had players booked as the game became scrappy – City’s Drummond
for a pathetic dive in the penalty area, Cortez Belle by an over enthusiastic
challenge on the keeper. They also lost new boy Navarro in the last few minutes
with what looked like a hamstring strain.
City’s adjustment to life back in the League continues with this hard earned
point. They slipped to the foot of the table but it still felt like progress
is slowly being made.
Colin Mansley | Pics: Sue Choularton
14 August 2004
Chester City 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 2,648 Half Time 0-0
Chester City: Brown,
Vaughan, McIntyre, Bolland, Collins, Drummond, Ellison,
Carden (Davies 78), Harris (Clare 70), Rapley, Branch.
Subs not used: Mackenzie, Hessey, Edmondson.
You know the old football cliche:
“It was a game of two halves”? Well, that was the
perfect description for this encounter between two clubs
desperate to make
their mark on League Two.
Mansfield Town: Pilkington, McNiven,
Buxton, MacKenzie, O’Neill (Tate 66), Curtis,
Baptiste, Larkin, Artell, Asamoah, Murray.
Subs not used: Day, White, Cordon, Dimech.
had by far the better first half – soaking up
some Mansfield pressure in the opening minutes – before
the Blues turned the screw and began to threaten the
It was a relief to have Kevin McIntyre
back in the line-up and he set up both Michael Branch
Rapley in the game’s early stages. Stewart Drummond
and Kevin Ellison also had opportunities to score.
It was good to see Ellison prepared to shoot from about
25 yards out – forcing a good save from Mansfield ‘keeper
Chester’s midfield was playing with
some confidence in the first half. Drummond went on
a jinking run,
before shooting wide. Paul Carden, the eventual Chester
man-of-the-match, put on a similar burst, but also
failed to find the target.
The Stags’ most threatening first
half player was Derek Asamoah. Wayne Brown parried
one of his shots
and saw another whip just past his post. But they were
the only real chances Mansfield, playing in a distinctive
orange and white away strip, had in the first period.
Chester had perhaps their best chance
of scoring when a frenetic game of ‘football pinball’ in
the Mansfield box resulted in an indirect free kick
inside the area.
Every Mansfield player lined up in front of goal and
the ball was tapped to Drummond. But his shot went
straight into the wall and out for a corner.
Chester’s final opportunity of the
half came from that corner, taken by McIntyre. The
ball fell to Rapley,
but he rather snatched at his shot and the ball went
It had been a relatively encouraging first half performance
by the Blues – so no one was prepared for the Mansfield
smash-and-grab raid that started within two minutes
of the re-start.
City simply didn’t seem to come out
of their starting blocks, and the defence failed to
do anything to stop
Mansfield winning the ball before an unmarked Asamoah
had no trouble finding the net past Brown.
The Chester fans must have been hoping
the team would respond as they did against Notts County – after
all, they’d prove they could hold their own against
Stags earlier on in the game. There was a glimmer of
hope within a few minutes when Ellison thumped the
ball for home – but a Mansfield defender blocked
Tricky Asamoah was soon threatening again and after
slipping through the City defence he found himself
on a one-on-one with Brown. This time he didn't take
his chance and Brown managed to hold his shot.
Brown was called into action to make several more
saves. This was a very different Chester defence from
the one we saw just a few months ago and before long
Mansfield were celebrating their second goal.
Stephen Vaughan let a Mansfield player pass him and
his well-timed cross found Jake Buxton running into
the area to snatch a perfect opportunity to score.
It was very disappointing that on two occasions City's
defence had been beaten by advancing players with the
ball at the same time as letting unmarked players slip
into dangerous positions.
Daryl Clare, reportedly nursing a hernia problem,
was introduced on the 70th minute. He had an almost
instant impact when he beat Buxton only for his shot
to find the side netting. Ellison also had another
half chance to score – but he headed the ball way over
Soon after it was game over when
Mansfield’s Colin Larkin found himself some space
in midfield. He ran
from the centre spot and curled a fantastic effort
into the top left hand corner. His goal was reminiscent
of Michael Twiss’s strike at Woking. I was lucky enough
to see them both. This one must also be contender for
City caretaker manager Ray Mathias responded by replacing
Carden with Ben Davies. But Chester fans made it more
than clear that they were not pleased with that decision
and soon after Carden was named Chester man-of-the-match.
A number of other City fans took
their displeasure out on Stephen Vaughan Jnr, who certainly
a good game. But it was a disappointing performance
from most of the Chester team. They produced such a
dire display that Blues fans were streaming out after
Mansfield’s second goal.
Match sponsors, the Official Away
Travel Supporters Club, invited the parents of stalwart
Prince and Julie Deacon along to the game. According
to Cleggy, it was their first ever football match – I
wonder if they’ll visit again?
