Tuesday 27 February 2001
Chester City 2 Boston United
Attendance: 1,087 Half-time
Chester City: Priestly,
Woods, P.Beesley, Gaunt (Doughty 67), Lancaster,
Fisher, Carden, Haarhoff, Ruscoe, M.Beesley (Whitehall
73), Moss. Subs not used: Wright, Price, Woodyatt.
Boston United: Bastock, Howarth, Lucas, R.Weatherstone (Gowshall
76), Clifford, Diaf, Raynor (Hoyle 80), Charlery, Nuttell, Cook, S.Weatherstone.
Subs not used: Lodge, Elding, Conroy.
Referee: S.Brand (Wirral).
entertaining draw in front of City's lowest Conference
crowd of the season lifted the Blues back into fifth
spot in the table.
Wayne Brown's injury on Saturday
meant a debut for Phil Priestly, on loan from Rochdale,
in the City goal while Matt Doughty was given a rest
and started on the bench with striker Steve Whitehall.
City started brightly with Matt
Woods, Jimmy Haarhoff and Mark Beesley all testing
the Pilgrims' keeper Paul Bastock who was to go on
and make a string of fine saves to deny City.
At the other end, debutant Priestly
also had to be on his toes pulling off a fantastic
save at full stretch to deny Simon Weatherstone,
whose shot from 20 yards looked destined to open
Weatherstone went close again and
this time it was Martyn Lancaster who came to City's
rescue hacking the ball clear from the line, before
Matt Woods' clever chip at the other end almost gave
City a half-time advantage.
Just four after the interval City
broke the deadlock, and what a great goal it was.
Paul Carden knocked the ball into Woods on the edge
of the box and with his back to goal. He controlled
the ball swivelled round and volleyed it straight
into the net.
“I knew when it fell that I was
just going to blast it as hard as a I can,” said
Woods. “It would have probably have taken the keeper
with it although it had to be a good shot because
he wasn’t a bad keeper.”
As seems the case these days City's
lead didn't last long. ten minutes later and the
impressive Simon Weatherstone had levelled, shooting
home after being set up by Nuttell.
Barrow introduced Doughty and Whitehall
into the fray to liven City up but it was Boston
who took the lead from the penalty spot minutes later.
Paul Beesley was adjudged to have fouled Cook in
the box and ken Charlerey (always scores against
Chester) duly despatched the spot kick. Beesley received
his umpteenth yellow card of the season for his efforts.
City fought back though and
Jimmy Haarhoff produced another fine save from Bastock
before Doughty added City's second. Running through
from the City half the defender played a one-two with
Whitehall and unleashed a left footer into the bottom
corner. City even had chances to take all three points
but Haarhoff, Paul Beesley and Whitehall were all denied
by the visiting 'keeper.
25 February 2001
Chorley Ladies 0 Chester City Ladies 7
The heavy surface at Charnock Richard
FC's ground, threatened to put pay to Chester's passing
game and the girls had to endure 30 minutes of frustrating
football before Sarah Tyson finally broke the dead
lock. Chester were not allowed to settle on the ball
and often contributed to their own problems.
Possession was given up to easily
by both sides and the ball passed from one team to
the other far too frequently for any constructive
football to be played. From an early stage, it was
apparent Chorley were going to battle for everything
and were prepared to work very hard to get numbers
behind the ball and this constantly spoilt what was
already becoming a scrappy affair.
Half Time: Chorley 0-1 Chester
The second half started much brighter
for Chester possibly due to the better surface on
parts of the pitch the girls were now playing. On
59 minutes Sarah got her second goal.
There were now signs that fitness
was starting to tell and the Chorley team looked
weary. Joanne Reynolds, out of goal again after the
return of Laura Edwards entered at left midfield
for Clare Reynolds and Clare Reynolds moved into
the strikers' berth alongside the Sarah Tyson. On
64 minutes the switch paid dividends and Clare Reynolds
The Chester girls had finally settled
into their stride and the performance took on a more
balanced, confident look. The back four and central
midfield were able to spot opportunities to switch
play from one side of, what was becoming a mud pie,
to the other and this served to further tire the
waning Chorley side.
