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Oxford City (A) | Workington (H) | Colwyn Bay (H) | Altrincham (A)
Monday 27 August
Altrincham 2 Chester 4
Conference North
Attendance: 1,940 Half Time 1-2
Booked: Taylor, Powell.

Altrincham: Coburn, Densmore, Havern, Hall, Doughty (Leather 84), Watmore, Rodgers, Lacey (Moult 46), Brooke (Richman 67), Reeves, Lawrie. Subs not used: Mitchley, Reid.
Danby, Baynes, Taylor, Linwood, Mackin, Hankin, Powell, A.Williams (McGinn 52), Howard (Clancy 61), Mills, Jarman (M.Williams 64). Subs not used: Horan, Proudlock.
Referee: Darren England (Barnsley).

Chester’s flying start to the season continued with a 4-2 victory at Altrincham in an entertaining Bank Holiday encounter which saw loanee Ben Mills on target once again.

The Blues, oddly enough playing in green, were 2-0 up inside the first 22 minutes when poacher Mills struck twice. His first came from a header when he was almost unmarked in the box, and the second from another Nathan Jarman cross. This time he collected it at his feet, had space to turn and slotted it home – making it time to cue the “Millsbot” celebration again.

But the game at Moss Lane was far from over when Altrincham’s Damian Reeves hit an amazing half-volley which John Danby had no chance to save. So it was 2-1 at half-time, and not long after the re-start it was 2-2. Altrincham’s second goal came when Danby failed to hold onto a strike and James Lawrie grabbed the equaliser.

Chester’s third goal came from a deft show of skill by captain Michael Powell. He collected a good pass from Marc Williams, shook off two Altrincham defenders and coolly slotted the ball home. And Chester made sure of going home with the three points when a square pass to Matty McGinn gave him the chance to unleash his trademark strike from distance.

The result means Chester are now unbeaten in 20 league games – the last one being against Hednesford Town in January. There’s a long way to go to beat the 31-match run of season 1908/09, but modern-day Blues fans will settle for the way the team has made a start to season 2012/13.

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 25 August
Chester 2 Colwyn Bay 1
Conference North
Attendance: 2,404 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Baynes, Horan, Powell, Mills.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, Collins, Horan, McGinn, Hankin, Sarcevic (Powell 48), A.Williams, Clancy (Howard 74), M.Williams (Mills 56), Jarman. Subs not used: Taylor, Mackin.
Colwyn Bay:
Sanna (Metcalfe 90), Smyth, Meadowcroft, Sinclair, Denson, Williams (Davey 80), McKenna, Evans, Lloyd, Collins (Berkley 71), Holsgrove. Subs not used: Lea, Richardson.
Referee: Michael Salisbury (Preston).

Striker Ben Mills is on target again as Chester make it three wins from three games with a win in a tough encounter over Neil Young’s former club Colwyn Bay. Manager Young made three changes from the side that beat Workington in midweek as Matty McGinn and Dom Collins were brought into the defence and Sean Clancy made his full debut in midfield.

Nathan Jarman hit the post after only five minutes as Antoni Sarcevic’s through ball was half cleared b ythe Bay defence to the striker whose first time shot beat former Chester ‘keeper Chris Sanna but not the woodwork.

Chester took the lead on 27 minutes as Dave Hankin was given too much time to run at the Bay midfield, he sent a perfect through ball for Jarman to run through on goal and score past Sanna for his first goal for the Blues.

The lead was short lived though as the visitors struck back within two minutes as former Everton-trainee Kevin Holsgrove powered through the Chester defence before poking the ball under the advancing John Danby for his third goal of the season.

The visitors had a great chance to rake the lead after the break as Danny Lloyd found himself in the area with just Danby to beat but shot straight at the ‘keeper’s legs and the ball was cleared, much to the relief of the home fans.

Bay were made to pay for the miss as Chester took the lead on 73 minutes. As Bay attacked Kevin McKenna dwelt too long on the ball allowing Jarman to nip in and dispossess him of it, a quick pass sent McGinn away down the left and the full-back crossed for substitute Mills to just beat Sanna to the ball and score with a neat touch.

It was the visitors’ turn to be denied by the woodwork in the closing stages as Lee Davey hit the bar following a Luke Denson free-kick, and soon after Frank Sinclair just failed to get a touch to another dangerous Danson cross.

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Wednesday 22 August
Chester 1 Workington 0
Conference North
Attendance: 3,007 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Linwood, Mackin, Hankin (Collins 22), Sarcevic, A.Williams, Howard (McGinn 77), M.Williams (Mills 58), Jarman. Subs not used: Powell, Clancy.
Taylor, Cowperthwaite, Rowntree, May, Andrews (Wraighte 80), Boyd (Vaulks 65), Sloan (Todd 68), Heswon, Wright, Arnison, McLuckie. Subs not used: Simpson, Scott.
Referee: Simeon Lucas (Darwen).

