Chester will look on this as two points dropped after
they failed to convert their first half superiority
into more than the one goal scored. Manager Neil Young
made five changes from the side that drew at Southport
on Boxing day. Ross Killock along with Lewis Turner
returned from injury, Jason Jarrett returned from suspension,
Joe Heath replaced Kevin McIntyre and Alex Titchiner
came back to replace Tom Peers, who started on the bench.
Jamie Menagh had already tested Heed
‘keeper Adam Bartlett in the opening couple of
minutes before Killock, who has impressed during his
loan spell from Leeds United, gave Chester the lead
on ten minutes as he rose at the far post to head home
a pinpoint left sided free-kick from John Rooney.
Chester continued to play at a high
tempo with Titchiner’s running causing problems
for the Gateshead defence. George Miller and Jamie Reed
all saw half chances go begging and Turner forced a
fine save from Bartlett with a strike from the edge
of the area.
Five minutes after the break Jarrett
has an opportunity to double Chester’s lead but
his volley at the far post from eight yards out was
hit high over the Harry Mac roof.
Gateshead began to show more and could
have equalised on 52 minutes as substitute Liam Hatch
saw his goalbound header cleared off the line by Miller,
the ball came back out to Hatch but he screwed his shot
On 67 minutes Chester were made to
pay for their misses as they conceded an equaliser.
Hatch sent a long ball through the Blues defence for
James Marwood to race on to. John Danby appeared to
come out of goal but hesitated and that gave Marwood
enough time to drill the ball home into the bottom corner.
Both sides had chances in the closing
ten minutes to snatch all three points, Titchiner was
denied by Bartlett and George Horan powered a head just
wide as Chester missed the better of them.
Chester’s improving team failed to take full advantage
of their opportunities during their Boxing Day visit
to the seaside, leaving them with another point for
The best chance of the entire game
came in almost the last kick of the match when Blues
striker Jamie Reed blazed the ball way over the bar
in a one-on-one with Southport goalkeeper Danny Hurst.
Chester had taken to the field without
suspended Paul Linwood, Gareth Seddon and Jason Jarrett,
and were also missing injured Danny Higginbotham. The
omissions gave Neil Young chance to hand Tom Peers his
first start in the line-up. And the youngster made a
promising start, by making some threatening crosses
as well as having a first half header saved by Hurst.
The Blues won several corners in front
of their 703-strong away army. With John Rooney taking
them, it was good to see them causing some real problems.
A Michael Kay header from one of Rooney’s corners
was probably the best chance of the first 45 minutes.
The Chester fans had their attention
distracted for a while in the first half when a group
of the Southport stewards decided to fight amongst each
other on the away terrace. It was the most exciting
part of the match at that stage!
The second half saw the drizzle arrive
and a chance for the Chester fans to goad Southport’s
much-travelled striker, Richard Brodie. There was some
action at the other end though, with George Horan heading
past from a couple of corners and a later free kick.
There were also second half shots from Rooney, Peers,
Kay, Ashley Williams and Jamie Menagh.
Horan was one of the match’s
stand-out performers, as he was commanding in defence,
as well as coming close to getting his name on the scoresheet.
I was a bit worried that the goading
of Brodie would result in him finding the net –
especially when he started answering the Chester fans
back. Sure enough, he did head the ball home –
only to be declared offside by the assistant referee.
Reed’s injury time miss meant
that was actually the only time we saw the ball in the
net, and the match finished with honours even. With
Chester returning to fuller strength for the New Year’s
Day re-match, they should reflect on a performance which
should mark them out as favourites for the reverse fixture.
