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Brackley Town (H) | Tamworth (H) | Boston United (H) | Blyth Spartans (A) | Warrington Town (H)
Tuesday 26 December
Chester 2 Warrington Town 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,897 (359 Warrington) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Glendon.

Chester: Stanway, Weeks, Burke, Williams, Glendon (Murray 83), Whitehouse, Windsor (Caton 68), Hall, Coates, Roberts, Edwards. Subs not used: Taylor, Norton, Sparrow.
Warrington Town:
Atherton, White (Grivosti 81), Hannigan, Harris (Popoola 72), Williams, Amis, Dixon, Buckley-Ricketts, Duggan (McDonald 72), Wisdom. Clarke. Subs not used: Goldie, Walker.
Referee: Elliott Swallow.

The Blues met the Yellows for the first time since their initial reformation season and eventually secured a Boxing Day victory in this local derby.

It was the first time City had been at home on the day after Christmas in six years and they made the most of home advantage by taking the game to their opponents who had tried to dampen proceedings by winning the toss and electing to make City kick towards the Harry Mac for the first period. Kole Hall was in lively form as the Blues burst forward and he played an instrumental part in giving them the lead after twelve minutes. A long ball forward bounced awkwardly for Wisdom and Hall whipped it away from him and charged down the left. He made inroads into the penalty area and cut it back to Weeks – in yards of space – to drill it into the net.

The Wire looked to reply and went close when Amis flicked Buckley=Ricketts’ driven cross narrowly wide of the far post. Later a long ball forward was latched onto by Buckley-Ricketts and he flicked it from behind him over his head and volleyed towards goal but Stanway had anticipated the shot and was out swiftly to block.

In between these two efforts the excellent Hall had won back possession and run the length of the pitch to set up Glendon only to see his attempt blocked. And Hall himself saw his powerful shot beaten away by Atherton in the Warrington goal as City looked to increase their lead. Atherton had earlier escaped Chester claims that he had picked up a back pass but the referee ruled it to be accidental.

The visitors stayed in the game and tentatively looked for an equaliser without troubling Stanway Ex-Chester City veteran Jay Harris dictated play for a while as Warrington enjoyed a spell of dominance but City continued to harry them and press for a second goal. Weeks saw his shot turned round the post by Atherton and Glendon had another attempt blocked at the last ditch after Chester had won back possession high up the field. Both Burke and Coates found plenty of opportunities to run with the ball down either flank and threatened the Wire constantly. Burke set up Weeks to cut along the by-line in the area and he seemed certain to score only to be thwarted on the line. From a similar position wide on the left, a delicious turn by Burke left two defenders standing.

Murray came on and was desperately close with a free kick, tipped spectacularly over the bar by Atherton. Williams got free at the far post but couldn’t direct his header on target. Still Warrington stayed in the game and Sean Williams fired an effort narrowly wide. In stoppage time Caton, a late substitute, charged down Sean Williams’ attempted clearance and – with Atherton stranded – swept the ball into the unguarded net for the second goal City had craved for so long.

City maintained their home form and will look to build on it as they visit the Cantilever Stadium for the return match with Warrington on New Year’s Day.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

Latest table | More photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Saturday 23 December
Blyth Spartans 2 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 764 Half Time: 2-1
Booked: -.

Blyth Spartans: Langley, Evans (O’Donnell 76), Liddle, Cousin-Dawson, Bodeham, Gordon (Hickey 64), Forbes, Deverdics, Oliver, Nojoli, McGowan. Subs not used: Clark, Shaw, Hogan.
Stanway, Sparrow (Coates 59), Burke, Williams, Roberts, Taylor, Whitehouse, Murray (Daly 78), Weeks, Glendon, Hall (Windsor 59). Subs not used: Norton, Maguire.
Referee: -.

Declan Weeks gives the Blues an early lead but Spartans fight straight back with two goals in as many minutes to lead at the break. Harrison Burke volleys Chester’s equaliser midway through the second period.

