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28 February 1998
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Chester City 2

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ormerod, Smith, Tuck, Linger, Hobson, Johnson, Storer, mayo, Westcott, Ansah, Narner. Subs not used: Barker, Saul, Armstrong.
Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Fisher (Thomas 66), Richardson, Whelan, Alsford, Flitcroft, Priest, Rimmer (Bennett 66), Murphy, Woods. Sub not used: McDonald.
Referee: Mr P.Danson.

Another three points thrown away by City that leaves them now lying in tenth spot in the division. Nick Richardson returned to the side following his thigh injury replacing Rod McDonald, Neil Fisher came in for Martin Giles at full back and Dave Flitcroft returned at the expense of Rod Thomas. Thomas started on the bench with Matt Woods on the left side of midfield – not the most attack minded option available!

The 'Yellows' (looks like the green kit still isn't back from the laundry!) started brightly and took the lead on eight minuted through Dave Flitcroft. John Murphy's low cross from the left was dummied by Stuart Rimmer to allow Flitcroft to side foot the ball home from fifteen yards, he celebrated by doing a somersault into the net and nearly getting stuck in it!

Ten minutes later it seemed that we had doubled our lead. Flitcroft's corner went over everyone (nothing new there!), Alsford picked the ball up at the back post and miscued a high centre back into the box. Spenner headed against the post and Rimmer bundled the ball home. The referee ruled the goal out however, for either offside or the ball crossing the byline from Alsford's cross.

The Seagulls hadn't really threatened until Spenner lost the ball on the half way line to Ansah on 30 minutes. He played the ball to Westcott whose cross was driven home by Mayo from the edge of the box leaving Ronnie Sinclair no chance. The goal spurred on the home side no doubt putting that bit extra in to impress new manager Brian Horton. Just before the break Brighton took the lead. Linger found Storer who was given acres of space on the left and his cross as dispatched home by Ansah from ten yards out.

No changes made for the second half which saw City playing with a swirling wind behind them. Flitcroft went close to the equaliser when his angled drive from about eighteen yards flashed by the far post, before Albion added the third on the hour.

Storer broke down the right and left Julian Alsford struggling for pace. His cross eluded Ansah and fell to Mayo to crash home his second goal from the edge of the box.

The City bench were at last stirred into action. Bennett and Thomas replaced Rimmer and Fisher with Matt Woods dropping to left back. Thomas proved a handful for the home defence and helped set up a storming finish. John Murphy pulled a goal back on 78 minutes, scoring with a right footed shot. Scramble followed scramble in the Albion box as City finally realised that at least a point was there for the taking. Murphy did get the ball in the net, but his goal, two minutes form time was ruled out for an infringement.

Once again City have put the pressure back on themselves. Next up on Tuesday night are Leyton Orient, lying just one place behind us in the league. Nothing but three points will do, otherwise we'll soon be stuck in mid-table and out of touch.
28 February 1998 – Lancashire League Division Two
Chester City A 3 Carlisle United B 1

Chester City: Conkie, Moss, Whitehead, Carson (Blackburn 66), Dobson, Pendleton, (Lancaster 56), Lloyd, Shelton; Rendell (Kilgannon 56), Wright, Williams.

Chester took the points in a comfortable 3-1 win over Carlisle in a game continuously interrupted by ferocious hail showers. City dominated the opening exchanges but failed to conjure up the opening goal, despite Carl Rendell, Scott Williams and Ryan Dobson firing wide and Darren Wright's shot flashing across goal.

David Pendleton fired Chester into the lead after 33 minutes with his low shot into the bottom right hand corner.

The Blues extended their lead just two minutes later but through the goal mouth scramble it was difficult to see who had the final touch. Dobson claimed it as his and no one would argue with that. United pulled a goal back 11 minutes into the second half but Scott Williams sealed the victory with a coolly taken penalty on 77 minutes.

But it was a patchy display by City who started well and finished comfortably.

Stephen Whitehead and Dobson were strong at the back but Chester lacked penetration up front as Darren Wright and Carl Rendell both sought to regain form following illness and injury.

Kim Fair, Evening Leader
24 February 1998
Chester City 1 Torquay United 3

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Giles (Fisher 45), Woods, Whelan, Alsford, Thomas, Priest, Rimmer (Bennett 72), Murphy, McDonald (Flitcroft 67).
Torquay United: Veysey, Gibbs, Gurney, Robinson, Gittens, Watson, Clayton, Hill, Jack, Roberts, Leadbitter. Subs not used: Mitchell, Hapgood, Bedeau.
Referee: Mr M S Pike (Barrow).

The pace of Rodney Jack and the power of Jason Roberts, on loan from Wolves were too much for second best City. Right from the off Torquay players were first to the ball and stronger too. City were just not allowed to get going and it was beginning to look ominous by the time Jack drove in a wicked cross from the right and full-back Gurney powered his header in from four yards. That was on thirteen minutes and then twenty minutes later. Jack and Roberts sprung City's offside trap to leave Roberts well in the clear and he scored with ease.

