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MATCH REPORTS 1998/99
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FEBRUARY 1999
Saturday 27 February 1999
Chester City 2 Carlisle United 1

Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby (Lancaster 56), Alsford, Flitcroft, Woods, Murphy, Beckett (Jones 90), A.Shelton (Moss 73).
Carlisle United: Caig, Barr, Searle, Whitehead, Clark, Prokas (Hopper 84), Dobie, Boertien, Finney (McAlindon 69), Stevens, Brightwell.
Referee: P.Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent).

Two superbly crafted goals rescued this match for City. A scrappy game seemed to be heading for nil-nil until Ian Stevens broke the deadlock just after half time. He turned Crosby, held off his challenge and drove in a low shot. Cutler managed to turn it on to the post but Stevens crisply slipped the rebound in.

It was hard to see where a reply for City was going to come from. Chester were depleted with Reid suspended, Priest and Smith injured and Aiston departed for Sunderland. Woods filled in midfield and Cross made a welcome return at left back.

On the hour Flitcroft surged forward in the inside left position, reached the edge of the box, shimmied, prevaricated but rolled the ball inside for Richardson who clipped a delightful shot just under the bar. Every inch as good as Dennis Bergkamp's effort last week. Then with a quarter of an hour to go Beckett dummied to allow Woods through to the by-line. His low cross was met by a gleeful Murphy to take his goal tally into double figures.

There was still the customary narrow escape in the City goal mouth in injury time. Cutler dived early but saved a scuffed shot when Carlisle should have equalised.

Colin Mansley
Tuesday 23 February 1999
Plymouth Argyle 2 Chester City 0

Plymouth Argyle: Sheffield, Ashton, Gibbs, Sweeney, Heathcote, Collins, Barlow, Hargreaves (Beswetherick 90), Marshall (Phillips 88), Bastow, Jean. Sub not used: Crowe.
Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Smith, Richardson, Crosby, Alsford, Flitcroft, Priest (Woods 68), Murphy, Beckett (Cross 73), Aiston (A.Shelton 88).
Referee: M.Fletcher (Warley).

City ended their mini tour of the west country with a defeat at Home Park. In wet and windy conditions it was Luke Beckett who had the first chance of the game shooting wide after just three minutes. However it was City's keeper Neil Cutler who was the busier of the two in the opening stages and he produced a number of impressive saves from Marshall and Bastow.

Argyle took the lead on thirteen minutes when recalled striker Earl Jean set up Terry Sweeney for this first league gaol for the Pilgrims, his shot taking a deflection past Cutler on its way to the net. The second goal came just before the break. Sweeney found Jean and he drew Julian Alsford and Andy Crosby before putting Dwight Marshall away. His pace took him in on goal and after initially missing the pass, he recovered to fire past Cutler from just inside the box.

Cutler made some great saves to keep Argyle's active strike force at bay in the first half but Chester also had their chances and Smith, in particular showed some class in breaks down the left flank in the first half.

He also managed to make it over the half way line in the second half and cross for John Murphy to head just over in the 51st minute.

City also had penalty appeals turned down in the 84th minute as substitute Jon Cross broke into the box, Plymouth skipper Mick Heathcote looked to have brought him down as he prepared to let fly. Manager Kevin Ratcliffe was amazed that referee Mick Fletcher did not point to the spot and Cross made his feelings known as well
Saturday 20 February 1999
Torquay United 0 Chester City 3

Torquay United: Southall, Thomas, Robinson, Aggrey (Donaldson 22), Tully, McGorry (Hapgood 76), Healy, Hill, Leadbitter, Bedeau, MacFarlane. Sub not used, Nicholls.
Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Crosby, Alsford, Smith, Flitcroft, Richardson, Priest (Woods 89), Aiston (A.Shelton 90), Murphy, Beckett (Cross 85).
Referee: B.Knight (Orpington).

This terrific win at Plainmoor gives City their first double of the season, indeed, if it hadn't been for the heroics of Gulls goalkeeper Neville Southall the final scoreline might have been more emphatic.

The first chance of the game went to the Gulls' Andy MacFarlane but he screwed his shot wide from close range after beating Crosby and Alsford in the heart of the City defence.

With Like Beckett, John Murphy and Sam Aiston leading the line, The Blues created numerous chances in the first half and should have had the game sewn up at the break. City took the lead on 12 minutes with a classic header from Beckett. Priest fed the ball wide for Ross Davidson whose pin point right wing cross was headed home by the unmarked striker to give Southall no chance.

Such was Chester's dominance in the opening staged that Torquay took off centre half Jimmy Aggrey after just 21 minutes. Both Flitcroft (twice) and Murphy saw efforts saved by Southall, but the best chance to extend the lead fell to Beckett who ballooned his shot over after clever control work in the box.

After the break Torquay came back into the game much more and Julian Alsford had to be alert to clear off the line from McGorry after Neil Cutler had dropped a cross under pressure.

City's second goal on 69 minutes killed the game off. Beckett was again denied by a Southall save, and from the resulting corner a Dave Flitcroft cross from the left found Julian Alsford all alone and he couldn't miss with a diving header from 12 yards.