14 August 2004
Port Vale 2 Chester
North Central Conference
City: Ryan Brookfield, Danny
Ventre, Andy McCoy, Matty Cook (Peter Owens), Darren
Whalley, James Scales, Paul Rutherford, Gavin Lynch,
Robby Booth, Adam Wade.
Restrictions in place as to the number of 18 year olds
allowed to play in Youth Alliance matches meant that
Chester City could only manage to put together a
squad of 14 players for this match, and the withdrawal
of two players on the morning of the match through
injuries saw Chester City make the journey to Port
Vale with 12 fit players.
Chester survived an opening 10 minute onslaught from
a strong Port Vale team and appeared to have weathered
the storm before a mistake from Robby Booth (attempting
to dribble on the edge of his own area), gave possession
to Port Vale who scored the opening goal, in the 20th
minute. The next 20 minutes saw the young Chester City
play some decent football without really threatening
the Port Vale goal. Five minutes before half time a
penalty was awarded to Port Vale following a trip on
a Port Vale player by the unfortunate Booth. The penalty
was well saved by keeper Ryan Brookfield, however the
ball rebounded straight to the penalty taker who stroked
it into the net. To make matters worse for Chester
City, captain Matty Cook had to be replaced by Peter
Owens in the 42nd minute through injury, which left
Chester City with no further substitutes.
The second half started with Chester City moving Shaun
Whalley up front from right midfield and Whalley immediately
began causing problems to Port Vale with his pace,
and Chester City begun looking more dangerous, however,
in keeping with the day, Darren Jones was injured in
a challenge and had to leave the field, leaving Chester
City with 10 men, however, even though Port Vale dominated
the first 30 minutes of the half, Chester City's defence
held them at bay, with keeper Brookfield making some
good saves, and as the game wore on Chester City, driven
on by Paul Rutherford in midfield began to get behind
the Port Vale defence and cause problems, eventually
on one of his many runs Whalley was brought down in
the area for a penalty to Chester City that was calmly
put away by Gavin Lynch. The final 10 minutes saw Chester
City apply continuous pressure and once again Whalley
got past the Port Vale back line only to be brought
down just outside the area by the last Port Vale defender,
who was sent off. Unfortunately the free kick was blasted
over, however, in the last seconds Whalley again went
past a Port Vale defender who made a great effort to
trip Whalley up, only just failing to connect and give
Chester City a second penalty.
Despite losing the match, the young Chester City side
gave a good account of themselves against a bigger
stronger Port Vale team, and provided coaches Jim Hackett
and Billy Gerrard with much encouragement for the season
ahead. Shaun Whalley and Paul Rutherford in particular
caught the eye, with solid performances also from Adam
Wade, Danny Ventre and Darren Jones.
10 August 2004
Chester City 0 Wycombe Wanderers 2
Attendance: 2,881 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Bolland, Drummond.
Chester City: Brown, Bolland, Collins, Edmondson
(Carden 55), Vaughan, Drummond, Harris, Davies (Rapley 55), Ellison,
Clare, Branch. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Hope, Belle.
Wycombe Wanderers: Talia, Silk, Johnson, Nethercott,
Williamson, Uhlenbeek (Senda 63), Ryan, Burnel, Easton, Tyson,
Stonebridge. Subs not used: Williams, Ahmed, Martin, Marshall.
Referee: E.Ildergon (Tyne & Wear).
was neither the result or the performance City fans had been hoping
for as, after a break of four years, league football returned to Deva
Stadium. Pitch conditions were terrible as continual rain all day and
a downpour half an hour before kick-off turned the pitch into a lake.
Robbed once again through suspension of Kevin McIntyre, caretaker
manager Ray Mathias chose the same starting X1 as that which forced
a draw on Saturday.
City were forced on the back foot from the start as Ian Stonebridge,
a summer signing from Plymouth Argyle, was set free by Nathan Tyson
but his long range shot was comfortably saved by Wayne Brown. Brown
was in the action again soon having to rush out and clear a wayward
Bolland back-pass that held up in surface water.
It was ten minutes before the home side threatened as Daryl Clare
shot over from inside the box.
The Chairboys took the lead on 22 minutes. An inswinging corner by
Clint Easton saw Wayne Brown flap at, and miss, the ball entirely leaving
Mike Williamson the easiest of tasks to head home at the far post from
six yards out.
The Blues were finding it increasingly difficult to create anything
from midfield for Clare and Michael Branch up front. Tyson and Stonehouse
were proving lively up front, with Bolland being booked for fouling
the former. It was the visitors who were having the better of the game
and Stonehouse could have added to the goal tally before the half-time
break on at least two occasions.