Chester maintained their winning start to the season as they followed up Saturday’s victory with a narrow well fought win against Workington. A midweek crowd of just over 3,000, who paid a reduced admission in celebration of the opening of the ground 20 years ago, saw a quality second half strike from substitute Ben Mills separate the teams.

Manager Neil Young, serving the second game of a three match touchline ban, named an unchanged side from the weekend, and, like at Oxford, Chester started the game brightly with plenty of pace.

The best chance of the opening period fell to the visitors as a long through ball bounced awkwardly for Levi Mackin, as John Danby came out the loose ball was intercepted by Jonny Wright but the Reds striker was unable to steer his lobbed effort on target and Danby recovered to save.

Chester were forced into a change midway through the opening period as Dave Hankin was forced off with an injury to be replaced by Dom Collins.

Chester had the better of the closing staged before the break as Marc Williams headed a dangerous Wes Baynes corner just wide and the striker also forced Reds ‘keeper Aaron Taylor into a smart low save to push his on-target shot wide. Iain Howard and Nathan Jarman also failed to test Taylor with shots pulled wide of goal when well placed.

Taylor produced a great save after the restart to deny a certain Marc Williams goal after the Chester striker had turned sharply in the area only to see his effort touched onto the post. Young introduced Mills for Marc Williams on 58 minutes and just four minutes later the on-loan striker broke the deadlock.

Wes Baynes sent Jarman away and his first touch volleyed pass found Mills who rifled the ball home from ten yards out giving the impressive Taylor no chance.

The visitors introduced a couple of substitutions Danby had to produce the save of the match to maintain the lead as Gareth Arnison turned and shot from the edge of the box only for the Chester ‘keeper tip the on-target effort over the bar and preserve the three hard earned points.

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Saturday 18 August
Oxford City 0 Chester 1
Conference North
Attendance: 1,025 (800 Chester (est)) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Jarman.

Oxford City: Carter, Martin (Skendi 46), Learoyd, Wilmott, Stonehouse, Benjamin, Ballard, Malone, Isaac, Basham (Shariff 68), Cook (Barcelos 60). Subs not used: Lyon, Gunn.
Danby, Baynes, Horan (Collins 90), Linwood, Mackin, Hankin, Sarcevic, A.Williams, Howard, M.Williams (Mills 87), Jarman. Subs not used: Powell, Proudlock, Clancy.
Referee: Mathew Buonassisi (Northamptonshire).

Around 800 Chester fans travelled to a sweltering Oxford to watch the Blues earn three points as they made their debut in the Conference North.

The afternoon’s goal hero was Iain Howard, who has now scored for Chester FC in every league they have played in. His strike found the net in only the second minute after he pounced on a rebound as Chester put on the pressure from the start.

There naturally followed a nervous 90 minutes for the travelling army at Oxford City’s Court Place Farm, but Chester were always the dominant team and Howard came close to putting them 2-0 ahead in the second half.

As the first half played out, it was good to see the new signings put in quality performances. Paul Linwood came close to scoring from Chester’s first corner after his header hit the ground, then bounced up and hit the crossbar.

Dave Hankins and Nathan Jarman looked dangerous throughout and the Chester side seemed more able to cope with the hot conditions, cheered on by fans on all sides of the tidy ground. It took a while to get used to seeing the team playing in green and one attempted chant of “Green Army” failed to catch on.

Oxford City didn’t have a realistic chance of scoring in the first half, with George Horan playing a captain’s role in the back four, helping ensure Oxford’s long throw strategies didn’t really get anywhere. Chester goalkeeper John Danby didn’t have much to worry about in the first half, apart from one easy save from an Oxford strike towards the end of the first 45 minutes.

The home side livened up a bit in the second half, and soon after the re-start Antoni Sarcevic had to head the ball off the line after a good move from an Oxford free kick. But Chester always looked threatening from set-pieces and Horan came close with a header from a corner.

But it was Howard who came closest to making it two when his powerful strike hit the post towards the end of the match. Wes Baynes and Jarman both had earlier chances saved by Oxford goalkeeper Warren Carter.

New signing Ben Mills came on with three minutes of normal time to play – although a couple of drink/injury breaks meant there was still plenty of time for him to make an impression. He certainly made sure Oxford were aware of his presence and he looked a threatening player from the moment he came on.

Diminutive referee Mathew Buonassisi came in for some criticism from the away fans, but it was hard to see why after he’d booked Oxford’s star player Steve Basham for failing to get permission to return to the pitch after he emerged with a ‘Terry Butcher-style’ head bandage following a clash of heads.

When he blew the whistle for full-time there was a huge cheer from the Blues supporters. We’re not accustomed to celebrating a win on the first day of the season – but we’ll make the most of this one!

Sue Choularton

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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