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Saturday 28 January 2000
Chester City 2
Torquay United 1

Chester City: Brown, Hobson, Pickering, Woods, Robinson, Reid (Richardson 76), Keister, Fisher, Hemmings, Beckett, Ejoylesson (Eve 76). Subs not used: Moss, Doughty, Wright.
Torquay United: Southall (Northmore 49), Holmes, Hill (Platts 56), Russell, Thomas, Watson, Healy, O'Brien (Neil 82), Brandon, Bedeau, Williams. Subs not used: Griffiths, Northmore.
Referee: D.Laws (Whitley Bay).

"It may not have been pretty but it's the three points that matter" said City boss Ian Atkins after the match and how right he was. A gutsy performance from the Blues earned them their first win in nine attempts and took them to within three points of nearest relegation rivals Carlisle United.

The blustery conditions made life difficult for both teams in the opening half. City only created two chances of note. Firstly Luke Beckett missed the target with an early shot, then Siggi Eyjolfsson missed a great opportunity with just Neville Southall to beat.

Straight after the break though the on-loan Icelandic forward made amends when he put City 1-0 up. 'Keeper Southall made a complete hash of Jamie Robinson's long clearance, failing to hold on to the ball after a tussle with Tony Hemmings, the ball fell kindly to Eyjolfsson who sidefooted into an empty net. Minutes later Southall was replaced by debutant Ryan Northmore following an injury in that clash with Hemmings.

The Gulls had plenty of possession in the second 45 without really testing Wayne Brown in the City goal, and on 69 minutes City doubled their lead.

Luke Beckett was on hand to head home (with his nose!) at the far post following a Neil Fisher corner. Typically, though, City then conceded a quick goal as Alex Watson headed home unmarked from a Torquay corner.

Despite four minutes of injury time City held on for the vital three points. The Great Escape 2000 starts here!

Saturday 21 January 2000
Northampton Town 3
Chester City 1

Northampton Town: Welch, Hendon, Sampson, green Spedding, Hunter, Parrish, Frain, Corazzin, Howard, Clare. Subs not used: Savage, Hunt, O'Reilly, Hope, Sturridge.
Chester City: Brown, Pickering (Lancaster 62), Robinson, Woods, Hobson, Richardson, Fisher, Reid (Wright 62), Hemmings, Eyjolesson (Doughty 67), Beckett. Subs not used: Moss, Eve.
Referee: R.Oliver (Sutton Coldfield).

Not a happy return to Sixfield then for Ian Atkins as two quick goals after the break killed off City despite a spirited first half performance.

Chester, fielding two new players in Tony Hemmings and Jamie Robinson took the lead after just 90 seconds with Ally Pickering shooting home, with the aid of a deflection, from 20 yards after his initial shot, from a free-kick had been blocked.

The home side responded as Carlo Corazzin hit the bar and daryl Clare shot against the post with the ball rebounding straight in to the arms of 'keeper Wayne Brown. His relieved smile there for all to see. You had a feeling after this that it was going to be our day but the Cobblers equalised on the half hour. A mistake by Nick Richardson on the right allowed Steven Howard to send a shot from over 20 yards past Brown's outstretched left hand and into the corner.

City's response was immediate. Hemmings just failed to connect with a Pickering cross, and it looked as though we'd regained the lead three minutes later but Luke Beckett's volley, was disallowed following a foul by Eyjolesson which only the referee saw.

After the break though more sloppy defending handed the initiative to the home side. Matt Woods gave away a needless free-kick on the right, the resulting cross saw Sampson slotting the ball home from 12 yards. Brown then saved well from Corazzin but was beaten by the sam player just minutes later. A long ball out of defence created problems for Pickering who lost out to Corazzin who raced through for the third.

Two more great saves by Brown kept the scoreline down as City, with 18 games left to play, remain rooted to the foot of the table.

Saturday 15 January 2000
Chester City 0
Rotherham United 2

Chester City: Brown, Pickering (Nash 60), Cross, Hobson, Woods, Lancaster, Keister, Eve, Richardson (Moss 60), Beckett, Eyjolesson (Wright 82). Subs not used: Milosavljevic, Reid.
Rotherham United: Pollitt, Warne, Scott, Watson, Garner, Fortune-West, Branston, Sedgwick (Berry 82), Wilsterman, Hurst, Turner. Subs not ised: Pettinger, White, Varty, Hudson.
Referee: P Rejer (Tipton).

