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Saturday 26 December 2003
Chester City 5 Leigh RMI 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 3,044 Half Time 2-0
Booked: None.

Chester City: McCaldon, Ruffer, Guyett, Regan, Smith (Davies 79), Carden, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Clare (Rapley 79), Stamp (Twiss 79). Subs not used: Bolland, Foster.
Leigh RMI: Kelly, Rezai, Maden, Harris, Redmond (Orr 70), Lancaster, Shepherd, Peyton (Ashmole 76), Kielty, Barrowclough, McNiven. Subs not used: Tench, Lucas, Martin.
Referee: R.Pollock (Liverpool). 

CLICK for larger pictureCity turned on the style again with another scintillating five-goal performance to sweep aside Leigh RMI in front of 3,000 fans as Deva Stadium and claim their highest victory of the season. The visitors, who featured two ex-Blues in their line-up, Martyn Lancaster and David McNiven had no answer to City’s domination that saw a second hat-trick in a week as this time Darryn Stamp claimed the match ball following Darryl Clare’s success at Tamworth.

It took City, kicking towards their own fans in the first half, just ten minutes to open the scoring as a wayward back pass across the face of goal by a Leigh defender Harris under pressure from Stamp, was intercepted by Clare on the edge of the box, he just beat an onrushing defender to the ball to unleash an unstoppable shot into the top corner that burnt Kelly’s fingers on the way in.

The Blues almost doubled their lead minutes later as Danny Collins saw his header blocked by the experienced Steve Redmond following a teasing corner from Alex Smith. But on 18 minutes the second duly arrived. Good work by Daryl Clare who retrieved a ball that seemed to be heading out for a goal-kick, and some fine inter-passing, set up Carl Regan who seemed to hesitate for an offside flag before delivering a perfect pass into the box for Stamp to touch the ball home.

What little that The Railwaymen did have to offer was quickly extinguished by Danny Collins and Carl Ruffer with McCaldon called into his only save of the half from a Peyton free-kick. City were now rampant and looking for more goals and the third duly arrived on 35 minutes.

Alex Smith, along with Shaun Carey and Paul Carden played well in midfield and were getting the ball forward at every opportunity. One such ball found Stamp on the left hand edge of the box, he cut in and shook off two challenges to find himself one-on-one against Kelly before slotting the ball past the exposed keeper.

There was time before the break for Clare to hit the post at full stretch and for Kelly to make a good near-post save after a thunderous snap-shot from dangerman Clare again, before the Blues left the field to a well deserved sanding ovation.

The Railwaymen came more into the game after the break though they didn’t really threaten McCaldon in the City goal until late on. The keeper was left flat footed though as one header from McNiven flashed just wide, the striker was unlucky also to see a shot hit the crossbar with City’s defence beaten. Stamp twice shot wide before he completed a well-deserved hat-trick on 73 minutes as he turned in Kevin McIntyre’s left wing cross from close range.

Manager Mark Wright took off Clare, Stamp and Smith to thunderous applause and it was left to substitute Kevin Rapley to complete the rout four minutes from time as he converted a Michael Twiss cross.
Saturday 20 December 2003
Tamworth 1 Chester City 5
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,520 Half Time 0-2
Booked: McIntyre, Ruffer.

Brush, Johnson, Rodwell, Dryden, Smith (Sylla 52), Baptiste, Blunt, Cooper (Warner 73), Follett, Quailey, Darby. Subs not used: Robinson, Lindley, Greenaway.
Chester City: McCaldon, Smith (Harris 86), Regan, Ruffer, Guyett, McIntyre (Bolland 79), Collins, Carey, Carden, Clare (Rapley 86), Stamp. Subs not used: Davies, Foster.
Referee: Jarnail Singh (Hounslow).

CLICK for larger pictureSanta delivered the perfect early Christmas present to all Chester fans who wisely chose to support the team on their first ever visit to Tamworth. He also gave striker Daryl Clare his just reward for a hard-working performance – in the shape of a glorious hat-trick.

Tireless midfielder Alex Smith and Carl Ruffer, who put in his usual gritty performance in defence, weren’t overlooked either. They scored an excellent goal each as City simply over-ran a Tamworth team who looked out of their depth most of the afternoon.

It seemed hard to believe that Tamworth beat Hereford just a week ago, especially when the Bulls managed to put seven goals past Forest Green Rovers on Friday night.

