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Saturday 26 August
Torquay United 2 Chester City 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,541 (217 Chester) Half Time 1-0

Torquay United: Abbey, Andrews, Woods, Thorpe, Angus, Phillips (McPhee 67), Garner (Hockley 62), Mansell, Hill, Ward, Evans. Subs not used: Villis, Motteram, Reed.
Chester City: Danby, Linwood, Artell, Hessey, S.Vaughan, Hand, Martinez, Wilson, Walters (Holroyd 78), Blundell, Bennett (Broughton 45). Subs not used: Rutherford, Palethorpe, Marples.
Referee: P.Armstrong.

Torquay fans who saw their side let in two 90th minute home goals to Lincoln City the week before, must have had a feeling of ‘deja vous’ when Roberto Martinez cracked home an injury-time equaliser right in front of the 217 travelling Chester fans.

The point was no less than City deserved in a game which most neutrals (including the vociferous bunch of stag weekenders in the home end trying to wind up the Chester fans) would have admitted deserved to have ended in a draw.

The main threat on either goal in the first half came from Torquay’s diminutive number seven, Jamie Ward. He out-foxed the Chester defence on a couple of occasions and it was no surprise that he was well-placed, with Jon Danby caught off his line, to take a pass from ex-Plymouth forward Micky Evans to make it 1-0 to the Gulls on the 43rd minute.

The closest Chester had to come scoring at that stage was when Torquay defender Stev Angus chested the ball back to ‘keeper Nathan Abbey. He wasn’t expecting it, and dashed back to stop it crossing the line. Otherwise, the only real glimmer of a City attempt on goal came early on in the half with a Martinez free-kick, but this was well cleared by the Torquay defence.

Chester ran out for the second half in the bank holiday sunshine, with the away fans expecting to see a goal at their end – isn’t that what always happens at Torquay? And right on cue, Abbey and Angus got themselves in another mix-up. The ball looped over Angus’s head, with second-half substitute Drewe Broughton following it and easily slotting it home in front of the delighted City followers.

City were now playing with more determination, and Torquay manager Ian Atkins made a couple of substitutions half-way through the second half to try to turn the match back in their favour. Soon after the changes, Micky Evans and Jamie Ward combined well again, with Ward giving Dave Artell the slip to make it 2-1 to the Gulls.

Lively Ward, who had a chance to make it a hat-trick, was rightly voted Torquay man-of-the-match just before the fourth official put up the board indicating three minutes of injury time. But City, with Chris Holroyd having replaced Jon Walters on the 78th minute, continued to press.

And just went Torquay had every chance to keep possession until the final whistle, they gave it away cheaply. The ball came to Broughton on the edge of the area and he passed to Martinez. He aimed a perfect shot right in the top corner to send the City fans wild again.

Moments later, there was even a chance for Holroyd to make it a perfect 3-2 result – but his shot only found the side-netting. Still, it was a point much appreciated by the travelling fans, and for many, just part of a glorious weekend savouring the delights of Devon.

Report and pictures: Sue Choularton

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Tuesday 22 August
Leeds United 1 Chester City 0
Carling Cup Round 1
Attendance: 10,013 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Linwood, Westwood, Martinez, Holroyd.

Leeds United:
Sullivan, Richardson, Gregan, Foxe (Kilgallon 89), Crainey, Carole, Bakke, Westlake, Lewis, Blake (Healy 89), Beckford (Moore 74). Subs not used: Howson, Rose.
Chester City: Danby, Artell, Linwood, Westwood, S.Vaughan, Hand, Martinez (Rutherford 81), Wilson, Blundell, Broughton (Holroyd 72), Walters. Subs not used: Marples, McSporran, Palethorpe.
Referee: A.D’Urso (Essex).

Around 1,000 Blues fans travelled across the Pennines in the hope of seeing today’s Chester team emulate their 1970s League Cup heroes when City famously beat Don Revie’s League champion side 3-0 before reaching the Cup semi-final.

History wasn’t to recreate itself however, and although City put up a spirited fight, they lost 1-0 to a scrappy Eirik Bakke goal – his first in more than two years.

The game opened with Leeds including nine of the players who featured in their last match (a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cardiff), so it was immediately clear they were keen to win the tie.

Chester, making one change from the team which was defeated by Wrexham just two days before – Drewe Broughton being added and Ricky Ravenhill being suspended – had to soak up a lot of early pressure as the team seemed to find their feet on the big Elland Road pitch.

