was to be no Christmas cheer for City fans who witnessed
a second successive 0-3 home defeat in less than a
week as Milton Keynes Dons carried on their impressive
form with a sixth win on the spin to move two points
behind end-of-year leaders Walsall.
Too add to the problems piling
up the card total for the two festive matches reached
eight yellow and two red following another spate
of bookings and an early bath for defender Paul
There was no place for captain
Stephen Vaughan after the club had announced that
he could be leaving in the new year, Dean Bennett
returned to the side following injury to take his
place while Roberto Martinez took the skipper’s
armband. In defence David Artell replaced Phil Bolland
who took a seat on the bench.
Chester applied the early pressure
with Dons keeper Lee Harper soon in action cutting
out a dangerous Jon Walters cross before strike partner
Gregg Blundell to get to it. Minutes later Blundell
saw a shot blocked from close range after a defensive
slip had given the striker a sniff of an early goal.
City were having the better of
the pssission and the overworked Harper was in action
again producing a fine save to deny Sean Hessey whose
powerdrive looked to be heading for the top corner.
It wasn’t until midway through
the half before the visitors threatened the City
net as goal-machine Izale McLeod, surely a transfer
target in January, for once failed to find the target
as he headed wide when well placed. As the opening
period drew to a close John Danby produced a great
save to deny Aaron Wilbraham whose powerful shot
was pushed wide.
The opening goal came on 60 minutes
as McLeod cutting in on the left edge of the penalty
to have been tripped as he threaded the ball past
took the penalty low down to Danby’s right but the ‘keeper made
a great save but couldn’t prevent Clive Platt for racing in to slot
home the rebound.
The Blues responded well and Roberto
Martinez forced another save from Harper after latching
on to Simon Marples’ teasing cross moments
Moments later the Dons added a
second goal. A freekick was floated over to the far
post to Wilbraham whose header on target could only
be parried by Danby into the path of McLeod who had
the easiest chance to notch his 16th league goal
of the season.
Manager Mark Wright made a double
substitution introducing Phil Bolland for Ashley
Westwood and striker Lee Steele for Bennett but before
the couple could make a telling contribution to the
game the Blues found themselved three goals down
as Jon-Paul McGovern curled a direct free kick from
distance into the top corner after a foul on substitute
To complete the afternoon of misery
for City Paul Linwood picked up a second yellow card
from time to become the sixth City player dismissed
so far this season.
Legendary manager Harry McNally would be turning in his grave at the Chester
performance in front of the terrace newly named in his honour.
It was Macclesfield
who showed the fighting spirit which used to be
the trademark of Harry’s Chester
team, earning the Silkmen a deserved 3-0 victory
and a move away from the bottom of League Two.
In truth, neither side put on an impressive performance
in front of the Boxing Day crowd of 3,365, although
City started the slightly brighter of the two Cheshire
But after an early shot from
Roberto Martinez – nicknamed ‘Mad
Dog’ by the Spaniards sitting behind me (were
they related to him?) – Macclesfield soon found
their feet. Barely 10 minutes had gone by when Jamie
Tolley passed to an unmarked Matthew Tipton. He took
a good shot which City ‘keeper John Danby failed
to stop and the first goal in front of the Harry
McNally Terrace sadly went to the opposition.
It was almost one-way traffic
after that with City’s
only real chances coming from a wild Laurence Wilson
strike which went well wide and a couple of corners
which were easily dealt with by the Macc defence.
The game got rather scrappy
and after a midfield ‘pushing
and shoving session’ ended in bookings for
Wilson and Stephen Vaughan, the red mist descended
on Wilson. Just four minutes later he was sent off
for his second bookable offence after a bad challenge
in the middle of the park. He couldn’t argue
with the decision.
Referee Nigel Miller then
provoked the City fans when he failed to find in
the Blues’ favour
when Jon Walters was fouled in the area. Soon
after, he sent off Tolley for a second bookable offence,
but was still roundly booed by home fans when he
went off at half-time.