Latest table after Blyth draw | Match highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 16 December
Chester 0 Boston United 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,957 (59 Boston United) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Stanway, Coates, Burke, Williams, Taylor, Roberts, Whitehouse, Weeks, Glendon, Norton (Hall 61), Windsor (Daly 76). Subs not used: Sparrow, Murray, Maguire.
Boston United:
Gregory, Mills, Bostwick, Leak, Sephton (Nicholson 45), Ward, Richards, Martin, Sotona (Hill 81), Hazel, Smart (Knowles 65). Subs not used: Gyasi, Essien.
Referee: Shaun Taylor.

Try as they might, Chester could not find a way through the Pilgrims’ well-ordered defensive set-up as their winning sequence at home ended with a goalless draw.

Twice in the first forty-five minutes Owen Tudor had great opportunities to put Chester ahead but lost his footing at the vital moment. On both occasions Glendon provided the assist, bursting beyond Boston’s back line down the inside right channel. Tudor rounded keeper Gregory on the first occasion but stumbled as he shot and then just failed to convert the Skipper’s driven cross as half-time beckoned. In between these chances, Matty Williams blasted over the bar following a corner and Weeks saw a long range effort held by Gregory.

The Boston custodian injured his foot while making a clearance and could no longer take goal kicks, bowling the ball out on every occasion. After the break Boston tightened up further as they sought to protect him. Gregory was still alert enough to divert Burke’s header from a Weeks corner just wide of the post. And when Burke directed a header wide of him towards the far post, Jordan Richards popped up to head off the line.

Looking to hit City on the break, Boston had little in the way of openings but Jacob Hazel fired a shot at goal when a tiring Williams was caught in possession on the edge of the area. The visitors worked very hard to blunt Chester’s attacking options, pressing high up the field and when City were forced to go long, the Pilgrims’ centre backs were dominant in the air.

One bright moment for the Blues was the re-appearance of Kole Hall in the second half after his lengthy injury lay-off. Even he though could not fashion the elusive moment of quality which might have decided the game in City’s favour.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

Latest table after Boston draw | More photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 9 December
Chester 2 Tamworth 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,861 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Windsor.

Chester: Stanway, Taylor, Weeks, Burke, Williams, Glendon, Caton, Whitehouse, Norton (Windsor 57), Roberts, Edwards (Coates 15). Subs not used: Sparrow, Daly, Murray.
Singh, Curley, Finn, Deacon (Wreh 69), Fairlamb, Acquaye (Gyasi 69), Cullinane-Liburd, Dolman, Tshikuna (Jones 77), Jellis, Tonks. Subs not used: Milnes, Willets.
Referee: Matthew Jackson.

Blues faced up to a second major challenge of the week as Tamworth, with the meanest defence in the League, visited. The Lambs have been a surprise package and are flying high in second place after promotion last season from the Southern League Premier Division.

The visitors won the toss and kicked with the strengthening and gusty wind at their backs towards the Hipkiss Stand. City took the lead in magnificent fashion after ten minutes when Burke in an unaccustomed right wing back position was found with a raking pass. He exchanged a one-two with Weeks and then crossed into the box. The ball was flicked on and sat up on the edge of the area for Chester’s “Super Number Ten” Elliott Whitehouse to lash an unstoppable half-volley into the back of the net.

Tamworth sought to retaliate and Edwards was injured with a clearing tackle on the edge of City’s area. He struggled to continue but after going down a second time he had to be withdrawn in favour of Kieran Coates. The visitors nearly took advantage of Edwards’ injury when Finn could not get proper contact on a low cross in front of goal. Later Tonks shot as City backed off and hit the foot of the post.

Both sides struggled to control the ball in the teeth of a gale force gusts of wind but still fought out an absorbing contest. In the second half Chester used the wind to their advantage when Stanway, wide on the right and a long way out of goal beat an opponent and then launched a clearance down the inside right channel. Substitute Owen Windsor was first to latch on to it, deftly swept it past the onrushing keeper and then followed up, despite the attentions of a defender to steer it into the open net. It was a wonderful home debut goal for the youngster after signing from Chippenham Town. He continued to impress with his work rate and composure on the ball.

