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Saturday 28 January
Chester City 0 Notts County 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,599 Half Time 0-0
Sent off: David Artell.

Chester City: Gillet, McNiven, Artell, Dimech (S.Vaughan 71), Regan, Lowe, Drummond, Curtis, Davies, Richardson (Blundell 61), Asamoah. Subs not used: Curle, Walker, Corden.
Notts County:
Pilkington, Wilson, Baudet, Martin, Palmer, Pipe, Crooks, Edwards, Needham (O’Callaghan 51), Dadi, DeBolla (Scoffham 67). Subs not used: Friars, White, Marshall.
Referee: J.Moss (West Yorkshire).

City’s Jekyll & Hyde season continued with this defeat to Notts County. A midweek win at Field Mill had ended a dismal sequence of results but they could not build on it here. City did not play badly but were undone by an unfortunate and harsh penalty when Dimech was adjudged to handle the ball. It was unfortunate because it was an unlucky bounce of the ball and harsh because City did not deserve to be behind.

The real problem for Chester has been scoring goals. They have not taken the lead in a game for eleven matches and they struggled to create openings in this one. When City were able to get the ball out to the flanks they looked more convincing. Regan did well down the right in the first half though his threat was stifled in the second. Lowe had the best chance to score but wanted a second touch and was tackled just as he shot. Chances were few and far between at the other end too but there was a sticky moment when hesitant defending let Dadi run through on goal. Dimech managed to push him wide and his cross was plucked to safety by Gillet. Pipe found space on the right and drilled a hard shot wide. Gillet then miskicked completely as the ball bobbled but recovered in time to concede a corner.

Curle changed things round a bit into the second half. He brought Blundell on for Richardson and moved Lowe into the forward line and Asamoah to right wing back. Asamoah was less effective here but Blundell and Lowe were beginning to spark before the penalty was awarded. Baudet made no mistake with the spot kick and City had to chase the game. Lowe might have equalised immediately but this time his first time shot went high over the bar. Dimech was withdrawn in place of Vaughan who played in midfield with Curtis dropping to full back and Regan into the centre. A neat interplay which ended with Davies crossing from the left for Drummond to head towards goal was the closest City came to equalising.

When Artell’s desperate tackle on Dadi resulted in another penalty and a red card many of the home faithful had seen enough and headed for the exits. It was another dispiriting defeat. Yet this is more or less the same side that defeated Carlise and Peterborough and drew at high flying Wycombe. There is no doubt that injuries to Blundell and Branch (suspended for this game) and the suspension of Lowe have disrupted City’s rhythm. They need to find the confidence of earlier in the season and their scoring touch again.

Colin Mansley [report & pics]

Wednesday 25 January
Chester City Under 18 0 Burnley Under 18 1
Youth Alliance Cup Round 3 (Quarter Final)
Half Time 0-1

Chester City: Brookfield, Cadwallader, Potter (M. Humphreys 87), Roberts, Marsh-Evans, Scales, Rutherford, Linford (Owen 58), Anderson (Wade 70) Holroyd, Newton. Subs not used: Kelly, Craig Vernon.
Crossley, Henby, (Turner 66), Casey, Smith, Blackler, Reilly, Underwood, Platt, Hawley (Craig 70) Kay (Stott 66) Rodriguez.

With Burnley riding high in the Youth Alliance League, Chester where always going to be the underdogs in this cup Quarter Final.

Burnley started the game with a 4-5-1 formation, and controlled the pace of the game with relative ease. It was evident from very early on, that Nicky Platt was the lynch pin of Burnley’s midfield, with everything going through him. Given copious amounts of time to stroke the ball around, Platt simply dropped off deep and sprayed the ball around with ease. In the first ten minutes Burnley squandered a few half chances, when Hawley failed to convert at least three half chances. After that, despite all their possession Burnley rarely threatened Chester’s goal.

