Chester ended their seven game unbeaten run in inglorious
circumstances at Solihull Moors on Boxing Day, with referee
Chris O’Donnell at centre stage for most of the
match's turning points.
Not long after
Alex Lynch had made a great save from a strike by Solihull’s
Harry White in the game’s opening spell, then
up stepped Mr O’Donnell with his first controversial
Jonny Hunt embarked on a two-footed
sliding tackle and, despite winning the ball, he was
shown the red card. With only 15 minutes gone, it did
wasn't the wisest of tackles in the middle of the park.
But the intent to win the ball was there, and the referee
didn't do himself any favours with the travelling Chester
Chester – clad in an all-white
third kit – didn’t look like they were playing
with one man down throughout the rest of the game though.
In fact they went ahead just two minutes later when
Elliott Durrell found himself in space just outside
the penalty area. His great shot gave Danny Lewis no
chance and left Chester with hope of getting a result
out of the match.
But Mr O'Donnell seemed to think better
of that idea, and just before half-time, Tom Shaw was
pulled up for handball. He showed the referee the mark
on his stomach where the ball hit him, but it was to
no avail. Solihull's Omari Sterling-James struck a great
free kick to level the scoreline at the break.
Eleven minutes after the re-start,
the inevitable happened when an apparent handball was
missed by the referee, giving Harry White a perfect
opportunity to put Solihull ahead. He wasn't going to
miss the chance to score from his lucky break, and the
home side went ahead.
Sterling-James then left 10-man Chester
facing an uphill battle when he found the net from an
acute angle with 20 minutes left to play. This was enough
for dozens of Chester fans to head for the Damson Parkway
exit, and they missed Kane Richards’ injury time
consolation goal. But there was no time left after that
for a miracle result, and Mr O'Donnell’s whistle
soon drew a close to proceedings.
Chester enter the Christmas period in a creditable seventh
place after a goals from James Alabi and Jordan Chapell
enabled them to see off visiting Aldershot Town.
start so well for striker Alabi though, when he missed
a penalty on the eighth minute after he was fouled as
he ran into the box. His placed spot-kick hit the post
and pinged off at a safe angle for the visitors.
There followed 30 or so minutes with
neither side making little threat on goal, and I was
thinking we were heading for a repeat of the reverse
fixture earlier this season. But Chapell broke the deadlock
on the 44th minute after Alabi won a header near the
box. His nodded ball seemed a lost cause for Chapell,
but he managed to keep it in play and then score a terrific
goal from a sharp angle.
As the fog rolled in, the second half
was a much more exciting game of football, with Chester
making it 2-0 on the 53rd minute. Man-of-the-match Alabi
pounced on a rebound from a Tom Shaw strike to put the
Blues fully in control.
But the Shots didn’t give up
the fight – hitting the post twice, forcing Alexander
Lynch into several good saves and having a shot blocked
off the line. However, Chester's defence stayed solid
again, and they well deserved their Christmas night-out.
A crazy match that saw Chester conceded a penalty after
just six seconds, duly converted on the rebound by Witton.
Blaine Hudson is sent-off as are two Albion players and
their coach. Witton have a goal disallowed before James
Alabi equalises from the penalty spot two minutes from
time. With extra-time looming Elliott Durrell scores the
winner deep in stoppage time to book a place in round
2 against Forest Green Rovers.
returned to Wincham Park or the NetDec Stadium as it now
seems to be called, invoking memories of a classic encounter
in the Evo-Stik League back in October 2010 – the
first in Chester’s re-incarnated form. As ever,
the hosts were warm in their welcome – even granting
the visitors the home section of the ground in anticipation
of a bigger than usual crowd. The stadium announcer quickly
corrected his slip as he referred to us as “Chester
Albion came into the match in a rich vein of form, having
dispatched Boston United in the previous round on Tuesday
night even after conceding a couple of early goals. They
featured Rob Hopley (Scorer of Chester FC’s first
league goal in 2010 – and a 90th minute substitute
in the aforementioned classic) up front today. From the
moment early on that Hopley turned Astles it seemed as
though The Blues would be in for a tough afternoon. Albion
looked to move the ball fast on the ground and the surface,
made slippery by the rain, meant that the visitors defence
began to be stretched.