A worryingly poor performance on Saturday.

We started dreadfully, should have been one down after 10 seconds...and never really improved from there on in. Ian Atkins must be a very concerned man. I know that I am worried sick. The team lacks any cohesion. Midfield is over run, with Nick Ricardson having another poor game, and Keister unable to stem the Rotherham tide alone.

It seems quite obvious to me that if we play 5 at the back Angus Eve becomes an ill afforded luxury. He plays behind the front two, and it is not part of his game to be a tackler.

I am not being critical, I think he is an ok player, but our midfield was simply over run. Ally Pickering looked solid enough, and Neal Fisher can count himself unlucky to be dropped after performing better than most in recent weeks. One thing I can not abide in a player is when he seems disinterested and is going through the motions....take an embarrassed bow Siggy.

We have had more strikers this season than for the previous three. Not one has been up to the job. They have been no better, and some considerably worse, than Darren Wright (with the exception of Agogo). Siggy was a digrace on Saturday. He hardly broke sweat and his pathetic attempt on goal in the second half was laughable. If he does not care....get shut of him.

We need fighters, battlers and men who are not afraid to stand up and be counted. We have very little time and there is a chasm developing at the bottom of the Third division.

For the record, Rotherham looked a handy side and really should have scored more than their two goals for the amount of possession they had. Fortune-West is not the most gifted of strikers but he works hard and never gives up. I wish we had him!


Tuesday 11 January 2000 Auto Windscreens Shield 2nd Round
Hull City 2 Chester City 0

Hull City: Bracey, Edwards, Whittle, Morgan (Perry 78), Whitney, Harper, Bolder, Joyce, Schofield, Brown (Harris 80), Eyre (Wood 83). Subs not used: Wilson, Brabin. Booked: Edwards, Perry.
Chester City: Brown, Lancaster, Milosavljevic, Moss, Cross, Keister, Richardson (Wright 55), Reid (Shelton 78), Fisher, Beckett, Eyjolesson (Eve 68). Subs not used: Blackburn, Conkie.
Referee: P Richards (Preston).

But for the heroics of Wayne Brown Chester would have been on the wrong end of another hammering. After just two minutes Darren Moss gave away a penalty for a late tackle on Hull's Steve Harper. But Brown dived to his right to save John Eyre's spot kick and then blocked Harper's effort from the rebound, John Schofield then placed his follow-up wide.

City playing with a five-man defence worked hard to make inroads but it was the home side who were creating all the chances: Brown again doing well to block an effort from Eyre. Chester's first real efford came on the half hour as Hull 'keeper Lee Bracey lost the ball under a challenge from Eyjolfsson but defender Morgan was on hand to clear.

Three minutes later the home side took the lead through player-manager Warren Joyce, who headed home past Brown.

Following the break it was mainly one way traffic as the Chester goal came under siege. Brown saved well from Harper and Bolder as the home side piled on the pressure. The second goal came on 76 minutes with another header, this time by Morgan from Joyce's corner.

Tuesday 11 January 2000 - Double for Martin Nash
Bermuda 0 Canada 2

Canada's men's national team earned a 2-0 victory over Bermuda tonight in an international "A" friendly in Hamilton, Bermuda thanks in part to two long-range efforts by Martin Nash.

The victory extended Canada's unbeaten streak to six games and gave the Canadians a win and a tie in their two-game warm-up for next month's Gold Cup in the United States. Canada drew Trinidad and Tobago 0-0 on January 8.

"We played reasonably well in the first half and despite the strong wind which had a negative effect on the game, I thought we dominated our opponent," said Canadian head coach Holger Osieck, who was pleased with his team's play during the Caribbean tour. "The purpose of our trip was fulfilled and we are looking forward to the Gold Cup."

Nash opened the scoring in the 25th minute with an 18-yard effort, after being set up by Paul Stalteri. The duo repeated the feat five minutes later when Nash netted his second goal, again from 18 yards and courtesy of a Stalteri pass.

