brought to an end a run of three straight home league defeats but it was really
a case of two points dropped against a dogged Mansfield Town side, managed by
former Chester favourite Billy Dearden (right), that played the last 80 minutes
with ten men following the sending-off of Barry Conlon for violent conduct after
a challenge on Phil Bolland.
With Jon Walters headed for pastures new there was
a place up front alongside Gregg Blundell for Lee Steele with youngsters
Chris Holroyd and Paul Rutherford recalled to the bench. Graham Allen made
his second full appearance of the season in a reshuffled defence.
Chester pressed from the start with White the busier of the
two keepers for the opening period as Dean Bennett saw an effort blocked after
good work from Steele and Blundell saw a tame shot easily saved by White.
On ten minutes the game erupted as referee Melin gave Conlon
a straight red card following an off-the-ball incident with Bolland. City continued
to press and Laurence Wilson, who once had a loan spell with the Stags, almost
hit the target with a 20-yarder after he picked up on a poor clearance from
Jon-Olav Hjelde. Long-range efforts followed as Steele brought out a good save
from White and Martinez who shot just over on 30 minutes.
Against the run of play the it was the Stags who opened the
scoring two minutes later. Allen fouled Martin Gritton and from Hamshaw’'s
free-kick Jake Buxton headed past John Danby. Buxton was in the thick of the
action straight down at the other end as he was on hand to block a Jamie Hand
City were forced into a substitution as Wilson had to be
carried from the field with a ankle injury to be replaced by Kevin Sandwith.
Buxton again denied City after good work from Blundell had
cut the ball back to set the striker up. Danby was a virtual spectator at the
other end but was called upon to save from a Dawson free-kick.
Hand had City’s last effort of the half, again from
long range that failed to test White as it dipped over the bar.
Danby was called into action five minutes after the break
and had to head the ball clear after a long punt upfield from White had sent
Gritton through past the City defence.
Blundell was denied as he saw a close range header saved
by the overworked White as the Blues continues to press home their man advantage.
Manager Mark Wright introduced Holroyd into attack at the expense of Bennett.
A minute later and City were deservedly level as Hessey sent Steele through
on the edge of the box and he coolly chipped a shot over the advancing White
into the far corner.
Holroyd came close to scoring his first senior goal for the
club fifteen minutes form time as he met Blundell’s left wing cross only
to head against an upright from close range. White was well placed to save
five minutes later as Holroyd this time chanced his luck with an overhead kick.
As the game drew to a close City went close twice again.
Sandwith let loose a trademark pile driver from all of 20 yards that White
tipped over the bar. The corner was swung in by Martinez and met by Allen at
the back post who steered his header home only to see it disallowed for pushing.
City did well to come away from the Memorial Stadium
with a hard-fought point, in a game spoilt as a spectacle
by the dreadful pitch and the swirling wind.
The already waterlogged surface had been used for a Bristol
rugby game the night before and patches of it resembled
a mudbath, with the rest looking a world away from the
billiard table Portman Road pitch we’d last seen City
Referee Phil Crossley passed the pitch as playable around
lunchtime, but conditions were still in doubt as we went
through the turnstiles at 2.45pm and were handed “emergency
vouchers” to use for a re-match in the event of
Neither side were going to demonstrate their silky footballing
skills in those conditions and for much of the first
half, the 178 City spectators braving the biting winds
probably got more enjoyment from the real Cornish pasties
The Chester defence didn’t put a foot wrong all
game, with goalkeeper John Danby putting on a decent
– the first-half seeing him make a save from a volley,
firmly catch a couple of penetrating crosses and parry
another dangerous shot to safety.
City’s only real first-half chances came from a
disappointing Roberto Martinez free-kick and a later
tame shot. There
was also a half-hearted shout for a handball in the Rovers’ penalty area.
Half-time talk centred on speculation about where Rovers
will be playing when ‘the Mem’ is developed
into an 18,000 all-seater stadium. A re-visit to Bath’s
seems favourite – but, if we’re in the same division
by then, please don’t make it yet another January
Thankfully Chester did their best to warm up the away
fans in the second half. Gregg Blundell was clear on
goal not long after the re-start, only for him to shoot
wide. Jonathan Walters also wasted a good chance when
he was just a few yards out, but hit straight at goalkeeper
City did have the most of the second half, enjoying most
of the possession and winning several corners. There
was no outstanding player, although they did play well
as a unit and Martinez did his best to stamp his authority
in the difficult conditions.
However they failed to capitalise on their second-half
domination and just before full-time, Rovers almost got
a late winner. A well-taken free kick was headed towards
goal only a few yards out. But Danby had the measure
of it, and made a good save to keep City in the game.