The last time Chester played a competitive match here
was when the won the Cheshire Cup against Stalybridge
in 2013. Playing for the opposition that night and causing
City plenty of problems was midfielder Prince Haywood.
He was on good form for Witton this afternoon, sitting
deep and directing play as he picked up the loose ball
and prompted Albion’s attacks. Astles pulled him
back right on the edge of the area as he cut in from the
right but the free kick came to nothing. Chester struggled
to get a toehold in the game at first and surrendered
possession too easily at times.
Chester did exert a bit of pressure as the half wore on
and eventually took the lead. Shaw’s chipped cross
to the far post was headed down by Richards and bounced
up for Chapell to nod in. Shortly afterwards Richards
had a glorious chance to make it two following brilliant
footwork from Alabi down the right but he knocked his
shot wide with the goal gaping. Albion came close to equalising
when Hopley tried to chip over Lynch but the Chester keeper
was alive to it and ran back to catch the ball. Earlier
Sam Hughes had run back to clear a prodded shot from Omotola
off the line.
More pressure from the hosts bore fruit after the interval
and shortly after club-captain Gardner had replaced Lycett
as Witton’s right back. Chester failed to clear
properly and Tom Owens took the ball round Lynch only
to see his shot cleared off the line by Hughes –
but the young defender could not stop Brad Bauress’
follow up shot and Witton were level. Chester responded
and forced a number of corners – then it was Albion’s
turn to have nervous moments as they scrambled the ball
clear. But the closest shaves of all were Chester’s
– first when Astles cleared only for the ball to
bounce back off an Albion player and on to the bar. The
in the dying moments’ Noon’s shot took a wicked
deflection but Lynch reacted brilliantly to turn it past
By then Luke George and Warren Joyce had been thrown on
to shore up Chester’s hard-pressed midfield. George
quickly earned himself a booking. But Richards went a
step worse when he picked up a second yellow in the final
minute. Looking to break away on the half way line, he
slightly over-hit the ball and his lunge caught Owens.
Albion players surrounded the referee in their eagerness
for him to show the red card. It was an unsavoury scene
in an otherwise competitive but entertaining match.
Chester fans left frustrated at their team’s performance
but at least they had dug in to take a lively Witton back
to a replay on Tuesday night. Who will play up front in
Richards’ place will be a headache for manager McCarthy.
picked up another point on their travels against a Guiseley
side who played better than their league position would
suggest. Once again manager Jon McCarthy picked an unchanged
side but his team were on the back foot at the start as
The Lions forced two chances in the opening three minutes
as ‘keeper Alex Lynch saved low down to deny Alex
Purver then Will Hatfield headed over the bar from a far
Following a fairly even if scrappy period Chester opened
the scoring on 29 minutes. Tom Shaw sent over a cross
that was met by Blaine Hudson, his lay-off found James
Alabi who, with his back to goal, sent an overhead kick
into the bottom corner of the net past a stunned Johnny
Maxted in the home goal.
did force a save from Maxted three minutes later as
Chester looked to extend their advantage. At the other
end Jordan Preston was sent through on goal but combined
defending from Hudson and Lynch prevented an equaliser.
Five minutes after the restart Purver
pulled a shot wide of the Chester goal when well placed
to score. On 52 minutes Guiseley were awarded a penalty
after referee Martin Coy adjudged that Johnny Hunt had
tripped Connor Brown in the box. Simon Walton send Lynch
the wrong way from the spot-kick to draw the sides level.
Hudson produced another last-ditch
tackle to deny Jake Cassidy as the home side began to
take control. Hudson was in the thick of it again heading
a Perver effort off the line with Lynch beaten.
There were loud appeals for a penalty
after Craig Mahon was felled by Brown in the box but
Coy waved play-on.
Ten minutes from time Chester
broke through Shaw and Chapell but the latter fired
his effort over the bar. Ryan Astles produced a great
tackle to deny Cassidy late on and the played saw another
effort saved superbly by Lynch in the dying seconds
and Chester hung on for a point.