Tamorth pressed for a toehold in the game but City defended superbly from front to back. Tshikuma’s dangerously placed free kick was blocked by the City wall whilst new loanee Chris Wreh fired wide late on. Chester looked to hit the Lambs on the counter and when Glendon was brought down by Cullinane-Liburd tempers were raised. Both the perpetrator of the foul and Owen Windsor were booked in the aftermath.

Calum McIntyre was clearly delighted with the week’s points return after another hard earned win against significant opposition. It was a victory that saw the Blues rise to fourth in the table but as McIntyre commented, “The table is irrelevant at this stage of the season.” The Blues manager remains laser-focussed on the next match – Boston United next Saturday.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

Latest table | More photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Tuesday 5 December
Chester 1 Brackley Town 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,522 (22 Brackley) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Roberts, Williams, Weeks.

Chester: Stanway, Coates, Williams, Edwards, Burke, Roberts, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Caton, Norton (Taylor 64). Subs not used: Windsor, Sparrow, Daly, Murray.
Brackley Town:
Lewis, Lilly (Love 86), Gudger, Dean, Calder, Carline (Lyttle 5), Murombedzi, Jervis (McHale 76), O’Sullivan, Roberts, Newton. Subs not used: Bates, Armson.
Referee: Lee Hible.

A bitterly cold night at the Leap 76 Stadium saw Chester grind out an intensely hard fought victory against Brackley Town.

This re-arranged fixture was a repeat of the play off semi-final that ended Chester’s season last May. George Carline who scored the solitary and decisive goal in that encounter lasted just 45 seconds of this one – pulling up with a muscle injury. As the game continued Chester almost made an early breakthrough when Whitehouse’s through ball found Caton bearing down on goal. Lewis was out quickly to smother his shot.

The game then settled into an attritional pattern with both sides generally cancelling each other out. The Saints were alert to close down City’s attempts to play the ball through the middle and when the Blues went long it was difficult for Caton and Norton to get any aerial change out of Brackley’s towering centre backs. The visitors looked to capitalise on set pieces and from one corner Dean’s header was on target but straight at the feet of Stanway who saved.

As the game approached half time City were awarded a penalty when, following a corner Matty Williams was tripped in the box by Dean’s sliding tackle. Glendon’s spot kick hit the inside of the left post and cannoned to the opposite side of the goal – causing a heart in mouth moment for those watching from the far Harry Mac End.

That strike proved in the end to be decisive as neither side were able to create many clear cut chances despite huge endeavours by both. Brackley forced Chester on to the back foot at the beginning of the second half and whipped the ball into the penalty area from both right and left but City’s defence cleared the danger on every occasion. Calder and Murumbezi in particular exerted a stranglehold in midfield and made it difficult for City to get forward. Stanway had to be alert to a snap shot from Danny Newton but it was a rare effort on target.

Taylor replaced Norton on 64 minutes as City tweaked formation to counteract the Saints’ wing backs and the Blues began to enjoy more territorial gains up front. As the pitch continued to gradually whiten with frost and wisps of mist crept over the West Stand, Burke rose majestically out of the gloom to head towards goal but also straight at Lewis the Brackley custodian.

Stanway was called upon to claw Lyttle’s goal-bound free kick away with quarter of an hour remaining. Pressure on City eased towards the end as Newton was given a second yellow and his marching orders for a late lunge on Matty Williams. Then Weeks and Glendon cut through the Saints’ back line and almost walked the ball into the net but the skipper’s touch eluded him and the chance went begging.

The final whistle was met with much relief and rejoicing reflecting the achievement of emerging victorious from a tough and physical encounter with opposition likely to be in the play-offs again at the end of this season.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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