24 January 2004
Northwich Victoria 0 Chester City 4
Attendance: 2,141 Half Time 0-2
Northwich Victoria: Woods, Charnock (Foran 44), McGuire,
Teale, Wright, Willis, Blackburn, Potts (Garvey 73), Devlin (Norris 17),
Mitchell, Nicholas. Subs not used: Thompson, Ralph.
Chester City: McCaldon, Bolland, Guyett, Collins,
Carden, Smith, Heard, McIntyre, Carey (Davies 86), Clare (Twiss 78), Stamp
(Rapley 78). Subs not used: Harris, Foster.
Referee: C.Harwood (Manchester).
a disappointing month of results City got back to winning ways with a comprehensive
4-0 win at bottom-of-the-table side Northwich Victoria to complete the
double. What a difference from previous years when Cheshire neighbours
Vics have been such a bogey side.
Such was the Blues’ dominance of the game that they’ll be wondering
why the scoreline wasn’t doubled – the NLP stats showed City
having 22 attempts on goal, while at the other end Ian McCaldon, possibly
playing for the last time in a Chester shirt, was a virtual spectator.
The game, played in front of about 1,500 visiting
fans, started quite evenly before City began to take control
midway through the first half. Steven Nicholas shot over the
bar early on following a quick Shaun Teale free-kick, and soon
later Darryn Stamp shot over following a fine Kevin McIntyre
cross. The Blues has a guilt-edged chance to open the scoring
on 22 minutes from the penalty spot following a Paul Maguire
handball from a McIntyre corner but, as at Leigh on New Year’s
Day, Daryl Clare again missed his spot-kick – shooting
to the right as Andy Woods in the home goal guessed correctly
to save well.
Ten minutes later City did open the scoring.
Scott Willis was adjudged to have fouled Alex Smith on the right
of the box. Kevin McIntyre lined himself up before curving a
superb shot around the Vics wall and into the top left-hand corner
right in front of the traveling fans.
Four minutes before the break Darryn Stamp
doubled City’s advantage prodding the ball home from close
range following another McIntyre free-kick. Vics weren’t
out od it yet though and on the stroke of half-time McCaldon
had to be alert to save well from a rasping shot by City old-boy
Chris Blackburn to ensure City kept the two-goal half-time advantage.
Recent performances have suggested that a two-goal
lead may not at times be enough, but City wrapped things up with
a brace of goals shortly after the interval. On 49 minutes Alex
Smith’s 20-yard shot was turned in by Clare, 3-0.
City began to take full control of the game
and added a fourth on 52 minutes. Stamp got his name on the scoresheet
again clipping the ball past Woods following a Shaun Carey pass,
the goal awarded despite the assistant referee flagging for offside.
The Blues created numerous chances after
that and should really have increased on their lead in the last
30 minutes. Jamie Heard and Daryl Clare missed opportunities as
did substitute Kevin Rapley. Full marks to Woods in the home goal
though who also pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the scoreline
down to four.
17 January 2004
Forest Green Rovers 2 Chester City 1
Attendance: 1,164 Half Time 0-1
Forest Green Rovers: Perrin, Jones, Searle, Ingram,
Richardson, Foster, Stoker, Rogers, Phillips (Sykes 90), Meechan, Cowe
(McAuley 83). Subs not used: Adams, Kennedy, Giannangelo.
Chester City: McCaldon, Ruffer, Collins, Bolland,
Smith (Twiss 79), Heard, McIntyre, Harris, Carden, Clare, Stamp (Rapley
79). Subs not used: Davies, Foster, Regan.
Referee: R.Desmond (Swindon).
of the league and we’re having a laugh”, sang a handful of
Chester optimists in the Forest Green Rovers social club at 5.30pm on Saturday.
They may have been factually correct, but the last laugh of the afternoon
was with the team in black and white who had fought their way to a comfortable
Forest Green were totally undaunted by the lofty
league position of their yellow-clad visitors and their attack,
midfield and defence combined well most of the game to thwart almost
everything Chester could throw at them.
Everytime Daryl Clare got a sniff of the ball,
there were two or three FGR defenders on his shoulder within the
blink of an eye. He was also repeatedly caught out by a well-policed
Clare didn’t really get a sight on goal
until injury time in the first half. But he didn’t let Chester
down after a Kevin McIntyre free kick found Darryn Stamp, who hit
the ball into the box for Clare to kick home at close range.
It was only Chester’s third serious attempt
on goal, but all Blues fans assumed the usually reliable City defence
would ‘shut up shop’ during the second half and they'd
secure their position as league leaders.
However, Forest Green failed to read the script
and put continuous pressure on the Chester defence after the interval.
Within a few minutes of the re-start, an FGR attacker had the chance
for an easy headed goal, but managed to head the ball over the
bar instead. Soon after, the yellow defenders were looking even
more rattled when Danny Collins had to clear the ball off the line.