But City’s Laurence Wilson and Dave Artell had no problem adjusting to the big stage and had the measure of every on-rushing attack and cross into the box. ‘Keeper Jon Danby was actually barely troubled for the first 15 minutes as Wilson and Artell kept Leeds at bay.

Chester had a couple of forays forward in the first half hour, but were either caught offside or tackled before they could pose a real threat. They won a corner, but referee Andy D’Urso blew for a foul in the box. Leeds had several corners during the first half, but each were well dealt with by the Chester defenders – encouraged by the ‘blue army’ behind the goal.

The first half ended with no real threat from either side, and City fans feeling relatively proud that they’d held a big Championship club to a 0-0 scoreline for 45 minutes. Perhaps the ‘blue army’ – with chairman Stephen Vaughan sitting amongst them behind the goal - would see the winner netted right in front of them in the second half?

Sadly it was not to be, but the game was not without some consolation for the City faithful. The Bakke goal was simply unlucky after the ball pinballed around the box, and just crossed the line. If it wasn’t for the almost instant big screen replay, we’d have still been talking now about if the ball had crossed the line…..but I’m afraid it did.

Leeds keeper Neil Sullivan had been barracked by a few of the City fans and took great delight in celebrating the goal in front of them. The goal also seemed to fire on the rest of his team and it looked likely another would follow.

But Chester kept Leeds out, and had a chance to score themselves when Ashley Westwood had a good heading chance from a Roberto Martinez free-kick. But Sullivan had the measure of it and the chance was wasted.

Chester’s best chance of the night fell to Gregg Blundell who found himself in space and with some time to score past Sullivan. But his shot went wide and Broughton was some yards of catching up with it to make a connection.

City manager Mark Wright took off Broughton on the 72nd minute and replaced him with Chris Holroyd, who immediately ran fearlessly at the Leeds defenders. A handful of City fans continued to wind up Sullivan and he made himself more unpopular when he made a real meal of a fair challenge from young Holroyd. Soon after, one of the funniest moments of the evening came when a City fan had to throw the ball back to Sullivan, and deliberately chucked it back like a rocket!

Paul Rutherford replaced Martinez on the 82nd minute and also looked lively from the start. At this stage there was always the chance that City just might snatch an equaliser. During the three minutes of added time, Rutherford took a City corner. But it sailed over everyone and went out for a goal kick. It was a bit like City’s performance all night – close, but not quite close enough.

The City fans came out to the news that several League Two clubs had triumphed over Championship opposition. It wasn’t to be our night though – we’ll just have to wait for the FA Cup.

Report: Sue Choularton

Rate City’s performance

Sunday 20 August
Chester City 1 Wrexham 2
League Two
Attendance: 4,206 Half Time 0-1
Sent-off: Ravenhill.

Chester City:
Danby, Linwood, Westwood (Marples 45), Artell, Wilson, Ravenhill, Hand, Martinez, S.Vaughan, Walters (Broughton 75), Blundell (Holroyd 75). Subs not used: Palethorpe, Rutherford.
Wrexham: Ingham, Spender (M.Williams 77), Evans, Pejic, Valentine, Jones (Newby 65), D.Williams, Crowell, Done, Llewellyn, Roberts Subs not used: Jones, Mackin, Johnson.
Referee: U.Rennie (Sheffield).

City suffered their second successive League Two defeat as arch-rivals Wrexham took all three points at Deva Stadium. Manager Mark Wright made two changes from the side that lost at Edgar Street last week. Ricky Ravenhill replaced the injured ex-Wrexham player Dean Bennett and Gregg Blundell started ahead of Drewe Broughton. There was also a place on the bench for goalkeeper Phil Palethorpe, signed from Tranere Rovers in the week.

City started brightly forcing three corners in the opening seven minutes, Roberto Martinez delivering the flag-kick’s that were dealt with by the Wrexham defence.

Twelve minutes in an the City defence was in action for the first time. Stephen Vaughan blocked a Matt Done centre for a corner and Steve Evans out jumped the City defence to head wide from six yards.

The game turned on a controversial moment midway through the half. Ravenhill chased a long through ball, Michael Ingham raced out of goal and chested the ball away before collecting it on the edge of the box before Ravenhill clattered through. Referee Rennie immediately produced a red card, with many home fans thinking it was for the Northern Ireland ‘keeper for handling the ball outside of the area, only to see the City defender take the long walk.

Wrexham took advantage of the extra man to come more into the game. Ashley Westwood was on hand to clear a dangerous Simon Spender cross, Danny Williams shot wide from 20 yards and Spender went close with another long range effort.