The Canadians outshot their opponents 14-5 and earned eight corner kicks to Bermuda's five. Canadian goalkeepers Craig Forrest and Lars Hirschfeld (earning his first cap for Canada) shared the shutout.

The Canadians only made one change in their starting line-up from last Saturday with Nash replacing the injured Brad Parker. Robbie Aristodemo was a late call-up when Parker was deemed unable to play and the University of Tulsa player entered the fray in the 40th minute, replacing Jason Bent who suffered a minor injury.

Captain Jason deVos also picked up an injury in the 85th minute and was replaced by Nevio Pizzolitto.

Dwayne Cole - Winnipeg Fury

Saturday 8 January 2000
Chester City 1 Darlington 2

Chester City: Brown, Hobson, Woods, Fisher, Keister, Doughty, Moss, Reid (Wright 75), Beckett, Richardson (Cross 83), Ekjolesson. Subs not used: Blackburn, Lancaster, Shelton.
Darlington: Samways, Liddle, Heckingbottom, Tutill (Naylor 46), Aspin (Reid 82), Gray, Atkinson, Oliver, Heaney, Hiorth (Duffield 90), Gabbiadini. Subs not used: Brumwell, Collett.
Referee: M.Ryan (Preston).

Major improvement following some abysmal efforts recently. Darlington look a good side, in Neal Aspin and Marco Gabbiadini they have players who are far better than the average Third Division journeymen. Gabbiadini looked especially classy, I don't think we managed to get a tackle in on him for the entire game!

Our three new loan signings settled well and, in the unfortunately red carded Keister, we look as though we may have the dynamism we have craved all season. In my opinion Reid is a spent force, a liability even, with the amount of unnecessary free kicks he concedes, and the uncanny knack he has of never finding a team mate with his passes. Richardson has looked very jaded for the last six weeks or so, I hope he can pick himself up, or he will have to go to.

Atkins knows we are very short on quality, it is something that we all have to accept. We love our club, but the team needs major surgery. There were major improvements, and it was so good to see Matt Doughty and Darren Moss return to early season form. Moss, especially, was tremendous with two goal line clearances that defied belief. (Does anyone else think he is a dead ringer for Martin Fowler from Eastenders?)

Darlo scored an early goal from a free header, dreadful marking for a five man defence. Luke scored an equaliser with a brave header, he was so relieved to get on the score sheet, and it was nice to see him applaud the faithful for their continued support during his drought. Keister was harshly sent off...perhaps we could appeal as both managers say he played the ball. The second half was one of absorb and counter for the blues, we had two good chances.

Luke should have scored after being set up by Darren Wright, and Nick Richardson was very unlucky with a flick header. Before this Gabbiadini scored a pearler. Darlo were denied the most certain penalty I have seen this season, and it was gratifying to see the incompetent official book the hard done to, very ugly, striker. They had also hit the bar in the first half and we had Mossy's two goal line clearances, so the score could have been a lot worse.

The most positive words to come out of the last week have come from Ian Atkins. It is relieving to have a realist in charge, who does not feel the need for rhetoric and soundbites. I hope he has been given enough time!


Chester City 1 Darlington 2
There was a definite air of renewed optimism around the Deva before the match. There needed to be after two soul destroying defeats against our nearest rivals for the drop.

Debuts were given to Atkins' new signings – Hobson, Keister and Ekjolesson. The new director of football, himself, was greeted with rapturous applause. You have to agree that Terry Smith has acted positively once the penny had dropped after the Orient fiasco. Every City fan must have been uneasy to see Terry take his place in the dugout – but there he stayed for the entire ninety minutes, there was no doubt that Atkins was in charge of the team on the day.

We soon came down to earth with a bump when Darlo were awarded a soft free kick on the edge of the box. Although the kick took an age to organise it was clearly well rehearsed and Liddle stole in unmarked at the far post to send a looping header back into the opposite corner of the net.

Darlington were an impressive outfit throughout the game, moving the ball about swiftly and quick to close Chester down. Keister added a lot more pace and energy in midfield, however, and City began to compete much better than in recent games. Keister was booked for an over zealous sliding tackle affter only eight minutes – worse was to follow.

