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Welling United (H) | Macclesfield Town (A) | FC Halifax Town (H) | Macclesfield Town (CSC2 H) | Lincoln City (A) | Tamworth (A)
Tuesday 25 February
Tamworth 3 Chester 4
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,036 (386 Chester) Half Time 1-3
Booked: -.

Tamworth: Belford, Keane, Richards-Everton, Townsend (Todd 38), Fenton, Evans, Mahon, Hildreth (Reindorf 72) , Peniket, Chadwick (Haworth 15), Godden. Subs not used: Kerry, Baker-Richardson.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Killock, Brown, Linwood, Rooney, Bond, Jarrett, Mahon (Menagh 70), Taylor, Seddon. Subs not used: Danby, Mainwaring, Lindfield, Daniels.
Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire).

Matty Taylor scored a hat-trick as Chester hung on to win a pulsating seven goal match having led 3-0 and 4-1 before the home side struck back twice late in the game. Paul Linwood replaced the injured Joe Heath at left back otherwise Chester were unchanged from the side that dew at Lincoln City on Saturday.

The first real chance of the night came on ten minutes when Tamworth’s on-loan striker Matthew Godden found himself unmarked ten yards out from a Nick Chadwick cross but managed to shoot over. At the other end John Rooney saw an early effort blocked before the Blues took the lead in the 23rd minute. Rooney’s ball into the box found defender Michael Townsend who couldn’t control it and Taylor pounced on the loose ball and had the simplest of chances to score.

Seven minutes later Chester doubled their lead as Rooney smashed the ball home from 30-yards giving Cameron Belford no chance in the Lamb’s goal. Godden saw a long range effort tipped onto the bar by Aaron Chapman as the home side looked to strike back.

Taylor scored his second and Chester’s third on 33 minutes taking advantage of a mix-up in the home defence following Andrew Bond’s pass and scored past the exposed Belford.

Rooney seeing belford off his line tried a cheeky effort from inside his own half only to see the ball go narrowly wide. Tamworth pulled a goal back two minutes before the break as Godden scored from six yards following a Richard Peniket cross.

After Gareth Seddon had gone close to extending the lead in first half stoppage time, Chester added their fourth on the hour mark as Rooney’s perfect through ball was picked up and controlled by Taylor who advanced before clotting the ball past Belford.

Tamworth brought on substitute Jessy Reindorf who proved a handful for the Blues defence. A mistake by Ross Killock allowed Godden to grab his second from, 12 yards out on 76 minutes.

Eight minutes from Time Tamworth added a third as Godden headed on to Reindorf who laid it off to Peniket who drove the ball home for 18 yards.

Chester held out through the remaining eight minutes plus five minutes of stoppage time to record a vital win in front of another impressive away following and move up to 19th.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 22 February
Lincoln City 1 Chester 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,354 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Heath, Taylor, Brown.

Lincoln City: Townsend, Miller, Brown, Audel, Newton, Jordan, Power, Sheridan (Robinson 63), Adams, Tomlinson, Sam-Yorke. Subs not used: Rowe, Preece, Gray, Nolan.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Brown, Killock, Heath (Mainwaring 21), Rooney, Jarrett, Bond, Mahon (Menagh 68), Taylor, Seddon. Subs not used: Kay, Danby, Lindfield.
Referee: Colin Lymer (Hampshire).

An improved second half performance saw Chester gain another vital point towards their fight against relegation. Manager Steve Burr picked the same starting X1 that beat FC Halifax Town last week with Aaron Chapman continued in goal for the Blues having recovered from the hand injury suffered in that victory.

An even opening saw few chances created for either side before the Imps took the lead on 16 minutes. A long throw from Tom Miller saw Chapman hesitate as to whether to come for it, leaving Delano Sam-Yorke unmarked to prod the ball home from close range.

Chester almost got back into the game from the restart but Craig Mahon saw an effort deflected wide, the remainder of the half though generally belonged to the home side with former Blue Sean Newton teasing Chapman with a succession of crosses and corners. Sam-Yorke and Todd Jordan both missed great chances to extend the lead for Lincoln while at the other end Lewis Turner produced a save from Imps ‘keeper Nick Townsend in a rare Chester attack.