The City team failed to be
inspired by the half-time official naming of the
Harry McNally terrace and
the re-appearance of former City heroes Stuart Rimmer,
John Kelly and Gary Bennett on the pitch. For fans
of a certain age, it was worth the gate money alone
to hear the name “Rimmer” being chanted
again and to know that Harry was finally getting
the official recognition he deserved.
There was little else to
remember from the day. The first 30 minutes of
the second half passed with
City’s only real threat being a powerful Hessey
strike which was deflected for a corner. Mark Wright
tried to change things around on 61 minutes by replacing
Blundell with Lee Steele. He attempted to make his
presence felt, but didn’t really make any headway.
It was nearly game over not long after the substitution,
when City failed to deal with a Macclesfield free
kick and ex-Chester player Kevin McIntyre scored
for the Silkmen to make it 2-0.
City had a faint chance of
getting back into it when a good Jonathan Walters
shot rattled against
the crossbar in front of the home end. It was City’s
best chance of the game, but there was soon a goal
at the other end.
Another ex-Chester player,
this time “Big” John
Murphy, made it three for Macclesfield when he thumped
a rasping shot into the net. Hundreds of City fans
started making an early exit – this was not
going to be a match to remember, nor one to win over
any ‘part-time’ supporters. They must
have been thinking they’d have had a better
day at the sales.
There were four minutes of
added time, but there was nothing City could do
to even get a consolation
goal in ‘Harry’s End’. He’ll
be growling loudly in football heaven now – I
hope the Chester team can hear him!
16 December Peterborough United 0
Chester City 2 League Two
Attendance: 4,491 (168 Chester) Half Time 0-2
was a happy return to London Road for Mark Wright as
City moved up four places to tenth in League two following
this two goal defeat of his former club.
The margin of victory would have been even greater but
for a great display in the home goal by man of the match
Mark Tyler who made several great saves to deny City
before having to hobble off late in the game to be replaced
by club captain and outfield player Dean Holden as the
Posh had already used all their substitutes.
Tyler was in the thick of things early
on to deny Roberto Martinez as the Spaniard saw his
shot from a tight angle pushed over the bar for a corner.
City took the lead on nine minutes
as Jon Walters beat the onrushing Tyler to Stephen Vaughan’s
right wing cross to head home. The Blues (playing in
yellow) should have doubled their lead minutes later
but Gregg Blundell, given far too much time by the home
defence, saw his close range effort saved by Tyler’s
outstretched legs. Hessey, making a return to the side
at the expense of David Artell, saw a low shot parried
away as City pushed for a second. Tyler then pulled
off a magnificent save to deny Blundell from a cracking
volley after some quick interplay from the City midfield.
At the other end the action was sparse
with Lloyd Opara heading wide the only real half chance
that came the home sides way.
Five minutes before the break City
got the second goal their first-half play had deserved
though it had an element of luck about it as Laurence
Wilson’s long range effort was deflected home
by defender Mark Arber who sliced the ball past a stranded
Tyler with a casual looking attempted clearance.
At the interval Peterborough made
a double change bringing on Trevor Benjamin and Shane
Danby was soon tested with several
teasing crosses as the home side applied the pressure
after the break. Holden, Butcher and Stirling all saw
efforts plucked out of the air by the City shot-stopper
while at the other end Martinez kept Tyler on his guard
bringing out another full length save following a 20
The nearest the home side came to
reducing the lead was when Ben Futcher’s header
was cleared from under his own crossbar by Hessey. Despite
the home sides pressure Chester continued to counter-attack
with vigor and Martinez, Walters and Blundell all saw
chances to extend the lead saved.
With around 20 minutes remaining Tyler
had to be assisted from the field with an ankle injury
that reduced the home side to ten men. City had several
chances to take advantage of their numerical supremacy
with Walters wasting a great effort in trying to walk
the ball in and Blundell seeing a shot deflected by
Holden for a corner in front of the small band of City
City brought on three substitutes
as they comfortably played out until the final whistle
to complete their third successive league victory. The
Blues now enter the busy four match festive programme
beginning at Mansfield Town on Friday night.