Forest Green also won a series of corners – each
one looking more and more threatening. Ian ‘Haggis’ McCaldon
may be much taller than Wayne Brown and with a much surer kicking
foot, but he doesn’t seem to command the box in the same
The rest of the defence looked distinctly edgy
all afternoon, with Phil Bolland not really back to his best form.
A bearded Andy Harris wore the captain’s armband, but he
failed to force much inspiration from midfield.
Chester’s best chance of the second half
fell to Alex Smith who found himself in a one-on-one with FGR’s
larger-than-life keeper, Steve Perrin. But Perrin proved again
what an excellent shotstopper he is, and Smith’s strike went
away for a corner.
Soon after Smith’s attempt, the action
diverted to the other end when the skilful Alex Meechan passed
the ball across the box to totally unmarked FGR striker, Steve
Cowe. He had no trouble slotting the ball home.
City had barely recovered from that when, five
minute later, Meechan was again threatening the goal. His shot
was parried by McCaldon, but the ball fell to unmarked Scott Rogers
and it was easy for him to find the net.
So Chester may still be top of the league,
but this game was another very sharp reminder of their insecurity
and no one in blue will be laughing if they fail to get any points
on their next away day.
Chester made a determined attempt to get an equaliser and in the 79th
minute, Mark Wright brought on Michael Twiss and Kevin Rapley to replace
Stamp and Smith. Twiss did have a shot on target, but it was bravely
held by Perrin as Clare rushed in for a rebound. City also won a couple
of corners in the last 10 minutes, but they came to nothing.
Sue Choularton | Pictures Tony Arnold
10 January 2004
Chester City 1 Halifax Town 2
FA Trophy Third Round
Attendance: 1,561 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Carey, Ruffer.
Chester City: McCaldon, Smith, Regan, Ruffer, Bolland,
Collins, Carey (Davies 68), Twiss, Foster, Stamp (Rapley 71), Carden. Subs
not used: Heard, Harris, Buckley.
Halifax Town: Parry, McAuley, Monington, Sandwith,
Hockenhull, Hudson, Senior, Midgley, Killeen, Allan, Mallon. Subs: Toulson,
Lee, Maslak, Sagere, Farrell.
Referee: M.Matadar (Blackburn).
after the game, Mark Wright pointed to the absence of Daryl Clare
and Scott Guyett as a big factor in City’s defeat and to the
fact that a youthful Halifax side had played rather well. Stephen
Vaughan must be wondering what on earth he has to do to inspire a
decent cup run in any competition. After impressing the importance
of winning the FA Trophy for the benefit of finance as well as glory
this week, in the media and in his programme notes, he must have
been a disappointed man at five o’clock.
City had done enough to earn a replay or even scrape a win but lacked finish.
They were undone when substitute Farrell got behind the defence to win
a corner and then ghosted in for a header which just beat McCaldon’s
despairing dive at the far post.
Halifax, weakend by injuries and suspensions themselves began brightly
against a pedestrian City. They played them off the park for the first
quarter of an hour or so. It came as no surprise when they took the lead.
Kileen caught the ball from Bolland, skipped past Ruffer and was able to
pick his spot for the goal. City were level, however when Smith got a second
chance to cross the ball following a corner and his delicious cross was
nodded in by Bolland.
After this Chester gained the upper hand for a while without ever looking
totally dominant. Stamp squared for Foster who couldn’t quite reach
it with the goal beckoning. Then Foster scuffed a shot after a delightful
chip by Smith had sent him through.
There seemed to be some adjustment after City had levelled and Smith filled
a more defensive role while Twiss roved forward. Smith continued to prompt
and probe after the break but openings were rare. A good opportunity arose
when Smith found Twiss who set off an a scintillating run to the by-line
and crossed only for it to be out of reach of the incoming Stamp and Foster.
A rasping shot by Davies (On for Carey) and a Collins header which ended
in a startled keeper’s arms were City’s best efforts.
It was Farrell who had the last word, however, and dreams of a Trophy final
at Villa Park must be shelved once more. Perhaps, as a League team, City
will not qualify next season. But, on this showing. there is a lot more
work to be done first.
3 January 2004
Chester City 2 Gravesend & Northfleet
Attendance: 2,670 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Carey, Guyett, Stamp, Twiss.
Chester City: McCaldon, Collins, Ruffer, Guyett, Twiss,
Smith (Bolland 86), Carden, Carey (Davies 86), Regan, Clare, Stamp (Rapley
86). Subs not used: Harris, Foster.
Gravesend & Northfleet: Wilkerson, Protheroe,
Moore, Duka, Lee, Perkins (Walshe 55), McKimm, Owen, Drury, Haworth (Abbey
45), Oli. Subs not used: O’Reilly, Evans. McClements.
Referee: R.Booth (Nottingham).
of discipline and some hesitant defending cost Chester two points
on the title trail. Gravesend and Northfleet came back to haunt City
after ending their FA Cup run a few weeks earlier.