Chester, with Darryn Stamp returning to partner Clare up front and goalkeeper Ian McCaldon coming in for the injured Wayne Brown, did make a cautious start to the game as if they had last week’s Lambs’ victory over Hereford on their mind. During the first ten minutes the ball never seemed to stray far from the Tamworth attackers.

But the strong Blues’ defence soaked up the pressure, with an early Tamworth corner easily caught by McCaldon, and Paul Carden and Smith were soon making their presence felt in midfield.

On the 20th minute, the ball came out to Kevin McIntyre, who was floored as he tried to make a cross into the area. Sanny Collins took the resultant free kick and Ruffer was in the right place to bang the ball home. He was clearly overjoyed with his early Christmas gift – doing a celebratory jig to show how he moved his feet to get into a scoring position.

The Blues’ faithful now forgot all the drawbacks of the day – the en route traffic problems, the dismal weather, the ranks of police there to greet us, the less than warming surroundings of a tiny bike-shed style stand, and the huge queues for the toilets and the food wagon. Who cares when you’re 1-0 up and top of the league?

But it got even better on the 37th minute when new number 11 Carl Regan, on loan from Hull City, found Clare unmarked in the area. Deadly Daryl doesn’t often miss such good opportunities and he had no problem in finding the back of the net.

It wasn’t a classic Conference first half, with the windy and rainy conditions not exactly helping either team. It was so blustery there almost seemed to be a danger of a highly kicked balls landing on top of the “Snow Dome”, which loomed largely across the road. At one stage a thumping thwack by Lambs’ keeper Richard Brush, on loan from Coventry, almost came straight back into his arms.

But the second half was a much more sparkling performance from the Blues. They were obviously confident of getting a result and almost every member of the team seemed to take it in turns to show off their flicks and other ball skills.

Within three minutes, there was a neat interchange on the edge of the Tamworth area and Shaun Carey passed to Clare. He clinically turned and volleyed the ball home from about 18 yards out.

Although it was now 3-0, Tamworth didn’t give up and McCaldon was bought into the action when the ball came to Alex Baptiste following a Lambs’ throw-in. He was very close to goal, but McCaldon made an excellent blocked stop.

The cheekiest goal of the day fell to Smith on the 70th minute. Following a fine solo run and yet another display of sleek one-touch passing, the ball came back to Smith. He took the pass on his thigh and lobbed the ball over the keeper for a real gem of a goal.

Tamworth did win themselves a consolation goal when Norman Sylla had an easy opportunity to shoot when the ball was headed towards him in the area. Their fans, who didn’t seem turn on their players during the game despite their poor performance, gave him a hearty round of applause.

But it was soon our turn to cheer again when an Alex Smith corner was fumbled by Brush. Goalpoacher Clare was in the right place and the ball hit the back of the net yet again to earn Clare his hat-trick.

Clare was replaced by Kevin Rapley as the game drew to an end, earning himself a well deserved round of applause from the polite Tamworth fans, as well as the jubilant City followers as he came off the pitch. Within a few minutes, the final whistle blew and he dashed back onto the field to claim his Christmas matchball.

Any Chester fans who didn’t venture to Tamworth because they were doing their Christmas shopping missed a real cracker. But it’s bound to have given the team some real confidence – so bring on Christmas and then Leigh RMI!

Sue Choularton

City fans
Under early pressure
Home fans

Saturday 13 December 2003
Chester City 1 Stevenage Borough 2
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,145 Half Time 0-1
Booked: McIntyre, Bolland.

Chester City: Brown, Smith, Ruffer, Bolland, Guyett (Twiss 66), Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Clare, Rapley (Stamp 67). Subs not used: Heard, Carden, Foster.
Stevenage Borough: Perez, Bunce, Warner, Laker, Holloway, Gould, Watson, Wormull, Elding (Cook 90), Baptiste, Maamria (Smith 77). Subs not used: Brennan, Richards, Shamlian.
Referee: C.Harwood (Manchester).

CLICK for larger pictureCity’s post-war record run of 18 undefeated league games finally came to an end as Stevenage Borough became the first team to take three points away from the Deva this season. In truth, Boro deserved their win, as goals in each half from Anthony Elding and Rocky Baptiste were enough to bring victory though a last-gasp Michael Twiss strike gave City a glimmer of hope.

Manager Mark Wright made one change from the side that won at Halifax Town bringing in Phil Bolland to replace Jamie Heard who took his place on the bench. It was the Blues who had the first efforts on goal with Daryl Clare forcing a save from Perez though minutes later City had the woodwork to thank as Rocky Baptiste, who looked dangerous all game, chipped a static home defence only to see his effort hit the bar.