Chester crashed out of the FA Cup in this second round
replay to miss out on a home tie with Championship side
Ipswich Town in the third.
went into the game full of confidence on the back
of two successive Deva League wins and got off to
after just three minutes when Laurence Wilson weaved
his way past several defenders from the left wing
into the box and shoot past Shakers ‘keeper Alan
Fettis who just got his fingertips to the ball but couldn’t
prevent it from going in off the far post.
had started like a house on fire, just a couple of minutes
later Walters set-up Gregg Blundell who found himself
in plenty of space but delayed before putting his shot
wide of goal. City pressed again, Jonathan Walters also
found himself in space before shooting straight at Fettis
when a second goal looked certain.
It was ten minutes before John Danby
was threatened in the home goal as he saved well from
a low Andy Bishop shot.
City came close to adding a second
just after the half hour mark as the unlucky Walters
saw an effort hit the woodwork following a Roberto Martinez
However with nine minutes remaining
the dangerous Bishop brought the scores level as he
was allowed to head home unmarked past Danby following
a right-wing Glynn Hurst cross to send the teams in
level at the break.
City were rocked four minutes after
the interval as provider Hurst turned goalscorer as
he towered above the City defence at the back post to
head home Marc Pugh’s sweeping far post cross.
Six minutes later it was game over
as Bury forced a third. Once again the City defence
failed to clear properly from a Bishop effort and Dwayne
Mattis picked up a loose ball to fire home from the
edge of the box through a crowd of players.
Bury were in control and Pugh almost
added a fourth after the introduction of Ryan Semple
and Lee Steele saw City reverting to playing with three
Despite the Blues enjoying more of
the possession they rarely threatened Fettis in the
Bury goal with a late Martinez free-kick forcing the
only real save as the visitors comfortably held out
for a third round tie in January.
turned in one of their best performances of the season
as goals from Roberto Martinez, Jon Walters, Gregg Blundell
and Laurence Wilson give the Blues an emphatic victory
over high-flying Lincoln City at a cold Deva Stadium.
The Imps came to Chester boasting the best away record
in League Two but they were brushed aside as three second half strikes
brought a second successive home victory and pushed the Blues’ goal
difference into the positive as well.
With Ashley Westwood serving a one match ban, Phil
Bolland stepped into the heart of the defence. Ryan Semple, on loan from
Lincoln was also forced to watch from the sidelines as Lincoln, who forced
no less that 15 corners to Chester’s one during the 90 minutes,
were to start without the services of top scorer Jamie Forrester who
late fitness test.
The visitors forces in the early pressure in the swirling
rain with the Blues defence clearing from a right wing corner. Andy Marriott
in the Lincoln goal did well to hold a Roberto Martinez free-kick, while Kevin
Sandwith and Jamie Hand both tried long-range efforts as City, with the wind
at their backs, looked to take advantage of the conditions.
On 20 minutes Chester opened the scoring. Stephen Vaughan
sent over a looping cross to the far post, Andy Marriott came out but seemed
to collide with defender Nicky Eaden in attempting to deal with the ball
which broke to Jon Walters whose square pass set up Martinez to score from
Lincoln struck back with defender Nat Brown heading a free-kick
into Danby’s arms and David Artell made a crucial sliding challenge to
deny Ryan Amoo and maintain City’s advantage at the interval.
Marriott saved with his legs following a low Blundell
shot five minutes after the break but City doubled their advantage minutes
later as Jonathan Walters stooped to head home Gregg Blundell’s
cross off the crossbar the ball bounced down before hitting the stranded
on the back before Walters followed up to steer the ball over the line
from a yard.
Lincoln made a double substitution and pulled a goal
back just a minute later as they pushed defender Brown forwards and were
rewarded as he scrambled a goal back on 64 minutes following a cross from
Martin Gritton missed at the back post by the Chester defence who allowed
Lee Freckleton to head back for Brown.