City adopted a more direct approach in the match than of late with Brown getting rid of the ball a.s.a.p. and punting it down the middle to Beckett or Ekjolesson (Let's just call him Siggy shall we?). Siggy looked an handful, wiry with good control, and he made things happen around the penalty area. A corner was cleared out to the left wing again and Doughty sent it back to the far post. Hobson knocked it back across goal and Beckett equalised with a looping header.

Although Darlo threatened, mainly through Gabbiadini (His free kick clipped the foot of the post and he later volleyed against the bar), City really looked as though they might just get something from the game.

On the stroke of half time, though, disaster struck. From a Chester corner the ball was booted clear and knocked forward to the Dane, Hiorth. Keister matched him for pace and lunged across him to win the ball. The referee interpreted it as a foul, however, and red carded the unfortunate Dutchman. Logically a correct decision but it has to be said that the ref was way behind the incident, the linesman didn't give it (As Atkins pointed out) and there was plenty of scope for benefit of the doubt to be given, especially over such a crucial call.

Siggy came out for the second half with the most spectacular head bandage imaginable. It made him look like one of the smurfs and lasted about five minutes before it came off. Remarkably, after the break, the ten men of City gave as good as Darlington and created as many clear cut opportunities as their high flying opponents. Richardson looked to have scored when his header flashed across the goal and agonisingly wide. Beckett set up on the edge of the box with Darren Wright's first touch screwed the ball just past the post.

So Gabbiadini's run and curling shot into the far corner on 63 minutes proved to be the matchwinner – a good goal. But it wasn't half funny when he was booked for diving in the box over Moss's sliding tackle later on.

There was still optimism at the end of the match among the Deva faithful. Certainly this was a performance to give fresh heart for us in the relegation dogfight. We might, just might, manage the great escape – on this evidence, under Atkins, we look like making a decent fight of it.

Colin Mansley

Monday 3 January 2000
Carlisle United 4 Chester City 1

Carlisle United: Weaver, Bowman, Whitehead, Barr, Pitts (Hopper 75), Clark, Dalton (Thorpe 78), Prokas, Tracey (Harries 46), Durnin, Dobie. Subs not used: Heritage, Anthony.
Chester City: Brown, Doughty, Milosavijevic, Fisher, Spooner (Woods 29), Moss, Eve, Nash (Reid 89), Beckett, Wright (Finney 46), Richardson. Subs not used: Lancaster, Conkie.
Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).

Anyone got any prozac, I'm very very depressed.

That's three six pointers over Christmas with a net haul of nil points (maybe Terry should try and compose the next Norwegian Eurovision entry). The scene was set as early as the second minute when Brownie steamed out for a ball he had as much chance of reaching as Martin Keown has of winning a beauty competition. Brownie was left standing on the penalty spot shrugging his shoulders as Dobie put the ball in empty net.

Looking back, if that had not happened, I'm convinced that this would have been a close game. Chester had the greater share of possession and the better chances for the remainder of the first half. Matt Doughty blasted just over when given a free shot on the edge of the area and Eve scuffed a shot horribly when put through by Beckett.

However, at half time I felt we were still in the game. That feeling evaporated after 51 mins when Dobie got his second from a corner and disappeared completely 20 minutes later when Harries put Carlisle three up.

Angus Eve who looked either unfit, injured, or disinterested made a signal to the bench that he wanted to come off. He was ignored. A group of Chester 'supporters' (I use this term loosely) who had been chanting things like 'We're not very good' , 'We're going to the Conference' and an array of anti Smith/American songs even when we were still only one down became even more vociferous and p----- me off so much I left a game before the end for the first time in twenty five years. So I can't give a first hand account of the last ten minutes because I was heading back home on the M6. Seems, I missed two goals (Eve for Chester and Prokas for Carlisle) and a mass brawl which according to another message board was allegedly started by a Chester player spitting at a Carlisle player but ended up with Carlisle's Durnin getting sent off.

To be honest Carlisle are a pretty poor team. Yet they beat us comfortably. We need to improve massively to avoid complete humiliation against the likes of decent teams like Darlington and Rotherham.

Happy New Year everyone, things can't get any worse. This hole is going to take some digging out of.

Ian Riley

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