of heat but not a great deal of light was generated in
this Boxing Day derby. City held the early advantage and,
with cooler heads might have won but in the end were probably
thankful to come away with a point.
Rivalry between Chester and Northwich has seldom been
intense as their paths have not crossed much down the
years. But their respective positions in the table going
into this match combined with a spat over ticketing arrangements
which led to many City followers having the irritation
of going to Northwich beforehand to collect tickets had
given this encounter something of an edge. Near neighbours
Witton had stirred the pot too by offering free parking
and the chance for refreshment in their bar to Chester’s
travelling supporters. It was a completely impartial offer
of course – Witton don’t mind who beat Northwich.
It became clear from the kick off that the Vics were going
to be in City’s faces and not allow them time on
the ball. Pushing forward themselves the home side sought
to launch long throws into City’s box – but
not literally so as Short, the left back was a leading
exponent. Chester were handed an advantage when ‘keeper
Hinchliffe dashed out to meet Howard who was in pursuit
of Sarcevicvs through ball. The keeper suffered an aberration
and fisted the ball away despite being well out of his
area. Northwich players surrounded the referee to plead
leniency for Hinchliffe but to no avail – off he
Short donned the grey jersey and was called upon to deal
with the subsequent free-kick. Baynes accurate effort
proved too much and slipped through the rookie’s
grasp and into the net. If City could have pressed home
their advantage now the game was there for the taking.
Wilde had a good opportunity but mis-hit his shot. Sarcevic
and Howard had efforts on target but Long dealt with them
well. At the other end Baynes was called upon to clear
Woolfe’s lobbed shot over Danby.
City then lost their numerical advantage when after a
pantomime incident of farcical proportions, Powell was
shown a red card by referee O’Rourke. The Chester
captain had foolishly allowed himself to be drawn into
an altercation off the ball with Disney who had gone down
like a sack of potatoes at Powell’s shove. After
seeming to play down the incident O’Rourke had then
gone over to the far side of the pitch to consult with
the distant linesman. Only then did he return to dismiss
Powell who now trudged off to be confronted by his tormentor
– now ready to return to the pitch after receiving
(“ahem”) treatment. Disney possibly –
Micky Mouse certainly.
After the break Short was relieved of his goalkeeping
duties by Roddy. Vics’ body language before the
restart seemed to say that they sensed they could get
something from the game. They certainly had the lion’s
share of possession without creating many clear cut chances.
But after Disney had been withdrawn on 76 minutes, Wade,
his replacement, popped up at the far post to equalise
– smashing another long throw into the roof of the
Home celebrations were exuberant and when Baynes was dismissed
for a lunging tackle with seven minutes to go, City fans
could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. Instead
it was Chester who went closest to scoring a second when
Smith just failed to meet a cross from the right.
Chester left Victoria Stadium then with their three point
lead intact but rueing two more red cards which may prove
costly in the longer term.
came away from the Arriva Stadium with all three points
after a resolute second half display that saw them keep
out Marine for the last 35 minutes with only ten men following
the dismissal of Iain Howard.
Once again Blues fans had
travelled in large numbers all hoping to see a Chester
victory that would keep them in top spot at Christmas.
It was the home side however who got off to a flying start
and were ahead after just three minutes as Thomas Moore
curled a stunning free kick over the Chester defensive
wall and past a statuesque John Danby into the net.
The Blues were finding it hard to adapt to the wet conditions
early on but created chances an don 15 minutes Alex Brown
shot over after good approach play by Matty McNeil.
Midway through the first half the home side could have
doubled their lead as Paul Brown set up Aaron Rey but
John Danby raced from goal to make a vital save and deny
the Marine striker. Marine were having the better of the
first half, Moore tried his luck from another set piece
and the Chester defence were relieved his see his second
free kick effort fly inches over the bar.
Dandy produced another spectacular save to again deny
Rae pushing his fierce shot away and clear of danger and
the Blues capitalised on that by adding an equaliser with
a well worked goal three minutes before the break. Good
build up play between Brown and Michael Wilde set up Wes
Baynes who slotted the ball home from 12 yards out.
Buoyed by their goal Chester started the second half on
the attack. Howard saw an effort go wide just after the
restart and moment later he was tripped in the box, and
despite Marine appeals, referee Barry Lamb pointed to
Matty McGinn stepped up to convert a rather nervy looking
penalty that just squeezed under Ryan McMahon’s
body as the home ‘keeper guessed which way to dive.
Just two minutes later Howard was
the talking point again as the Chester midfielder was
shown a second yellow card for a handball, assistant
manager Gary Jones was also sent to the stands for protesting
To strengthen the defence manager Neil Young made changes
bringing on on-loan defender Jack Duggan and Antoni
Sarcevic for Liam Brownhill and Wilde.
Duggan was well placed to clear
the danger in a goalmouth scramble as the Mariners pushed
for an equaliser and Danby produced another superb double
save to deny Rae and Carl Gargan in the dying minutes
as Chester held firm against a lively Marine side to
claim another vital three points towards their championship
Chester booked their place in the second round of the
FA Trophy and a trip to Ebbsfleet United after a comprehensive
victory over North Ferriby United. Two goals late in the
first half set Chester on their way to a second big win
over their Humberside opponents this season.