Soon after the referee put us all out of our frozen misery
and although most neutrals would have gone home well
before full-time (through cold, boredom, or both), they’d
have agreed a draw was a fair result.
extended FA Cup run came to a brave end by the
slenderest of margins at Ipswich Town as the Blues
Championship hosts until six minutes from time
when Matt Richards curled a shot from the edge of
box past the despairing dive of John Danby to finally
settle the tie.
Over the two matches City will count themselves
unfortunate not to have progressed further in the
competition, they spurned guilt-edged chances at
and had the ball in the net twice at Portman Road but just couldn’t
find that killer touch in front of goal which has now seen them fail to score
five of the last seven matches.
As expected Ashley Westwood failed
to make the side following a hamstring injury on Saturday
so there was a return to the defence for Sean Hessey
in the only change from the weekend.
City got off to a good start with
Laurence Wilson combining well with Gregg Blundell
to force a corner in the opening minutes right in front
of around 500 chanting City fans packed into the upper
tier of the Cobbold Stand. The inswinging corner was
dealt easily by Price in the home goal.
The play swept to the other end as
full-back Fabian Wilnis sent in a cross to the far
post where Danny Haynes failed to connect.
Minutes later City had the ball in
the net only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled
out. Jon Walters was fouled outside the penalty area
but the ball broke for Blundell who stretched to prod
the ball past Price as referee Friend blew for the
earlier infringement instead of allowing advantage.
The resulting free-kick from Hessey hit the Ipswich
wall standing about seven yards in front of it!
Ipswich were feeding their right
wing all though the first half as the tricky Jaime
Peters looked to turn the City defence on every occasion.
One cross saw a rare slip by David Artell but Hessey
was on hand to clear the danger. Minutes later Peters
again turned the City defence, cut inside and sent
a shot fizzing across goal past the far post.
The home side were beginning to dominate
and almost took the lead as Cestrian Gary Roberts curled
a free-kick over the City wall and onto the top of
the crossbar and out after Hessey had fouled Alan Lee
just outside the box in a dangerous area. Hessey was
on hand to make a great last-ditch tackle to deny Peters
a goalscoring opportunity.
City still broke with purpose though
and Jamie Hand, who had a good game throughout, sent
a 25-yarder just wide of the left hand post. Back at
the other end Phil Bolland made a great saving tackle
to block Haynes just as the young player had a sniff
Chester conceded another free-kick
in a dangerous position on the right just before the
break. Roberts sent his first effort over the angle
and onto the roof of the City net, it looked for a
split-second that it had sneaked in the corner.
The last action of the half saw City’s
hard working forward line chasing through onto an over-the-top
ball only to see defender Alex Bruce stretch and knee
the ball back to Price, referee Friend waved away City’s
appeals of a back-pass as City left the field at the
break to a well deserved ovation from their fans.
Martinez forced Price to push a shot
out for a City corner soon after the restart, though
the corner was scrambled clear. It was the home team
though, who introduced Richards for former Fulham player
Sylvain Legwinski at the break, who began to enjoy
more of the possession.
John Danby did well to save a powerful
Peters effort that came at him through a ruck of players
and Haynes again spurned a chance shooting wide after
a quick break. Artell and Martinez found themselves
in the referee’s notebook.
The Blues fans, who had been singing
non-stop from the start of the second period, stepped
up the volume as City had the ball in the net again
following an inswinging Martinez corner though the
effort was ruled out for a push on Price.
The home side introduced a third
substitute in Billy Clarke and minutes later Danby
did well to catch a tricky Peters cross from a narrow
angle under his crossbar.
Six minutes from time City’s
defence finally cracked. Gavin Williams played a ball
square to Richards outside the area on the left and
his first time shot curled into the bottom corner past
three defenders and despairing dive of Danby.
With four minutes of added time indicated
City threw everyone forward and went so close to grabbing
an equaliser. Martinez fed Blundell down the right
wing who cut in and sent a superb cross right across
the six yard line but just inches out of reach of the
onrushing Walters at the far post.
Seconds later the final whistle brought
the cup run to an end and City left the field to a
standing ovation from their traveling army, and a fair
few locals as well.
suffered their third successive home defeat this
time at the hands of promotion chasing Wycombe
Wanderers but in truth this was a match that neither
side deserved to win at a blustery Deva Stadium.
Both sides in fact could
hardly muster a serious effort on goal during
the entire 90 minutes before the Chairboys broke
minutes from time to give Jermaine Easter the
simplest of far-post tap-in’s to bag the
Phil Bolland returned to
the City defence following suspension at the expense
of Paul Linwood who started on the bench.
