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Saturday 26 February 2005
Shrewsbury Town 5 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 4,859 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Foy, Edmondson, Hessey, Davies. Sent-off: Elokobi.

Shrewsbury Town:
Howie, Whitehead, Walton, Tinson, Challis, Lowe (Grant 82), Tolley (O’Connor 82), Sedgemore, Ashton, Langmead, Rodgers (Edwards 59). Subs not used: Hart, Lyng.
Chester City: W.Brown, Edmondson, Elokobi, Hope, Hessey, Drummond, Davies, Carden, Sestanovich (Belle 46), O’Neill (M.Brown 66), Foy. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Walsh, Vaughan.
Referee: P.Danson (Leicester).

City slumped to their third defeat in a week and to add to their problems George Elokobi received Chester’s eighth red card of the season in the process. The Blues have failed to find the net in that trio of defeats and, once they had gone one down, showed little sign of addressing that problem as they crashed to their heaviest league defeat for years.

Gay Meadow has never been a happy hunting ground for the Blues but City’s gritty performance there back in April in front of over 1500 travelling fans seems light years away after this latest effort.

As at Blundell Park on Tuesday night, City did have the better of the opening exchanges. Stewart Drummond seeing a header from a Paul Carden corner cleared inside the first 30 seconds and Ashley Sestanovich shooting wide from 30 yards soon after.

Robbie Foy shot wide from distance before and Ben Davies had a curling free kick tipped over by Howie in the Shrews goal before Wayne Brown was called into action for the first time on 15 minutes cutting out Kevin Langmead’s cross.

Luke Rodgers headed over the bar when well placed before the home side took the lead on 27 minutes. Dangerman Rodgers beat Darren Edmondson and crossed from the left, the City defence failed to clear and Jamie Tollley bundled the ball home from close range.

Rodgers doubled the lead three minutes before the break as he picked the ball up and was allowed to run at the City defence without challenge before unleashing a 20-yarder that gave Brown no chance and the Shrews a 2-0 interval lead.

Manager Ian Rush brought on Cortez Belle for Sestanovich at half-time in an attempt to beef up the City attack however the game was put well beyond City’s reach as the home side added a third just before the hour mark. Once again Rodgers surged through the City defence and was adjudged by referee Paul Danson to have been pushed in the box by Elokobi. The on-loan defender was given a straight red card and Jake Sedgmore duly converted the spot kick to Brown’s left.

Sean Hessey and Edmondson and Davies found their way into the referee’s notebook as City fell to pieces. Ryan Lowe, a player City had been keen to sign in recent weeks, added a fourth goal on 65 minutes, his curling 20-yarder finding the top right hand corner of the net.

It was one way traffic now, Kevin Langmead and Tolley shot over before Langmead completed the nap hand on 77 minutes crashing home Lowe’s cross from six yards as many of the 570 City fans headed for an early exit.

All three sides below City in the table, Cambridge United, Kidderminster Harriers and Rushden & Diamonds, all picked up points on Saturday. Two wins earlier in the month has signalled a push towards League Two safety, but the alarming run of results since will no doubt have both Rush and coach Mark Aizlewood nerviously look over their shoulders during the run-in.
Tuesday 22 February 2005
Grimsby Town 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,144 Half Time 0-0
Booked: None.

Grimsby Town:
Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Forbes, Crowe (Parkinson 59), Fleming, Coldicott, Bull, Hockless (Pinault 59), Gritton, Reddy. Subs not used: Crane, Downey, Jones.
Chester City: W.Brown, Davies, Elokobi, Hope, Hessey, Drummond, Carden, M.Brown, Sestanovich, Foy, O’Neill (Booth 79). Subs not used: MacKenzie, Atieno, Vaughan, Walsh.
Referee: N.Miller (County Durham).

City missed the chance to climb League Two with this defeat at a snow bound Blundell Park. Despite controlling the match for long periods, especially in the first half, the Blues failed to convert any of their chances highlighting once again their need for a proven goalscorer.

With Phil Bolland (injured) and Darren Edmondson (suspended) missing from the team that lost on Saturday, manager Ian Rush recalled on-loan George Elokobi and gave a full debut to Ashley Sestanovich against his former club. Robbie Foy continued in attack and was partnered by Joe O’Neill who got the nod ahead of fellow loan signing Taiwo Atieno, while Ben Davies played at right back.

Stacy Coldicott and Martin Gritton both tested Wayne Brown in the opening minutes as The Mariners tried to press home their advantage in front of the lowest league crowd of the season at Blundell Park.

City’s first foray resulted in a corner on 15 minutes. Ben Davies’ flag-kick was met by O’Neill but the young striker could only shoot over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. As the snow started to fall Richard Hope must have thought he’d got a penalty as he was bundled over in the box, however referee MIller waved away the appeals from both the City players and the 74 travelling fans.