In contrast, at the other end Rimmer – with a rare one on one chance – showed a lack of composure and his hesitation meant his goal attempt was smothered by their keeper.

Giles, who'd had a torrid time against Jack, but was not disgraced was replaced by Fisher at half-time. Fish ran out with the rest of the team at the start of the second half but a pedantic referee made him run all the way back again to hold hands with the linesman before he was allowed to take up his starting position. Strangely the ref was not as fussy when it came to players being treated on the pitch, allowing plenty of time to elapse whilst play was held up to treat injuries.

City got the perfect start to the second half when Woods' shot from distance took a cruel deflection and wrong footed the Torquay keeper. But City were unable to capitalise and the visitors maintained their tough tackling, hard working no-nonsense approach. They wer happy to launch the ball upfield as soon as possible because the speed and skill of their two forwards made mediocre passes into good ones.

Eight minutes from time Jack caught Spenner in two minds and whipped the ball away from him to run clear through on goal. Ronnie had no chance with his clinical finish.

Neil Turner on Merseyside thought Torquay the best side at the Deva this season. Ratcliffe too acknowledged their hard work and attitude but was clearly disappointed with City's defending. "We are so naive. We don't talk to one another."
21 February 1998
Chester City 4 Rotherham United 0

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson (Fisher 83), Giles, Woods, Whelan, Alsford, Thomas, Priest, Rimmer (Bennett 77), Murphy, McDonald. Sub not used: G.Shelton.
Rotherham United: Mimms, Richardson (Dillon 53), Clark, Poric (Thompson 84), Monington, Knill, Berry, Garner, White (Druce 75), Glover, Roscoe.
Referee: J.Robinson (Hull).

Spencer Whelan returned to the City side following his injury in the Sherwsbury match. Manager Kevin Ratcliffe started once again with John Murphy leading the line and Gary Bennett on the bench.

Millers 'keeper Bobby Mimms was first into the action rushing out to deny Stuart Rimmer after the City striker had been put through by Chris Priest. Minutes later Roscoe entered the referee's book following a clumsy tackle on Rod Thomas who was weaving his magic on the right wing. Rimmer and McDonald combined well to set up Chris Priest whose shot from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar. Whelan headed over from Martin Giles's resulting corner.

Chris Priest picked up a booking from a very fussy referee, for a challenge on Poric. It was Poric who had the visitors' first effort on goal with a long range shot on the half hour that Ronnie Sinclair had well covered saving low down.

The game burst into life at the start of the second half with the Blues taking the lead through a superb flick header by John Murphy following a fine right wing cross by Ross Davidson, having another good game for City. Just two minutes later City doubled the lead with Julian Alsford scoring from close range, his shot squirming under the body of Bobby Mimms who tried to claw the ball back from well over the goal line. he couldn't fool the linesman though who awarded the goal.

City's third goal came on 70 minutes and followed the sending off of Andy Roscoe. City were awarded an indirect free kick in the penalty box to the right of the goal following a challenge on Ross Davidson. Roscoe stood over the ball, preventing a quick kick and was spoken to by the referee. He then continued arguing despite being dragged back by his own players and was duly awarded a red card, much to the delight of the home pans behind the goal. The kick was eventually squared for Priest whose shot hit the net via both posts!

City were now rampant, and eight minutes Murphy and Thomas later broke down the right wing again. This time Bobby Mimms came rushing out of his goal and dropped on the ball yards outside of his box as Rod Thomas attempted to round him. Like the law or not, Mimms had to go for a professional foul though he argued the point with the referee before handing his keepers shirt over. City's fourth came minutes later with a simple tap in for Chris Priest after good work from John Murphy who laid on the cross.

The Blues had chances to notch a fifth. Most notable through Gary Bennett, on for Stuart Rimmer, (who ran his legs off all game again). Benno's best chance came after he rounded two defenders in the box then hammered a shot straight at the makeshift keeper from six yards, nearly knocking him into the net. Bennett had another chance which he screwed into the side netting and Chris Priest had a dipping shot superbly tipped over by the stand-in keeper.

City's next game is at home on Tuesday against another of their promotion rivals Torquay United. Dave Flitcroft is back from suspension but it's difficult how he'd get back in the side. Rod Thomas clearly offers more playing on the right wing as was all to evident here. The only change may see Bennett coming back at the expense of Rod McDonald who had another quiet game on Saturday.

Spenner, who was named sponsors Man of the Match. picked up another booking and now faces a two match ban in March.
14 February 1998
Hartlepool United 0 Chester City 0

Hartlepool United: Hollund, Knowles, Lucas, Barron, Davies, Bradley, Clark, Beech, Pederson, Connor (Orvine 71), Howard. Subs not used McDonald, Hutt.
Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Giles, Richardson, Woods, Alsford, G.Shelton, Priest, Rimmer, Murphy, McDonald. Sub not used: Thomas, Fisher, Jones.
Referee: E.Wolstenholme (Blackburn).