The dangerous Freckleton sent in a shot that Danby saved
well before Mark Wright brought on some extra defensive cover in the form of
Paul Linwood for Simon Marples.
With fifteen minutes remaining City ensured there was to
be no nervy ending as they added a third when in-form striker Blundell glanced
a header from a Sandwith free-kick over Marriott and in off the bar for his
seventh goal in eight matches.
Lincoln forced another flurry or corners but the three points
were wrapped up eight minutes from time as Laurence Wilson headed home, with
the help of his shoulder, Blundell’s pin-point right wing cross for his
fourth goal of the season.
There was just enough time for Freckleton to go close again,
the woodwork coming to City’'s rescue, before referee Stroud blew a halt to
City are gaining a reputation over recent weeks of only
being able to play a game of one half. Tonight was no
exception as they stumbled laboriously through a painful
forty-five minutes before racing away from Boston to win
at a canter.
It was a cold and squally evening, there was the attraction
of live European football on the telly, and both of these
factors no doubted contributed to the meagre gate of 1,527.
The play was fragmented and pedestrian for much of the
first half which gave ample opportunity to while away
the time by counting the crowd. I made it 37 who had made
the long journey from Lincolnshire.
If, anything, Boston looked the more lively and more likely
to score.Their forward, N’Guessan made a nuisance
of himself all evening and seemed keen to capitalise on
hesitancy in City’s defence. He crashed a shot
in after turning Marples which Danby did well to parry
to the crossbar. Earlier Danby came out of his area to
tackle a Boston midfielder as he raced clear on goal
Going forward City looked lively only sporadically when
Blundell and Wilson combined. The Blues were guilty of
wasting a succession of corners and free kicks with poor
After the break N’Guessan tried the patience of
the referee once too often and became the first and last
person into his notebook for the evening. From the free
kick back in Chester’s half, Walters climbed and
knocked the ball down to Blundell. Gregg got a lucky break
from a tackle and ball sat up kindly for him. His finish
was top class as he curled the ball round Marriott and
into the corner of the net from outside the area.
Boston rallied, Elding headed into the net but was offside,
and the Pilgrims worked hard at keeping City pinned back
until Sandwith sprang Walters loose with a raking pass
and, as the City forward prepared to cross, he was scythed
down by Miller. Blundell put the resulting penalty away
with élan – his confidence restored following
the trauma of his injury against Rochdale a year ago.
When Walters ran and shot powerfully from outside the
area, Marriott was deceived as the ball hit a divot and
lifted over his outstreched body. The look club captain,
and former City player, Ellender gave his goalkeeper said
it all. Stephen Vaughan came within a nano second of scoring
his first goal for City as his shot was stopped by a last
ditch tackle. The game was up for Boston – though
that just encouraged the knot of die-hards behind their
goal to sing even more defiantly into the wind. N’Guessan
rewarded them with an almost casual goal as City’s
defence seemed to fall asleep following a late substitution.
Even the loss of a clean sheet could not detract from
this more than welcome three points. It provides a bit
of a cushion before the visit from Boston’s Lincolnshire
neighbours, though at the opposite end of the table this
coming Saturday. The road back to Birmingham (and Boston
no doubt) glowed white in the light of the full moon.
FA Cup is supposed to be all about drama and passion,
well, it was hard to see any of that in the first half
of this 2nd round tie at Bury’s Gigg Lane.
We had to wait for the second half
– and a barmy 11 minute spell which saw the watching
3,428 finally entertained by four goals, before you
really felt this was more than just a game between two
mid-table L2 teams with nothing much to play for.
Bury started the match brighter of
the two teams, with City ‘keeper John Danby forced
into making a couple of saves and the Shakers earning
a corner, which was easily cleared, in the first five
Bury’s on-loan ‘keeper
Andy Warrington, remembered by many City fans for his
penalty saves for Doncaster against Chester’s “Deadly
DCs” – Dave Cameron and Daryl Clare – in
the 2003 Conference play-offs, was kept quiet for the
first 15 minutes or so, until he had to make a save
from a Ryan Semple header.