The Blues continued to press and forced a couple of corners, though both were comfortably cleared by the home defence, Sestanovich also tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot sailed high over the crossbar. Minutes later shots from Michael Brown and Sean Hessey suffered a similar fate.

Graham Hockless and Stacy Coldicott both kept Brown on his toes with long range efforts before Williams in the opposite goal saved well from a 25-yarder by Robbie Foy to keep the scoreline level at the break.

City started the second half in similar fashion. Foy shot inches wide from 18 yards before the home side gradually came back into the game. Mariners substitute Andy Parkinson had a 30-yarder well saved by Brown before Foy set up a chance for Paul Carden only for the midfielder, like many before, to shoot over.

The only goal of the match came with ten minutes remaining. Dangerman Parkinson beat Hessey and crossed from the right, the City defence failed to clear leaving Gritton with the simple task to convert at the back post.

Gritton almost doubled the lead with two minutes remaining but was denied by a tremendous save by Wayne Brown. Deep into injury time Williams denied City a point when he saved from a close range Michael Brown shot.
Saturday 19 February 2005
Chester City 0 Yeovil Town 2
League Two
Attendance: 3,072 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Hessey, Edmondson, Foy. Sent-off: Edmondson.

Chester City:
W.Brown, Edmondson, Hope, Bolland (Elokobi 46), Hessey, Drummond, Carden, Davies, M.Brown (Sestanovich 46), Foy, Atieno (O’Neill 66). Subs not used: MacKenzie, Vaughan.
Yeovil Town: Weale, Lindegaard, Guyett, Miles (Amankwaah 21), Rose, Gall, Way (Stolcers 80), Johnson, Davies, Jevons (Terry 70), Tarachulski. Subs not used: Lockwood, Collis.

Referee: C.Boyeson (East Yorkshire).

Despite encouraging performances from debutants Robbie Foy and Ashley Sestanovich, City lost out to Yeovil Town in a game punctuated with controversial refereeing decisions. Foy, signed on a month long loan from Liverpool, never stopped running all afternoon, and, with a bit of luck, would have marked his League debut with a goal.

Referee Boyeson set the tone for an indifferent afternoon showing Sean Hessey a yellow card after just two minutes following a challenge on Kevin Gall.

Taiwo Atieno got in City’s first attempt on goal as Weale comfortably collected his header following a good cross from Hessey. However, It was the Glovers who started brightest and almost took the lead in the opening minutes, through a well worked free-kick. Leading scorer Phil Jevons made a hash of the finish six yards out after a well worked quick one-two, had dissected the City defence.

Yeovil continued to press and created three half-chances with Johnson shooting high and wide on two occasions.

Foy almost made an immediate impact ten minutes later. Midfielder Michael Brown picked the ball up 30 yards out before slipping an inch-perfect pass through a static back four for Foy to race onto for a glorious opportunity. He took the ball wide before shooting left-footed but straight at Weale in the Yeovil goal. City were to rue that miss as Yeovil took the lead minutes later.

Referee Boyeson adjudged that Phil Bolland had fouled Bartosz Tarachulski on the right of the box. The City defence were guilty of ball watching as Tarachulski headed the kick down and Arron Davies had the straightforward task to fire home at the far post.

Tarachulski was given a free header again minutes later but this time his effort was saved by Wayne Brown.

Tarachulski was in the action again midway through the half this time clattering into Stewart Drummond with a terrible challenge in front of the dug-outs knocking the defender straight to the ground with his arm. Inexplicably, after a discussion with his assistant, the player was shown just a yellow card by referee Boyeson who went on to caution Darren Edmondson for his protest – a caution that would later cost him dear.

Brown pulled off a great save to deny Tarachulski whose angled shot looked to be heading for goal, but minutes later Yeovil doubled their lead as Richard Hope was adjudged to have fouled Phil Jevons in the penalty area. Jevons sent Brown the wrong way with the spot-kick.

Former City defender Scott Guyett was on hand to head clear away a Ben Davies corner as the Blues searched for a way back. Foy found his way into the referee’s notebook following a foul on Guyett on the stroke of half-time.

Rush made two changes at the interval bringing on George Elokobi and Ashley Sestanowich for Michael Brown and the injured Phil Bolland.

Drummond tried a 30-yard effort ten minutes after the break, followed by similar efforts from Hessey and Sestanovich as the Blues were forced to try their luck from long range. Sestanovich, playing on the left, gave a solid display for City hardly putting a foot wrong on his debut. Edmondson was handily placed to block a Gill effort while at the other end Guyett seemed to be mopping up everything City could throw at him.

