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Tuesday 29 January
Chester City 0 Rochdale 4
League Two
Attendance: 2,131 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Wilson, Butler, Lindfield.
Sent-off: Ellison, Wilson.

Chester City:
Danby, Vaughan, Butler, Linwood (Roberts 42), Wilson, Partridge (Sandwith 77), Welsh, Grant (Hughes 79), Ellison, Murphy, Lindfield. Subs not used: Palethorpe, Holroyd.
Rochdale: Russell, Ramsden, Holness, McArdle (D’Laryea 77), Kennedy, Higginbotham (Muirhead 69), Doolan (Rundle 73), Jones, Perkins, Howe, Le Fondre. Subs not used: Spencer, Thompson.
Referee: Richard Beeby (Northamptonshire).

This latest home defeat, the heaviest since returning to the Football League, brought a chorus of boos at the final whistle from the diminishing home crowd as City slumped to their seventh defeat in eight games.

Too add insult to injury the Blues saw two players, Kevin Ellison and Laurence Wilson, red carded. As a result both start three match bans on Saturday.

Manager Bobby Williamson made a couple of changes from the team beaten at home 1-0 by Rotherham on Saturday. He handed loan striker Craig Lindfield a full debut in place of Chris Holroyd, and recalled Tony Grant from injury in place of Kevin Roberts. Both Holroyd and Roberts started on the bench.

Both sides enjoyed an even start as Lindfield caught the eye first forcing a great save from Rochdale goalkeeper Sam Russell, then testing the Dale shot stopper from long range.

Lindfield, turned provider laying a ball back for defender James Vaughan but the chance was wasted.

Despite the possession City were made to pay for their missed chances on 29 minutes as the visitors took the lead.

Adam Le Fondre, who moments earlier had blown a chance to open the scoring, made no mistake following up a Howe shot from the right that deflected up from the diving Danby to score from four yards.

A minute later came arguably the turning point in the game when Ellison was shown a straight red card for allegedly head-butting Simon Ramsden.

John Murphy headed over as City looked to get back level but it was Dale who looked like scoring most as Perkins brought out a great save from John Danby and Le Fondre shot just wide.

The visitors did double their lead through just before the break as Paul Butler, under pressure, steered the ball past Danby’s outstretched leg into the net following a break down the left.

On the hour Dale extended their lead through Tom Kennedy. He picked up the ball on the left and turned two players inside out on the way to goal before calmly shooting past Danby with ease.

Five minutes from time Wilson was given a straight red card after he was penalised for a push on Perkins on the edge of the box, the resulting free-kick was cleared.

Dale wrapped up the points in the final minutes, breaking again down the left, Alan Rundle cut inside to shoot under Danby from a narrow angle.

League Two table
More match pictures Chester Standard/Evening Leader pictures including slideshow

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Pictures © Evening Leader
Saturday 26 January
Chester City 0 Rotherham United 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,536 (792 Rotherham) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Vaughan, Linwood, Welsh, Ellison.

Chester City:
Danby, Vaughan, Butler, Linwood, Wilson, Partridge, Roberts (Hughes 75), Welsh, Ellison (Sandwith 81), Murphy, Holroyd (Lindfield 65). Subs not used: Palethorpe, Grant.
Rotherham United: Warrington, Tonge, Joseph, Sharps, Brogan, Harrison, Mills, Hudson, Holmes (Yates 69), O’Grady, Taylor (Ross 45). Subs not used: O’Donnell, Newsham, Hurst.
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire).

City welcomed back both John Murphy from injury and Paul Linwood from suspension to the starting X1, while another long-term absentee Tony Grant made the bench as the Blues looked for their first win of the year against a Rotherham side lying in second spot.

However a solitary goal early in the encounter was enough to condemn the Blues to their sixth defeat in seven games as their new year slump in form continued.

The game was just seven minutes old when Chris O’Grady latching on to a Dale Tonge throw-in turned Linwood on the right and sent in a low shot. John Danby appeared to have it covered at the near post but the ball slipped under his body into the net.

Both Richie Partridge and Kevin Ellison saw dangerous looking crosses cleared by the Millers back line as City slowly got into the game.

Warrington, in the visitors goal, wasn’t called into action though until the 26th minute when he made a save from Linwood. Moments later Wilson shot high and wide.