The visitors took the lead five minutes before the break. Captain vaughan lunged in on Done and Rennie had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Neil Roberts slotted the penalty home go give Wrexham the half-time lead.

Manager Mark Wright replaced Westwood with Simon Marples at the break. Spender and Chris Llewellyn both went close before City fell two behind on 51 minutes with Mark Jones lobbing the ball past Danby after slipping the City defence.

City appealed for a penalty six minutes later with a right wing cross being handled in the area but Rennie turned down the strong claim and awarded a free-kick to Wrexham for pushing.

Numerical parity was restored as Steve Evans picked up a second yellow card to join Ravenhill in the dressing room. This gave City some impetus. Gregg Blundell saw a shot parried away by Ingham before Wright introduced a new strikeforce of Broughton and youngster Chris Holroyd, making his league debut, at the expense of Blundell and ex-red Jon Walters.

Holroyd was soon causing problems as City pressed in the final quarter. Nine minutes from time Jamie hand shot through a mass of players from the edge of the box to give City hope. The Blues piled forward, Holroyd and Broughton both saw efforts missed but the best chance fell to Paul Linwood who saw a shot cleared off the line deep deep into added time.

Pictures: Sue Choularton

Rate City’s performance

Saturday 13 August
Accrington Stanley U18 1 Chester City U18 4
Puma Youth Alliance North West Conference
Half Time 1-2

Chester City:
Vernon, Robson, Newton, Rowlands (Kelly), Roberts, Rule, Carroll, Gregory (Morrin), Thorpe (Mitchell), Barnes, McManus Subs not used: Owen, Feliciello.

Chester City started the season with a convincing away victory against Accrington Stanley.

The game started with Chester pushing forward and causing the Accrington defence numerous problems. It was no surprise when City took the lead on 14 minutes with a goal from Paul McManus who put the ball into the net after the Stanley keeper had parried a Jay Gregory shot. Chester continued keep the Accrington defence at full stretch and a second goal was added when the keeper failed to collect a free kick from Neil Carroll and Jack Rowlands was on hand to steer the ball into the net.

Despite enjoying the majority of possession Chester failed to add to their tally and paid the price for casual play in the centre of the field when Accrington scored from a free kick on the edge of the box just before half time.

The second half saw Chester continue with their attacking play but the Accrington defence held firm until a swift break through the centre of the park resulted in Gregory being brought down in the box and Sean Newton converting the spot kick. Five minutes later an Accrington defender was dismissed for a moment of madness when he kicked out at Chester skipper Kevin Roberts in front of the referee. The remaining 20 minutes saw Chester camped in the Accrington half and it was only poor decision making in the last third of the pitch that allowed Stanley to escape with only one goal against them, scored by Carroll.

The 4-1 scoreline flattered Accrington and the Chester players were left in no doubt as to the feelings of the coaching staff. However, this was City’s first opening match win since 2001/02 and sometimes the points are of more value. Overall, a good opening result and the watching Wigan staff will have made a few notes ready for the match against Chester City U18’s on Saturday.
Saturday 13 August
Hereford United 2 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,834 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Hereford United:
Tynan, Travis, Gulliver, Beckwith, Giles, Williams, Rose, Ferrell, Purdie, Sills, Fleetwood. Subs not used: Lewis, Wallis, Connell, McClenahan, Osbornt.
Chester City: Danby, Linwood, Westwood, Artell, S.Vaughan (Marples 74), Bennett (Ravenhill 47), Martinez, Hand, Wilson, Broughton (Blundell 62), Walters. Subs not used: Allen, McSporran.
Referee: A.Bates (Staffordshire).

City’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end at Edgar Street as two second half defensive lapses handed the points to the Bulls from a game that had a 0-0 scoreline written all over it until to those late mistakes.

The Blues remained unchanged for the third successive match.

Stuart Fleetwood showed promises of what was to come as he raced down the right on ten minutes shaking off two defenders before crossing for Williams who saw his header cleared by the back-peddling Jamie Hand.

At the other end the City fans, those who could glimpse the action past the numerous pillars holding up the Edgar Street stand, saw Drewe Broughton head wide following a cross by Stephen Vaughan, and Hand shoot over following a Roberto Martinez corner.

David Artell was well placed to clear for City after ‘keeper John Danby failed to deal with an outswinging corner only for the ball to be turned goalwards by Tim Sills.

