Blues consolidated their position at the top thanks
to a brace of goals from Simm and two unusual strikes
from Wes Baynes.
Baynes was back in the side at right back, replacing
Liam Brownhill. Simm took Sarcevic’s place alongside
McNeill in attack. But the third and most surprising
change to City's line up was that of Matt Glennon in
goal having been signed yesterday from Stockport until
the end of the season.
Simm made the most immediate impact, latching on to
a hopeful ball from McGinn and bursting past a static
Buxton defence to slot the ball past Hartley. The Bucks
were looking rocky after this early setback but managed
to claw their way back into the game, breaking play
up where possible. Reed, returning to the Deva for the
first time since last year worked hard and proved a
constant threat to the home defence.
Cox and Wright looked lively on either flank for City
and the former cut in from the right to shoot narrowly
wide with his favoured left foot. A few minutes later
Chester doubled their lead in spectacular style. They
were awarded a free kick on the right wing just by the
half way line. The referee prevented them from taking
it quickly but without much delay Baynes was the only
one in the stadium to notice Hartley off his line and
launched an audacious attempt at goal. He judged it
perfectly and the ball sailed over the back-pedalling
‘keeper and into the net.
The beleaguered Bucks ‘keeper was in trouble again
before half time as he extended his grasp outside the
penalty area to grab hold of the ball. He received a
yellow card but no further embarrassment as the resulting
free kick was cleared.
Chris Simm’s pace and willingness to run off the
ball continually stretched the Bucks’ defence
and his endeavour was further rewarded when Wright’s
superbly weighted through ball set him off like a greyhound
out of the traps. Simm held off the attentions of a
trailing defender and slipped the ball through Hartley's
grasp for his second and City’s third.
Just after the hour Baynes capped a thoroughly convincing
display with the best goal of the lot. Sarcevic (On
for Stefan Cox) came surging forward with the ball and
Hartley ran out of his area to take it off his toes.
The loose ball fell to Baynes, and with ironic cries
of “Shoot” ringing around him from the crowd,
duly obliged by sending a thirty yard excocet into the
back of the net, somehow managing to thread it through
a crowd of players in between.
Marc Williams came on to make his debut and was a whisker
away from giving himself a dream start when his one-two
with Simm just got blocked in time.
A welcome and comfortable win for City then and with
Vics busy in the Trophy, Chorley losing and Hednesford
being pegged back by Frickley in the last minute, Chester
extended their lead to eight points. Neil Young will
be sure not to allow complacency to set in the Blues’
dressing room though – this time last season City
were twelve points clear of Skelmersdale but –
as we know – it came down to a couple of goals
difference in the end.
Arguably the two most vital
goals in the whole equation were scored by Dan Toronczak
for Ossett Albion as they pegged Skem back to 7-2 on
the last day of the season. He was present today to
perform the half time draw and received a rapturous
we won’t look back on this match as two vital
points dropped, but that’s how it feels after
the Blues missed at least two golden chances to give
themselves a real buffer zone at the top of the League.
As we approached Chasetown, you’d be forgiven
for doubting the match would go ahead – for there
was a downpour of torrential proportions as we left
Cannock. I was certainly grateful that we were one of
the few passengers aboard the 60 bus as the rain pelted
The resultant heavy pitch didn’t make for a game
of attractive football and there were few initial chances
as both teams slugged it out while the match settled
down. Chasetown had a couple of defenders who wouldn't
have been out of place on a nightclub door and this
certainly wasn’t a match for wimps.
Indeed Chester captain George Horan was soon on the
ground with blood pouring from his nose. This came after
a number of Chester corners, when the Blues defender
had remained in the Scholars’ box while the ball
came foward again. But his nose collided with the fist
of Chasetown ‘keeper Ryan Price and Horan's face
came off worst. He had to be replaced by Michael Powell
and the Chester team had to be reshuffled.
There was yet another Chester corner, but the Blues
didn’t come close to scoring. By now the sun was
shining brightly and Chester were no doubt looking forward
to the second half when the glare would have been right
n the eyes of the Chasetown defence.