City's third was added by Substitute Jon Cross who shot low into the corner of the net in the last minute after being released with a perfect through ball from Sam Aiston.
Saturday 13 February 1999
Chester City 1 Peterborough United 0

Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Crosby, Alsford, Smith, Richardson, Priest, Reid, Aiston (Jones 83), Murphy, Beckett (A.Shelton 63). Sub not used: Lancaster.
Peterborough United: Griemink, Drury, Rennie, Edwards, Hooper, Davies, Gill, Castle, Etherington (Farrell 58), Andrews, Butler (Grazioli 70).
Referee: S.Mathieson (Stockport).

Chester fans with smiles on their faces once again! This was top entertainment – more than compensating for last week's drab draw with Exeter.

The match began at a fast and furious pace. Cutler spectacularly tipped over a rasping volley by Butler. At our end Beckett, starting a match for the first time since November, looked certain to score after being put through by a wonderful Murphy header. But the ball bobbled and his shot shaved the wrong side of the post.

Andrews, on loan from Watford – he scored four against Barnet last week – was causing problems for Chester with his pace with his pace. He robbed Smith of the ball and sent in a dangerous driven cross which cannoned away to safety. But Chester were matching them with some of the best football they have played this season. Down the right especially they looked fluent. It was a move on the right which brought the goal. Richardson and Davidson combined to set up Big John. He took one touch and drove the ball low into the net. A cool and precise finish.

Soon it was all going wrong again for City however as Reid got tangled up in a tussle with Hooper who seemed to grab hold of him as he challenged. Reid lashed out at him, and I thought Hooper threw a punch too. But while Hooper was booked and Reid gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder as if they were making up, the referee reached for his other pocket and showed red to Reidy. He was gobsmacked but I don't think City fans were surprised if honest. They proceeded to boo Hooper for the rest of the game (Thinking that he should have gone too). Three minutes from the end Hooper lunged desperately at Smith and there was little doubt that he too would soon be dispatched to the dressing room. At least he seemed to take his punishment philosophically – Reidy, apparently was having a go at him in the tunnel at half time.

We all expected Posh to make mincemeat of us after Reid's dismissal but they faded badly in the second half and did not put Cutler under much pressure. City defended well and made it difficult for them. At times Posh seemed to be reduced to passing the ball across the back four as they looked for an opening. So often this has happened to Chester at the Deva. Now the boot was on the other foot.

Not that it was easy, though. Priest and Richardson were both outstanding in the amount of ground they covered and the times they broke up Peterborough possession. There were a couple of scares towards the end. Defender Rennie crashed a screaming thirty yard shot against the post with Cutler no-where near it. Grazioli first put a header over the bar from a couple of yards out and then when he did find the net turned away to see the linesman's yellow flag held aloft.

A huge cheer greeted the final whistle as the Cestrians' weekend was set up. Just the tonic we needed.

Colin Mansley
Saturday 6 February 1999
Chester City 0 Exeter City 0

Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Crosby, Alsford, Woods, Flitcroft, Reid, Richardson, Smith, Murphy, Conroy. Subs: Beckett, Shelton, Jones.
Exeter City: Bayes, Richardson Baddeley, Gittens, Gale, Fry, Rees, Holloway, Gardner, Quailey, Flack. Subs: Curran, Wilkinson, Rowbotham.
Referee: Gurnam Singh (Wolverhampton).

Not even the presence of well-known psychic Uri Geller could prevent a mind-numbing contest which left Chester still searching for their first win of 1999. A swirling wind and two well-marshalled defences produced an instantly forgettable contest to match the bleak, wintry conditions.

It would have been worse for the home side had Exeter’s Jason Rees both wasted a guilt-edge chance or a Jon Richardson effort been ruled out for offside.

City manager Kevin Ratcliffe felt the poor weather had ruined the match, as the Blues had to settle for another home draw to leave them well off a play-off place.

He admitted: “I thought both teams coped pretty well with the conditions, which were awful, and the players cancelled each other out really. The weather didn’t make it good for spectators to come and watch. It hampered the way the style of the match was going to be played.”

On a brighter note, Julian Alsford produced a composed display at the back and rarely looked in trouble alongside Andy Crosby for his first game since returning from Dundee United. Ratcliffe who is now on International duty a coach of the Wales B squad, added: “ I am more than pleased with the clean sheet. The defenders and the keeper can be proud of that.”

Alsford probably came closest to breaking the deadlock for Chester, but his 50th minute header from a Dave Flitcroft corner was headed off the line.

At the other end, Rees was left to rue a golden opportunity which should have earned the visitors a 13th minute lead. Danger man Steve Flack charged down a Neil Cutler clearance and squared to rees, who scuffed his shot wide from an unguarded goal.

Chester had a other let-off four minutes before the break when Jon Richardson prodded the ball home from close range after Flack had flung himself at a Chris Fry cross. But fortunately his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.

Geller, whose son is an Exeter fan, made the draw for the half time raffle, but his presence hardly galvanised the forces of fate as the second half followed much the same disjointed pattern of the first.

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