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Wednesday 29 January 2003
Chester City Reserves 6 Accrington Stanley Reserves 0
Lancashire League Division One

Chester City: Jon Worsnop, John Davies, Paul Connolly, Peter Dogun, Phil Bolland (Ian Lathom), Shaun Carey, Michael Brown, Steve Brodie, Michael Twiss (Danny Byrne), Mark Beesley (Dean Buckley), Adam Griffin.

Goals from Michael Twiss (2), Mark Beesley (2), Steve Brodie and Dean Buckley gave City a comprehensive home victoty to lift them to fifth spot, eleven points behng leaders Southport with four games in hand.

Saturday 25 January 2003
Scarborough 0 Chester City 1

Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,938 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Ruffer.

Scarborough: Walker, Shepherd, Holdsworth, Dryden, Hotte, Ormerod, Henry (Pounder 42), Stoker, Brassart, Campbell (Blunt 74), Rose. Subs not used: Woods, Dempsey, Scott.
Chester City:
W.Brown, Guyett, Ruffer, Hatswell, Collins, Davies, Carden, Kelly, McIntyre, Clare (M.Brown 90), Sugden. Subs not used: Carey, Twiss, Clifford, Brady.
Referee: P.Canadine (Rotherham).

Match ProgrammeThe ever-present and persistent Daryl Clare stuck in a late goal to give Chester the three points.   

Clare headed in off Ben Davies’ inswinging corner two minutes from the games conclusion as news was spreading amongst the travelling Chester fans of Yeovil Town’s draw with Nuneaton Borough.

A Kevin McIntyre corner after 14 minutes headed wide by Scott Guyett was the first attempt on goal by Chester.

Ormerod and Stoker for Scarborough had chances late in the first half but failed to test Wayne Brown.

Dryden (Scarborough) fouled Clare on the right and Davies’ free kick was just denied by the woodwork off the head of Wayne Hatswell.

Chester City, who as the game went on seemed to be getting the better of Scarborough created a few opportunities and Guyett could have scored with a header from Hatswell’s cross with ten minutes to go. It was Guyett who again went close three minutes later, heading an impressive Danny Collins’ cross just wide.

But then two minutes from time victory was sealed by that man Clare!

Overall a scrappy game and at times looking all the world like a no score draw in the making. Worthy of note were Impressive individual performances by Danny Collins and Jimmy Kelly.

Kev Jones
Saturday 25 January 2003
Chester City Youth 0 Macclesfield Town Youth 0
Youth Alliance North Central Conference

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Paul Connolley, John Davies, Ian Lathom, Adam Hunter, Adam Kelly, Mike Simpson, Matt Cook, Peter Dogun (Danny L Ventre), John Moore (Danny Ventre), Dean Buckley.

The youth team drew 0-0 at home against Macclesfield Town on a windswept Saturday morning, which contributed to a scrappy game. Despite making the better of the chances they failed to capitalise and were forced to share the points.

Saturday 18 January 2003
Chester City 1 Barnet 1

Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,944 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Kelly Carden, Guyett.

Chester City: W.Brown, Ruffer, Collins, Clifford (M.Brown 60), Guyett, Davies, McIntyre (Griffin 72), Kelly, Clare, Carden, Sugden (Twiss 72). Subs not used: Brady, Carey.
Barnet: Naisbitt, Hendon, Yakubu, Heald, Midgley, Doolan, Soloman, Flynn, Gower, Agogo, Purser (Oshitola 67). Subs not used: Baimass, Pluck, Toms, Millard.
Referee: N.Bannister (Goole).

Match programmeThere was a surprise before the start of the game with the news that manager Mark Wright had recalled forward-turned-defender Danny Collins from his successful loan spell at Vauxhall Motors. There was also a debut for Mark Clifford, on loan from Boston United, and a place on the bench for young loan signing from Oldham Athletic Adam Griffin. The game, featured live on SKY TV, was played in front of City’s second lowest League crowd of the season – Saturday night football not too popular with the locals!

City couldn’t have got off to a worse start falling behind after just four minutes. John Doolan’s shot was deflected for a corner on the right off Scott Guyett. The resulting inswinging flag-kick wasn’t cleared by the City defence allowing Greg Heald to score with ease from six yards. Still shocked by the early setback, the Blues almost conceeded a second from another corner soon after as a flick-on was cleared from the line.

Three minutes later scorer Heald was booked for a heavy challenge on Ryan Sugden as City looked to settle down in the windy conditions. It was Collins who was in the thick of the action though doing well to block shots from both Wayne Purser and the busy Mark Gower.

