who came to the Deva expecting a cricket score were
disappointed and the more cynical who thought that the
match between the runaway leaders and the team who are
rock bottom had 0-0 written all over it were also wide
of the mark. Hinckley arrived with low expectations.
Even the three points they had accrued earlier in the
season have been taken off them because of financial
irregularities. They could only afford two substitutes
and are managed by former Chester City player Carl Heggs.
Nevertheless, despite all their problems, the visitors
made a strong impression. Indeed they should have taken
the lead when Brown took advantage of a square City
defence and ran through on goal. He took the ball round
Danby only to fire it into the side netting. It was
a huge let-off for Chester who showed plenty of reticence
getting to grips with the task.
Five changes had been made to City’s starting
line-up with Neil Young having promised to rest a few,
given the gruelling schedule of matches. Perhaps this
made it difficult for Chester to gel effectively to
begin with, perhaps it was sympathy for their opponents’
plight. Hinckley also contributed by sitting very deep
and forcing Chester to play the long ball when possible.
Collins and Horan saw a lot of the ball and had to begin
many of City’s moves.
At last the deadlock was broken when Hankin laid the
ball off for Sarcevic to strike from the edge of the
box. Now the home fans hoped the goals would flow. They
were rudely awakened, however, at the beginning of the
second half when the referee harshly awarded a penalty
for Collins’ tackle on Brown. The Knitters’
forward had harried Danny Williams into making an error
and robbed him of the ball to bear into the penalty
John Danby pulled off a superb save from the spot kick
just as the City faithful were gritting their teeth
for more attritional play. It felt like Chester had
got out of jail and this time they took advantage. McGinn
was brought on to replace Danny Williams and his ball
into the box caused confusion. Hankin dummied to leave
Marc Williams in the clear, he stumbled as he took the
ball round the ‘keeper and Howard, almost apologetically,
Ten minutes or so later City put the game beyond doubt
with the best goal of the game. This time Jarman dummied
the ball for Hankin to play a delightful one-two with
Marc Williams and the latter’s angled effort went
in off the far post.
In between these two goals Danby had to be alert once
again to deny Brown who drove a rasping shot at City’s
goal. Three more points then for City in the end but
the visitors went home with heads held high and looking
forward to the return game now re-arranged for the 12th
Chester gave the bumper Boxing Day crowd a five-star performance
against a struggling Droylsden side who still put up a
fight against the imperious Blues.
It was the home side who were on the front foot from the
off when Wes Baynes curled a sublime free kick past the
defensive wall and into the top corner to make it 1-0
to Chester inside two minutes.
But the Bloods didn’t sit back and moments later
they had space in the box and a shot skimmed past John
Danby’s post. However, it wasn’t long before
it was 2-0 to Chester after they won another free kick
in a dangerous area. This time Baynes passed it to Antoni
Sarcevic and he thwacked the ball home from distance.
Does he score anything other than spectacular goals?
The action switched back to the other end as a good Droylsden
shot beat Danby, but hit the crossbar and came out away
from danger. Then it was time for another Chester Christmas
cracker when on-form Sarcevic passed to Marc Williams.
He collected the ball and hit it over goalkeeper Dale
Latham to put Chester into a 3-0 comfort zone at half-time.
The second half saw the Blues shooting towards the ‘Harry
Mac’ end and the home fans were soon cheering another
goal – this time for Ben Mills. A great cross by
Baynes was easy picking for the popular striker who was
right on the line to head his 12th League goal of the
He was substituted immediately after, being replaced by
Nathan Jarman. And it was not long before he had a hand
in the final goal of the game. He made a clinical pass
to Craig Curran who shot past a diving Latham to make
it 5-0 to Chester.
There could have been another goal at the death, when
Danny Williams somehow missed a golden opportunity to
score. But the home crowd were more than happy to settle
for five goals, keeping Chester 12 points clear at the
top of the table.
Harrogate came to Chester in a lowly position in the League.
Neil Young would not be making the mistake of underestimating
them however as good cup runs had left them with a backlog
of fixtures which – if won – would put them
in the play off positions. They also arrived late having
been held up on the motorway. Kick off was delayed by
twenty minutes as a result.
The eighteen hundred in the crowd witnessed an absorbing
game played in poor conditions on a cold evening with
incessant rain. Blues kept the same team that finished
the game on Saturday and fought out an evenly balanced
half against their well organised visitors. Town forced
a couple of corners early on and then City responded in
similar fashion. From one of their corners, however, City
were caught out on the break away and Chilaka seemed to
have put Harrogate ahead as he sidefooted home from eight
yards. The City defence had seemed to freeze but all were
relieved to see the linesman’s flag raised for offside.