On 71 minutes Sarah completed her
hat trick with easily the best of the day. Starting
with the ball comfortably in the Chester keepers
hands, a great early throw to right back Lynda Grainger
saw the ball played inside to Lisa Pritchard. This
was followed with an equally accurate pass back out
to the already running Leigh Broadbent who didn't
delay and found Sarah at the near post with a beautifully
Jo Reynolds was soon into the action.
A strong bustling run into the opponents area, a
trade mark of this very determined player, was followed
with a great finish across the keeper into the top
corner. Clare Reynolds also joined the hat trick
role of honour as she scored a further two goals
on 83 and 87 minutes to complete the rout. What is
also impressive is; this is Chester's fifth clean
sheet in six and the girls have only conceded one
goal in all League games!
To be honest, this was NO 'walk
in the park', far from it. It was a committed performance
on an extremely difficult surface against a team
prepare to work very hard to deny tie and space on
what was a particularly small pitch.
24 February 2001
Chester City 4 Blyth Spartans 2
FA Umbro Trophy Fifth Round
Attendance: 1,831 Half-time 2-0
Chester City: Brown, Fisher,
Doughty, Lancaster, Gaunt (Moss 54), P.Beesley, Carden,
Haarhoff (Wright 68), Woods (Whitehall 79), M.Beesley,
Ruscoe. Subs not used: Price, Berry.
Blyth Spartans: Burke, Little, Martin, Williams (Hay 63), Forster,
Keegan, Dixon, Pepper, Robson, Perry, Stewart. Subs not used: Dunkersley,
Collins, Heppell, Cottrill.
City soon began to make inroads
into the visitors from the Unibond League. From a
corner on the left, Woods' flick on found Haarhoff
in loads of space and time to pick his spot, and
to open his account at the Deva. Ruscoe volleyed
a swerving shot just inside the left hand post but
it was headed firmly away by a defender.
So often City fail to apply the
killer blow when teams are at their mercy. But on
the half hour they got a vital second goal from another
corner - this time on the right. Haarhoff collected
a short corner and spun to make room to cross low.
Mark Beesley's predatorary skills helped him glance
it into the far corner past a statuesque Blyth defence.
At the other end, Brown had to
react smartly to save a well struck direct free kick
after Lancaster had rode piggy-back on a green and
white Spartan. Stewart later clipped the bar with
a header after uncertainty in the City defence.
Half time came and it was comfortable
enough. Surely even we couldn't cock this up? "Course
we can this is Chester" came the reply. The
Spartans tore into the Gladiators after the break
and the home crowd became increasingly edgy at the
backpedalling blues. Stewart got through on the left
and flashed a cross past the face of the goal. Brown
was harshly penalised for holding on to the ball
too long and Blyth had a free kick in the box. Inexplicably
Little struck it directly and it went in to the net
off the post. Thankfully it didn't get a deflection
off a player or the goal would have counted. As it
was an indirect free kick the Spartans' premature
celebrations left them with egged faces.
Not long after, however, Blyth
were on level terms. First a sweeping ball in from
the right was nodded on to Perry who had plenty of
space to curl the ball past a stranded Brown. Three
minutes later Glenn Robson was put through by Perry
and could not fail to score.
Chester had already reorganised
the defence once in the second half. Gaunt gave way
to Moss so that Woods could return to the back line.
Haarhoff limped off to be substituted by Wright.Then
Woods himself was withdrawn and the half fit Whitehall
was risked and City played with four at the back.
The wily Whitehall soon added imagination
to City's forward play and he got Beesley buzzing.
As the Blyth defence panicked, Ruscoe nodded a wayward
defender's clearance over the keeper only to see
it headed away for a corner. From the resulting kick
the keeper collided with his defenders and dropped
the ball to Wright. He teed up Paul Beesley who gleefully
lashed it into the net. City had got out of jail.
As Blyth threw caution to the wind
in search of a third goal themselves, Mark Beesley
and Whitehall revelled in the space behind them.
Beesley shot horribly wide when Whitehall was clear
but clearly learned from his mistake when he swept
past Forster and set Whitehall up for an exquisite
coup de gras. The experienced City forward tormented
the keeper before chipping in City's fourth.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief
that another replay had been avoided and began to
wonder who we might draw next.
