If I had a crystal ball, I'd have stayed in one of Kidderminster’s
stupendous pubs until the second half of this Bank Holiday
clash at Aggborough.
didn’t have such
foresight and once the Blues went behind by two goals
inside the first nine minutes, my thoughts went back
to last season’s
performance at Braintree Town.
This time was different though. The
travelling fans did not give up their support for the
team, despite the shaky defence letting Callum Gittings
score from close range after a sixth minute corner.
Chester had barely re-grouped from that when Kidderminster’s
Chey Dunkley headed home after goalkeeper Freddy Hall
failed to punch the ball away from danger.
It was nearly game over for Chester
a few minutes later when a goal-bound Kidderminster
header was cleared off the line. Still the travelling
army kept up their incessant chant. It was reminiscent
of the match at Leyton Orient back in the 1999-2000
season when Ian Atkins almost saved the Blues from the
drop into the Conference.
The first half was not without chances
for Chester, but when the best opportunity came to striker
Chris Iwelumo after a John Rooney cross, it was disappointing
that the best he could do was hit the top of the stand.
Oh well, it was time for the Chester
fans to decide what delicacy they wanted at half-time
– a tasty soup, cottage pie, or chicken chow mein,
perhaps? A few might have thought about escaping via
the Severn Valley Railway line, which we could see steaming
through the rain into the nearby station as half time
But the Blue Army stayed at their
post and their unwavering support continued. Within
a minute of the half starting they got their reward
when Kidderminster defender Dunkley was sent off for
handling the ball in the area. Iwelumo’s
resultant penalty was distinctly feeble and was easily
saved by Daniel Lewis.
That seemed to whip Chester into action
and the action remained in the Kidderminster half. There
were chances for both Rooney and Craig Hobson before
Steve Burr changed the team’s
focus when he took off Iwelumo, who had been largely
ineffectual, and replaced him with Peter Winn.
The Chester pressure continued and
both Hobson and Sean McConville missed out on scoring
opportunities before the match turned in the last ten
Hobson then scored the first goal
Kidderminster had conceded all season when he hit a
great header past Lewis to give the Blues fans a reward
for their support.
But there was more to come a few minutes
later when Chester won a free kick, which saw Wayne
Riley slot it home from the re-bound. Naturally, there
was jubilation from the Chester fans, who wondered if
their 10th minute chant of: “We're going to win
3-2” was going to come true. It nearly did, but
the Blues had to settle for a hard-fought point at full-time.
It was good to see Steve Burr getting
all-round applause from the ground and the après-match
Chester chat was a lot more positive than we might have
expected at 3.09pm. This was a match which had good
pubs, food, atmosphere and – to cap it all –
two away goals for Chester. It was simply one of those
days which reminds me of I’m
a football fan. Can we have more please?
23 August Chester
0 FC Halifax Town 3
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,501 Half Time 0-1
Roberts (Heneghan 46), Kay, Brown, Charnock, James, Rooney,
McConville, Mahon (Menagh 54), Winn (Hobson 77), Iwelumo.
Subs not used: Worsnop, Blake. FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Roberts, Williams,
McManus, Bolton, Pearson, Maynard, Marshall, Boden, Jackson
(Schofield 62), Peniket (Dyer 80). Subs not used: Senior,
Ainge, Roberts. Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).
City were taken apart at home for the second time in succession
as they ended up well beaten by another strong and lively
side – this time Halifax. Following the opening
day thrashing by Barnet, City had restored some pride
with an improved display at Forest Green and then a win
on the road at Braintree. This display seemed to set them
back to square one.
Right from the start the Blues were up against it as,
almost to a man the Shaymen seemed taller and more athletic
than their counterparts. The visitors came sweeping forward,
finding swathes of room in front of City’s defence.
Peniket blazed over in the first minute. The signs were
City battled but were often overwhelmed by their stronger
and fitter opponents. It was a struggle for the Blues
to clear their lines at times and, when it seemed that
City had weathered the worst of the storm, they conceded
from just such an incident. Peniket pounced when a failed
clearance rebounded to him and he tucked the ball past
The Chester keeper had done well previously to turn a
Jackson shot round the post. Brown recovered well to made
a brilliant last ditch tackle on Boden. City at least
were hanging in there and offered brief glimmers of hope
at the other end – Rooney’s shot from distance
flashed wide and Winn’s deflected effort was narrowly
At half time City’s rearguard was rearranged, with
Heneghan coming on for Roberts. The former went to right
back while Kay went into the centre and Charnock to left
back. Blues continued to struggle defensively however
and though they tried to press forward, never got behind
the Shaymen’s back line. Winn and Mahon ended to
be isolated on the wings and, like everyone else in a
blue shirt, closed down quickly when in possession.