City plugged away persistently at the other end and should
have forged ahead when Mills was put through by Marc Williams
only to see his shot parried away by MacGillivray in the
Town goal. Linwood also hit the post with a header direct
from a right wing corner. The other main talking point
of the first forty-five was when Mills was impeded by
an opponent climbing on his back and Ben “helped”
him down to the ground with a move that would not have
been out of place in the wrestling ring. Two Town players
and Ben himself were booked in the following, unnecessary
After the break Chester maintained an impressive performance
through-out and justified their leadership of the table
with two goals to secure the points. The breakthrough
came when Sarcevic made the most of a deflection to flick
the ball over the head of a defender and then measured
a volley perfectly inside the keeper’s left hand
post. It was a sublime finish – reminiscent of Gazza
against Scotland in Euro’96. Cue: chants of “An-ton-i
Sar-ce-vic” (tune by Verdi) by the McNally Terrace
The Blues stifled Harrogate from any response as they
continued to drive them onto the back foot. Ashley Williams
was superb in anticipating trouble, breaking up possession
and getting City moving forward again. Mills found the
ball at his feet in the box and managed to get a turn
in and test MacGillivray. Curran got to the loose ball
but saw his shot strike the inside of the post, ricochet
across the goal and away to safety.
But City were not to be denied an all important clinching
goal. Again Sarcevic was instrumental as he chased a seemingly
lost cause, chasing down a defender, robbing him of possession
and crossing low and hard for Samuels put through his
own goal under intense pressure from Marc Williams.
More goals might have followed but didn’t materialise
as Chester kept their stranglehold on the game right to
the end and pinned Harrogate in their own half. This was
no mean feat against a quite accomplished side. City seem
to be getting better and better.
Chester completed the double over Bishop’s Stortford
but were far from convincing until a double substitution
after the break introduced Marc Williams and the red hot
Craig Curran. The loan star from Rochdale notched a stunning
second half hat trick as City upped a gear and sprinted
away from their opponents.
They started pretty swiftly too with Danny Williams and
Hankin exchanging passes on the left before the latter
delivered an in-swinging cross which was flicked in by
Mills. This was after just five minutes but it provoked
a strong response from the Bishops. Almost immediately
a glanced header found Waller-Lassen in space on the edge
of the area. He shot low and hard but Danby repulsed his
effort when a goal looked certain.
The visitors out-fought Chester for the ball and forced
a series of corners at which the looming presence of Jamaican
international Sappleton caused problems for the City defenders.
After one goalmouth melee Stortford players confronted
the referee, demanding a penalty but after consulting
his linesman only offside against them was awarded. Aggrieved
at this the Bishops continued to press and their equaliser
came as no surprise – captain Prestege nodded in
after a quickly taken free kick caught City at sixes and
City retaliated and Jarman had an effort narrowly wide.
When they got down the flanks the Blues looked threatening
but all too often their moves broke down as the visitors
held a high line and out-muscled Chester for the loose
ball. Danby had to make another world class save as Sappleton
powered a header towards goal from another corner.
Young introduced Williams and Curran to replace Jarman
and Hankin respectively on the hour mark and within three
minutes City were back in front. Curran’s pace and
control caused consternation down the right and Williams’
clever link up play provided a refreshing alternative
to City’s hitherto predictable attacking. After
Sarcevic went close, Curran shot the ball home from six
yards to the joy of the home faithful.
Bishops’ task became more difficult when Spence
was given a straight red card for kicking out at Curran.
Minutes later Danny Williams beat his man on the left
and crossed dangerously. Mills’ effort was parried
at full stretch by the keeper and once again Curran was
in the right place to score from the rebound.
City were now all over their dejected opponents and Curran
completed his hat trick in superb style. He raced down
the right and fed Sarcevic who shimmied inside and then
flicked a reverse pass to release the still on-rushing
Curran. He delivered the coup de grace with a sensational
shot from a narrow angle into the roof of the net.
More goals might have followed but the Bishops were spared
more misery by a couple of timely deflections. In truth
the scoreline was harsh on the visitors who had matched
City for an hour but struggled to cope with the difference
in class City’s super subs offered.
has come early for Chester fans after watching their team
score three goals at Brackley to earn a result that leaves
them leading the Conference North table by six points.
But don’t forget that this is Chester we are following,
and the game was not without its nailbiting moments. Despite
dominating the match for 85 minutes, the Blues somehow
let in two goals in the last five minutes to leave many
travelling supporters watching the closing spell through
Until those last five minutes, it was hard to realise
that Chester were playing at the Conference North level.
Not only were the opposition of distinctly lower league
standards, but the ground was more basic than many grounds
at even the Evo-Stick North level.
