fielded the same side and the same formation that had
worked so well against Torquay but came unstuck against
a well-drilled Macclesfield. Higgins and Hunt were pinned
back by Macc’s wingers Samson and Holroyd respectively
and having three centre backs meant that the Blues tended
to be overwhelmed in midfield.
As a result Chester were on the back foot more and more
as the game went on. Danny Rowe in particular was allowed
far too much room to dictate the play from City’s
point of view. When he was given space to turn on the
edge of the area on twenty-five minutes his low cross
was sliced horribly by Sharps and the ball looped over
Worsnop into his own net. It was a freakish way to go
behind but the goal had been coming.
Sharps was clearly unhinged by his misfortune and dithered
moments later to allow Dennis a shot on goal from a
narrow angle. He blazed narrowly over but it could easily
have been a second for the visitors.
The Silkmen did not wait too much longer to double their
advantage though. Referee Hussin, not for the first
time this season, awarded a soft penalty against Chester
for a push or shirt pull in the area – no-one
was entirely sure. Heneghan seemed to be the culprit,
as he was against Wrexham. Dennis scored the spot kick
and made himself unpopular with the Harry Mac as he
celebrated without restraint.
Burr made a change at half time and replaced Sharps
with Mahon as City reverted to 4-4-2. The Irishman injected
some urgency into Chester’s forward play as they
strove to get back into the game. His cross gave Lloyd
a golden chance to score but the Port Vale loanee steered
his shot wide when he should have done better. Rooney
then came on for George and the captain’s armband
passed to Heneghan.
Rooney’s free kick from outside the box was comfortably
gathered by Jalal and it turned out to be just about
City’s only effort on goal as Macclesfield weathered
the storm of Chester’s efforts. Worsnop did well
at the other end to keep out Dennis’ far post
header as the visitors threatened on the counter attack.
The damage had been done in the first half by a flukey
own goal and a dubious penalty but Macclesfield were
worthy winners having out-thought and outplayed a forlorn
City. The Blues now find themselves looking down rather
than up the table after a very disappointing end to
sent their fans home happy for the Christmas festivities
by notching their biggest win on the season so far. It
took just sixteen seconds to establish the lead. Shaw
chased down the ball to the right by-line. His low pull
back was trapped by Hattersley with his back to goal.
He laid it back for Hannah who measured his left foot
strike in off the far post.
The same combination almost doubled the margin within
a few minutes. Hannah latched on to Hattersley’s
flicked header, held off a defender and lifted the ball
over Lavercombe only to see it bounce back off the post.
City were well on top with wing backs Higgins and Hunt
finding plenty of room on either flank. Higgins went on
a lung bursting run from defence to attack which earned
him an ovation from the main stand. On another occasion
he fended off four opponents to emerge with the ball and
keep City on the attack.
But Torquay began to claw themselves back into the game.
Player manager Nicholson saw his pile-driver shot palmed
over by Worsnop. Then as half time approached Chester
made the game safe with a couple of goals in as many minutes.
First the energetic Higgins charged down the right again
and cut in to shoot in with his left foot from the edge
of the area for his first goal of the season. Next Hattersley
engineered a free kick just outside the area and Hannah
whipped in a superb strike which curled in to the top
Hannah might have had a hat trick before half time as
he headed wide when well placed, but he was not to be
denied when he latched on to Hunt’s incisive through
ball to clip the ball past Lavercombe again. In between
times Wright had reduced the deficit for the visitors
when his left wing cross was caught in the wind and sailed
over Worsnop into the top corner. Wright was so bemused
he didn’t quite know how to celebrate.
All five goals then were scored with a left foot –
it could make a good question in the future. There could
have been more goals too. Hannah had one chalked off for
offside in the second half and Rooney missed the chance
to add to the tally when Lavercombe saved his penalty
and just managed to get a hand on the rebound to divert
Rooney’s follow-up on to the post. Hattersley then
saw his header from Rooney’s cross also bounce back
off the upright.
The Hattersley and Hannah combination looked potent on
this showing and Higgins and Hunt had a field day but
would another team afford them the same amount of room?
Blues fans weren’t complaining but savoured the
brace of goals from in-from striker Ross Hannah eased
Chester through to the second round of the FA Trophy and
a home tie against Southern League opponents Hungerford
A rain soaked pitch with
areas of standing water made play difficult at times
but it was perhaps the home side that adapted better
in the opening stages.
Ryan Rowe saw a shot deflected wide before Lucas Dawson
curled a 25-yard free kick just wide of Jon Worsnop’s
post with the Chester ‘keeper beaten.
Former Blue Sean Clancy was well placed
to clear a Jordan Chapell effort off the line, the ball
found its way to Tom Shaw who saw an effort from the
edge of the box partially saved by James Montgomery
but the loose ball fell to Hannah who scored.
A swift move involving Ryan Higgins
and Danny Hattersley saw the striker force a save from
Montgomery, the resulting corner was headed over by
Luke George, who had already been booked, was perhaps
fortunate not to receive a red card for a tackle from
behind on Jack Rae.
Ten minutes before the break Hannah
added his second goal finishing with a superb shot after
Ryan Lloyd had played him through.
Steve Burr immediately replaced George
with John Rooney.
With a two goal cushion Chester sat back in the second
period. Worsnop just managed to get a fingertip to Rowe’s
effort after Higgins had slipped on the ball.
Callum Hassan saw an effort
blocked as the Bucks looked to get back into the game
but the Blues defence held firm.
The last chance of the match saw Hattersley slipped
through on goal bue he was unable to test Montgomery.
as I wasn’t expecting Chester to get anything out
of this game, I was just looking forward to a good day
out in Cheltenham – and I wasn't disappointed.
Half a dozen or so Exiles started
their day by meeting in the excellent Sandford Park
Ale House for a pre-match drink and chat. It was easy
to see why this smart pub is in CAMRA’s
shortlist of four for its annual pub of the year award.
Then it was onto business and the
walk to Cheltenham’s
Whaddon Road, or the strangely named World of Smile
Stadium. It was soon the Cheltenham fans who were smiling
as they went ahead on the 18th minute.
The goal came after they were awarded
a debatable free kick, which rebounded off the goalpost.
The ball fell well for the home side, and a quick pass
gave Billy Waters an easy chance to put Cheltenham 1-0
But Chester, who were starting with
John Rooney on the bench, had put on a good show until
then and it was soon back on level terms. It was another
rebound that saw the Blues even up the score when Ross
Hannah’s first attempt
was parried by Cheltenham goalkeeper Dillon Phillips.
However, Hannah was able to head the ball home to send
the away fans into jubilant celebrations just moments
before the break.
The singing went on well into half-time
and at that stage it felt like the Blues just might
sneak a result at the league leaders. Indeed, an Alex
Whitmore header was cleared off the line in the opening
spell of the second half.
But the hosts struck again through
Waters when he received a defence-splitting pass and
took his shot well to put Cheltenham back in the driving
seat. And they went 3-1 up just two minutes from the
end through Danny Wright.
The result was a scoreline that flattered
Cheltenham and – a bit like the match at fellow
Gloucestershire title chasers Forest Green Rovers in
October – on another day, Chester could have come
away with a point. It was a viewpoint we reflected on
during our post-match visit to the hard-to-find Kemble
Inn. On a selfish note, I’d
like to visit both pubs again next year. I wonder if
I should mention it to Santa?