The Blues were first out
of the blocks and spurned an opportunity in
the opening minutes as Jon Walters failed to
a through ball after being sent through by
Dean Bennett. Both sides found the windy conditions
difficult to cope with and were unable to test
Just after the quarter hour
Roberto Martinez sent Laurence Wilson through the
Chairboys offside trap but he could only shoot
wide as another rare opportunity went begging.
Wilson had another opportunity ten minutes later
after beating two Wycombe defenders he shot straight
at Ricardo Batista in the visitors goal who made
a simple save.
Chester were forced to replace
Ashley Westwood before the break after he suffered
another hamstring strain, Linwood took his place
The visitors made two changes
at the break as they tried to step-up to exert
some pressure on the home defence, wayward shots
from Jermaine Easter and Russell Martin were all
they had to show for their efforts though.
Mark Wright did as his opposite and introduced Lee Steele and Kevin Sandwith
into the action. With ten minutes remaining Steele did well to beat two defenders
and find space to cross for Martinez who could only direct his header straight
City’s closest effort
came with just three minutes remaining. Dave Artell’s
free-kick was touched past Bastita, and Walters
saw a lob cleared from the line by Martin. Substitute
Onibuje picked the ball up and passed to Kevin
Betsy on the right who raced down field and delivered
a telling cross to the unmarked Easter at the far
post who had the easiest of chances to seal the
recorded their third away league victory on the spin
at a rain-soaked windswept Blundell Park. Media reports
earlier in the afternoon suggested that
was off due to a waterlogged pitch but, although the conditions were
difficult, the news proved to be unfounded.
Manager Mark Wright perhaps surprisingly decided to
start with Shaun Hessey, playing well recently, on the bench with Dean
Bennett promoted to the starting X1, while Paul Linwood stepped into the
due to Phil
a ground where they haven’t
won since 1979 (they have only played at
Blundell four times since though) Chester started the better
side and went on to control the pace of
the game throughout. It was a quarter of
an hour though before City threatened, Bennett crossed
for Linwood who saw his header blocked and
cleared to safety. Moments later at the other end John
Danby was well placed to save a header from
Simon Grand, making his debut after signing on loan from
Carlisle United earlier in the week.
created several good efforts in the first half but found Phil Barnes
in the home goal in good form and he was
to deny City on several occasions.
David Artell had the best opportunity to open the scoring, Martinez
sent over a high corner that found the unmarked City defender but
his effort pushed away by Barnes from just six
yards out. The overworked ‘keeper made another save minutes
later to deny Jon Walters who powered a header on target.
As for the home side John McDermott, given a
through ball by ex-City loan player Ricky Ravenhill, had their first
real effort when he powered a 25-yarder just over the bar
a rare threat on the City goal.
Barnes again was called into the action to make
another telling save as Gregg Blundell steered a powerful header
that was heading for the top corner before the ‘keeper’s
intervention kept his side level at the break.
Seven minutes after the break City took a deserved
lead. Martinez swung in an outswinging right wing corner, it was met
by a towering header from Westwood who saw his effort crash off the
bar and down near the line, Dave Artell was first to react and bravely
dived in between the Mariners defenders to head the ball over the line
for his first goal of the season, picking up a knock in the face for
City pushed for a second and it was the turn
of Martinez to test Barnes with a long range effort.
On 72 minutes City doubled their lead. Some fine
interplay in midfield set Simon Marples away down the right into space.
He exchanged passes with Walters and then clipped a cross over the
far post for Blundell,
who despite leaning back, stooped to send a header just inside his
finish to end the best move of the match.
Alan Buckley brought on three substitutions but
despite this his side found the City defence in resolute mood. Artell
blocked a goalbound effort from Tom Newey to preserve the two goal advantage
and the only other real scare came when Cestrian Gary Jones headed over
when he should really have done better with five minutes remaining.
City reached a historical target with their win at Blundell
Park as this was their 1,000th Football League victory.
will be kicking themselves for not finishing this tie
at the first attempt. For most of the game they were
superior to their Championship opponents all over the
pitch and but for some poor finishing would surely have
joined Swansea and Nottingham Forest as one of the shocks
of the round. As it was the two sides drew a blank and
replay at Portman Road on Tuesday 16 January for the
right to host Swansea City in the fourth round.
Of City’s two pre-match
hamstring injury worries, Ashley Westwood made the
starting X1 while fellow defender Paul Linwood took
a place on the bench that contained no substitute ‘keeper,
nor Lee Steele who has signed a full-time contract
on Friday, but wasn’t registered in
time for the match.
Ipswich started quickly in the Deva
sunshine and Jon Danby was called into action within
the first five minutes to comfortably save from a Billy
Clarke header directed straight at him then palming
wide a Sylvain Legwinski shot as Town were finding
space down the City right.