A tough and resilient side, Gravesend fought back well after seeming to
be dead and buried. Two nil down at the break and in danger of being overwhelmed,
the visitors got back into the game by scrapping better in midfield and
taking advantage of a nit-picking referee who began to increasingly annoy
the home support. City players gave away free kicks in dangerous areas
on either flank and, worse, found themselves being cautioned. Guyett was
hauled back and booked by the referee for not releasing the ball quickly
enough. From the resulting kick Moore capitalised on a hesitating defence
to side-foot a goal back from the six-yard box. Three minutes later he
equalised with an almost mirror image set-piece move.
Chester still might have snatched victory from the jaws of a draw when
Twiss engineered an opening for Stamp. The tall striker was unlucky to
see his effort rebound back off the post.
The dropped points were all the more galling after the way City played
in the first half. They out fought tough opponents to forge into the lead.
From Guyett’s throw on the right, Smith tapped a delightful return
pass. Guyett centred for Stamp to head back and Clare to score with a deft
header just inside the post. Clare added a second shortly afterwards from
the penalty spot. Protheroe had handled Regan’s cross in the area.
City had further chances to score a killer third – most notably when
Clare was put through at the beginning of the second half he chose to square
the ball instead of shooting when we would have all put our house on him
shooting to complete what would have been a third hat-trick in four matches.
An intensely frustrating ending then, after
a rousing first half display. Let’s hope City can build
on their positive play from Saturday and exorcise the complacency
or lack of concentration or whatever it is that caused them
to go off the boil.
1 January 2004
2 Chester City 6
Attendance: 2,002 Half Time 0-2
Leigh RMI: Martin, Harrison, Lancaster, Redmond
(Whitehead 76), Shepherd, Roscoe, Maden (Peyton 36), Rezai (Harris 65),
Rickers, McNiven, Daniel. Subs not used: Barrowclough, Tickle.
Chester City: McCaldon, Ruffer, Guyett (Bolland 64),
Collins, McIntyre (Twiss 71), Carey, Smith, Carden, Regan, Stamp, Clare.
Subs not used: Harris, Davies, Rapley.
Referee: J.Tattan (Liverpool).
continued at Hilton Park where they’d left off at the Deva last week
with a comprehensive victory over a Leigh RMI side struggling at the wrong
end of the table. Manager Mark Wright was able to name an unchanged side
from that which convincingly beat The Railwaymen 5-0 on Boxing Day, striker
Daryl Clare shaking off an ankle knock received in that encounter.
City were back
by over 1,500 traveling fans who
created a party atmosphere for what
must have seemed like a home game
for the players. Persistent rain
overnight had left the pitch heavy
in places though there was no problem
with the game taking place.
In a fairly even
though uneventful start, with some
players losing their footing, it
was City who carved out the better
of the openings but had to wait until
the half-hour for their first chance
on goal and that came after referee
Tatton had awarded the Blues a penalty
kick after ex-City player Martyn
Lancaster was adjudged to have handled
an Alex Smith cross in the area.
Daryl Clare stepped up but placed
a poor spot-kick to the left of Ian
Martin, making a home debut for Leigh,
who saved with ease. However it only
took Clare a couple of minutes to
make amends and open the scoring.
McIntyre took a quick short corner
to Smith who swung in a dangerous
cross into the six yard box where
Clare turned and smashed the loose
ball home from three yards.
Two minutes before
the break Darryn Stamp doubled City’s
lead as he reacted quicker to flick
in a near-post McIntyre cross with
Steve Redmond in close attention.
A couple of minutes
after the break and Stamp added the
third. McIntyre’s right-wing
corner was swung in with the wind,
an attempted clearance only saw the
ball lofted high in the penalty area
and Stamp was quickest to react to
City missed several
chances to extend the lead, the best
falling to Smith ten yards out who
seemed to take an eternity to work
the ball onto his left foot after
jinking past Martin before seeing
his snap-shop crash off the crossbar.
the half Manager Mark Wright made
a couple of substitutions with Scott
Guyett being replaced by Phil Bolland
and Michael Twiss returning to his
old stamping ground at the expense
of Kevin McIntyre. A minute after
Twiss’ arrival Leigh pulled
a goal back though Daniel after fine
approach play down City’s left.
The City crowd fell quiet, and five
minutes later the battling Railwaymen
had reduced City’s lead to
one as Peyton scored with a shot
through a crowd of players.
City endured a
couple of anxious moments before
Clare added a fourth to calm any
supporters fears of a comeback of
Northwich proportions from 12 months
ago. Regan was set free down the
right and his pin-point cross was
headed back across goal by Clare
to wrong foot Martin. The keeper
then made a couple of good saves
from Stamp and Clare and a free header
went begging at the far post before
Clare duly completed his hat-trick
shooting past Martin in a one-on-one
after being set-up by Paul Carden.
In stoppage time
Smith capped yet another fine performance
with a jem of a goal as he curled
a free-kick up and over the Leigh
wall to find the top right hand corner.