“Jamie who?” we asked ourselves as Chester
raced into a two-nil lead after only ten minutes. Jamie
Menagh had been signed on non-contract terms at the
start of the season and since then had been plying his
trade with Prescot Cables. Now, on his Chester debut
he was running amok amongst visitors Lincoln City. First
he picked up a loose headed clearance from ex-Cestrian
Sean Newton and drove the ball past Farman to give the
Blues the lead. Then, two minutes later, he ghosted
past two defenders from the right wing to fire a skimming
left footed shot beyond the despairing Farman and just
inside the far post. The Red Imps, playing in Lincoln
Green did not know what had hit them. Neither did the
home fans who were now in blue heaven.
Lincoln responded. A cross from the
right was met with a looping header by Dixon and Danby
was stranded, only able to palm the ball over the line
as it came down off the bar. A level of niggling nastiness
crept into the game. Miller left his foot in on Higginbotham,
Tomlinson clattered Danby with a needless challenge
by the corner flag. It all boiled over when Seddon caught
Miller in front of the Lincoln bench. Miller held the
back of his head and rolled around and, after an interminable
delay, referee Wayne Barratt sent Seddon off.
Chester were up against it now but
held firm until half time. Within a minute of the restart
Lincoln were level courtesy of a baffling penalty award.
Kay was adjudged to have shoved an opponent off the
ball as Danby caught a cross with ease. Kay was booked
and Danby picked the ball out of the net after Power
had scored from the spot.
City surged forward on a tide of righteous
indignation and when Jarrett collided with Newton in
the box the Blues were given a spot kick of their own.
Rooney lashed the ball in and the Blues had their noses
in front again. The Blues more than held their own and
despite being reduced to ten men pushed the visitors
back. True the Imps did threaten at times, Miller –
in acres of space volleyed way over the bar much to
the delight of the home fans who by now had cast him
as pantomime villain. A cross from Newton eluded everyone
as it flashed across the goal.
The timing of Lincoln’s equalizer,
though, was a cruel twist in the plot as it came deep
into the five added minutes. Once again the visitor’s
found space on their right and a driven cross was met
by Robinson and turned into the net. Although a creditable
draw, having played with only ten men for most of the
game, Chester supporters and no doubt players felt demoralized
and defeated by the result. It was so close to being
only City’s second win at home this season.
Young described in his programme notes that this was
a season defining game and called for his players to
stand up and be counted. By half past three, however,
Chester were down to ten men and as far as this game
was concerned, out for the count.
The defining moment of this encounter
happened when Linwood and Holman clashed as a ball was
played over the top of the City defence. The Chester
defender tangled with the Brains forward and by the
time the referee blew his whistle had a firm grip on
his opponent. It did not appear to be a clear cut goal
scoring opportunity, with other defenders around and
the ball already in John Danby’s hands moments
later. Referee Whiteley viewed it harshly and produced
the red card from his back pocket to give a disbelieving
Linwood his marching orders – to complete a dubious
double (He had been sent off at Braintree earlier in
Worse was to follow from the resulting
free kick. Ashley Williams was booked for encroaching,
Braintree gained an extra six or seven yards as a result,
and from the re-taken kick Holman’s shot gained
a wicked deflection off a Chester defender and wrong-footed
Danby to end up in the back of the net.
Howls of derision greeted the referee
from City fans for the rest of the game but to no avail,
the damage had been done and Blues were left to chase
the game. This was always going to be a tall order but
even the sending off could not mask City’s deficiencies
as Braintree appeared quicker, stronger and more guileful
Once again City were pressed into
by-passing midfield because of their opponents’
energy and work rate. Seddon tried tirelessly to haul
Chester back into the game and, when Reid was introduced
instead of debutant Sean Miller after half time, began
to strike up a promising partnership. But there was
no way back for the Blues when Holman scored a brilliant
individual goal on 58 minutes. He refused to be shaken
off the ball on the edge of the penalty area despite
the attention of several defenders. Holman turned one
way and then the other to carve out a shooting opportunity
and then unleashed his effort into the far corner.
City were finished and the game petered
out without the Braintree ‘keeper being troubled.
The players dutifully turned out for the after match
Christmas disco in the Blues Bar but no-one was in the
mood for dancing.