It certainly was a brighter second half, with the Chasetown
‘keeper very much on centre stage. He made a great
diving save from Alex Brown, but was soon picking the
ball out of the back of the net.
Antoni Sarcevic brilliantly collected a mid-air pass,
rounded a Chasetown defender, and thwacked the ball
home – right in front of the travelling fans who'd
been making a great noise under the covered terrace
behind the goal.
Soon after Price made a good save from Michael Taylor,
who also had a lively second half. But there was a distinct
feeling that Chester needed to score a second to ensure
they left Staffordshire with three points. And we all
thought that had come when a Sarcevic pass was slotted
home by Powell. But the linesman ruled it offside, and
it now felt like Chester were on the backfoot.
Chris Simm came on to replace ‘Sarce’ on
the 73rd minute. Soon after he made an impression when
he was brought down in the box by a Chasetown defender.
But Matty McGinn’s penalty was one of the softest
I’ve seen, and Price had no trouble saving it.
Chester were very much off-guard now, and soon after
it was 1-1 when a Chasetown free-kick came to Dean Perrow
and he put the ball past Adam Judge. But the match wasn’t
over, and Chester had another goal disallowed for offside.
This strike from Jerome Wright seemed far more legitimate
than the first attempt and there was now a distinct
feeling that it wasn’t going to be Chester’s
But wait – Simm had a chance to give Chester the
lead again. He was in one-on-one with Price, but missed
the target and put the ball well wide. And so it wasn’t
to be our day and we had to console ourselves that some
results elsewhere had gone our way.
only game played today in the Northern Premier League
ended with Chester completing a hard fought double over
a dogged Stafford side. As a result City stole a march
on all the others to forge six points clear at the top.
Volunteers had been down to the Exacta early to roll the
protective covers back and ensure the game went ahead
despite freezing conditions overnight.
temperatures crept just above zero during the day but
a cold breeze ensured a chilly afternoon for the diehard
supporters – at least the players could run around
to keep warm. Another unveiling took place before the
kick-off as a brand new clock on top of the South Stand
was dedicated to the memory of board member Richie Wightman
who died a year ago.
Just prior to kick off Chester were presented with the
Fair Play award for January. The accolade came for a
number of games which co-incided with the suspensions
of Powell and Baynes after their dismissals at Northwich.
Eyebrows were raised at the
omission of both from the side today (Powell especially
has been missed) – we could only speculate that
perhaps we are hoping to retain the trophy for February
City began brightly with two wingers – Cox and
Wright – in good form who caused the visiting
defence plenty of trouble. Much of the time however,
Mc Neill was on his own up front, with Sarcevic lurking
on the edge of the box and unable to get on the end
of inviting crosses from the wings. Sarcevic nearly
managed to spin on McNeill’s knock down but Read
smothered the threat. When Sarcevic was tripped as he
twisted and turned on the edge of the box, Brown lined
up the free kick. It curled towards the top corner before
Read tipped it around the post.
Stafford had few direct attempts on goal but the running
of Carr with the ball caused City some problems and
the visitors’ corners provided consternation.
Rangers employed a novel technique of lining up outside
the penalty area and then charging in when the corner
came across. The tactic led to plenty of confusion but
no clear cut chances.
Referee Brooks let a lot go in a match full of physical
encounters but Taylor was yellow carded for a sliding
challenge and Rangers’ full back for tripping
Wright for the umpteenth time. City had dominated but
had no goals to show for it before half time.
Shortly after the break though, Brown worked the ball
in from the left and had a dig at goal from outside
the area. The ball was cruelly deflected off a defender
to take it past a helpless Read in the Rangers’
goal. With the breakthrough, City played with less anxiety
and pinned the visitors back as they pressed for a second.
They won a procession of corners until at last with
ten minutes to go Smith nodded home McGinn’s centre
from the right.
Danby was injured in the closing minutes as Stafford
went looking vainly for a consolation but the score
stayed the same and City could be content with a hard-working
display and a hard earned three points. The key virtue
as far as Neil Young was concerned seemed to be application.
Chester stuck to the task; they applied themselves well
and maintained their grip on top spot.