Once Halifax scored a second goal on seventy minutes the
result was never in doubt. When it came the goal seemed
simple enough. A raking ball from deep on the right found
Boden drifting away from his marker to head just inside
the far post. There seemed little prospect of City getting
a goal back. Worse followed when they lost possession
in attack on the right and one deft ball had Pearson racing
through on his own to score with embarrassing ease.
Disgruntlement boiled to the surface around three sides
of the stadium, unconfined joy at the other. Steve Burr
will want a much better showing than this when he returns
to Aggborough on Monday.
staged a second half fight back to register their first
win of the season as the Blues lifted themselves off the
foot of the table in style.
Steve Burr made two changes to the side that lost at
Forest Green Rovers for the trip to Essex, Chris Iwelumo
and John Disney came into the starting X1 replacing
Craig Hobson and Danny Taylor, new signing Ben Heneghan
started on the bench.
Goalkeeper Fredy Hall was in action
in the very first minutes saving well from Chez Issac
as the home side came at Chester from the off, Sean
Marks his the crossbar before the hosts took the lead
midway through the opening half as Disney handled a
free-kick insode the area and referee John Brooks awarded
The Iron a penalty that captain Kenny Davies duly despatched.
The home side carved out a number of chances in the
first half with a Marks header just wide of goal being
the pick of them.
Heneghan replaced Disned at half-time
and after a few chosed words from Burr ringing in their
ears the Blues came out and drew level three minutes
into the second period. John Rooney had alread hit the
post before he set up Sean McConville who shot past
Nick Harrison in the home goal. On 64 minutes Chris
Iwelumo stooped at the far post to meat McConville’s
cross and head Chester into the lead.
Three minutes later Chester
wrapped up the poinst as Craig Mahon fed McConville
who scores his second goal of the game to list Chester
to the heady heights of 16th place – their highest
league position since reforming.
Since last Saturday City supporters had been looking forward
to The Glorious Twelfth, the beginning of the grouse shooting
season, with as much enthusiasm as the birds themselves.
The prospect of facing another fancied and powerful side
so soon after the mauling by Barnet did not give cause
for optimism. But in the end this was a much, much better
performance by Chester and, with a little more fortune,
they might have come away from the New Lawn with a point
for their efforts.
begin with, however, City got off to another wobbly
start. Forest Green have under-achieved in recent years
given the investment in their club and have definite
ambitions for the play offs this season. The huge presence
of new signing Jon Parkin – like a luminous Jolly
Green Giant - loomed in attack as they came sweeping
forward. Sinclair and Kamdjo both captured from Salisbury,
came back from the end of last season to haunt Chester
Kamdjo got an early header on target,
but straight into the arms of Chester debutant Hall.
But a slick move down the right a few minutes later
ended with the Cameroonian ghosting in to meet Sinclair’s
cross and glance the ball into the back of the net.
After this, Blues, encouraged by a large and vociferous
travelling contingent, showed their resilience and gradually
got a footing back in the game. James had a shot wide
of the target; Rovers’ keeper Russell dropped
the ball at the far post under pressure from Hobson
before a defender’s clearance. There were some
promising signs. There were mistakes as well as passes
went astray and, from a good position, Rooney ballooned
a free kick way over the heads of the waiting Chester
forwards but at least City were staying in the game.
After the interval The Blues –
maybe we should call them The Viola in their away kit
– had a real purple patch. They pressed and held
the ball well and drove Rovers back into their own half.
Hobson had a half chance to score after James’
deflected shot just eluded him. They forced a succession
of corners which ended with Peter Winn blazing an effort
narrowly over the bar.
As City continued to press, they were
undone on the counter attack by Rovers. Taylor tussled
for the ball on the right wing with Elliott Frear. The
latter broke clear and raced forty or fifty yards down
the wing with Taylor in hot pursuit. Frear crossed and
found Parkin at the far post. His first shot was blocked
but the ball fell kindly to him and “The Beast”
bludgeoned a second goal into the back of the net.
City retaliated and Hobson was unlucky
to see his venomous shot on the turn go narrowly wide.
Kieran Charnock, stealing in at the far post, just failed
to get on the end of a Gareth Roberts’ cross.
Chris Iwelumo replaced Craig Mahon and was almost immediately
drawn into the arguments that followed Hobson being
knocked to the ground off the ball by Coles the Rovers
defender. The latter received a yellow card.