The nearest City came in the opening stages was when visiting keeper Darren Naisbitt flapped at a couple of high crosses in the windy conditions, one that he missed entirely bounced off his shins and out for a corner. Soon after Ryan Sugden was caught offside after being slipped a superb through ball from Daryl Clare.

Jimmy Kelly tested Naisbitt was a shot from the edge of the box that was parried, fortunately for the Bees, no-one in a blue shirt followed up. Minutes later Kelly found his name in the referee’s notebook after a challenge on Neil Midgley that required treatment.

Wayne Brown saved well as John Doolan tried his luck from 30 yards and at the other end Sugden sent a flick agonisingly wide of the left hand post after being set up by Danny Collins’ knock-down.

City returned from the break in a determined fashion though it was Midgley and Purser who had the first two efforts of the half. On the hour Mark Wright introduced Micky Brown to the attack at the expense of Clifford.

Sugden and Clare both saw 18 yard efforts saved before the Blues got the equaliser their second half display had deserved on 71 minutes as goal-machine Daryl Clare slotted home Ben Davies’s right wing cross at the second attempt. Clare celebrated by eating a Milky Way while 20 Exiles in west London raised the roof in the Famous Three Kings!

Wright immediately replaced Sugden with Michael Twiss and Kevin McIntyre with Adam Griffin but the Deva cheers were almost silenced a minute later as Gower just failed to connect with a teasing cross from ex-City player Junior Agogo.

City piled on the pressure and would have taken the lead but for a superb save by Naisbitt who finger tipped Guyett’s header round the post just as it was entering the top corner of the net. From the resulting corner Heald cleared to Kelly whose volley from 18 yards was again tipped over.

Griffin, who looked impressive in the short time he was on, almost capped a fine debut as his low shot deep into injury time clipped the outside of the post.

Second Half Get In Milky Way moment On the box

Saturday 18 January 2003
Chester City Youth 2 Rotherham United Youth 4
Youth Alliance North Central Conference

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Paul Connolley, John Davies, Ian Lathom, Adam Hunter (Danny Ventre), Adam Kelly, Mike Simpson, Matt Cooke, Lee Reece (Danny L Ventre), John Moore, Dean Buckley.

The youth team lost at home to Rotherham United on Saturday. Despite making a bright start with Adam Kelly hitting a post in the opening two minutes, they fell behind after ten minutes. Rotherham increased their lead on 20 minutes with the 3rd coming immediately after the break. A long forward punt from Dean Buckley midway through the second half saw the Rotherham keeper make a complete mess of an easy catch to make the score 3-1. Rotherham increased their lead some ten minutes later with Dean Buckley scoring his second with a close range header in the dying minutes.

Wednesday 15 January 2003
Chester City 1 Worksop Town 2
FA Umbro Trophy Round 3
Attendance: 1,393 Half Time 0-0
Booked: None.

Chester City:
W.Brown, Lancaster, Ruffer, Guyett, Carey, McIntyre, Kelly, Twiss, Sugden (Byrne 87), M.Brown (Cameron 59), Woodyatt (Brady 80). Subs not used: Worsnop.
Worksop Town:
McCarthy, Ludlam, Barnard, C.Smith, G.Smith, Kotylo, Davis, Whitehead, Roberts (Muller 81), Townsend, Todd. Subs not used: Peacock, Beesley, Caudwell, Balente.
Referee: J.Tatton (Liverpool).

Programme sheetA lacklustre City seemed to have rescued a draw from this tie with Worksop until deep into injury time. Brown’s reluctance to come off his line forced McIntyre to concede a corner and the Tigers threw everything into this one last opportunity to settle the match on the night. Todd, the gangling left winger who had been a thorn in City’s side all night, painstakingly teed the ball up by the corner flag. His lofted kick to the far post was not dealt with by the City defence and after an almighty scramble the ball popped across the six yard line for Gavin Smith to tap it into a gaping goal.

It was a desperately disappointing finish for the home support who disappeared from the terraces and stands rapidly and drifted silently into the night. At the other end the persistent visitors celebrated with unbounded glee. It was a sight we have grown accustomed to over the years though not since Mark Wright has taken over at the Deva. He was reportedly furious after this performance and one could see why. Too often City were pedestrian in their approach play. Kelly and Carey worked reasonably hard but there was little forward drive to push Worksop’s part-timers on to the back foot.