Soon after, Chester made about their
only neat passing move of the first half and Jamie
Hand had a shot on target, again easily held by Warrington.
Jonathan Walters looked busy as ever throughout the
first half and forced Warrington into a near post save
towards the end of the half – probably the nearest
City came to scoring by that stage.
Bury won a couple of first half free
kicks near the penalty area and the closest they came
to the target followed one of these. But once again,
Dave Artell was in the right place (about three yards
off the line) to head the ball clean away.
As the City fans waiting in long
queues for refreshments or otherwise at half-time,
there were mutterings of the football on display being “like
watching paint dry”. It really was impossible
to talk about the “magic of the Cup”.
But Chester manager Mark Wright did
his bit to liven up the 800 or so travelling Blues’ fans
with an attacking half-time substitution, with Lee
Steele and Dean Bennett replacing Kevin Sandwidth and
Almost from the off Walters had another
decent chance to score, closer to the line this time,
and right in front of the expectant away following.
But Warrington saved again and a dangerous rebound
was also dealt with by the Bury defence.
Referee Keith Woolmer had already
set his stall out as a fussy individual in the first
half, with bookings for Laurence Wilson and Ashley
Westwood, and he soon had the Chester fans yelling “hometown
referee” at him. Steele went down after a penalty
area challenge, but Mr Woolmer was having none of it
and promptly booked Steele for diving.
But Steele thought he had the last
laugh a few minutes later when he controlled the ball
well in the area, with only Warrington to beat. He
tapped the ball underneath the ‘keeper to put
City 1-0 up and to finally bring bring the Chester
cup dream to life.
The City celebrations didn’t
last long, however, as leading scorer Andy Bishop netted
easily at the other end just three minutes later. Did
the over-exuberant announcer really say something about “bashing
the Bishop” as the Bury fans celebrated?
It wasn’t long before the distinctive
announcer, who reminded those around me of a boxing
PA, was on the tannoy again. Danby initially did well
to make a low save from a one-on-one with Bishop. But
the rebound fell to Richie Baker, who lobbed the ball
over Danby before he had chance to get up.
But the game wasn’t over yet,
and just five minutes later, Steele was in the box
and hit the ball under Warrington again. This time
it was at a tight angle, and the ball just found its
way home across the line.
Steele sprinted to the on-rushing
City fans to celebrate and before he knew it found
himself over the low wall separating the fans from
the pitch. Cue the arrival of his friend, Mr Woolmer,
and Steele was booked for over-celebrating, and consequently
sent off for a second bookable offence. Perhaps he
should have known better, and it led to a very tense
It was backs against the wall for
City as Bury took advantage of the extra man and continued
to press forward. Mr Woolmer did nothing to endear
himself to Chester fans as full-time approached when
we were told there would be seven minutes of added
time. You’d think there’d been a long stoppage
for a serious injury, but the referee must have seen
a delay we’d all missed.
As the time ticked closer to
5pm, Bury had most of the ball. But there was no
real chance in the extended injury time and Mr Woolmer
finally found his whistle – much to the relief
of Chester and their fans. Here’s hoping the “Hometown
referee” lives up to his nickname for the rematch
at the Deva Stadium.
the match on Saturday was Sebastian Blair (above)
who is raising money for MENCAP SPORT. He is following
the progress of the FA Cup from the first qualifying
round (Wembley v Thame United) through to the final.
Bury v Chester was the tenth match so far in the
sequence having followed Wembley › Redbridge › AFC
Hornchurch › Welling United › Clevedon
Town and the trail continues with Chester City
following our victory in the last round. Sebastian
was collecting donations at our second round match
at Bury and will be at Deva Stadium
for the replay. If you would like to donate to
the cause, or read more about the venture, please
visit his website here.