As the half drifted to an end Danny Harrison was denied a shot at goal by a fine tackle from Paul Butler.

James Vaughan sent over a teasing cross just after the interval but three was knowone to convert the loose ball, moments later Chris Holroyd forced a fine save out of Warrington as City pressed.

At the other end Steve Brogan saw a shot blocked before O’Grady should have doubled the lead on the hour mark but failed to connect with Pablo Mills’ cross from close range.

With chances at a premium manager Bobby Williamson called the changes bringing on Gregg Lindfield for Holroyd and Mark Hughes for Kevin Roberts.

Partridge saw a free kick cleared as City found it hard to make any inroads through the Rotherham defence.

It was the Millers who were creating the openings though, Ian Ross sending one effort over the bar before Danby saved well from Mark Hudson. The woodwork came to City’s rescue in the dying minutes as James Vaughan deflected a ball off it.

City failed to capitalise on two late corners and as the game drew to a close Wilson flashed a shot just wide.

League Two table
More match pictures Chester Standard/Evening Leader pictures including slideshow

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Pictures © Evening Leader
Saturday 19 January
Notts County 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,774 (234 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Roberts, Hughes, Wilson, Ellison.

Notts County:
Pilkington, Canoville, Tann, Hunt, McCann, Strachan (Smith 89), Silk, Butcher, Bastians (Weston 67), Lee, Dudfield (Weir-Daley 90). Subs not used: Sandercombe, Parkinson.
Chester City: Danby, Vaughan, Roberts, Butler, Wilson, Partridge, Hughes (Lindfield 67), Welsh, Sandwith, Ellison, Holroyd. Subs not used: Palethorpe, Rutherford, Newton, Kelly.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester).

This was never going to be a classic, as two teams with two measly points between them from five games each came together at Notts County’s impressive Meadow Lane ground.

The game lived up to its billing, with both sides putting on a dismal spectacle and Notts County determined to foul their way into the box, by committing 25 fouls in a game which also saw six yellow cards handed out.

It was especially grim for the 234 travelling City fans who saw their team yet again fail to match the performances they’d been managing earlier this season.

There were few serious chances for either side in the opening spell, with a Jason Lee header straight to John Danby and a wide shot from Kevin Ellison being the best in the first half hour.

Chris Holroyd was on his own up front again, getting more support from Ellison, as Richie Partridge was seemingly absent for most of the match. He seems to be half the player he was just a few weeks ago.

City received two bookings in the first half from fussy referee Anthony Taylor, with Mark Hughes and Kevin Roberts seeing yellow inside the first 11 minutes.

But there was no other real drama in the first half, with City fans having little to cheer about until the half-time game of mini-football saw the team in blue score against their opponents.

Soon after the big football re-started, it was back to reality for the Chester fans as they saw a Notts County header from a free-kick hit the bar, followed by the ball being cleared off the line.

Chester’s best chance of the game came on the 54th minute when Kevin Sandwidth, playing in midfield, took a free kick about 25 yards out. His strike was heading for goal, but County ‘keeper Kevin Pilkington tipped the excellent shot over the bar.

Sandwidth’s corner was disappointing as it went straight out of play, and before long Notts won a corner at the other end. Laurie Dudfield’s header from the corner was cleared off the line, but the ball pinged about the box and captain Adam Tann headed it home. He was only about a yard inside play and the City players and fans appealed for off-side, but the goal stood.

City didn’t make any immediate changes and County continued to press forward. But on the 67th minute, County replaced tricky Felix Bastians with Myles Weston and Liverpool loanee Craig Lindfield made his debut for Chester, replacing Mark Hughes. It was only a few months ago that Lindfield was playing at Meadow Lane as an on-loan Notts County player.

Unfortunately Lindfield failed to get any service during his 25 minutes on the field, so it’s hard to tell if he’s going to be an impressive signing for Chester.

County had a few more reasonable chances in the closing spell, including both Dudfield and Weston having two shots close to the target. At the other end, chances were thin on the ground, with Ellison coming closest with a deflected shot in the last 10 minutes, followed by a Paul Butler header over the bar.

Notts made a couple of substitutions in the last two minutes, which seemed more of a time-wasting exercise than anything else, and neither side did much with the four minutes of stoppage time.