20 February 2001
Chester City 1 Telford United 0
Attendance: 1,362 Half-time
Chester City: Brown, Fisher,
Doughty, Lancaster, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Carden, Haarhoff
(Moss 62), Woods, M.Beesley, Ruscoe. Subs not used:
Wright, Woodyatt, Price, Berry.
Telford United: Williams, Bentley, Albringhton, Moore, Sandwith,
McGorry, Jobling, Palmer (Fitzpatrick 65), Travis, Martindale (Edwards
72), Malkin. Subs not used: Murphy, Bray, Huckerby.
Referee: R. Lewis (Shrewsbury).
was a weakened City that battled hard to secure three
points against a well-organised Telford side at the
Early predictions that this was
going to be anything other than a tight match looked
doubtful as Chester contrived to take an early lead.
Fisher and Doughty on six minutes, combined to take
a quick free kick on the left and an early centre
found the head of the rising Woods who scored a goal
a lot better than his make shift role of centre forward
For the first twenty minutes, City
looked the stronger team creating several good opportunities.
Doughty, Mark Beesley and Fisher all made good strong
runs through a Telford midfield that offered enough
space to encourage some self belief. Haarhoff, quickly
establishing himself as a favourite with his untiring
runs and tricky skills nearly scored a second turning
quickly in the box only to see his goal bound shot
blocked. Better should have resulted when Mark Beesley
squandered a good move electing to shoot weakly from
distance when better options were available.
But as the first half went on,
so the nature of the game changed as Telford began
to tighten up and get the measure of Chester's approach
play. Fewer spaces were created and until the break,
neither side seemed to be able to establish an advantage.
Credit for this should be given to City's defence
who fought hard to win any lose balls and offered
few in roads to a Telford side that despite their
position lacked the killer instinct. Paul Beesley
in particular looked a class apart, reminding us
that he really is a good player and was ably supported
by Lancaster whose continues to improve. Even, Craig
Gaunt who although lacking fitness turned out a solid
The second half began with Chester
again looking to take an early initiative. Haarhoff
who was being given a torrid time by some hard Telford
tackling twisted inside the six yard box and fell
heavily to the floor. Vociferous appeals for a penalty,
led by Haarhoff and supported by an angry crowd,
were turned down by the referee who looked to his
linesman for support. Haarhoff pulled angrily at
his shirt showing exactly what he thought had happened
and I think Telford would have had no complaints
if a penalty had been awarded. For his troubles Haarhoff
was booked and from this point on, the referee who
won little support all night lost the confidence
of the crowd. It was not to be Jimmy's night as five
minutes later another heavy tackle saw him substituted
and replaced by Moss.
A defender for an attacker proved
to be a significant moment in the game and from this
point on, Chester's attacking opportunities dried
up. The remainder of the game saw Telford have the
better of the ball. A good heading opportunity was
wasted by Telford heading high and over from a well
aimed cross and Gary Martindale should have done
better than shoot straight at Brown. But other than
these and few flutters late on in the game, Telford,
whilst perhaps having enough position to deserve
a draw, did not really do enough to snatch that point
that would have kept them above Chester in the table.
Given the absence of Ruffer, who
along with Whitehall, Blackburn and Porter, this
was an important and creditable victory against a
Telford side who although lacking real class maintained
their shape and discipline throughout. Gary Martindale
and Chris Malkin were among a number of ex - league
players representing Telford including ex Chester,
Roger Preece who unfortunately did not play.
This was a good game to win and
keeps should keep confidence where it should be for
Chester's important FA Trophy match against Blyth
Spartans on Saturday.
18 February 2001
Chester City Ladies 3 Liverpool Feds 0
Attendance: est 40 Half-time
The girls had a tremendous 3-0
victory against league leaders Liverpool Feds on
Sunday in their inaugural home game at the Deva Stadium.
Chester had to survive some early
pressure from the visitors but what has become a
very confident and well structured back four, did
a sterling job to restrict a strong Liverpool side
to shots from distance that did little to trouble
stand in keeper Jo Reynolds. After a 20 minute period
of pressure, Chester settled and moved into the ascendancy.