But the 750 or so Chester fans had a very warm welcome
from their Northamptonshire opponents and it’s a
shame we might not see them against next season –
almost certainly not at St James’s Park, which doesn’t
meet the current League standards.
So it was yet another away crowd dominated by Chester
fans which saw their team dominate from the start. Danny
Williams almost scored in the opening spell when his tightly-angled
shot just hit the bar. But it was 1-0 not long after that
when a Matty McGinn corner came out to Paul Linwood. His
header was saved by Saints’ veteran goalkeeper,
Billy Turley. But his punch only went as far as Dave Hankin
and his shot was straight into the net.
Pink-clad Turley is well-known to Chester fans from his
days at Northampton, Oxford and Rushden & Diamond
and he was barracked throughout the game. And he was back
on the receiving end of the away fans’ jibes not
long after that first goal. In truth he could do nothing
to stop Ben Mills scoring a header from point blank range
after a deflection fell well for the Chester striker.
It was just what the away fans were waiting for –
the re-appearance of the Millsbot celebration. Welcome
Chester carried on dominating the game at the start of
the second half, with Turley – who seemed to have
thrown water over some of the away fans as he went off
for the half-time break – making a great double
save not long after the re-start.
Both Mills and Nathan Jarman then missed good opportunities
to score with their heads, and it was looking increasingly
unlikely that the game would finish at 2-0. And sure enough,
it was George Horan who netted the third with a powerful
header from a Wes Baynes corner on the 74th minute.
But wait, the match wasn’t over yet, and it’s
hard to explain what happened in the next 15 minutes.
Chester replaced Hankin with Nathan Turner on the 76th
minute, and the team didn’t show any signs of relaxing.
But somehow Brackley scored in two of their rare attacks.
There were barely four minutes to go when Steve Diggin
netted the first from close range.
And before there was chance to draw breath, a great Brackley
cross found Diggin again. He headed past John Danby to
make it a scary 3-2. For a moment, it looked like tormented
Turley could be exacting his revenge on the Chester fans.
He went straight upfield when his team won an injury-time
corner and it looked as though the script was written
for an equaliser. However, it was not to be.
So Chester lived a little too dangerously in the closing
spell, but went home with yet another three points under
their belt. It was an away day that all Chester fans will
remember – especially those who were applauded out
by a mini guard-of-honour of Brackley fans. Somehow I
can’t see that happening anywhere next season!
1 December Chester 4 Worcester City 2
Attendance: 2,640 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Curran, McGinn.
Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Collins,
McGinn, Brown (Jarman 46), Sarcevic, D.Williams (Howard
65), A.Williams, Curran, Mills (Gray 78). Subs not used:
Hankin, Linwood. Worcester City: Thompson, Weir, Deeney,
Thorley, Rowe, Ayres, Reece (Patterson 58), Elvins, Mills
(Khan 76), Symons, Edwards (Meechan 76). Subs not used:
Breeze, Sargent. Referee: P.Graham (Manchester). The
Blues put daylight between themselves and the chasing
pack with this thrilling win against play-off contenders
Not long into the second half the game seemed to be following
an identical pattern to recent home fixtures with Chester’s
lead being pegged back by the visitors. Worcester’s
Mills equalised with a shot from the edge of the box after
the Blues had carelessly given the ball away on the left.
Chester had been good value for their half time lead,
pressing and harrying much better than they did on Wednesday
night. Sarcevic pounced on the loose ball after Baynes'
free kick was parried by Thompson and the Blues player
scored from a narrow angle.
Back to square one seven minutes into the second half,
Chester responded with a purple patch of attacking football
that put the game beyond the reach of the Loyals. First
Curran on the right crossed only to see the ball cleared
back out to the wing. Jarman sent it straight into the
danger area and Curran – whose momentum had taken
him into the middle – flashed a brilliant glancing
header at the near post and the ball was in the net.
Three minutes later Curran burst through on the right
again and, despite the close attentions of Deeney who
tried to pull him back, crossed deliciously on to the
six yard line for Howard to score with a diving header.
It was Howard’s first touch after coming on as sub
a minute or two earlier.
Worcester's misery was complete when George Horan fought
heroically for the loose ball following a corner. After
winning two tackles the Blues captain was felled by Danny
Edwards’ desperate lunge. Matty McGinn dispatched
the resultant penalty.
The Loyals’ target man, Symons gave the scoreline
a little bit more respectability for his team when his
turn and scuffed shot wrong-footed Danby but could take
nothing away from Chester’s domination.
Brackley’s team – who Chester face next week
– were watching from the stands, their match at
Workington having been postponed while they were travelling.
They will have been given plenty of food for thought on
their journey home.