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Brackley Town (H) | Corby Town (A) | Workington (A) | Vauxhall Motors (H) | Gainsborough Trinity (H)
Wednesday 27 February
Chester 3 Gainsborough Trinity 1
Conference North
Attendance: 1,918 Half Time 2-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Baynes (Collins 87), Horan, Linwood, D.Williams, Hankin, Sarcevic, N.Turner, McGinn, Gray (M.Williams 90), Jarman. Subs not used: Daniels, Trundle, Brown.
Gainsborough Trinity: Budtz, Roma, Wilde, Waterfall, Hone, Clarke (Connor 73), Russell, Nelthorpe (Yates 55), Barraclough, Stamp, Hawkridge. Subs not used: Young, Stokes, Thompson.
Referee: Michael Salisbury (Lancashire).

Chester move 19 points of Guiseley following this fightback against play-off Gainsborough Trinity. Trinity came to Chester on the back of a six math unbeaten run and had the better of the opening exchanges against a Blues side that showed several changes from the line-up that beat Vauxhall Motors at the weekend.

Trinity forward, and former Chester hero, Darryn Stamp gave the Blues a scare in the eighth minute with he rose to meet a free-kick and send in a header that came back from the crossbar with John Danby beaten. Scott Brown played Nathan Jarman through with a great pass

Matty McGinn forced a fine save from Jan Budtz but the visitors broke the deadlock following another spell of pressure on 20 minutes as Stamp held the ball up for Craig Nelthorpe to drive a shot past Danby from the edge of the box.

Chester leveled though five minutes later. Matty McGinn's long range swerving shot was spilled by Budtz and Tony Gray was quickest to the loose ball to notch his sixth goal of the season.

The goal seemed to spark more urgency from Chester. Antoni Sarcevic and Dave Hankin, playing at right-back, both saw efforts go wide before Chester took the lead with a great counter attack six minutes before the break.

Sarcevic and Nathan Jarman played a one-two before Sarcevic delivered a right wing cross that was met by McGinn whose first time shot flew past Budtz giving the ‘keeper no chance

Gray saw an effort fly over the bar, after good work from Wes Baynes, before Chester extended their lead ten minutes into the second period. McGinn's long throw was flicked on by George Horan to Jarman who stabbed the ball home to notch his 16th goal of the season.

Danny Williams maintained Chester’s two-goal lead when he cleared off the line to deny Bradley Barraclough. Gainsborough pressed for the next period but the chester defence held firm. Barraclough just failed to meet a Stamp cross.

The last meaningful action saw Gray and Jarman combine well to set up McGinn but the defender sent his close range shot over the bar with just Budtz to beat.

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 23 February
Chester 2 Vauxhall Motors 0
Conference North
Attendance: 2,912 Half Time 1-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Linwood, D.Williams, Daniels (Jarman 73), A.Williams, Sarcevic, Howard (McGinn 69), Trundle (N.Turner 57), Gray. Subs not used: Collins, M.Williams.

Vauxhall Motors:
Jones, Wainwright, Hannigan (Kocsis 84), Nicholas, Barnes, Anoruo (Moss 77), Noone, Clair, Rutter, Mahon, Stott. Subs not used: Martindale, Ellison.
Mark Ackerman (Manchester).

Manager Neil Young made no less than five changes from the side that started midweek’s draw at Workington. As well as on-loan Crewe winger Brendon Daniels, there was also a first start for Lee Trundle who had made his debut from the bench at Borough Park on Tuesday.

Daniels stamped his mark on the game with the opening goal after just 12 minutes. Iain Howard’s cross from the left was met by Antoni Sarcevic, his effort was saved by Zac Jones but the ball fell to Daniels who scored from close range. Howard had a great chance to double the lead ten minutes later, he expertly controlled a Wes baynes pass but after doing the hard work dragged his shot wide of Jones and the post.

Chester were guilty of many misplace passes in midfield and the Motormen came more into the game as the half progressed. Obi Anoruo sent a head straight at John Danby and the Blues ‘keeper was well placed to gather a long-range effort from Craig Mahon.

Trundle showed some neat skill to control a Danby clearance before turning to shoot just over the bar from 25 yards out.

