28 February Chester 0 Tranmere Rovers
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 3,494 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Alabi, Hannah.
Thompson, O’Brien (Mahon 57), Heneghan, Sharps
(Hunt 10), Astles, Chapell, Rooney, Hughes, Lloyd,
Alabi, Hannah (Bell 80). Subs not used: Worsnop, Higgins. Tranmere Rovers: Davies, Vaughan,
Ihiekwe, McNulty, Ridehalgh, Mekki, Jennings, J.Hughes,
Kirby (Mackreth 74), Norwood, Higdon (Taylor-Fletcher
81). Subs not used: Turner, Riley, Margetts. Referee: Ryan Johnson (Bolton).
Rovers completed the double over the Blues who put in
a disappointing performance for the first home league
encounter between the two sides for 25 years. Manager
Steve Burr made one change to the side that drew at
Kidderminster with James Alibi who scored the equaliser
at Aggborough replacing Craig Mahon.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges
and almost took the lead in the opening minutes as Tony
Thompson saved well from James Norwood before John Rooney
cleared off the line to prevent Michael Higdon heading
the opening goal.
Ian Sharps, playing against his former club, picked
up a hamstring injury and had to be replaced on ten
minutes by Johnny Hunt. In a rare effort on goal John
Rooney forced a save from Scott Davies with a shot from
the edge of the box. At the other end Thompson produced
a fine save with his legs to deny Lee Vaughan who had
beaten Jordan Chapell to the ball to raced clear on
Norwood volleyed high and
wide from a James Kirby cross when well placed eight
minutes before the break. It was Tranmere who looked
to pose the bigger threat after the interval although
Davis was called into action tipping an Alibi header
around the post.
The only goal of the game
came in the 69th minute when Hunt brought down Adam
Mekki in the box. Up stepped Norwood to send Thompson
the wrong way from the penalty spot. Thomson was forced
into a great save to deny Kirby doubling the advantage
for the visitors.
All Chester had to show in
the final 20 minutes was a mis-hit Ross Hannah free
kick. Nyal Bell replaced Hannah with ten minutes remaining
but Chester never looked like getting back into the
23 February Chester 4 Warrington Town
Cheshire Senior Cup Round 2
Attendance: 347 Half Time: 1-0
Thompson, Higgins, Sharps, Astles, Waters, Richards,
Hughes, Rooney, Hunt, Bell, Hobson (Chapell 64). Subs
not used: Worsnop, Hannah, Alabi, Lloyd. Warrington Town: Willis, Turner, Lea,
Ventre (Beattie 74), McCarten, Robinson, Gaghan (Gillespie
46), Kinsella, Metcalfe, Holt, Dean (Deegan 46). Subs:
O’Donnell, Rudge, Beattie. Referee: Daniel Hitchell.
gave a debut to on-loan Rochdale forward Nyal Bell and
the youngster impressed with a brace of goals as Chester
moved into the semi-final's of the Cheshire Senior Cup
and an away clash at Tranmere Rovers.
Bell opened the scoring ten minutes before the interval
giving Karl Willis in the Warrington goal no chance
with a powerful shot.
A foul on Bell in the penalty area on the hour mark
allowed Matty Waters to double the lead from the resulting
spot-kick. Jordan Chapell, on for Craig Hobson, added
a third goal 16 minutes from time and Bell accepted
a John Rooney pass to score his second goal in the final
minute to cap off a fine debut.
Chester now face Tranmere Rovers in the semi-final of
the competition on Monday 14 March at Prenton Park.
20 February Kidderminster Harriers 2
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,067 Half Time: 2-0
Harriers: Snedker, Hodgkiss, Langmead, Lowe,
Kinsella, Maxwell, Fane, Williams, Whitfield, White
(Garnett 85), Gnahoua (Patrick 74).Subs
not used: Francis-Angol, Jones, Brown. Chester: Thompson, Heneghan, Sharps,
Astles, O’Brien (Richards 85), Hughes, Rooney
(Higgins 46), Mahon (Alabi 46), Lloyd, Chapell, Hannah.
