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Lincoln City (A) | Eastleigh (H)
Saturday 21 February
Chester 0 Eastleigh 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,294 Half Time 0-0

Chester: Worsnop, Higgins, Heneghan, Charnock, G.Roberts, Rooney (Richards 71), Abbott, Mahon, McConville (James 71), Hughes, Hobson (Thomson 79). Subs not used: Viscosi, Brown.
Flitney, Spence, Beckwith, Partington, Green, Stanley, Pell (Walker 63), Strevens, Reason, Midson (Howard 83), Constable (Burton 74). Subs not used: McAllister, Evans.
Referee: Richard Martin (Bristol).

The Spitfires have recruited widely and fielded a side full of professional expertise which they employed to full effect in grinding out a narrow win against City. Ben Strevens has played almost 450 games for Barnet and Dagenham alone; recent signing Deon Burton has 560 games under his belt and James Constable released by Oxford at the end of last season where he had been their top scorer for the last six seasons had over two hundred games for them as well as spells at several other clubs before that.

It was Constable that my next door neighbour, an Oxford United fan, had especially come along to see. So when midway through the first half Constable shanked the ball wide with an open goal at his mercy, my neighbour turned to me and said “That’s why we got rid of him!”

Chester were spared on that occasion and earlier when Pell blazed the ball over when he too should have hit the target. But they were not so fortunate on 65 minutes when substitute Dan Walker stole in at the far post to side-foot Reason’s cross past Worsnop. City had momentarily switched off from a left wing throw-in. It was Walker’s first touch of the ball and the decisive moment of the afternoon.

Eastleigh then drew on all their experience to close the game out and stifle any hopes of a comeback from the Blues. City could not get the ball down and play their passing game. Mahon and Hughes were well monitored whenever the ball got out to them on the wings.

Efforts on goal were few and far between from both sides. Heneghan had a header over the bar in the first half and in the second Hobson was just short of a tantalising driven cross from the right by Hughes, having skipped past his marker on a rare occasion. Abbott was denied much possession of the ball. He glimpsed a chink in the Spitfires’ defence but was tripped on the edge of the box. Rooney’s subsequent free kick was accurate but comfortably saved by Flitney.

As the game wore on City’s support became more and more frustrated. Much of their ire was directed at referee Richard Martin who, they felt, had let Eastleigh away with a lot. Perhaps they thought that because he was half the height of each and every Eastleigh player – giants to a man – they intimidated him. But in truth it was more about frustration with the know-how and experience with which the visitors closed the game out.

Blues will have a fortnight to reflect on this their first defeat in six games. The next fixture is the derby down the road on March 7th. Several regulars took the opportunity to leave a few minutes early to queue up for their tickets for the bubble match.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

League table after this game

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Saturday 14 February
Lincoln City 0 Chester 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 4,568 (335 Chester) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Kay, Heneghan.

Lincoln City: Farman, Miller, Brown, Bencherif, Cranston, Adams, Mendy, Nolan (Marsden 55), Marshall, Tomlinson (Waite 76), Burrow. Subs not used: Grant, Sam-Yorke, Caprice.
Worsnop, Higgins, Heneghan (Charnock 77), Kay, G.Roberts, Rooney, Abbott, Mahon (Richards 80), McConville, Hughes (James 86), McBurnie. Subs not used: Viscosi, Thomson.
Referee: Dean Treleaven (West Sussex).

Chester completed the double over Lincoln City as Sean McConville’s goal just before the break brought a fourth straight victory and moved Chester up to tenth position.

Manager Steve Burr kept the same starting X1 as the one that had beaten the Imps 4-0 towards the end of last month, Kingsley James returned from suspension to take a place in the bench.

The first half chance of the game fell to Arnaud Mendy who shot over after some uncertainty in the Blues goal from Jon Worsnop following a long throw saw the loose ball fall free.

Chances were at a premium in the opening half but four minutes before half-time a moment of magic from McConville brought the game to life. On-loan striker Oliver McBurnie half off a couple of defenders to roll the ball to McConville who rifled home from the corner of the box giving goalkeeper Paul Farman no chance in the home goal.

A booking for Michael Kay early in the second period took his tally to 10 and brings with it a two match suspension. Farnam saved from a John Rooney free kick before some great defending from Gareth Roberts and Ben Heneghan denied Ben Tomlinson a great opportunity to bring the sides level.

Lincoln had plenty of possession in the last quarter of the game though Worsnop was rarely troubled as his defence kept the Imps at bay. McConville could have sealed the three points in the dying minutes but he managed to steer Brad Abbott’s pass wide of goal from close range.

That miss was forgotten moments later as referee Dean Treleaven blew for full-time as the Chester players went over to celebrate with the 335 Blues supporters who’d made the trip to Sincil Bank.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

League table after this game

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