The Motormen had a great chance to equalise five minutes before the break. Anoruo rushed through onto a Chris Noone ball that had split the Blues defence but with John Danby narrowing the angle the striker shot wide and the chance was gone.

Danby produced another fine save to deny Tom Rutter after the break and Paul Linwood cleared from his line after Ashley Stott had sent in a goalbound shot.

At the other end, Tony Gray saw a shot blocked and Nathan Turner forced Jones into a good save before Young introduced three changes in an effort to grab control of a game that the visitors, who had defeated second placed Guiseley last week, were beginning to dominate.

Matty McGinn saw a free-kick turned away before substitute Nathan Jarman sealed victory two minutes from time after good approach play on the left by Gray whose cross was controlled by Jarman before he sent an unstoppable volley past Jones to the relief of the Blues fans behind the goal.

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Tuesday 19 February
Workington 1 Chester 1
Conference North
Attendance: 531 Half Time 0-0
Booked: M.Williams, Horan.

Workington: Dixon, Andrews, Johnson, Wordsworth, Rowntree, Boyd (Greenhalgh 70), Hewson, McLuckie, J.Wright (A Wright 84), McGee, Arnison (Owusu-Andrews 75). Subs not used: Manship, Taylor.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Linwood, D.Williams, Hankin, Sarcevic, N.Turner, McGinn (Howard 75), M.Williams (A.Williams 65), Jarman (Trundle 63). Subs not used: Collins, Gray.

Referee: Peter Wright (Southport).

Chester were made to fight all the way for this hard warned point against a Workington side who played 85 minutes with just ten men. The point extends Chester’s unbeaten run to a record breaking 22 matches and they remain 16 points clear of Guiseley who were held 2-2 at home by Colwyn Bay.

Chester started with an unchanged side after Antoni Sarcevic recovered from a thigh strain picked up at Corby and there was a place on the bench for new signing Lee Trundle.

The home side were quickest from the start with John Danby being called into action to save from Gereth Arnison after just three minutes but the game to a dramatic twist two minutes later as Lee Andrews was shown a straight red card for a foul just outside of the box on Nathan Jarman. The resulting Matty McGinn free-kick was gathered by Joel Dixon in the Reds goal.

The game moved from end to end with Danby saving low down from a Joe McGee effort before Dixon did well to palm a Marc Williams shot over the bar as both sides pressed for the opening goal at a freezing Borough Park.

Despite their numerical disadvantage Workington continued to press. McGinn deflected an Arnison effort wide and Danby gathered a McGee long range effort.

Sarcevic saw an effort blocked by Gari Rowntree before shooting high and wide after controlling a measured McGinn pass. The half finished with Marc Williams forcing a save from Dixon with a back post header from Wes Baynes’ cross.

Six minutes after the restart Chester grabbed the lead. Sarcevic sent in a perfect cross for Marc Williams to power home a header past Dixon into the roof of the net from close range. The lead lasted only two minutes though, Nathan Turner was caught in possession by Rowntree who ran through and let fly with a 20-yards that beat Danby and went in via the underside of the bar.

Manager Neil Young sent on Trundle for Nathan Jarman and the striker almost won a penalty with this first touch though referee Peter Wright turned down the Chester appeals. Twelve minutes from time Trundle saw a goalbound shot deflected wide and that was be the nearest Chester came to grabbing a winner from a display that manager Young describes as “the worst performance of the season”.

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 16 February
Corby Town 1 Chester 2
Conference North
Attendance: 768 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Horan.

Corby Town: Walker, Ives, Malone, Crowe, Richardson, Webb (Bryan 85), Wedderburn, Semple (Kaziboni 72), McGowan, Moreman, Vieira. Subs not used: Cuffy, Manga, Greer.

Chester: Danby, Baynes (Collins 70), Horan, Linwood, McGinn, Hankin, Sarcevic (Brown 50), N.Turner, D.Williams, M.Williams, Jarman (Gray 87). Subs not used: Mills, Howard.

Referee: Stephen Ross (Boston).

Chester moved 16 points clear of their nearest challengers Guiseley after completing the double over Corby Town as their Yorkshire promotion rivals were being beaten 2-0 at Vauxhall Motors.