Foy did break through on a couple of occasions though and forced a great save from Weale as his powerful shot from a narrow angle looked to be heading inside the post.

Ten minutes from time Edmondson made a wreckless challenge on Davies and a red card was brandished followed his second yellow one of the game – he now misses the trip to Grimsby Town on Tuesday.

Elokobi tried a speculative effort from 30 yards only his see his shot fly well wide and there was just enough time for Foy to see a volley go past Weale and inches wide.
Saturday 12 February 2005
Kidderminster Harriers 0 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,779 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Branch.

Kidderminster Harriers:
Danby, Jenkins (Cozic 78), Mullins, Weaver, Jones, Hatswell, Bennett, McGrath, Russell (Foster 66), Birch (Sturrock 45), Beardsley. Subs not used: Lewis, Sall.
Chester City: W.Brown, Edmondson, Bolland, Hope, Hessey, Drummond, Davies, Carden, Branch (M.Brown 57), O’Neill, Atieno. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Hillier, Vaughan, Elokobi.

Referee: P.Crossley (Kent).

Stewart Drummond’s goal 14 minutes from time brought victory from City’s first-ever visit to Aggborough to lift them 13 points clear of a relegation place. The game, played in difficult conditions thanks to a swirling wind, was heading for a predictable stalemate before Drummond popped up four yards out to bundle home Sean Hessey’s left-wing cross in front of the travelling City fans in a game both sides couldn’t afford to lose.

Manager Ian Rush kept faith with the starting X1 that defeated Rushden seven days earlier as City looked to complete a second double on the bounce.

There was a scare in the fifth minute for City as Kiddy striker Jones fell in the box following a challenge from Hessey but to the relief of the watching City fans referee Crossley waved play-on. Joe O’Neill, starting his third game for City, attempted a lob from outside the box that produced a good save from Danby and the ‘keeper was in action again to tip over a piledriver free-kick from Hessey, similar to his strike that brought a goal last week.

Just before the half hour Michael Branch sent a shot yards wide as he miscued his back post effort after Taiwo Atieno had fed through the perfect pass for the striker.

The best chance of the first half fell to the home side however as neat work on the left from Jones teed up the perfect header for Birch only for the striker to see his looping header rebound off the bar and clear with Wayne Brown stranded.

Half-time came and City’s fans took full advantage of the Chicken Chow Mein and giant Balti pies on offer at the excellent food kiosk.

It was Harriers who started the better following the break. Brown was called into action to save well from both Blair Sturrock and Chris Beardsley.

Sturrock went close again for Kidderminster before Drummond headed Citys first chance of the half wide on 55.

Minutes later City were forced into a change as Branch, racing onto a through ball down left pulled up with a hamstring injury. Michael Brown immediately came on as a replacement and was soon in the action linking well with Atieno.

There was little action of note before Blues won a free-kick on the right which Davies took, the ball was only partly cleared by Dandy but O’Neill was unable to gather his footing to take advantage of the loose ball and it seemed City’s chance to sneak all three points had gone.

Minutes later City though got the breakthrough as Drummond was first to react and stab the ball home after persistent wing-play from Hessey.

O’Neill missed two great chances to double the lead in the dying minutes but the young striker wanted too long on the ball and the chances were cleared.

King & Castle King & Castle
Taiwo Atieno and Wayne Hatswell Bolland clears
Snack bar Take Away
Richard Hope 1-0

Saturday 5 February 2005
Chester City 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,340 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Edmondson, Atieno.

Chester City:
W.Brown, Edmondson (Hillier 83), Bolland, Hope, Hessey, Drummond, Carden, Davies, Branch, O’Neill, Atieno. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Vaughan, Elokobi, Harris.
Rushden & Diamonds: Worgan, Connelly, Allen, Gulliver, Hawkins, Bell, Burgess, McCafferty, Dove (Gray 42), Littlejohn (Hay 45), Sharp. Subs not used: Kelly, Dempster, Chalmer-Stevens.
Referee: C.Oliver (Northumberland).

As I made may way across the cattle market car park towards the Saunders Honda Stadium I could hear Cleggy intoning the Chester line up for the afternoon. Wayne Brown was back in goal, then I Heard Edmondson’s name – and thought good he’s been out for too long;” then Bolland, Hope and Hessey. That sounded like a good solid back line again and Carden was returning after a two game suspension.

The hope was that City would have a better shape to them than last Tuesday’
s debacle and so it proved. Although it seemed to be 4-3-3 when they kicked off, Michael Branch played more in a left midfield role and City were effectively 4-4-2. It was from Branch’s looping cross on the left that Chester forged ahead. Atieno went up with their keeper to meet the ball and the keeper dropped it. It fell kindly for Atieno who tapped it in. Just the sort of goal you see disallowed nine times out of ten but referee and linesman saw nothing wrong so the celebrations began. City’s goal drought had been ended at last. A blank today would have broken a club record.