Having let Burnley dictate the tempo, Chester started to claw their way back into the game and in particular Rutherford’s work rate in closing numerous players down didn’t go unnoticed. Evidently this attitude started to give the team a lift and soon Scales and Anderson where matching his efforts. On 17 minutes Chester won a free kick some six yards outside the Burnley penalty area in a central position, unfortunately Linford didn’t live up to his reputation of Saturday and struck the ball straight at the wall. For a few minutes Chester broke down Burnley’s game plan and shut down quite rapidly, forcing the odd error here and there. After one such error Scales picked the ball up in the centre circle and switched play to Newton out on the left wing. In turn Newton delivered a delightful first time ball into the Burnley penalty area where Holroyd got to the ball first and rounded a stranded Crossley in the Burnley goal, all’s that remained was for Holroyd to score and he duly obliged. Unfortunately his celebrations where short lived when the assistant ruled him offside, judging by the response on the Burnley bench they knew it was a let off!

For the remainder of the half neither team really produced anything of quality, and it looked as if the half would end all square, that was up until the 41st minute when Platt got on the end of a through ball and raced clean through. 1v1 with Brookfield, Brookfield spread himself well and saved with his legs. However, inside the first minute of time added on Chester where guilty of a defensive error when Marsh-Evans failed to clear properly and the ball fell to Smith some eight yards outside the penalty area, skipping past two half-hearted challenges he then coolly slotted the ball past an onrushing Brookfield.

With Chester being rationed to only one chance in the first half, Jim Hackett changed the formation in the second half to 4-3-1-2, with Rutherford now playing in the hole behind the front two of Holroyd and Anderson. The effect was instant and Chester started playing as if they where top of the Alliance League, taking the game to Burnley.

In the 55th minute Holroyd struggled to get the ball out from under his feet, and he failed to get any power into his shot from inside the six-yard box. A minute later and Holroyd was the provider, crossing the ball from the right wing, Rutherford met his cross in full stride where his left foot cushioned volley went just inches over. A few minutes later, and Chester won a free kick out on the left wing. In a crowded penalty area Potter’s delivery caused mayhem resulting in Blackler heading the ball onto his own crossbar, when the ball bounced back out Marsh-Evans hit the rebound over.

As the half developed Chester held siege to Burnley’s goal and had numerous efforts, Newton put a shot wide and Holroyd lobbed over. Rutherford also contested a 50/50 ball with the keeper, which resulted in the ball falling to 15-year-old James Owen who scuffed his shot. With time running out Chester threw everything at Burnley and caused untold unrest in the Burnley back four. There was some confusion on a corner in the 83rd minute, with the referee positioned on the back post the ball hit him in the chest and the referee declared the ball to be out, albeit it looked like he was still on the pitch when the ball hit him.

Having thrown everything at Burnley, and had a strong penalty appeal waved away for handball in the last minute Chester failed to relent in their quest to find an equalising goal, and in time added on Rutherford unlocked the Burnley defence with a mazy run deep into the Burnley box. Picking the ball up outside the area, and being urged on by Bill Gerrard, he ghosted past four defenders and made his way into the back of the six yard box where he set a delightful ball up just inviting someone to slam it home. With an array of players lining up in the six yard box ready to side foot the ball into the net, Holroyd attempted to flick the ball in with his instep and the ball deflected to a defender who thumped it clear.

In respect to Jim Hackett and Bill Gerrard, I think at the start of the game a 1-0 defeat would have been acceptable, especially against a team who are taking the league by storm. However, after the second half display, where they totally overwhelmed the opposition one couldn’t blame them for feeling hard done by.
Tuesday 24 January
Mansfield Town 1 Chester City 2
League Two
Attendance: 3,219 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Blundell, Curtis.

Mansfield Town: Pressman, Buxton, Baptiste, Hjelde, Jelleyman, Uhlenbeek (Birchall 74), Dawson, Coke, Rundle, Barker (Brown 74), Reet (Russell 68). Subs not used: White, Lloyd.
Chester City:
Gillet, McNiven, Artell, Dimech, Regan, Asamoah (Vaughan 78), Curtis, Drummond, Davies, Lowe (Branch 90), Blundell (Richardson 82). Subs not used: Corden, Walker.
Referee: K.Hill (Hertfordshire).