Subs not used: Worsnop, Hunt. Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).
your cliché to sum up Chester’s visit to
Aggborough – it was a ‘game of two halves’
and also a ‘deja-vu’ experience as the Blues
came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in a repeat of last
season's unforgettable encounter.
It was definitely my best game of
the season, as long as I can forget the first half
that saw Chester start with the same three-at-the-back
formation which saw them overwhelm Altrincham earlier
in the week. This time it wasn't so effective with
the likes of Sam Hughes barely touching the ball in
the first 45 minutes.
In fact the failure of any Chester
player to get a tackle in led to the first Kidderminster
goal when their new signing Arthur Gnahoua was allowed
to make a largely unchallenged strike on goal. It
wasn’t the best
of shots either, but it went under Chester goalkeeper
Tony Thompson and into the net.
The 432 away fans were soon venting
their spleen at referee Rob Whitton for awarding a
penalty to Kidderminster when the ball bounced off
Ryan Lloyd's thigh and onto his arm. Granted it wasn’t
a great clearance, but his intent on handball had
to be questionable. The result was that Kiddie were
2-0 up with just 26 minutes on the clock,
The first half petered out with
the Chester fans shouting ‘handball’
at any opportunity in the hope that the referee would
even things out. And later on their wish would come
true. But first there was a second half change when
the formation was altered to 4-4-2 and James Alabi
and Ryan Higgins replaced John Rooney and Craig Mahon.
Not long after the re-start, Alabi
proved to be a handful for the Kidderminster defenders
and almost won himself a penalty. But a similar move
by Ross Hannah on the 66th minute did earn his team
a spot-kick. Hannah stepped up to take it and made
no mistake in front of the travelling fans.
There was still business to be done
so Hannah grabbed the ball from the net and dashed
back to the centre spot with barely any hint of celebrating
his 16th goal of the season. It was a different story
for Chester’s second goal when Alabi –
a continuous threat to the relegation-threatened home
side – found the
net after he shrugged off a defender, turned and thwacked
the ball into the top corner to get the game back
on level pegging with 14 minutes left to play. This
time celebrations were definitely in order and everyone
at the away end made the most of it!
Both sides had their chances in
the closing spell to earn a victory. Hannah saw a
great opportunity just go wide while, at the other
end, Thompson kept Chester in it with a great save.
So at full-time it was again honours even at Aggborough.
As we reflected on the match in
the excellent Weaver’s Ale House, both sets
of fans seemed to think it was a fair result. However,
most of the Kidderminster fans seemed resigned to
relegation and –
after two enjoyable visits in consecutive seasons
– I will definitely
miss them if we’re
not in the same league next year.
16 February Altrincham 0 Chester 3
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,442 Half Time: 0-2
Booked: Hanah, Sharps.
Deasy, Leather, Holness, Heathcote, Griffin, Crowther
(Reeves 63), Richman (O’Keefe 31), Moult, Ginnelly,
Rankine, Margetts (Lawrie 80). Subs not used: Cain,
Chester: Thompson, O’Brien (Higgins 85),
Astles, Heneghan, Sharps, Lloyd, Rooney, Hughes, Mahon
(Richards 90), Chapell, Hannah (Alabi 90). Subs not
used: Worsnop, Hunt. Referee: Stephen Ross (Boston).
on the motorway made me arrive on the last minute for
the M56 derby but I was there in time to hear Steve
Burr’s unusual team selection. Debuts were given
to Tony Thompson in goal and Danny O’Brien on
loan from Wigan. Sam Hughes started a league match for
the first time. Full-backs Higgins and Hunt were dispensed
with and City lined up with a three man defence of centre
backs Heneghan, Sharps and Astles.
It was a formation which gave Chester plenty of the
ball in midfield. Rooney and Hughes in particular were
able to break play up and launch the yellows in attack.
Chapell, Hannah and Lloyd linked up well as did Mahon
and O’Brien as City became free flowing going
forward. A clever ball from Hughes set Chapell off and
he ran at the defence, weaving his way to the edge of
the penalty area. His shot took a slight deflection
and trickled against the upright with Deasy frozen to
the spot but the Robins were able to scramble the ball
Lloyd then cut in from the left at the end of another
good move but his cross eluded everyone. Better followed
when, after a good run from Mahon, Chapell picked up
the loose ball and threaded it to Lloyd again whose
cross this time found O’Brien at the far post.