In front of approximately 40 fans,
the girls struck in the 24th minute with a goal of
real class.Quick accurate build up play was followed
by a quality cross from the influential right winger
Leigh Broadbent to be met at the near post by the
head of Sarah Tyson. Liverpool had opted to play
with a sweeper system and Sarah Tyson did her best
to pull their No 4 out of position. It was only five
minutes later when this payed dividends when Clare
Reynolds was able to latch onto a through ball and,
with time to spare, coolly slot home the second.
Half Time: Chester City 2 Liverpool
Chester continued to dominate in
the second half but Jo was called into action by
their aggressive opponents and was forced to make
two tremendous saves mid way through the half.
The game was becoming a scrappy,
ill tempered affair further fuelled when Sarah Tyson,
a constant thorn in the Liverpool Feds side, was
kicked from behind as she moved to receive a crisp
pass on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area. Sarah
was forced to exit the game 10 minutes from time
(ankle ligament) to be replaced by Rachael Bevan.
Then, with just 2 minutes remaining,
Liverpool failed to clear a low cross from the right
which was allowed to pass across the goal area. It
was met by Cally Reid who slotted home from close
range to seal an important league win.
17 February 2001
Northwich Victoria 1 Chester City 1
Attendance: 2,651 Half-time
Northwich Victoria: Key,
Bates, Davis, Talbot, Burke, Barnard, Norris, Devlin
(Simpson 88), Fletcher (Walling 46), Mike, Blundell.
Subs not used: Holcroft, Mitchell, Houghton.
Chester City: Brown, Fisher, Lancaster, Ruffer (Moss 46), P.Beesley,
Doughty (Gaunt 57), Carden, Haarhoff, Ruscoe, Woods, M.Beesley. Subs
not used: Price, Wright, Woodyatt.
Referee: C.Bassingdale (Doncaster).
City's rivalry with county cousins
Northwich resumed this season after a gap of seventy
years. One or two Cestrians might wince at the memory
of an FA Cup defeat here nineteen years ago masterminded
by Mark Ward. But this time the clubs met equal in
status once again.
Absence may make the heart grow
fonder. It is difficult to hate Northwich in the
same sense that other local rivals are. Maybe it's
because of a lack of a recent history of meetings
between the clubs. There seemed to be a lack of tension
in the atmosphere too. The promised City contingent
of 1000 more or less materialised and made enough
noise to begin with, herded as we were into one end
of the Dane Bank (Or "DANE ANK" as the scrabble letters
on the end of the roof said). Northwich supporters
were seen but not heard.
The Cestrians roared the Blueboys
forward and City were soon on top without deveoping
a real stranglehold. Woods, excellent as a makeshift
centre forward last week, floundered today and a
lot of the action passed him by. When City did get
the ball on the ground, in particular to Jimmy Haarhoff,
they began to look incisive. A piece of consummate
skill by Jimmy (Freshly braided hair and all) saw
him control a towering clearance by Brown. He waltzed
inside from the left and put Ruscoe in the clear.
We drew a collective breath as Ruscoe pulled the
trigger but his shot was parried by Key.
A short while later and another
touch of class by Haarhoff led to him scoring his
opening goal for Chester. In one movement he took
Beesley's pass and turned his marker leaving him
in the clear. Jimmy's finish was clinical and we
knew we had seen a superb goal.
Just before half time Ruffer was
caught late and had to receive treatment. During
the interval he was called over the tannoy, intriguingly,
to come to the players' entrance. Whatever the reason,
he didn't emerge for the second half but was replaced
by Moss. Woods dropped back in defence as City adopted
4-4-2. Vics, who have been slipping of late, were
more fired up. On came Dean Walling to add more brawn
to their attack.
City were forced to rearrange yet
again when Doughty was withdrawn and Craig Gaunt
came on. Woods now moved into midfield. By now City
were ceding the middle of the park. The ball was
up in the air a lot but Vics were beginning to out
battle us in their search for points.
A dubious free kick on City's right
was awarded and Vics equalised as a result. The cross
was only half cleared possibly some pushing
was missed by the referee and the ball came
out to Blundell in the clear who drilled it in to
the net. Clearly delighted he taunted the City fans
by removing his shirt oblivious of the cold
and of the bile he attracted. Now there was at last
a touch spice added to the fairly bland fare served
up so far.