What a difference a few days can make as Keith Curle returned to familiar territory again – this time emerging as the victorious manager at the end of an acrimonious game against his last club, Mansfield.

Although it was a bitterly cold evening, the 178 travelling Blues fans were heartened from the start to see Stéphane Gillet in goal after his red card at Bristol Rovers was rescinded earlier in the day. City also lined up with five former Stags players on the pitch, ensuring it was a lively second half to say the least.

The action didn’t really quite get going in the first half and both teams played out a largely dull game of cat-and-mouse, with both sets of defenders doing a good job of protecting the goal. Ex-Stag Luke Dimech seemed inspired by playing at his former club and made a couple of excellent challenges.

Mansfield’s Danny Reet had his team’s best early chances in the first half, but Gillet made a good stop for one of them and the other hit the side netting foxing many of the hopeful Stags’ fans.

Chester did put some pressure on the Mansfield half, but it wasn’t until just before the half-time whistle that they had their best chance. It came when Ryan Lowe pounced as two Mansfield defenders were confused at a throw-in, but his opportune strike wasn’t ever going to threaten Stags’ goalkeeper Kevin Pressman.

The second half was a much more exciting spectacle almost from the off, with two Chester corners in the opening minutes. The second was taken short and resulted in two close-range City attempts on goal from Stewart Drummond then Ben Davies. The players in the packed Mansfield penalty area somehow kept the ball out.

Soon after, a good Mansfield manoeuvre saw Reet clear about six yards in front of goal. He had no trouble scoring past Gillet. But City heads didn’t drop backed up by the rousing chants from the away supporters behind the goal they were attacking.

Just three minutes later they got their reward. Ex-Stag Scott McNiven played a one-two with Gregg Blundell and when the ball came back to McNiven about 25 yards out, he volleyed a perfect strike into the back of the net. It was his debut goal for City and what a place to score it! The away supporters were delirious accidentally knocking the advertising hoardings down as they rushed to congratulate the team.

And there was still more drama to come. Five minutes later, Blundell and Mansfield’s Jon Olav Hjelde were grappling on the floor on the Mansfield goal-line. Both players were yellow carded.

Soon after, referee Keith Hill was showing his red card at Mansfield's Richard Barker, who was dismissed for a second bookable offence for apparently elbowing Davies on the right-hand touchline. The Stags’ fans were incensed at the sending off some running the length of the stand to say their piece to Davies.

Three minutes later, Chester won a free-kick in the danger area and Davies’s free-kick was sweetly headed home by 5ft 6ins Derek Asamoah who somehow managed to tower above the Mansfield defence.

For Chester, it then seemed like a matter of defending and nine minutes later, Asamoah was replaced by Stephen Vaughan Junior. The Stags nearly equalised moments later when a great shot from the right-hand side somehow hit both the crossbar and the left-hand side of the post.

Blundell was replaced by Marcus Richardson on the 83rd minute and it was looking like three points were certain for City. There was a nervy four minutes of injury time in which Gillet ensured victory with an excellent diving save across the face of the goal.

Lowe was replaced by Michael Branch in the dying minutes cue accusations of time-wasting from the home stands. But Branch had barely chance to touch the ball before the referee blew for time and three much-needed points were in the bag, with the losing run ended.

The Stags’ fans didn't go home quietly and made their presence felt as Curle and the team made their way off at the far corner. You could say they seemed like bad losers in this part of Nottinghamshire let’s hope the supporters of the county’s other L2 team are feeling the same way on Saturday.

Sue Choularton [report & pics]

Saturday 21 January
Bristol Rovers 2 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 6,310 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Branch, Curtis; Sent-off: Gillet.

Bristol Rovers: Shearer, Lescott, Edwards, Elliott, Carruthers, Campbell, Igoe (Mullings 85), Disley, Haldane (Lines 85), Walker, Agogo. Subs not used: Book, Anderson, Bass.
Chester City:
Gillet, McNiven, Artell, Dimech, Regan, Branch, Drummond, Curtis (Richardson 85), Corden (Davies 45), Lowe, Asamoah (Vaughan 74). Subs not used: Blundell, Walker.
Referee: M.Russell (Hertfordshire).