The industrious Carden and the busy Davies got through a tremendous amount of work and were largely responsible for City dominating the first forty five minutes. Davies should have made it two when he blazed over the bar from close range. But Chester did go further ahead on the half hour when Hessey smashed a stunning free kick into the roof of the net after Atieno had been fouled. City went off to rapturous applause – what a contrast to Tuesday.

Rushden came out after the break with a collective flea in the ear and strove to make amends for their weak display in the first half. Substitute Hay tore into Chester’s defence and might have scored in the first minute of the second half but dragged his shot wide. City were rocked back for twenty minutes or so and went into their shell but managed not to give too many clear cut openings away.

As the visitors came forward they were susceptible to the counter attack and Branch broke through on the left a couple of times. From one such break away the ball was cleared out of the box to Carden who hammered a thunderbolt shot back at goal. Worgan did well to parry it but O’Neill hooked the rebound into the net to register his first goal in League football. This was especially pleasing as he had been growing in confidence as the game wore on and had scuffed a good half chance a minute or two earlier but earned the encouragement of the crowd.

Atieno might have got another goal or two to add to his first but had run himself into the ground with quarter of an hour to go. Edmondson seemed to pick up another knock and was subsequently replaced by Hillier – but not before he had recovered enough to earn himself a booking.

The Diamonds pulled a goal back when City’s defence went missing and Sharp scored with his second bite of the cherry and Brown hopelessly exposed. But even this couldn’t detract from a much better performance from Chester. Relief broke out all around, this was City’s first win at home since October.

Colin Mansley.

Tuesday 1 February 2005
Chester City 0 Cheltenham Town 3
League Two
Attendance: 1,643 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Bayliss, Bolland, Davies. Sent-off: Bayliss.

Chester City:
MacKenzie, Davies, Bolland, Bayliss, Elokobi, Drummond, Vaughan (Hessey 46), Hillier (Atieno 46), Harris (Walsh 60), Branch, O’Neill. Subs: W.Brown, Hope.
Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Duff, Caines, Victory, Wilson (Vincent 85), Bird, Melligan, Devaney, Gillespie, Guinan (Spencer 76). Subs: Finnigan, Vincent, Brown, Odejayi, Spencer.
Referee: E.Evans.

This was shockingly awful. City were on an equal footing with the visitors for just a few minutes and might have taken the lead when O’Neil returned Higg’s poor clearance as the goal gaped. The Cheltenham keeper made it back in time to scoop the ball away for a corner. Just like the goal that wasn’t given at Tottenham recently, the linesman was sprinting like mad to see whether it crossed the line but was a long way off. City fans who were at that end assured me that it definitely didn’t reach that far.

Cheltenham took the lead when Guinan skipped clear on the left as City struggled to clear. His cross to the far post found Beach Boy namesake Brian Wilson who had oceans of room to sidefoot the ball into the net. Chester quite simply went to pieces. Their passing was appalling, there was no shape to their play and confidence seemed to drain visibly from them all. Drummond struggled to get things going in midfield and Bolland did his best to hold the defence together but it was dire and City never looked remotely like scoring.

Two substitutes were thrown on after the interval as Rush tried to change things around. Hessey came on for Hillier enabling Davies to leave the right back berth and shore up midfield and Vaughan was replaced by Atieno who played up front.

Still City struggled and Cheltenham found plenty of room when they came forward. They doubled their lead when Bolland and MacKenzie got in a mix up. Mackenzie ran out to clear a ball as Bolland ran back and just touched it back to the keeper who then sliced the ball to Guinan. The ex-Hereford striker struck it towards goal and, agonisingly it hit the post and came out again. The agony was Chester’s though because all had given it up as a lost cause and Gillespie ran in to steer the rebound into the net.

Hessey had a venomous shot just over the bar as City mustered a little bit of pressure but generally found it difficult to string any passes together. Branch tried to dribble his way round the back a couple of times but to no avail.

There was a defeated air around the Deva tonight and when Cheltenham were awarded a very harsh penalty when the ball struck Bayliss on the arm, there was barely a murmur of protest. By then it was into stoppage time and too late to matter. Bayliss compounded his misery moments later when he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The meagre home crowd – only 1643 – were subdued and frustrated. The side that won the Conference championship only last May have almost all departed. There was little semblance of any team shape or spirit on the pitch on Tuesday night. It was a performance that had relegation stamped all over it and must provoke a reaction from both Ian Rush and chairman Stephen Vaughan.

Colin Mansley.















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