Manager Kevin Ratcliffe made four changes as City had to battle hard for a point against yet another team we should really beat if we are to harbor serious intentions of promotion. In came Gary Shelton, John Murphy, Rod McDonald and Ross Davidson (just four weeks after his cartilage operation). Out of form striker Gary Bennett was dropped and didn't even make the bench, and, with Iain Jenkins still suffering a back injury, Julian Alsford was promoted to team captain for the day.

Playing into the swirling wind in the first 45 made life difficult at times for City, but it was John Murphy who forced the first save of the game after a quarter of an hour. The big striker also missed to chances following fine crosses from Priest and Davidson.

Pool had the better of the first half and once again Ronnie Sinclair produced the goods in goal to keep out Knowles' volley. The home sides best chance fell to Jan Ove Pedersen, who hit his shot into the side netting on the stroke of half time.

After the break Gary Shelton had a shot cleared off the line by Lucas before an amazing incident occurred as home manager Mick Tait rushed onto the field to confront Ross Davidson after the defender had kicked out at Clark following a clumsy challenge. The resulting fracas involved several players and Ratcliffe managed to calm things down. Davidson got a yellow card for his troubles, whilst Tait got away with a verbal warning from an over-lenient referee.

Both sides had chances to win the game in the closing stages. Chris Priest went close with a long range effort and that man Davidson hit the post.

As is the norm away from home now, City played in last season's yellow shirts (a much better strip than the awful green which thankfully appears to have disappeared) with Hartlepool United's reserve kit sky blue shorts! Following on from the embarrassing shambles of having to wear Notts County's reserve kit at Meadow Lane, is it asking too much to have a proper second strip as most professional clubs would!
7 February 1998 – Lancashire League Division Two
Tranmere Rovers B 1 Chester City A 1

Chester City: Conkie, Pendleton, Warrington, Carson, Thompson, Lancaster, Moss, A.Shelton, Patterson (Doughty 60), Rendell (Blackburn 70), Williams.

Centre of Excellence substitute Chris Blackburn earned Chester's A Team a well deserved point for the second week running with his last minute strike at Tranmere Rovers.

Despite the waterlogged pitch City took control, but were surprised to find themselves a goal down after Tranmere's first corner on 19 minutes resulted in a disputed own goal.

On 23 minutes, Carl Rendell's snap shot was smartly turned away. City's justifiable penalty claims were dismissed on 56 minutes and the corner which followed was headed over by Scott Thompson. Craig Warrington's clever chip from 25 yards was tipped over by the Rovers keeper and at the opposite end of the pitch Martyn Lancaster cleared off his line to deny the hosts a second.

In the 82nd minute David Pendleton's header was touched over and Scott Thompson shot tamely into the keeper's arms.

Tranmere thought the points were in the bag but Chester's persistence was rewarded when super sub Blackburn's left footed strike hit the top corner of the net. This was Chester's third consecutive impressive result and they will be looking to extend their excellent run when they fact Blackpool at home next Saturday.

Kim Fair, Evening Leader
7 February 1998
Chester City 0 Mansfield Town 1

Chester City: Sinclair, Jenkins, Giles, Richardson, Woods, Alsford, Bennett (Murphy 60), Priest, Rimmer, Flitcroft, Thomas (McDonald 71). Sub not used: Jones.
Mansfield Town: Bowling, Clarke, Harper, Peters, Eustace, Ford, Schofield, Sedgemore, Christie, Whitehall, Tallon. Subs not used Kerr, Hutchinson, Milner.
Referee: G.Frankland (Middlesbrough).

Chester had only themselves to blame for surrendering three much-needed points to a decidedly average Mansfield outfit.

The Blues failed to stamp their authority on a scrappy first half as midfield passes went horribly astray, while the forward line of Bennett and Rimmer were denied the ball by Mansfield's resolute defence.

Sinclair was the busier keeper in the first 45 minutes, but his goal was never seriously threatened by the Stags' equally ineffective strikers.

The deadlock was only broken when Sinclair was unlucky to fell Steve Whitehall in the area in the 55th minute and the former Rochdale marksman sent the keeper the wrong way.

John Murphy replaced Bennett five minutes after the goal, but it was only in the final five minutes that the Blues threatened to salvage anything. Rod MacDonald – on for Road Thomas – made a nuisance of himself down the wing and his efforts guided the ball to Rimmer, who was unfortunate to see his shot deflect off a Stags defender onto the top of the bar.

And minutes later Harper was well positioned on the Mansfield goal line to clear a Rimmer header that Murphy played a large part in setting up.

But a draw was too much City could hope for after too many Blue-shirted players – most notably Priest and Jenkins – had an off day.

Toby Rosenbloom

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