Bristol boy Keith Curle did not have a happy homecoming as he watched his Chester side outclassed for most of the game by a strong Bristol Rovers team, who deserved their 2-1 victory.

It was the seventh league defeat in a row for the Blues, leaving the 183 travelling fans struggling to find some positives from the game. Certainly if the team had started the match at the tempo in which they finished it, it may have been a different story.

Chester ran out with three changes from the midweek FA Cup exit – Gregg Blundell, Ben Davies and Justin Walker were all on the bench, replaced by recent loan signings Derek Asamoah and Wayne Corden, plus Ryan Lowe following his return from suspension.

Lively Asamoah made a reasonable impression throughout the match and inside the first two minutes had the first Chester attempt on goal. But it wasn’t long before City’s poor defending let them down again.

First Rovers’ Sammy Igoe won a corner from a good Luke Dimech clearance. It was taken short and the cross easily found the head of long-haired Christian Edwards. He looked like he earned his “Swanny” nickname from his long neck (not his Swansea roots) as he rose virtually unmarked to thwack the ball home.

So it was only nine minutes gone and it was already feeling like there was no coming back for City. Ex-Chester favourite Junior Agogo had a shot on goal, soon followed by Igoe, then Craig Disley. Rovers won another corner, and Stéphane Gillet – possibly inspired by the Luxemburg flag fluttering on the away terrace – made an excellent point blank save to tip the ball round the post. But it was backs to the wall for Chester at this stage and from the next corner, Lowe had to clear the ball off the line.

Chester won a couple of corners themselves, but they didn’t result in any real threat and it seemed like City needed Davies to come off the bench. Lowe had a run on goal on the half-hour, but his 20-yard shot was easily saved by Scott Shearer.

The only other real first half opportunity for the Blues came from another Asamoah strike. His shot was parried by Shearer and City were unlucky that the ball did not fall kindly for them.

The action was soon back at the other end and a neat Rovers move resulted in the ball landing well for Disley, who was only about seven yards out and given the space to control the ball on his chest, then feet, then turn and volley it into the net to leave the home side 2-0 up and coasting at half-time.

The second half started with Davies replacing Corden, who hadn’t made his presence felt at all in the opening 45mins. Scott McNiven and Carl Regan also swapped flanks for the second half. Davies was immediately in the thick of it, forcing a corner almost straight away. But it was another disappointing one, and as Chester’s chances seemed to be ebb away, there was dismal talk on the sunny away terrace of going to the pub as soon as the third Rovers’ goal inevitably came.

Agogo looked more and more threatening – I don’t think he thought much of the chants: “You’re just one of Terry’s rejects”! He forced another good save from Gillet on the 65th minute.

Just five minutes later, and Agogo and Gillet were in the action again. Agogo just caught onto a long ball as Gillet ran forward to meet him. The two collided and Agogo fell to the floor, with Gillet being red-carded for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Defender Dave Artell donned the green jersey and barely put a foot, or hand, wrong in the 20 minutes he spent between the sticks. It led to an exciting final spell, with the ten men of Chester pressing to get something out of the game.

Artell was called on to make a couple of saves as well as a few kicked clearances. He definitely gave the appearance of someone who's been in goal before. City’s spirit was finally rewarded not long after Marcus Richardson came on as a late replacement for Tom Curtis.

It wasn’t long before ‘Rico’ made his presence felt and his quick free kick found Rovers’ defence napping and Davies in space. He slotted the ball home to make it 2-1 and give City a real feeling that they might leave the ‘Mem’ with a valuable point. They continued to press and the referee’s addition of four minutes added time made us hope for a repeat of the Cheltenham FA Cup away draw.

But it wasn’t to be and soon after attempts by Michael Branch, Stuart Drummond and Lowe, the referee blew for full-time and it was ‘Goodnight Irene’ to City’s attempt to break the losing spell.