It could have been worse for City
soon after when Walling got too fine a touch on Blundell's
cross and the ball flashed across the goal. Chester
then went close at the other end when Jimmy went
on a run down the right to set up Mark Beesley. He
swept his shot agaisnt the post and it bounced away
A draw was a fair result in the
end but not a good one for City if they are to mount
anything like a challenge in the League. With Yeovil
and Rushden disappearing over the horizon and Northwich
showing the pluck necessary to survive, it looks
like rivalries will be resumed between the Blues
and the Greens next season. Perhaps now that there
is some recent form there might be more of a derby
10 February 2001
Chester City 2 Yeovil Town 1
Attendance: 2,265 Half-time
Chester City: Brown, Fisher,
Doughty (Woodyatt 79), Lancaster, Ruffer, P.Beesley,
Haarhoff, Blackburn (Wright 46), Woods, M.Beesley,
Ruscoe. Subs not used: Price, Berry, Harris.
Yeovil Town: Pennock, Piper (Lindegaard 84), Betts,
Skiverton, White, Way, Belgrave (Bent 71), Smith (Thompson
71), Patmore, Crittenden, Poole. Subs not used: O'Brien,
the dogs of war Carden and Porter back
on the leash due to suspension and injury respectively,
the big question was who Barrow would pick to play
in midfield. He opted for Ruscoe and Blackburn in
the centre with Fisher and Doughty operating as wing
backs and Haarhoff with a roving brief on the right-hand
side. Lancaster, Ruffer and Paul Beesley lined up
in the centre of defence. Up front was Matty Woods
acting as target man alongside Mark Beesley.
The match began at a furious pace
with Yeovil attacking from the start. Very soon the
diminutive Darren Way caught the eye as being involved
in the thick of the action. Nick Crittendon also
looked pacy on the right as the visitors forced a
number of corners. When Chester came forward, Yeovil
endeavoured to break back getting the ball up to
the speedy Barrington Belgrave on the right.
Ruscoe and Blackburn worked hard
to wrest control of midfield and grudually swung
the momentum City's way. Little Jimmy Haarhoff began
to give Betts a torrid time at left back and on seventeen
minutes left him running in the complete wrong direction
as he swivelled and sped into the box. His accurate
shot was parried by Pennock but Ruscoe collected
and still had a bit of nimble footwork to do on the
edge of the box before he steered it beyond Pennock's
dive and into the back of the net.
Ruscoe could have added another
when clean through Haarhoff again the provider but
his shot was well saved by Pennock. Yeovil worked
extremely hard and continued to press forward but
it was City who made the better chances. Paul Beesley,
though, seemed to be first to every ball and eclipsed
the dangerous Patmore.
Mark Beesley latched on to Blackburn's
deft flick and skipped past Pennock. Despite an acute
angle Beesley finished coolly to snooker the leaders.
Chester were now rampant and playing some superb
stuff. Jimmy Haarhoff once again was inspirational,
providing the key to unlock a miserly defence. Woods
had proved a handful up front and just before the
interval had Pennock diving full stretch to tip his
rasping volley round the post. Half time came too
Blackburn had been limping heavily
at the end of the first half and it came as no surprise
but a huge disappointment when he didn't reappear
after the break. Darren Wright deputised on the right
with Fisher moving into central midfield. Fisher
and Ruscoe were simply magnificent in the centre
and the workrate of every City player was phenomenal.
Skiverton was booked as he body checked a superb
run by Doughty as the left back surged forward. Haarhoff
got free on the right again and found Woods unmarked
in the box. The makeshift centre forward with
the goal at his mercy was unlucky to see his
shot bounce back into play off the bar. Jimmy Haarhoff
himself couldn't quite manage to get on the end of
Wright's rasping cross.
At our end Patmore contunued to
be well marshalled by Beesley and the magnificent
Ruffer. Lancaster too was rock solid. Despite forcing
more corners Yeovil had little sight of goal to encourage
them. Things changed a bit when Colin Addison threw
on two substitutes in the 71st minute. Bent took
advantage of a slip by Ruffer and a hesitant Paul
Beesley to hammer the ball against the post with
Patmore then challenged Brown for
a cross causing him to misjudge and let the ball
through his fingers for a corner. Brown felt he was
fouled but the lenient Mr Booth let it go. This time
Yeovil got a goal back a really untidy one
with the ball cannoning off Bent and trickling over
the line. Yeovil players didn't seem to realise that
the ball had gone in and it seemed to take ages for
the penny to drop with the travelling green army.