Mathias made a double substitution on 55 minutes, as on Saturday introducing
Paul Carden and Kevin Rapley at the expense of Darren Edmondson and
Ben Davies. Carden was in the action immediately though nothing came
of his far post corner.
Stewart Drummond found himself in the referee’s
notebook before the visitors secured the three points through Danny
Senda on 83 minutes,
heading home a Stonehouse cross after good work down the left.
caretaker manager Mathias said following the defeat: “I
was very disappointed with our performance against Wycombe because I
thought we stopped playing
after the first 10 or 15 minutes. Our passing on the night was absolutely
awful. If we can’t pass the ball we’re not going to play
and all credit to Wycombe who did exceptionally well.”
Notts County 1 Chester City
Attendance: 6,423 Half Time 0-0
Booked. Davies, Ellison, Harris.
Notts County: Mildenhall, Richardson, Whitlow,
Baudet, Ullathorne, Pipe, Bolland, Edwards, Gill, Gordon,
Hurst (Harrad 80). Subs not used: Scully, Williams,
Chester City: Brown, Collins, Bolland, Edmondson, Ellison, Vaughan, Drummond,
Harris, Davies (Carden 71), Branch (Rapley 71), Clare. Subs not used: MacKenzie,
Referee: F.Graham (Essex).
The boys are back in town and the proof
came at 4.40pm on Saturday when a rebound from a missed Daryl Clare penalty
was slotted home in front of 1,200 jubilant City fans at a sweltering Meadow
That equalising goal earned Chester their first point
in the Football League since the dark days of the Terry
Smith era and left them sitting 11th in League Two.
It’s true that League
positions mean nothing at this stage, but after four
gruelling seasons in
the Conference, I could gaze all night at the Teletext
table which shows Chester sitting in the top half of
the old Division Three.
The match that marked City’s return to League
status was actually not an advert for League Two football.
There were no more than a handful of shots on target
and both sides seemed content to ‘hoof’ the
ball out of defence, rather than play through midfield.
There may have been 6,432 people
watching the game in fairly impressive surroundings,
but both teams looked
liked they’d be equally at home in front of 847
spectators at the home of Forest Green Rovers. I still
know which I’d prefer though.
Chester, fielding six players from the Conference
promotion team and wearing their new yellow away strip,
only really threatened via corners in the first half.
But County keeper Steve Mildenhall had the measure
of every City corner and cross.
It didn’t take Clare long to discover he won’t
get as much time on the ball as he did at Conference
level and he was largely kept quiet throughout the
first half. New signings Michael Branch and Stuart
Drummond also failed to make any real attacking impression.
Notts County came very close to scoring half way through
the first period but Stephen Vaughan, new City signing
and son of the chairman, was perfectly placed on the
line to clear a goal-bound header.
The Magpies stepped up a gear in the second half,
despite the balmy temperature, and striker Gavin Gordon
made a number of threatening runs. His determination
paid off when he earned County a penalty on the 66th
Wayne Brown, sporting a new sky-blue shirt, seemed
to flap at a cross with several County players around
him. He was adjudged to have fouled Gordon and the
referee awarded a penalty.
Frenchman Julien Baudet struck a sweet penalty into
the bottom right-hand corner and at 1-0 to Notts it
seemed unlikely that City would make a comeback in
the final 25 minutes.
But spurred on by acting manager
Ray Mathias, who introduced Paul Carden and Kevin
Rapley on the 71st
minute, Chester didn’t give up. Kevin Ellison
looks to be an accomplished corner taker and his corners
were one of City's main threats.
A real opening came on the 85th minute when a cross
into the County box was left by Mildenhall. Notts defender
Mike Whitlow then clearly handled the ball in the box
and another penalty was awarded.
Clare took the penalty after
a brief sideshow which saw Robert Ullathorne being
booked for replacing the
ball on the spot. The ‘keeper made a good save,
only for the ball to rebound to Rapley. His shot hit
the ‘keeper again, but the ball still looked
goalbound and Clare made sure by slotting it home.
Rapley made a claim for the
goal, but Clare trumped him by pulling his shorts
down in another of his bizarre
celebrations. The Blues’ faithful didn’t
really care who was responsible for the goal. We’d
waited more than four years for a Chester ball to hit
the back of a League net - the scorer’s name
was almost incidental.
There may have been nine minutes
left to play, including four minutes of injury time,
but both teams seemed
happy to settle for a point at that stage and the pace
slowed down until the referee called for ‘time’.
So it was a fairly encouraging
start to the on-field season. However, there are
plenty of off-the-field
questions hanging in the air. But I can’t remember
when we last had a straight forward season at Chester,
and I don’t expect this one will be any different.