Sue Choularton

Saturday 21 January
Bury Under 18 1 Chester City Under 18 1
Youth Alliance North and Midlands West Conference
Half Time 1-0

Bury: Smith, Wedge, Taylor, Quigley, Clarkson, Platfeld, Chetcuti, Worral, Stepien, Burk, Williams. Subs: Holms, Blackman, Potter, Gregson, Bentley.
Chester City:
Brookfield, Sean Kelly (James Owen 65), Potter, Roberts, Marsh-Evans, Scales (M. Humphreys 83), Steve Anderson (Newton 46), Linford Cadwallader, Holroyd, Rutherford. Subs not used: Armstrong.
Referee: D. Adamson.

Chester attacked uphill in the first half, and in fairness had the better of the early exchanges. Marsh-Evans breaking up play on the halfway line then drove at the Bury defence, where he got to the dead ball line and whipped in a low cross. The ball eventually curved back out of the penalty area to Anderson who blasted the ball well over.

On the quarter hour mark, Bury had a half chance when Chetcuti hit the ball first time on the volley, his effort going high and wide. Two minutes later, and Chester spurned a good opportunity, Brookfield kicked the ball up field where Rutherford played a delightful first time cushioned volley straight into the path of Holroyd. With only one thing on his mind, Holroyd opted to go it alone and hooked his shot into the side netting on the near post.

Despite the terrible state of the pitch, Chester at times played some good football with Rutherford, Linford and Potter linking up well. After some good short crisp passing between the three, Potter was unlucky when Linford’s back heel fell just behind him, on what would have been a clear run in on goal. Rutherford continually looked lively and posed a threat when he went on a delightful run down the left wing, mesmerising the left back with an array of step-overs before delivering the ball into the box where Holroyd sliced his shot wide.

However, it was Bury, who took the lead in the 25th minute with a free kick that caught Chester sleeping. With the ball a good 35 yards out on the left-hand touchline there seemed little danger when Worral dinked the ball over the wall, but instead of defending the kick Chester tried to play offside and failed dismally. Burk reacting the quickest was left with an easy side foot shot into Brookfield’s bottom right corner.

Chester responded positively and straight from kick off Cadwallader should have levelled the scores but instead thumped his shot straight into the arms of the keeper. Ten minutes from the half and Cadwallader missed a golden opportunity, this time when he miss-kicked from close range. Scales also had a long-range effort comfortably saved by Smith in the Bury goal.

At half time Chester where lucky to come in 1-0 down, after Brookfield produced a magnificent save in the dying stages. With Marsh-Evans miss-kicking his clearance the ball fell to Williams with only Brookfield to beat. It seemed a foregone conclusion when he smacked the ball goal-bound for the top right corner, but Brookfield showed great agility diving to his right and parried the ball onto the upright and the crossbar, the ball being eventually cleared by Marsh-Evans.

Chester started the second half apprehensively and rode their luck in the early minutes with Burk breaking clean through only to shoot wide. After a dismal opening ten minutes Chester had their best chance of the game so far! With the ball being chipped into the penalty area from the right hand side, it went over the head of everyone and Rutherford swivelled and was about to send the ball into the unguarded net when for some unearthly reason Cadwalleder nipped in and took the ball of his foot. Cadwallader then stood there motionless as the defending player whacked the ball clear. With immediate effect Cadwalleder was sent packing to play his more familiar role at centre half, Marsh-Evans was moved to left mid with Rutherford moved up front.

The longer the game went on you just sensed that it wasn’t going to be Chester’s day, and with Bury now breaking frequently Jim Hackett moved Rutherford to centre mid. This seemed to have the desired effect and Chester soon began to stabilise themselves and started to get back in this game, putting Bury on the back foot. Having fought their way back into this game Chester where awarded a free kick with 18 minutes to go, with the ball positioned out on the left wing Linford delivered an in-swinger into the crowded penalty area where the keeper misjudged the flight and the ball sailed into the top left hand corner to make it 1-1.

Despite getting themselves back into this game Chester lived dangerously and with ten minutes left Scales lost out to Quigley who put Burk clean through with Brookfield. Brookfield hesitated and by the time he had decided to come out Burk deftly lobbed him and stood agonisingly watching as his effort bounced wide of Brookfield’s right post.