City had a glorious opportunity to take the lead midway through the half. Scott Guyett battled down the right and send in a pin-point cross to Kevin Rapley only for the striker to send his glancing header wide from just six yards out. The match swung swiftly to the other end where Bolland was in the right place to block a Dino Maamria header for a corner.

Perez made another smart close range save after Guyett had seen a shot deflected before the visitors took the lead on 37 minutes. Maamria broke down the right, beat Danny Collins before crossing for Elding to head home from close range.

Both sides had chances up to the break, Guyett was on hand to clear a Boro corner in injury time then saw a header from a Kevin McIntyre inswinging corner blocked by Bunce at the other.

The first minute of the second half saw another City corner cleared as the Blues, kicking towards the home fans, looked to get on level terms. However City were restricted to a number of long range efforts, mostly from Clare, as they struggled to create. Wright made a double substitution on 66 minutes bringing on Michael Twiss and Darryn Stamp for Guyett and Rapley. The change almost paid off immediately. Clare was fouled by Bunce and Ben Davies was unlucky to see his curling free-kick hit the foot of the post, the ball being cleared before Clare could reach the rebound.

A minute later City were two down as Wormull broke clear before feeding Baptiste, the striker held off a couple of challenges before beating Wayne Brown.

Both McIntyre and Bolland were booked before City pulled a goal back in the second minute of added time with Twiss’ left-foot shot form 12 yards. Indeed, City almost grabbed and equaliser in the sixth minute of added time but sw Perez make another great save from Stamp’s flick header following a McIntyre free-kick.

So a deserved win for Stevenage who, on the day, looked stronger in all departments. City must now prepare for four games over the festive period starting next Saturday with a trip to Tamworth who did the Blues a big favour today with their shock 1-0 win at Hereford United.
Saturday 6 December 2003
Halifax Town 0 Chester City 3
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,928 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Smith, Collins, Rapley.

Halifax Town:
Cartwright, McAuley, Monington, McCombe, Yates, Midgley, Bushell, Hudson (Owen 67), Sagare (Killeen 60), Lee (Allan 69), Mallon. Subs not used: Hockenhull, Farrell.
Chester City: Brown, Collins, Ruffer, Guyett, McIntyre, Carey, Davies, Smith (Carden 71), Heard (Bolland 54), Rapley, Clare. Subs not used: Twiss, Foster, Stamp.
Referee: C.Oliver (Ashington).

CLICK Here for larCity extended their lead with this quality performance at The Shay in front of several hundred ecstatic travelling fans. Once again manager Mark Wright opted for a forward line of Kevin Rapley and Daryl Clare with Darryn Stamp starting on the bench.

Despite the scoreline City didn’t have things all their own way. Wayne Brown was the busier of the two keepers in the opening stages, saving well from a Christian Lee 18-yarder and seeing a long range shot from Danny Hudson blocked by Danny Collins. Midway through the half busy midfielder Alex Smith was booked after the referee adjudged he’d dived on the edge of the box, minutes after City through they’d taken the lead when Smith fed Jamie Heard down the right and his perfectly weighted far post cross was turned in at the far post by Rapley only for the linesman to flag offside.

Minutes later City did take the lead though through a well worked goal. Once again Scott Guyett picked up the ball on half-way before passing to Rapley on the edge of the box, he threaded the perfect reverse ball through to the through running Davies who slotted the ball past Cartwright before celebrating with a cartwheel in front of the bench.

Minutes before the break Wayne Brown was called into action saving a long range effort from Steve Bushell after the Halifax skipper was allowed to run at City’s defence.

After the break City suffered a blow as Jamie Heard, having a good game for the Blues, was stretchered off following a heavy challenge from Jake Sagare that left the youngster with stud marks down both ankles from the tackle that, astonishingly in the eyes of the referee, didn’t even warrant a free-kick.

The Blues kept probing and five minutes later doubled their lead through Danny Collins. City were awarded a free-kick on the right following a foul on Guyett. McIntyre’s quick free-kick was glanced home by Collins from six yards, though the defender gained a yellow card for his celebrations with the traveling fans behind the goal.

Just six minutes later City wrapped up the three points. Scott GUyett took a long throw on the right to Smith, he drew three defenders before dissecting them all with a sublime ball back to Guyett whose first-time cross was slid in by Daryl Clare from close range.

The game was won but the home side still had a chance or two to reduce the arrears. Mark Monington shot over from 30 yards and before the end Wayne Brown was called into save from both Sean McAuley and Craig Midgley.

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