Corby Town manager Chris Plummer had warned his players pre-match that they couldn’t afford a slow start against the Blues if they were to get a result against Neil Young’s high-flyers, but they did and it was Chester who began the game on the attack.

Dave Hankin and Antoni Sarcevic were causing problems for home ‘keeper Paul Walker. Chester, playing in a third strip of yellow and blue, took the lead on 13 minutes. Nathan Jarman beat the offside trap to race onto a through ball down the left, he took the ball to the goalline before checking back and sending in a cross to the far post where Hankin had ghosted in totally unmarked to send an unstoppable header past the exposed Walker from six yards out.

Four minutes later Nathan Jarman doubled the lead after some fine quick approach play. Hankin lobbed a through ball for Marc Williams to chase, he hooked the ball back for Matty McGinn to cushion a header down to Jarman. The striker saw his first effort blocked by Jason Crowe but Jarman reacted quickly to poke home the rebound past the defender.

Marc Williams should have added a third as he raced through onto a perfect Danny Williams pass but the striker seemed to get the ball stuck under his feet on the sticky playing surface. Walker was in action again saving another Jarman effort as Chester pressed.

The hosts came more into the game in the closing ten minutes of the half. Ryan Semple saw a free kick deflected wide and John Danby, who had little to do in the opening half, was called into action just before the break as he pulled off a great save to deny Josh Moreman’s header and preserve the two-goal lead.

The second half saw the Steelmen come more into the game. George Horan headed over from a corner before Danby was forced into saving again from Moreman.

Corby pressed and Semple, who had a loan spell with Chester City six years ago, blasted high and wide from close range as the Chester defence came under pressure. Horan turned a Moreman cross onto the bar.

Jarman saw a free-kick pass just wide on Walker’s post before Corby pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time. as the lively Malone headed home Sam Ives’ free-kick.

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 2 February
Chester 0 Brackley Town 0
Conference North
Attendance: 2,689 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Baynes, McGinn, Horan, Linwood, N.Turner, Hankin, Sarcevic, Jarman (Gray 76), Mills (M.Williams 53), D.Williams (Howard 81). Subs not used: A .Williams, Collins.
Brackley Town: Turley, Clifton, McDonald, Corcoran (Robinson 89), Sharpe, Austin, Mulligan, Solkhon, Louis, Sandy, Nisevic (Story 85). Subs not used: Johnson, Diggin, Walker.
Referee: Simon Bennett (Stoke).

After Chester’s stunning victory at Brackley in December, Jon Brady vowed that they would learn lessons from the experience. The main thing they seemed to have learnt is that the very best they could hope for was a point when they came to the Exacta. Brackley came grimly determined to leave with a point and parked the proverbial Leyland Atlantean in front of their goal.

It made for quite tedious entertainment but it was up to City as hosts to break their stubborn visitors down. Not enough of the Blues were on top of their game, however, to enforce a breakthrough and the game ended in stalemate.

Dominican international and Lower League journeyman Jefferson Louis shouldered the burden of Brackley’s very limited attacking ambitions and made a good fist of occupying Linwood and Horan. Even so Danby had not one shot on target to deal with all afternoon. At the other end Turley was rarely troubled either, so effective was the smothering blanket in front of him.

The best City could muster in the first half was a header from Ben Mills narrowly wide, having been set up by Horan’s nod back across goal. A goal then would have forced the visitors to come out of their shell more.

The game seemed to cry out for the guile of Marc Williams playing just behind the front line and coming back in search of the ball. The aerial threat from City was easily dealt with by the Saints’ defence. When Williams was introduced ten minutes into the second half, City’s game picked up but not enough to force the issue. Wing backs Hankin and Danny Williams were closely policed and Sarcevic effectively shackled to show that Brackley had indeed learned from their earlier defeat.

One person who might have made a difference was the magnificent Craig Curran, now returned to Rochdale after his loan spell. But City fans were all too well aware that we could not afford to keep him and the club must live within in its means especially after the news of a projected operating loss announced this week.

City were forced to concede a little ground in the title race then but are still handsomely placed. A blank weekend beckons before the trip to Corby in a fortnight.

Colin Mansley

Picture � Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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