In the closing stages Chester had chances to take all three points, the first when Marsh-Evans received the ball from a throw in and got to the goal-line opting to smash the ball into the side netting instead of cutting it back. And in injury time when Cadwallader yet again foiled a Rutherford effort, this time a venomous goal bound volley that he charged down with a great defensive block leaving Cadwallader sprawled out on the floor.

All in all, this wasn’t one of Chester’s better performances and they’ll have their work cut to progress further, when on Wednesday they play Burnley in the quarterfinals of the Alliance Youth Cup.
Tuesday 17 January
Chester City 0 Cheltenham Town 1
FA Cup Round 3 Replay
Attendance: 5,096 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Dimech.

Chester City:
Gillet, Artell, Regan, Curtis, Walker, Dimech, McNiven, Drummond, Davies, Branch, Blundell. Subs: Brookfield, Vaughan, Richardson, Bolland, El Khoti.
Cheltenham Town:
Higgs, Gill, Caines, Wilson, Finnigan, Guinan, Bird, Townsend, Odejayi, Armstrong, Melligan. Subs: Spencer, Brown, Connolly, Vincent, Wylde.
Referee: A.Hall (West Midlands).

Chester’s FA Cup dream ended as they were smothered by an efficient and hard-working Cheltenham. The match was described by Stephen Vaughan as the biggest since winning promotion from the Conference. The financial rewards for winning through to the next round were immense for both clubs with the chance for glory against Newcastle beckoning.

As the queues to get in snaked around the Deva the match got underway. The ball was soon cleared uncermoniously over the main stand, it quickly reappeared as one of the many who couldn't get in tried to return it from the car park.

The atmosphere was tense, the play scrappy but City shaded the first half. They were allowed little time to dwell on the ball by the visitors but when they did move the ball round quickly on the ground they looked to threaten. Branch caught the eye with his running off the ball and a couple of times got behind the Cheltenham defence. Davies and Curtis had shots from the edge of the area, Regan’s cross was tipped off Drummond’s head by the keeper.

Shortly after the break City went behind and never really recovered. Like the match, the goal was attritional and scrappy. Chester couldn’t clear the ball following a corner and a header returned to the corner of the pnealty area. Drummond and Guinan went for the ball – it was difficult to see who it came off – but it looped towards the penalty spot. Odejayi – a nuisance all night – reacted first and his, first time, left foot shot across goal beat Gillet’s dive.

Cheltenham succeeded in stifling the play by making sure that no City player had time on the ball. City could not develop any fluency. Blundell was rendered ineffective, often on his own up front until Richardson was brought on to replace Walker. City’s confidence seemed low after their atrocious League form and, while not lacking effort, didn’t have the guile to break down a stubborn Cheltenham. Davies bore down towards goal and might have taken the ball further but released it to Branch instead who was soon closed down. This typified Chester’s night.

The sponsors chose Davies as the man of the match but should have chosen Gillet who kept the Blues in the game with two great saves at the feet of Odejayi. City went out then not so much with a bang as a whimper. The disappointment of the the players and fans was huge. Where now for this season which promised so much?

Colin Mansley
Saturday 14 January
Chester City 0 Boston United 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,956 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Walker, Regan.

Chester City: Gillet, McNiven, Artell, Regan, El Kholti, Walker (Davies 45), Drummond, Curtis (Branch 72), Corden, Asamoah, Richardson (Blundell 45). Subs not used: S.Vaughan, Bolland.
Boston United:
Logan, Canoville, White, Ellender, McCann, Rusk, Talbot, Hall, Galbraith (Holland 70), Keene (Silk 87), Joachim. Subs not used: Maylett, Till, Dudfield.
Referee: T.Leake (Lancashire).

This was another disappointing display from a City side that looks a pale shadow of the exciting one that swept into the top three of League Two during the first few months of the season.

Manager Keith Curle gave debuts to both of this weeks loan signings, Wayne Corden (pictured) and Derek Asamoah, at the expense of Ben Davies and Gregg Blundell who started on the bench. With Luke Dinech suspended Carl Regan was given the central defensive role in preference to Phil Bolland who sat with Davies and Blundell.