From early on in the game Wayne Brown made it obvious he was troubled by an injury. Guyett was dragooned to take his goal kicks for him – something that I last remember seeing happen at Primary school level. For once City had a goalkeeper on the bench but Wright chose not to use him. Brown faded markedly towards the end of the game. With a few minutes to go – there was a premonition of the winning goal when, following a chaotic scramble Brown gathered the ball on the goal line. Wright, from his comments in the press afterwards, clearly though Brown should have been able to cope.

Though City dominated, particularly in the first half, their final ball in to the box often lacked quality and shooting was woeful at times. Carey manufactured a great chance for himself but saw his fierce shot parried by McCarthy. Micky Brown finished a forceful run down the right with a shot which blazed across the face of the goal. Worksop were dangerous on the break and Townsend had a couple of opportunities which a poor first touch spoiled.

City failed to raise their game after the break and the visitors tenacity paid off when they took the lead. Indecision in midfield led to Kotylo crossing and Townsend’s looping header deceived brown and flew in off the far post. Michael Twiss restored parity six minutes later when he turned and shot beneath the keeper. Guyett was inches away from giving City the lead with a towering header from McIntyre's free kick.

So everything was set up for that hugely disappointing finale. We may try to persuade ourselves that the Trophy is a distraction that we could do without and could turn into a blessing in disguise as far as our push for promotion goes – but there's no getting away from the fact that it hurt to lose this one. With several injuries and suspensions City's squad is looking a little threadbare.

Colin Mansley  
Saturday 11 January 2003
Chester City 0 Worksop Town 0
FA Umbro Trophy Round 3
Attendance: 1,614 Half Time -
Booked: -

Chester City:
W.Brown, Lancaster, Ruffer, Hatswell, McIntyre, Woodyatt, Kelly, Twiss, Davies, Cameron, Sugden. Subs not used: Worsnop, M.Brown, Brady, Guyett.
Worksop Town: McCarthy, Ludlam, Barnard, Smith, Linnigan, Kotylo, Davis, Whitehead, Roberts, Townsend, Todd. Subs not used: Peacock, Caudwell, Muller, Beesley, Smith.
Referee: J.Tatton (Liverpool).

Match programme

Match abandoned after 26 minutes due to a frozen pitch.
Saturday 4 January 2003
Kettering Town 0 Chester City 1

Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,788 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Kelly.

Kettering Town: Bowling, Howarth (Haran 82), Matthews, Norman, Diuk, Inman, Goodwin, Murray, Piercewright (Asombang 67), Murphy, Parker (Shutt 78), Subs not used: Dancy, Gourley.
Chester City: W.Brown, Ruffer, Bolland, Hatswell, Woodyatt, Davies, Kelly, Carden, Twiss, Clare, Sugden. Subs not used: M.Brown, Lancaster, Cameron, Brady, Worsnop.
Referee: G.Simpson (West Yorkshire).

Match ProgrammeFirst things first. A visit to Northants provided the Exiles with the opportunity to stage their annual Cheese Skittles competition. Steve Mansley held the title after wresting it from Howard prior to the match with Rushden last season. Now we returned to the Shire Horse where Howard had won his crown two years ago.

Despite accusations of a Mansley brothers “stitch-up” by debutants Giles and Les, Steve was declared the winner once again.

A brisk walk up Rockingham Road brought us to the ground – looking rather aged and tinged with decay. One time ambitions were clear as the size of the main stand shows – but a whole swathe of unused grey seats at one end lend an air of dilapidation. Kettering were one of those clubs that persistently knocked on the re-election door of the Football League but were always turned down rather like Altrincham – ironically they both meet in the Trophy next week.

The pitch, though not waterlogged was cutting up and difficult. It soon became clear that the passing game was not an option. The ball was up in the air a lot but when it came down, more often than not, Jimmy Kelly was there picking up the pieces. Twiss made some headway down the left wing. Sugden looked bright and full of energy following his three match suspension. There wasn’t a lot of pattern to the play but Daryl Clare showed the class of his control and touch whenever City threatened. It was Clare who broke the deadlock as Bolland flicked on Davies’ corner from the left – and Clare headed in at the far post. It was a City ploy I first saw executed by Derek Draper and Billy “The Whizz” Dearden and it proved enough to win the game on this occasion.

Kettering made most of the running in the second half bearing down hill toward’s City’s goal but in truth they hardly threatened to score. The biggest danger while the lead remained slender was from a free kick outside the area or that one slip might lead to a penalty. City held firm – Hatswell, Ruffer Bolland and Woodyatt were all solid and did enough to bring the points home.

It seems that Kettering’s financial resources are at a low ebb at the moment – it’s hard to see them escaping the relegation mire for the second time in three years. That would be a pity, they are a hospitable club (four real ales on offer for one thing!) and carried the football flag in these parts till the upstarts Rushden arrived on the scene.