Manager Neil Young opted to start with Michael Wilde at
the expense of Robbie Booth as the Blues looked to get
at their hosts from the start. They did force a couple
of early corners which came to nothing before Antoni Sarcevic
had the first real chance of the game curling a free-kick
just past the post.
The Villagers have been on a decent run of form created
an opening when Alex Davidson met a through ball but was
unfortunate to see his shot deflect off Michael Taylor
straight to John Danby much to Chester’s relief.
The Blues opened the scoring in the 38th minute but there
was a touch of controversy as Michael Wilde prodded the
ball home after Matty McNeil appeared to kick the ball
out of the hands of home ‘keeper Steve Wilson after
he had gathered McNeil’s shot.
Chester doubled their advantage in first half stoppage
time with a classic breakaway goal involving first touch
passing from Alex Brown, Christian Smith, Iain Howard
and Wilde who pulled to the ball back for McNeil to stroke
home the goal.
The Blues carried on the pressure after the break and
Wilde put the game beyond doubt with his second goal of
the game just three minutes in picking up a loose ball
in the box following a Howard corner to fire past Wilson.
Wilson produced a good save to deny McNeil a goal before
a foul in the back of Sarcevic gave Matty McGinn the opportunity
to add the fourth from the penalty spot however Wilson
produced another good save to deny the Chester defender
and break his 100% spot-kick scoring record.
Four minutes later a penalty at the other end was converted
as Paul Harsley steered to ball past Danby from the spot
to give the home side a glimmer of hope after Brown had
fouled Alex Davidson in the area.
However, in what was turning out to be an action packed
half, Chester restored their three goal advantage just
two minutes later with Sarcevic shooting home in the far
corner, despite Wilson getting a hand to the ball, following
build up play from McNeil and Wilde.
Howard added a fifth goal from close range after McNeil
had back heeled Wilde’s cross into his path before
McNeil also saw an effort ruled out for offside as Chester
thought they’d scored a sixth!
A late challenge on Danby saw the Chester shot stopper
receive some lengthy treatment but he was able to carry
on and even had time to make a smart save to deny Danny
Clarke a late consolation goal.
3 December Chester
2 Worksop Town 0
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 2,225 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Brownhill, Howard, Baynes, Powell.
Back in the old Chester City days, the following scenario
would have only produced one result – the club were
just one game away from going an entire calendar year
without losing at home; the last time they lost at home,
captain George Horan wasn’t playing, and he was
suspended for this match; and I was a guest on the match
So inevitably I pitched up at the Exacta expecting a defeat.
But there’s some magic about the new Chester FC
that seems to over-ride traditional expectations and we
emerged from a relatively unattractive game with three
points and an unblemished home record so far in 2011.
The pre-match stadium tour I enjoyed as part of being
a sponsor’s guest gave me a peek into such hallowed
areas as the players’ changing rooms and the physio’s
treatment area. During our visit to the physio's room
we saw Chris Simm’s ankles being strapped up and
were given the exclusive news that he had been passed
fit to play. But the team sheets weren’t out at
that stage and when we saw him tucking into a big lunch
not long after, we realised he wouldn’t be featuring.
Still, it was promising news for future matches.
The starting line-up included Christian Smith joining
Michael Taylor at the back, with new signing Jack Duggan
on the bench. Simm’s absence meant Matty McNeil
was on his own up front, with Michael Wilde on the substitutes’
It was an edgy start for Chester, following the minutes’
applause for Gary Speed, who died at his Chester home
less than a week before. Worksop had the best of the early
chances, including a free-kick which flew over the top
of the bar. They also had a ball in the back of the net,
but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Chester goalkeeper,
But just when there were grumblings on the sponsors’
row about Chester “not playing very well”,
the team went and proved the doubters wrong. A Robbie
Booth free kick into a crowded box was headed home by
stand-in captain Michael Powell on the 33rd minute. That
bought the home side to life and the rest of the first
half was more promising than the opening spell.
The second half was still a scrappy affair, but it was
a much more encouraging performance from Chester. Wilde
replaced Robbie Booth on the 54th minute and looked sharp
almost from the off, heading the ball just wide from a
Liam Brownhill cross.
As the game got a bit more heated, Chester were awarded
a free kick in a dangerous area. Matty McGinn’s
powerful shot only just went over the bar, giving ex-Chester
goalkeeper Jon Worsnop a fright. And soon after, Worsnop
was picking the ball out of the back of the net after
a second goal from Powell. It followed a good run from
the ever-busy Iain Howard. He passed to Matty McNeil,
who unselfishly found Powell in a good position.
Worksop tried to get back into it, with Jamie Jackson
trying to make an impression with a couple of tricky runs.
But Chester had the measure of him and as the match drew
to a close, three players were booked when tempers started
to fray. Powell, who had just been named man-of-the-match
was one of those in the referee’s book, as well
as Wes Baynes and Worksop’s Michael Jacklin. Powell
is now just one booking away from a two-match ban.
There was one more name in the book when Worksop’s
Chris Wood fouled Anton Sarcevic, who’d had a relatively
quiet match. Soon after, the referee blew for full-time
– which was just as well, as it did look like on-the-field
trouble was brewing. And as the players were coming off
the field, Worsnop ran towards Taylor, to be held back
from the Chester defender by a combination of home and
away players. It wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly
a match to remember and it was great to be a part of history
in the making.