The momentum of the game swung again
and Forest Green dominated for a while. Hall was called
upon to make a couple of saves from Hughes and from
Frear. The Blues began to regain composure and hold
on to the ball better - McConville, deputising for the
suspended Harrison was doing sterling work in this regard
but the attitude and workrate of all the team was really
Menagh replaced Hobson and FGR threw
a couple of pairs of fresh legs into the fray too.
With just over ten minutes to go Chester
got the breakthrough their play merited when, following
good possession down the right, Rooney’s cross
tantalised Coles whose header fell to Winn. The left
winger struck a sweet low shot in off the post. Fresh
belief surged round the terraces and on the field as
City began to look for an unlikely equaliser. The home
side were definitely rattled as the Blues forced them
back and into some desperate defending. Parkin took
the ball into the corner to run the game down. Nerves
were jangling. James got into the box on a couple of
occasions but Rovers defended in depth and he couldn’t
find a way through the tangle of legs. The closest City
came to a second was Rooney’s grass-cutter shot
to the corner which Russell just managed to get to and
palm away at full stretch.
When the final whistle blew the dejection
of the Blues players was clear – they had given
their all. But the tremendous ovation they received
from the travelling support lifted them to their feet.
Bruised pride had been purged by the players’
great efforts tonight and hope rekindled in the hearts
of their supporters. It almost felt like City had won.
Blues made a disastrous start to the new campaign as
they were humiliated by a strong Barnet side. Barnet
at home was Steve Burr’s first game in charge
last January. Then City managed a last minute win –
what a contrast in emotion there was at the end of the
game today. Since then the Bees have changed manager
– Edgar Davids did not last long after the loss.
Martin Allen, his replacement, has recruited well and
came to watch City pre-season. The Bees hit the ground
It all started going wrong from the
moment City lost the toss and began attacking the Harry
Mac end. Winn did well to win a free kick after dispossessing
Yiadom by the corner flag. Rooney whipped the ball in
and Matt Brown’s header hit James and flew just
the wrong side of the post.
Barnet’s first attack produced
a goal when Yiadom raced on to a lay-off and scored
with ease with an angled shot past Worsnop. City responded
with another attack and all but equalised when James
found Winn and his driven cross almost deflected over
the line until it was scooped clear by a Barnet defender.
Harrison was then dismissed after
lunging for a misplaced pass put just beyond him. It
was harsh but nevertheless rash given City’s poor
disciplinary record last season. There is less room
for error in today’s game. The Bees swarmed round
the ref until he stung Harrison with a red card.
City were soon in disarray as Barnet
doubled their lead. Lee Cook, signed from Leyton Orient
on Tuesday found ample room inside the box to volley
a looping shot into the far corner. At the other end
Hobson made a nuisance of himself with Barnet’s
towering centre backs. He wriggled past one to lift
a bouncing ball over the keeper but a foot wide of the
By half an hour the game was effectively
over when City conceded a third from the penalty spot.
Worsnop had rushed out of his goal to fly at the feet
of Akinde and down the forward went. MacDonald thrashed
the ball into the net.
As half time drew near City built
up a head of steam. Hobson, proved more than a handful
for Stephens, literally so as the defender was penalised
for grappling with him on the edge of the box. Mr Rushton
the referee lined up the defensive wall – without
World Cup vanishing spray (Though he could have improvised
with a toilet roll thrown conveniently into the area).
Vilhete, the smallest player on the pitch was right
in the middle of the wall. When Rooney’s kick
powered straight at him he handled the ball, to protect
his face, and City were awarded a penalty. Rooney shot
low and accurately but without enough power and Stack
caught the ball at full stretch. City were denied the
glimmer of hope that a goal would have provided and
the new season’s balloon of optimism was well
and truly deflated.
Any hopes of a City revival after
the break were swiftly snubbed out as Barnet scored
two further goals. First City’s lack of cover
on the right was horribly exposed as Akinde strode down
the left and cut the ball back for Cook to score with
a crisp shot into the corner. Then Marsh-Brown, three
minutes after coming on as substitute, tormented Chester
with a horribly soft goal. Somehow, from an acute angle,
he threaded the ball past Roberts and Worsnop as though
they weren’t there.
The Blues had been given the run-around
and there was still over half an hour to go. Burr threw
Menagh and Iwelumo on but the game was long gone. City
tried to salvage some pride – Stack saved well
from Rooney and spectacularly from Mahon – but
this was a crushing defeat.
Following the Blues has always been
character-building. City have lost 0-5 at home on the
opening day before – to Northampton in 1987. Encouragingly
they recovered to finish mid-table. On the other hand,
when they have lost to Barnet on the opening day previously
(1999 and 2013) City have been relegated. Which omen
you trust indicates whether you are an optimist, pessimist
or maybe something in-between. Oh how we long for a
season of mid-table obscurity.