A nerve jangling finale was set
up but, in truth, City finished strongly and the
only anxiety was how many extra minutes the referee
was going to play. Eventually his whistle brought
a cacophany of cheers and City had held on for a
well earned victory.
The only cloud on the horizon after
this is the prospect of even more verbose and eccentric
programme notes from our chairman.
6 February 2001
Southport 0 Chester City 3
Nationwide Variety Club
Attendance: 685 Half-time 0-2
Southport: Dickinson, Elam,
Grayston, Linighan, Guyett, Clark, Marsh, Gouck,
Arnold, Parke, Whittaker. Subs: Furlong, Bolland,
Chester City: Brown, Moss (Woodyatt), Doughty, Woods, Ruffer, Lancaster,
Carden, Blackburn, Haarhoff (Berry), Beesley (Wright), Ruscoe. Sub not
Chester were too good for Southport
at a cold, windswept Haig Avenue.
Torrential rain just before the
kick off saw Terry Smith go for cover still
no coat but he had the dossier with him and must
have kept it dry. Chester played in white and had
the wind behind them in the first half. Southport
started the brighter with a Whittaker shot over the
bar after five minutes.
Eleven minutes had elapsed before
Chester managed to enter the opposition penalty area
as Ruscoe's 20 yard effort was well saved. The resulting
corner from Doughty evaded the keeper and was cleared
off the line. Chester began to get into their stride
with some passing football and deservedly took the
lead after 17 minutes. Good work by Carden and Doughty
on the left released Beesley whose low shot from
20 yards went just inside Dickinson's left hand post.
Chester continued to have the upper
hand. Marsh was booked after 25 minutes for a late
challenge on Ruscoe. Six minutes later a wild challenge
on Carden by Gouck caused his name to also go into
the notebook. This was not an ill tempered game but
Chester's midfield pressing was frustrating the opposition.
After 32 minutes a persistent solo run by Haarhoff
on the right took him past two defenders and he crossed
from the by line. Beesley missed it but Carden was
on hand to hit it high into the net from 15 yards.
Elam responded for Southport by
having a shot well saved by Brown. Ruscoe switched
to the right hand side for the second half with Haarhoff
operating on the left. Handily, the wind eased. Chester
continued to defend well and press in the midfield
so stifling Southport. Parke had a header well saved
low down by Brown before the keeper had to save a
30 yard shot at full stretch from the same player.
After 16 minutes Southport replaced
two of their most effective players, Elam and Whittaker
with Stuart and Furlong. A minute later a through
ball from Carden found Ruscoe whose low cross was
cut out for a corner on the right. Doughty's inswinger
was cleared to Moss near the half way line. He attacked
the ball and ran with it to the edge of the penalty
area. His persistence allowed him to find Haarhoff
in the area with a short pass. He squared the ball
to Beesley as the Southport defenders pushed out.
Beesley shot into the roof of the net giving Dickinson
Moss was booked for kicking the
ball away after he was penalised for hand ball. As
the rain lashed down and the wind picked up Barrow
replaced Beesley, Haarhoof and Moss with Wright,
Berry and Woodyatt.
Chester did well to play some passing
football in difficult conditions. There were many
good performances. Haarhoff will score a blinder.
Let's just hope he does it at home this Saturday
would be handy. Ruffer can have the Man of the Match.
It wasn't his best game for Chester but he was as
solid as ever and should have had the award last
3 February 2001
Chester City 3 St Albans City 2
FA Umbro Trophy Round 4
Attendance: 1,442 Half-time 1-1
Chester City: Brown, FIsher,
Doughty (Woodyatt), Lancaster, Ruffer (Woods), P.Beesley,
Carden, Blackburn, Haarhoff, M.Beesley, Ruscoe (Moss).
Subs not used: Wright, Berry.
St Albans City: Hurts, Rooney, Campbell, Moran, Goddard, Davis, Pratt,
Blaney, Stevens, Simba, Knight. Subs not used: Simpson, Harvey, Birch,
Barrow in his pre-match report described this game
for St Albans as being the equivalent as Chester's
recent big game at Ewood Park. Just as City gave
a good account of themselves, so did he expect St
Albans to do the same today.