Before the instantly-forgettable first half came to an end both hand and Dean Bennett had good chances to break the deadlock but the home defence coped well on both occasions.

A minute after the restart City were forced to make a change with Ricky Ravenhill replacing Bennett who was suffering from a back injury.

Just after the hour Mark Wright was forced into another substitution as Broughton retired after a clash of heads, with the striker’s departure City’s attacking options were limited in the extreme though his replacement Gregg Blundell did manage a couple of efforts on goal.

With 20 minutes remaining the Blues lost the ball in midfield, it was quickly flicked forward towards Whittaker, both Paul Linwood and Ashley Westwood hesitated then misjudged the bounce to allow the striker to show them a clean pair of heels as he swept through on goal to beat the exposed Danby with a left foot shot.

A couple of minute’s later City found themselves two down. Again Whittaker, whose pace had caused problems for the City back line all day, was allowed too much space in midfield; he broke forward leaving three City players trailing before slotting the ball between two others to Richard Rose on the right wing. He took the ball wide in the area before clipping a shot over the advancing Danby and past the despairing dive of Westwood on the goal line.

There was no way back for City from here. Simon Marples replaced Vaughan but it was the home side that created the better of what chances there were with Simon Travis shooting inches just over the bar from the best of them eight minutes from time.

Rate City’s performance

Tuesday 8 August
Bury 1 Chester City 3
League Two
Attendance: 2,719 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Wilson.

Fettis, Scott, Fitzgerald, Challinor, Woodthorpe, Goodfellow (Buchanan 80), Mattis, Barry-Murphy (Flitcroft 56), Adams (Pugh 61), Bishop, Pittman. Subs not used: Kennedy, Speight.
Chester City: Danby, Linwood, Westwood, Artell, Vaughan (Marples 80), Hand, Martinez (Ravenhill 68), Bennett, Wilson, Broughton, Walters. Subs not used: Blundell, Allen, McSporran.
Referee: M.Pike (Cumbria).

A robust and eventually exhilarating team performance earned City a second successive win to get this season’s campaign off to a flying start.

Chester’s no-nonsense approach was epitomised in the first minute when Ashley Westwood slid in to tackle Bishop emphatically. The game began at a fast pace on a surface made slippery by heavy rain. It was City’s midfield that caught the eye – Bennett, Hand and above all Martinez allowing Bury no room for manoeuvre. breaking up play and setting up attacking moves. The experienced Spaniard Martinez was the pick of a good bunch, getting moves going with deft control and imaginative passing.

Wilson also looked a threat down the left. His shot fizzed across goal after Fettis had parried one from Walters. Next his persistence won a corner on the right which he delivered and resulted in City taking the lead. Martinez’ shot took a deflection of Colin Woodthorpe’s knee into the roof of the net. Chester were worth the lead and seemed in little danger of surrendering it until half time beckoned. Bury’s new American loan star – John Paul Pittman – latched on to a loose ball, twisted and turned past Artell and unleashed a shot which squirmed and skidded past Danby into the corner of the net. Pittman executed an exuberant jack knife and the hosts were level.

Shortly after the break City forged ahead again with a goal resulting from a comedy of errors of Keystone Cops proportions. Walters capitalised on hesitancy between Fettis and a defender to carve an open goal opportunity. The shot was scuffed, however, and then deflected towards goal by the defender. As it trickled towards the line Fettis seemed favourite to retrieve it until Walters slid in to ram the ball home.

There then followed a patch of play in which City went rampant but failed to increase the lead. First Fettis tipped Broughton’s header over the bar and then did the same to Artell’s thunderbolt. Time and again City got behind Bury’s defences only to misplace a pass or cross. Bennett twice, Wilson and Walters all saw fast and furious low crosses cut out by the energetic Fettis.

The longer the dominance went on the more uneasy we became about a Bury sucker punch. Pugh cut in from the right and shot fiercely for the goal but Danby knocked it superbly round the post for a corner. Lack of concentration nearly cost City in the closing minutes when the ball almost crept between defender and keeper until Danby conceded another corner. City cleared quickly and Wilson ran free on the right. He passed into a posse of City players looking to finish. Walters claimed it, sidestepped two defenders and lashed a shot into the top corner. The jubilant celebrations were no less than his tireless performance deserved.

There was just time to stop off in nearby Radcliffe on the journey home to enjoy a pint of Holt’s extremely bitter bitter in the Papermakers Arms while contemplating the ruins of the completely flattened East Lancs Paper Mill across the street. City had completed a similarly thorough demolition job on Bury tonight.