City began go exert themselves after
this initial period and carved some good chances. Gregg
Blundell was set though by defender Phil Bolland but
Shane Supple deputising for Lewis Price in the town
goal, rushed out to smother the danger. After 16 minutes
Blundell, and the Blues supporters, thought he’d
given City the lead. Jon Walters, who had a great game
up front, exchanged passes to set Blundell through
and he finished superbly past Supple only to be denied
by the raised Linesman’s flag.
Blundell’s finishing let him
down badly moments later when he really should have
opened the scoring. He picked up a loose ball after
the visitors had failed to clear and raced through
one-on-one with Supple, as the keeper advanced Blundell
clipped the ball over him and inexplicably wide of
the goal to the relief of the visiting fans packed
in behind it.
City’s defence were coping
admirably at the back but In a rare attack at the City
Alan Lee powered in a header that Danby held.
At the other end Shaun Hessey
was the next to be denied by Supple as City
continued to apply the pressure. Blundell shot
wide of the far post and City's midfield
also played their part with Jamie Hand unleashing
effort and Roberto Martinez saw an effort
deflected by Supple’s body just before
the Blues left the field to a well deserved
No doubt fresh from a half-time
roasting Ipswich started the second half well, forcing
City onto the back foot. Dave Artell and Phil Bolland
had their work cut out to contain the lively Lee.
The Blues still managed to break effectively and
Laurence Wilson only just cleared missed the target
after breaking through down the left and chipping
Supple who, not for the first time, advanced out
of his area to meet the ball but retreated just in
time to tip the ball over.
On 68 minutes Ipswich manager Jim
Magilton made a double substitution up front before
Dan harding sent a shot fizzing wide of Danby’s
Chester seemed to tire in the
dying minutes and were almost punished as Lee his
the crossbar after flicking on a Williams corner,
the ball fell to Jason De Vos whose close range effort
was defected onto the foot of the post and out to
safety after an almighty scramble.
Just before the end Simon Marples
was well placed to turn behind a Haynes cross and
Danby held on to the inswinging flag-kick. City applied
some pressure during three added minutes, Blundell
shot wide before referee Moss, who had a good game
throughout, blew the final whistle to end a pulsating
Blues got off to a winning start as goals from Jonathan Walters and Ashley
Westwood brought a deserved victory at a rain swept
Notts County. Just 164 City fans braved
the New Year’s Day hangovers to make the trip to Meadow Lane but they
were rewarded for their efforts with the three points that keep the Blues
place in League Two.
On the back of two home drubbing’s City started the
better as Jamie Hand shot over when well placed early on and Ashley Westwood
was off target too as he headed wide on two occasions.
Westwood was also in action at the other end as he threw
himself at a Jason Lee shot to block the effort after County's leading scorer
had done well to get his shot on target from a narrow angle.
Jon Danby fumbled an effort from Jay Smith from just outside
the box, he let the shot bounce off his chest, but recovered in time to beat
the onrushing Lawrie Dudfield to the rebound.
On 34 minutes City took the lead with a bolt from the blue.
A clearance from Alan White fell invitingly for Jon Walters who crashed back
a 30-yard shot that gave Kevin Pilkington no chance in the home goal.
Minutes later Gregg Blundell should have doubled the City
lead. A mistake by David Pipe let in the Blues striker to run on goal but with
Pilkington coming out to close the angle Blundell lofted the ball high and
wide and the chance was gone.
On the stroke of half-time the Blues were made to rue that
miss as the Magpies drew level with Lee heading home a Dudfield cross past
Danby to end a scrappy first period.
The second half proved as stop-start as the first, neither
goalkeeper was troubled for long periods as the rain swept down.
County were having more of the play after the break and made
a double substitution on 73 minutes bringing on pace up front in the form of
Dan Martine and Junior Mendez. Mendez found himself free in the box minutes
later and saw his cross-shot cleared for a corner by the City defence.
City took the lead with 12 minutes remaining with one of
their few attacking moments of the half. Roberto Martinez broke for City after
the Blues had cleared a corner and as the midfielder advanced he crossed from
the right to the far post. Westwood rose above the Notts defence to head past
Pilkington and a defender on the line to the delight of the small band of City
fans behind the goal.
Westwood had to leave the pitch soon after with a hamstring
injury to be replaced by Dean Bennett, Lee Steele was also introduced into
the fray with nine minutes remaining at the expense of Blundell.
County pressed for an equaliser as the Blues defended in
numbers to protect their slender lead as Mendez again saw an effort blocked
by the City rearguard. With two minutes remaining Lee shot wide in the last
action of the game as the City defence held firm for three priceless points.