It took Chester just seven minutes after the restart to put the first half disappointment behind them and draw level. A long through ball was superbly controlled by on-loan striker Matt Taylor who turned Thierry Audel before firing past Townsend to the delight of the 250+ travelling support.

Moments later Matty Brown headed over from a quality John Rooney free kick as Chester grew in confidence. Just after the hour mark though Brown was penalised for handling in the area following another long Miller throw and referee Colin Lymer awarded Lincoln a penalty.

Up stepped captain Alan Power only to see his bottom corner effort saved at full stretch by Chapman to keep the two sides level. Chester took advantage of the home miss and began to control the match. Ross Killock an Gareth Seddon both went close and substitute Jamie Menagh forced a good save out of Townsend as Chester sensed a winner.

Charlee Adams saw a long range effort fly just over Chapman’s bar but it was Chester who were now looking the more likely to score. Rooney was unlucky to see a fine effort tipped onto the post by Townsend with the ball falling back into the ‘keeper’s hands.

The final chance of the game went to the home side as Chapman dropped a Miller throw only to see Adams shoot the loose ball over the bar.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 18 February
Chester 0 Macclesfield Town 2
Cheshire Senior Cup Round 2
Attendance: 415 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Fearon, Kay, Killock (Horan 46), Linwood, L.Turner (Batten 75), Lindfield, N.Turner (Rooney 80), Blake, Menagh, Reed, Peers. Subs not used: Danby, Rooney, Horan, Mahon.
Macclesfield Town: Branagan, Halls (Bailey 59), Andrew (Winn 46), Turnbull, Williams, Pilkington, Rowe, Lewis, Holroyd (Cowan 59), Boden, Gnahoua. Subs not used: O’Keefe.
Referee: John Dowd (Wirral).

“Fifteen years ago today”, waxed the Radio Five Live commentator as he built Manchester City’s European Champions League tie with Barcelona, “Man City were playing Macclesfield in a League match…..” The implication being – look what they are doing now. What he neglected to mention was who the Silkmen were up against this evening – the mighty Chester in a glamourous Cheshire Senior Cup Quarter Final of course.

Although City are the current cup holders even the most die-hard fans would admit that Conference survival is the priority. There were few raised eyebrows at the team selection for this match, then which involved nine changes from the team that played against Halifax last week. Notably Liam Blake was given his senior debut and Nathan Turner made a welcome return from injury.

As play unfolded it appeared the teams were evenly matched though the visitors seemed a bit more incisive in attack. Holroyd blazed a good chance over the bar but profited just before the break when he intercepted a soft back pass by Killock to Fearon and knocked the ball over the keeper’s head and followed up the simple task of scoring into an empty net.

City had a good spell of pressure midway through the second period. Peers’ header was fortuitously saved via the post by the Macclesfield keeper. Blake and then Reed had chances in front of goal where the ball wouldn’t quite fall to them. A Macclesfield defender then headed narrowly wide of his own goal from Turner’s cross.

The Silkmen weathered this particular storm, however, and made the tie safe with a couple of minutes to go as Boden headed in from a sweeping left wing cross. The visitors could hardly bring themselves to celebrate but City had relinquished their grip on that most magnificent of trophies. Winning it last year had been the icing on the cake of a fantastic season but losing tonight will not be so disastrous if the Blues do manage to stay up.

At least Nathan Turner was able to improve his match fitness and Blake – with the look of a young Ian Edwards (For those who can remember that far back) impressed in midfield. Tom Batten also came on for the last few minutes at left back and so will remember this night fondly as his senior debut too.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Thursday 13 February
Chester 2 FC Halifax Town 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,127 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Rooney, Heath, Bond.

Chester: Chapman (Danby 70), L.Turner, Killock, Brown, Heath, Rooney, Jarrett, Bond, Mahon (Menagh 87), Taylor (Reed 90), Seddon. Subs not used: Linwood, Mainwaring.
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Bolton, Roberts, Ainge, McManus, Maynard, Lenighan (Jackson 45), Crowther (Smith 73), Marshall, Wilson, Gregory. Subs not used: Challinor, Worthington.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Liverpool).