Report and pictures: Colin Mansley.

Rate City’s performance

Saturday 5 August
Chester City 2 Accington Stanley 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,779 (824 Accrington) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Martinez, Artell, Vaughan, Hand.

Chester City:
Danby, S.Vaughan (Marples 83), Linwood, Westwood, Artell, Bennett, Martinez (McSporran 70), Hand, Wilson, Broughton (Blundell 57), Walters. Subs not used: Allen, Rutherford.
Accrington Stanley: Dunbavin, Cavanagh, Richardson, Williams, Welch, Proctor (Harris 75), Doherty (Todd 15), Craney, Boco, Mullin (Mangan 62), Robert. Subs not used: Brown, Edwards.
Referee: P.Dowd (Staffordshire).

Sorry Accrington, but Chester threw away the script that said you’d mark your return to the Football League after a 44-year absence with a victory, or at least a consolation goal, in your opening fixture.

The truth is that although 95% of the cameras at the ground were focussed on Stanley, it was Chester who deserved the attention after a workmanlike performance earned them a 2-0 victory and a comfortable start to the season.

It might have been nice if Accrington’s comeback had been marked by them kicking off the action. But that honour fell to a Chester and the ball was hoofed forward towards the corner in age-old Harry McNally style.

The ball then stayed in that half for much of the opening spell – giving Accrington an immediate lesson that it’s not going to be quite so easy to pick up points in League Two as it was in the last season’s Conference.

I have to confess that, not having been to any of the friendlies, nor being able to buy a programme (people had been seen buying them by the armful), I wasn’t always able to work out who was who from our vast assembly of new players. The names and numbers on our striped shirts have never exactly been an aide to identity either.

Two of Chester’s nine debutants had shots on or around the goal inside the first 10 minutes. Accrington did win a corner soon after, but new City goalkeeper John Danby confidently punched it clear.

It was then Chester’s turn to have a corner on 15 minutes, and another new boy, Lawrence Wilson, stepped up to take it. It’s going to take me a while to forget we’ve not got Ben Davies around for corners any more – but not too long if Wilson’s corners are always that good. Former Rushden and Diamonds striker Drewe Broughton rose majestically to claim City’s opening goal of the season after heading the ball down powerfully across the line from Wilson’s corner.

It seems years since we’ve had a tall and powerful centre forward like Broughton and he was easily identifiable from the off by his two tennis-style wristbands! Later in the game he proved himself to be more than just a big target man, and I wasn’t the only one who was surprised when manager Mark Wright substituted him on the 57th minute.

Wright was joined on the management bench by former City hero Graham Barrow, now assistant manager. He may be showing signs of age, but he’s still a legend and waved to the home terrace when his name was chanted. I sat near the dugout for the second half and was pleased to see him and Wright seeming to work well together. At one stage Wright even calmed Barrow down when he was getting touchy with the fussy fourth official.

The first half had ended with Accrington barely having had a sniff at goal, but they started the second in brighter fashion, with another attempt on Danby’s goal. He easily dealt with that, and Broughton was soon at the other end attempting to lob Stanley ‘keeper Ian Dunbavin.

The match was getting a bit tetchy and Premiership referee Phil Dowd, who booked another of Chester’s new signings, Roberto Martinez in the first half, booked David Artell, captain Stephen Vaughan and debutant Jamie Hand in the second half. Accrington’s Robert Williams also received a yellow card.

Gregg Blundell replaced Broughton and immediately seemed determined to prove a point – chasing every ball and harrying the nervous-looking Accrington defenders. Jermaine McSporran, signed from Doncaster, replaced Martinez on the 70th minute. The Spaniard earned a hearty round of applause after making a solid midfield debut.

Vaughan, who in all honesty didn’t really give a captain’s performance – making too many mistakes and not really talking to his team-mates - was substituted by the experienced Simon Marples, another signing from Doncaster. That substitution came on the 83rd minute, not long after Vaughan received his booking.

Marples immediately looked a more convincing defender than Vaughan and seemed glad to get his opportunity. Another player relieved at getting his chance, Blundell, certainly made the most of it when he invited a defender’s tackle in the box and earned himself a penalty. He took the spot-kick well and clearly showed his relief at scoring to make it 2-0 to City on the 85th minute.

There was then no way back for Stanley, not even a chance of a consolation goal. The camera crews starting packing up and the Accrington fans started drifting home. Welcome back to the Football League and thanks for the three points.

Report and pictures: Sue Choularton

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