He coolly controlled and then rifled the ball into the
back of the net to give Chester the lead.
Altrincham were restricted to a long range effort from
Moult. City chased back and covered very effectively.
The home fans became restive when, in the light of relentless
rain, stewards let City fans into a covered side section
of the ground. The Alty fans booed and chanted “We’re
supposed to be at home” – inhospitable lot.
The Reds did briefly have something to cheer when Rankine
fed the ball through to Crowther who scored with an
angled shot, only to see the linesman’s flag raised
Almost immediately Chester
surged back to the other end and doubled their advantage.
First Mahon was scythed down on the left and Rooney
directed the resulting free kick just under the bar
but Deasy tipped it over. From the corner Heneghan headed
down and Astles was on hand to tap the ball over the
line for his first goal for the Blues. It was no less
than City’s dominance deserved.
The home side came out strongly after the break but
Chester hit them on the counter attack and Chapell was
clipped as he rounded the keeper. Hannah took the penalty
but blazed it over the bar. Would the momentum now swing
to Alty? Chester responded to the disappointment well
and continued to carry the game to the home team. Every
time they came forward they looked dangerous –
Mahon, Chapell and O’Brien causing all sorts of
problems for the Robins. After O’Brien won another
corner his kick caused confusion in the box and Hannah
scored at the third or fourth attempt in the resulting
scramble. Now that Hannah had atoned for his miss, the
game seemed safe for City.
Altrincham did rally towards the end but Chester’s
clean sheet remained intact thanks especially to a spectacular
save from Thompson who managed to scoop the ball over
the bar from ground level on as Lawrie’s shot
skimmed towards goal.
It was a welcome and tactically astute victory for Blues
who have been struggling on their travels. Would the
same bold formation work against different opposition
we wondered. But first it was time to celebrate a first
league win of 2016 with a Peerless ale to match City’s
Jordan Burrow goal on the stroke of half time ended
Chester’s Wembley dream for another year as they
were knocked out of the FA Trophy at the Third Round
stage at The Shay.
Manager Steve Burr was forced into two changes with
both Ryan Astles and James Alabi ineligible having played
for other sides in previous rounds. Back into the line-up
came Tom Shaw and Ian Sharps.
Chester enjoyed plenty of possession
in the opening period with Jordan Chapell crossing
for top scorer Ross hannah who saw his effort deflected
wide for a corner that came to nothing. Former Chester
player Kingsley James crossed for Burrow who headed
wide when well placed. The Blues were forced into
a substitution after Luke George picked up a hamstring
injury and had to be replaced by Ryan Lloyd on 15
Burrow saw another header flash
wide of Jon Worsnop’s
goal as the home side pressed on a difficult pitch.
Chester still created chances themselves with John
Rooney forcing a smart save from Sam Johnson in the
home goal who also kept out a Craig Mahon effort following
good build up play with Lloyd.
Chester continued to probe with
Mahon forcing another save from Johnson but it was
the Shaymen who went closest to breaking the deadlock
with Richard Peniket stabbing a shot just wide.
With half-time looming the hosts
took the lead as the Blues’ defence failed to
deal with a long throw-in into the area, James hooked
the ball over for Burrow to shoot past Worsnop.
Ben Heneghan limped off early in the second period
to be replaced by youngster Sam Hughes. Hannah saw
an effort go wide as Chester looked to get back on
level terms. Peniket should have doubled the lead
for Halifax when he was put clean through the Blues
defence but Worsnop made a fine save with his legs
to deny him.
The Blues made their final change
introducing kane Richards for Mahon with 19 minutes
remaining. James had the ball in the net for Halifax
only to see the effort ruled out. Chester continued
to press in the closing minutes with Richards shooting
wide following a corner and Rooney forcing another
save from Johnson before referee Michael Salisbury
blew for time.