With sensational timing substitute Jamie Menagh rescued City from the heartbreak of a late Halifax equaliser as he snatched an even later winner for the Blues. For the second successive home game of Steve Burr’s reign it seemed he played a get-out-of-jail card to ensure Chester secured three points when only one appeared likely.

An almost full moon looked down on the Deva on the Eve of St Milner’s Day as City took on the team that were promoted with them last May. The visitors have adapted much better to life in the Conference arguably because they have taken slightly longer to climb through the leagues following their own journey to oblivion and back.

The Shaymen’s away form has not been as impressive as their displays on home soil and, as a team they defended deeply, making it difficult for Chester to find room to attack their goal. Rooney’s flick nearly found the top corner of the net early on but Matt Glennon stretched to claw it away. At the other end Aaron Chapman, making his debut on loan from Chesterfield, dominated his area with his six foot eight stature and his pro-active command of any threatening situations.

Josh Wilson provided Town’s biggest threat of the first period with his enticing cross from the right which eluded both Chapman and the on-rushing Gregory. Wilson, though, didn’t make it as far as half time as he was dismissed for a stamping challenge on City’s captain for the night – ex-Shayman Gareth Seddon. Taylor’s flicked header crashed against the bar but the linesman’s flag was raised anyway and the first half drew to a close.

City’s extra man advantage told just after the break when Lewis Turner sent the ball over from the right and Mahon, coming through on the blind side, tucked the raking cross into the net. The match continued, combative and error-strewn perhaps but with City just about on top. Then play was held up while Chapman drew attention to a hand injury which forced him to give up his place in goal to Danby.

As City tried to close the game out Reed replaced Taylor and Menagh came on forthe industrious Mahon. One of Menagh’s first touches was unfortunate as he inadvertently got in the way of a clearance. From the rebound Bolton lashed the ball past Danby into the corner. It was the 94th minute of the match. The sickening feeling among the home faithful was that relegation as well as two points dropped were now inevitable.

There was time just for one last forward foray. Rooney knocked the ball into the box and this time a Halifax defender’s ricocheted clearance sent it back towards Glennon. Neither he nor his fellow defender noticed Jamie Menagh closing in on them both and, with the deftest of touches he tickled the ball into the net, just inside the post.

The subsequent scenes on the Harry Mac Terrace were of unbounded ecstasy. It was on a par with George Horan’s late winner at Witton three years ago after Albion had scored twice in injury time to level the score. Those around the nation watching live on BT Sport were also able to bask in a famous City grandstand moment.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 4 February
Macclesfield Town 3 Chester 2
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,771 (457 Chester) Half Time 2-1
Booked: Jarrett.

Macclesfield Town: Taylor, Connor, Andrew, Martin (Halls 7), Mackreth, Holroyd (Lewis 90), Winn, Williams, Boden (Fairhurst 86), Whitaker, Kay. Subs not used: Rowe, Gnahoua.
Danby, L.Turner, Horan (Kay 60), Linwood, Heath, Bond, Jarrett (Mahon 46), Rooney, Taylor, Seddon, Reed (Mainwaring 60). Subs not used: Fearon, G.Miller.
Referee: Paul Rees (Somerset).

Chester’s defence were made to pay for their inability to deal with crosses as Macclesfield came from behind to inflict defeat on the Blues. With Ross Killock missing through suspension manager Steve Burr made four changes to the side that were disappointingly beaten at home by Welling United on Saturday. Joe Heath, Gareth Seddon, Paul Linwood, Andrew Bond came in to replace Michael Kay, George Miller, the injured Kevin McIntyre and Killock.

The Blues got off to a great start taking the lead on 19 minutes after Seddon coolly converted a fine through ball from Matty Taylor giving Rhys Taylor no chance in the home goal. The lead lasted barely three minutes though, Scott Boden heading home past Danby following a Danny Andrew cross.

Within a minute it looked like Seddon had restored Chester’s advantage, pouncing on a loose ball after Rooney had seen a shot partially saved, only to see his ‘goal’ ruled out for offside by the linesman.

On 33 minutes The Silkmen took advantage of some more slack Chester defending to take the lead. Peter Winn sent over a free-kick which found the unmarked Steve Williams who headed home.

Chester, now chasing the game, came close as John Rooney flashed a shot just wide, and the Blues had the ball in the net again as Linwood headed home from a Rooney free-kick only for the linesman’s flag to deny the equaliser for offside.