City attacked first and forced a corner on four minutes though Walker’s outswinging flag-kick was cleared with ease. City gifted the Pilgrims two free-kicks soon after. The first, for a handball by Tom Curtis was caught by Stéphane Gillet making his home debut in goal, and minutes later Gillet was on hand again to save an effort from Simon Rusk after Stewart Drummond committed a foul six yards outside the box.

The was a close call on 15 minutes as Stewart Talbot saw a cross-shot fly over after quick approach play by David Galbraith and Rusk.

At the other end City created little. New signing Asamoah showed flashes of his pace when he broke down the left, cut inside, and sent in a powerful shot straight at Conrad Logan in the visitors goal.

Julian Joachim missed a gilt-edged chance to give Boston the lead five minutes before the break but he shot wide from 15 yards after Gillet could only parry the ball from a James Keene shot.

Curle made changes at half-time bringing on Davies and Blundell at the extense of Justin Walker and Marcus Richardson. It took Blundell only a couple of minutes to get into the action, his shot being pnched away by Logan. Logan was on hand again to catch an inswinging Corden corner as City pressed. Despite having the better of the possession though chances created were few and far between.

On a rare break, Drummond tested Logan from a Curtis cross but it was Gillet who was the busier of the two ‘keeper’s having to save from both Keene and Peter Till to keep the scores level.

Michael Branch was introduced with 20 minutes remaining but City still failed to craete any meaningful chances of note. Jochim agains missed a chance for the visitors before they grabbed the only goal of the game eight minutes from time as Rusk evaded three City defenders on the six yard line to clip home a right wing cross from Stewart Talbot past Gillet in front of a very small away following.

There was still time for City to make one last push but Asamoah was unable to fully control a through ball from Drummond in the dying minutes and City were left to reflect on a sixth successive league defeat.

Saturday 7 January
Cheltenham Town 2 Chester City 2
FA Cup Round 3
Attendance: 4,741 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Artell, Dimech.

Cheltenham Town: Brown, Gill, Caines, Townsend, Victory, Melligan (Armstrong 70), Finnigan, Bird, Wilson, Odejayi, Guinan (Spencer 76). Subs not used: Taylor, Vincent, Puddy.
Chester City:
Gillet, Regan, Artell, Dimech, McNiven (Bolland 79), Drummond, Walker, Blundell (Vaughan 90), Curtis, Davies (El Kholti 79), Richardson. Subs not used: Dove, Brookfield.
Referee: D.Drysdale (Lincolnshire).

The two sides live to fight another day after City staged a late comeback to force a replay from a classic cup-tie that looked to be slipping from their grasp.

The home side dominated for long periods but failed to convert a number of chances and found Luxembourg goalkeeper Stéphane Gillet in fine form on his Chester debut.

The tall shot-stopper was called into action after just five minutes saving well low down at the near post following a snap shot from Brian Wilson. Minutes earlier Tom Curtis had tried his luck at the other end with a 30-yarder that was comfortably saved by Scott Brown, also making his debut in the home goal.

Wilson was in the action again volleying over the City bar when well placed and Scott McNiven cleared a dangerous Milligan free-kick as the home side applied more pressure. The pacy Kayode Odejayi was causing problems for City and he set up Wilson again but Gillet was quickly out to save.

On a rare chance for City Gregg Blundell saw a shot charged down by Gavin Caines but it was the City goal seeing most of the action in the first half. Odejayi headed over and Luke Dimech cleared a dangerous inswinging Milligan corner.

The game sprung to life with a controversial opening goal on 59 minutes.

Cheltenham were awarded a free-kick 35 yards from goal, Caines rifled the ball through the wall but Gillet made a great save at his feet to keep out the dipping goalbound shot, the ball looped into the air for Odejayi. whose header was palmed away one handed by the recovering Gillet. The ball was marshalled out by Drummond but to everyones amazement referee Drysdale spotted an infringement and pointed to the penalty spot. John Melligan stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and open the scoring.