So it was downbeat atmosphere amongs the home fans afterwards but there was jollity at one end of the bar as Steve Evans held a reunion with Daryl Clare and Micky Brown. Evans did not look like a man with the cares of an FA Enquiry hanging over him. Over his shoulder I glanced another cheese skittles table – now only being used to store light fittings. Should City and the Poppies meet again next season we could issue a Chester cheese skittles challenge. Watch this space.

Colin Mansley

Debutant Giles Exile Les does the honours View from the away 'slope' Flying the flag

Saturday 4 January 2003
Accrington Stanley Reserves 2 Chester City Reserves 2
Lancashire League Division One

Chester City:
Louis Macken, Adam Hunter, John Keegan, John Davies, Paul Connolly, Peter Dogun, David Pennell, Michael Simpson, Dean Buckley (Danny Ventre), Matty Cook (Tony McLaughlin), Ian Lathom.

Goals by Paul Connolly and Michael Simpson (from the penalty spot) gave the Blues a 2-2 draw to lift them to seventh in the Lancashire League with 23 points from 12 games.

Wednesday 1 January 2003
Chester City 2 Northwich Victoria 3

Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 3,151 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Davies, Hatswell, W.Brown. Sent Off: Hatswell.

Chester City:
W.Brown, Ruffer, Bolland, Hatswell, McIntyre, Carden, Beesley (Cameron 46), M.Brown (Brady 67), Davies, Clare, Twiss (Kelly 67). Subs not used: Woodyatt, Lancaster.
Northwich Victoria : Parry, Rioch, Ingram, Sedgemore, Norris, Walsh (Garley 52), Came, Taylor, Quinn (McNiven 79), Blundell (Griggs 90), Devlin, Garvey. Subs not used: Connett, Jarrett.
Referee: S.Brand (Birkenhead).

Match ProgrammeWhen Daryl Clare latched on to Cameron’s knock down, shook off Shaun Came and bludgeoned the ball past Parry to make it 2-0 – it seemed to be all over bar the shouting. Just a question of how many goals City would rack up. Northwich had been pedestrian before this with City’s passing movements unlocking their defence with ease. Clare had given City the lead at the end of a neat move down the right. His celebration got him into trouble as he ran gleefully behind the goal – the Vics fans had been taunting him about a wayward cross minutes earlier.

The visitors were soon back in the game as City seemed to take their foot off the pedal and allow them to come forwards. Still, there seemed little danger when Devlin crossed from the right, and the ball deflected off a Chester defender past a statuesque Wayne Brown. Now Northwich stepped up a gear and City’s defence seemed to assume a brittle quality all of a sudden. Blundell skipped through on to Quinn's header and should have equalised but for a great save by Wayne Brown.

An innocuous free-kick on the right turned into an innocuous penalty as, from the cross, Quinn went down as Ruffer and Bolland both challenged him at the same time. Wayne Brown indulged in a stupid bit of gamesmanship before the kick was taken and was rightly booked. Quinn, too much of an old stager to be put off his stride by such antics, smashed the penalty into the roof of the net.

The momentum was now with the Vics but even they could not believe it when they took the lead minutes later. Quinn, now leading the line in rampant fashion, briskly laid the ball out to the left and Garvey's cross eluded everyone except Blundell who slid in to knock the ball past Brown to make it 3-2.

There was plenty of time left on the clock for City to respond but – perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the afternoon – they had nothing left in the locker. Wright threw on Brady and Kelly for Micky Brown and Twiss respectively. Kelly was still playing himself back to full fitness and Brady could make no headway down the right past the amply-girthed Gregor Rioch. Cameron had replaced the injured Beesley just before half time and, though he laboured gamely, the forward line was not nearly so mobile as before.

Worse was to follow for City as Hatswell was sent off following a challenge on the keeper. He had been booked a couple of minutes earlier for a prolonged whinge at Mr Brand about a Northwich player encroaching on a free kick. Hatswell only had himself to blame – frustration his only exuse.

Still there was time for Carden to break through on the left bi-line but he delayed his shot and the chance was cleared.

Mark Wright has several headaches to cope with after this result. The ease with which Quinn and Blundell caused indecision in City’s defence and the shattered confidence of squandering a 2-0 lead notwithstanding, there is also the question of the pile up of injuries and suspensions looming up. At least the Northwich fans tried to console us. “One team in Cheshire” they chanted – a clear reference to Macclesfield’s heart-warming win twelve miles down the road at the Welsh club.

Colin Mansley
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