This was more than the usual mutual
respect that one manager says of the other team,
but the words of one experienced who understands
non-league football enough to know this was game
that should be taken seriously. St Albans fielded
a number of players who had been competed at a higher
level never to make this game a walk over. In particular
was the ex Orient, French exile and latterly lower
league nomad Amara Simba. And when I heard the news
that Steve Whitehall would be absent, I arrived with
what City supporters will recognize as that uncomfortable
What I hadn't factored in was the
first full home appearance of Jimmy Haarhoff. Five
foot something he may be and with a name sounding
like a throat clearance, it was his all round contribution
that was largely responsible for securing a safe
passage to the next round.
The game began well for City and
on nine minutes, the improving Ruscoe hit a well-middled
volley which The Saints' goalkeeper did well to push
for a corner. There followed a period of continued
pressure and it was little surprise when Doughty
and Fisher combined from free kick to find Ruffer
who found space ahead of their defence to make just
enough contact for the first goal.
Instead of unsettling the Saints,
Chester sat back allowing St Albans to wrestle the
advantage with eager and often early tackles. Nevertheless
it came as a surprise when Simba rose high at the
far post to loop the ball over Brown who had been
caught in two minds. But as quickly as it looked
this would be the nearest they would come again,
they nearly scored a second with only a late challenge
by Lancaster preventing the visitors taking advantage
of some weak defending.
The rest of the half was scrappy
with City showing poor movement off the ball and
little idea of what to do when there. Only Paul Beesley,
who took it upon himself to marshal Chester, looked
like a man who knew what he was going. Haarhoff battled
well up front winning tackles and finding space when
there was precious available. But there was little
else up there to take advantage. It was an uninspiring
and dour first half and greeted with groans from
the home supporters as the players trudged off wet
in the drizzle that had begun to fall.
second half began a little better. Chester tried
hard to push forward but made little impact. Carden
too was often dispossessed and Chester failed to
show the superiority expected from a team a league
above. Just when it began to look as though it would
be a further half of disappointment, Doughty took
the ball forward on 57, looked up and with some ambition
delivered an inch perfect pass on the diving head
of Ruscoe. The ball flew into the bottom right hand
corner for a goal of quality bettered than the game
had so far promised.
St Albans' response was thankfully
weak and went through a scrappy period of their own
conceding two yellow cards as they lost self-discipline
with some careless tackles. Although Saints later
hit the post on 70, it was signalled as off side
and with that scare went effectively the last real
chance of an equaliser. While the visitors tired,
Chester went on more and more on the offensive, created
largely by Harhoff. Mark Beesley was the worse offender
from the pack threatening MFI more than the net.
This was never going to be his day.
As gaps in midfield grew, so we
saw a third City goal. St Albans lost possession
just inside the City half and suddenly we found ourselves
four on two. Blackburn with options on both sides
continued his run to hit a firm shot beyond the advancing
keeper. The last ten minutes saw further openings.
Saints were reduced to ten men after central defender
Moran was booked for a second time after a nasty
challenge. Harhoff should have done better than hit
the side netting after the goalkeeper had failed
to hold a long range shot andCarden too missed a
chance for a late fourth that would have been unkind
to the visitors.
Surprisingly it was Simba who collected
his second after some tired City defending, turning
in the box and finishing with a well-taken shot.
But by then it was as good as over as Chester saw
out the last few minutes with some ease. The 3-2
victory may have flattered St Albans but not by much.
They came, as predicted, and played some decent football.
But this was not a five-goal thriller and was really
a game with little to commend save Ruscoes' headed
goal and Harhoff's tricks. The result provided some
cold comfort on a cold day and I tell you, I was
glad to get home.
However this was an important game
to finish off at the first attempt. Nobody would
have enjoyed travelling down to Clarence Park on
Tuesday night. And as Graham reminded the fans before
the start, this competition offers City fans the
chance for some real cup glory. By May, it could
also be deciding factor in how this season is finally
Credit should be given for the
St Alban supporters who numbered around two hundred.
It is a long way to travel home and I think they
can take more out of the game than we did.