City fought back well and almost snatched an equaliser minutes later as Blundell failed to convert after good work from Richardson

With 15 minutes remaining the Robins doubled their lead, again from the penalty spot. Craig Armstrong’s left wing free-kick was headed on to the far edge of the box by Odejayi. Ben Davies looked set to head clear but inexplicably stuck out an arm to deflect the ball away for an obvious spot-kick. This time John Finnigan stepped up to convert the kick.

A minute later though the Blues were right back in the game as Richardson rose six yards out between two defenders to powerfully head home Curtis’ pinpoint chipped delivery.

Chester continued to pile forward looking for the equaliser. Six minutes of stoppage time were indicated, presumably some for time-wasting, and four minutes into it City’s comeback was complete.

Curtis set Regan away down the right, the defender whipped in a low near post cross that Drummond met on the half-volley to sidefoot the ball past Brown from eight yards out to spark a mini pitch invasion from the some of the ecstatic celebrating City fans packed behind the goal.

There were appeals for a penalty as Richardson tumbled to the ground and the home side also saw a Wilson shot flash over the bay in the dying seconds as the game finished in a frenzy.

Monday 2 January
Chester City 0 Oxford United 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,624 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Curtis, McNiven, Blundell.

Chester City: Ruddy, Regan (El Kholti 82), Artell, Dimech, McNiven (Bolland 89), Davies, Walker (Dove 70), Drummond, Curtis, Richardson, Blundell. Subs not used: Vaughan, Curle.
Oxford United:
Tardif, Stirling, Ashton, Willmott, Robinson, Bradbury, Quinn, Mansell, Griffin, Sabin, Basham. Subs not used: Hackett, Davies, Roach, Fitzgerald, Turley.
Referee: T.Kettle (Berkshire).

City’s poor run of results continued with this 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Oxford United. It was a fifth defeat on the trot for the Blues who are still without several players through injury and suspension. This latest reverse leaves City lying mid-table in 12th position, two points from the play-off zone.

Manager keith Curle was forced into one change from the side that lost at Macclesfield on Saturday with Justin Walker replacing Ryan Lowe who began the first of a four match ban following his Moss Rose red card.

As on Saturday, and in the second half at Cheltenham on Boxing Day, City were left to rue missed chances and paid the penalty conceding a goal in 74 minutes that they were unable to recover from.

It was the visitors who started the brightest and Chris Willmott was well placed when he headed over Ruddy’s bar from an outswinging corner after just three minutes, a further two minutes later it was the turn of Marcus Richardson at the other end to head powerfully over the target following a pinpoint cross from Ben Davies.

Blundell was soon in the action forcing Jude Stirling to turn an effort out for a corner, Davies’ flag-kick was easily dealt with at the near post though. Chris Tardiff in the visitors goal was kept on his toes saving a 20-yarder from Davies.

Jude Stirling found himself in the referee’s book with a yellow card following a foul on Davies, however Carl Regan’s free-kick came to nothing.

Ruddy was almost punished for a poor clearance that went straight to Lee Bradbury, the U’s player tried his luck with a first-time effort from 25 yards, fortunately Ruddy got back in time to save the effort and spare his blushes.

Two minutes before the break the visitors almost took the lead as Matthew Robinson fired a free-kick just wide after Davies had been penalised for handball.

Marcus Richardson saw a shot deflected for a corner as the Blues opened the second period strongly, despite a lot of possession though they were struggling to break down a well organised Oxford defence. At the other end Adam Griffin eyed up a shot from all of 25 yards which crept just over the bar.

Bradbury saw a close range header saved by Ruddy before Curle changed his line-up introducing Craig Dove for Walker. Regan saw a shot from just outside the box pushed wide for a corner but once again a near-post corner routine came to nothing and the chance was wasted.

Sixteen minutes from time Oxford broke the deadlock. Adam Griffin saw a shot well saved by Ruddy who could only parry the ball into the path of Steve Basham who reacted quickest to the loose ball took his chance.

Phil Bolland and Abdou El Kholti were introduced at the expense of Scott McNiven and Regan as Chester pushed to salvage a point with an equaliser. City created several chances but Tardif was in inspired form in the visitors goal saving well from Stewart Drummond before referee Kettle wrapped things up to signal another defeat for City.

Pictures: David Jones


















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