The second half started with Craig Mahon replacing Jason Jarrett who had been booked in the opening minutes for a foul on Chris Holroyd. Jamie Reed headed over from twelve yards following another dangerous Rooney free-kick.

Macclesfield extended their advantage on 53 minutes as Holroyd headed home a Jack Mackreth right wing cross which the Blues defence failed to deal with. The home side were now on top, Holroyd steered a shot just wide and Scott Boden saw a goalbound effort effort deflected away by Linwood.

Burr made two changes bringing on new-signing Matty Mainwaring and Michael Kay replacing Reed and George Horan who looked to have taken a knock.

Seddon sent an effort wide in the closing stages before Rooney scored a great volley to set up a tense final five minutes. Chester pressed hard for the equaliser and it almost came in stoppage time but Seddon could only steer the ball over from six yards out following a cross from the right.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 1 February
Chester 1 Welling United 3
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,074 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Kay, Killock, L.Turner. Sent-off: Killock.

Chester: Danby, Kay, Horan, Killock, L.Turner, McIntyre (Menagh 17), Jarrett, G.Miller (Bond 70), Reed (Seddon 57), Rooney, Taylor. Subs not used: Mahon, Fearon.
Welling United:
Butcher, McLaren (J.Obersteller 33), Hudson, Bergqvist, Obersteller, Healy, Gallagher, Beautyman, Cornick (Guthrie 58), Lafayette, Sho-Silva (Ajala 62). Subs not used: Turner, Wakefield.
Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).

Expectations were high following Steve Burr’s arrival as manager. Back-to-back wins against Barnet and Woking had lifted the Blues out of the relegation zone. True, they had come back to earth with a bump at Forest Green but today City fans gathered thinking that Welling at home was a winnable game. The Wings had not read the script, however, and won comfortably in the end to dent Chester’s hopes of Conference survival.

The match was played in atrocious conditions with virtually no respite all afternoon from wind and rain. It was one of only four Conference fixtures to survive the elements and others were involved in the FA Trophy. Here, then was an opportunity to steal a march on the teams around us but sadly, City didn’t grasp it. The Blues were out-fought and out-muscled by a business-like opposition who are punching well above their part-time weight this season.

Welling pressed City high up the pitch and put the Blues’ defence under pressure. Kay seemed a strange selection at left back. Horan and Killock were forced to resort to getting rid of the ball quickly and often erroneously by the hard working visitors. Beautyman shot wide at the end of an attacking move. City seemed sluggish in their response as the Wings were quickest to the loose ball and knocked it about with greater pace.

McIntyre, started in left mid-field but took a knock in a robust tackle early on and was clearly struggling. Whilst a substitute was preparing, a deft ball over the top of City’s defence caught them flat-footed. Cornick latched on to the ball and bore down on a retreating Danby. The teenager, on loan from Bournmouth, scored his first goal for Welling with composure. Worse was to follow just before half time as another impressive loanee, Tobi Sho-Silva, signed the previous day from Charlton, hunted down Danby and robbed him of possession as he was trying to clear. The Welling forward squared it back for top-scorer Lafayette to stroke the ball into the unguarded net.

There seemed little way back into the game after this for City. Only Jarrett seemed to be competing on equal terms in midfield and all too often the Blues were second best and behind the pace. After the break City briefly contrived to exert some pressure but the wind was well and truly taken out of their sails when Healy was given time and space to drive a shot towards goal. His powerful effort was too much for a fully stretched Danby and City were undone.

Debutant Matt Taylor struck back almost immediately following good work by Jamie Menagh down the left. The control and emphatic finish by the Forest Green forward showed promise. And if Jason Jarrett had managed to convert a golden opportunity with twenty minutes to go City might have been able to redeem a point. Sadly for us Jarrett shinned his effort wide of the post and the momentum was lost.

Just to rub salt into the wounds, Killock picked up a second yellow card for tripping Guthrie as he beat a couple of defenders. Lewis Turner quickly followed him into the book for another rash challenge as a frustrating afternoon for City limped to a conclusion. Steve Burr has the difficult task of restoring confidence to the squad after this deflating defeat. A Cheshire derby with Macclesfield looms on Tuesday.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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