Had things not gone so well for Chester earlier this season, this game would have been a real ‘six pointer’. It’s less than a month before the two sides meet again, when it really could be a ‘six pointer’ unless the Blues turn matters around.

Sue Choularton

More match pictures Chester Standard/Evening Leader pictures including slideshow

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Pictures © Evening Leader
Saturday 12 January
Chester City 0 Mansfield Town 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,092 (196 Mansfield) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Linwood.

Chester City:
Danby, Vaughan, Kelly, Linwood, Wilson, Partridge (McManus 70), Hughes (Rutherford 75), Roberts, Welsh, Ellison, Holroyd. Subs not used: Palethorpe, Marples, Newton.
Mansfield Town: Muggleton, Wood, Jelleyman, Mullins, Martin, Hamshaw, D’Laryea, Dawson, Bell, Brown, Holmes (Boulding 76). Subs not used: White, Goward, Arnold, Sleath.
Referee: Danny McDermid (Middlesex).

Mansfield recorded their first away victory of the season as City slumped to their sixth Deva defeat of the campaign.

City, looking for their first victory of 2008, welcomed back Kevin Ellison from suspension but were without the services of Paul Butler who served a one match ban. Tony Grant, Tony Dinning, Nathan Lowndes and John Murphy all continued to miss out through injury.

City were first out of the blocks and had a good chance to open the scoring on five minutes as Richie Partridge cross found Ellison but he could only shoot straight at Stags ‘keeper Carl Muggleton.

On 25 minutes Ian Holmes found space past the City defence but drilled his shot straight at John Danby, moments later Ellison forced a good save from Muggleton in the Stags goal after unleashing a trademark thunderbolt!

Mansfield began to get on top and were forcing openings. Fifteen minutes before the break the visitors should have taken the lead when Stephen Lawson was sent through one-on-one but as Danby rushed out he slid his shot past both the ‘keeper and the left hand post.

Despite plenty of possession a Laurence Wilson drive and a shot high and wide fro Partridge was all they managed to create.

The only goal of the game came four minutes after the break. Simon Brown was sent away down the right and as he cut into the box Wilson stumbled in his challenge and Brown shot though Danby’s legs to score from close range.

Muggleton was on hand again to save from Kevin Roberts after the youngster had created an opening for himself.

Manager Bobby Williamson decided to make changes and introduced Paul McManus and Paul Rutherford at the expense of Partridge and Mark Hughes as City, kicking towards the home end, looked to find a way back.

However their only real chance of note came on 77 minutes as Roberts’ pinpoint right wing cross found the head of Ellison but Muggleton was his equal to tip the on-target header over the bar.

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Pictures © Evening Leader

Saturday 5 January
Accrington Stanley 3 Chester City 3
League Two
Attendance: 1,311 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Wilson.

Accrington Stanley:
Dunbavin, Richardson, Roberts, Webb (Williams 66), Edwards, Craney, Proctor, Harris (Dennehy 84), Todd, Mullin, D’Sane. Subs not used: Fearon, McGivern, Miles.
Chester City: Danby, Vaughan, Linwood, Butler (Kelly 45), Newton, Partridge (McManus 90), Hughes, Roberts, Welsh, Wilson, Holroyd. Subs not used: Ward, Marples, Rutherford.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire).

Chester fought back twice after the break to claim their first league point of 2008 and stop a run of three successive defeats. Once again in the absence of John Murphy youngster Chris Holroyd played up front and the former youth team player bagged a brace as City shared six goals with their hosts.

On-loan midfielder John Welsh show wide in the opening minutes but it wasn’t long before the Blues got off to the best possible start taking the lead on nine minutes. Paul Linwood knocked down a Laurence Wilson free-kick for Holroyd to slide the ball home from close range.

The Blues should have doubled their lead on 20 minutes but Richie Partridge failed to hit the target from close range after Holroyd had set him up with a probing run down the wing.

City dominated much of the opening period but seven minutes before the break Stanley were level with a well taken goal. Andy Proctor hooked the ball home past John Danby after the City defence had failed to clear their lines following an inswinging Ian Craney free kick.

Manager Bobby Williamson was forced to make a change at half-time replacing Paul Butler who was feeling ill with Shaun Kelly.

City appealed for a penalty as Holroyd appeared to have been brought down as he rounded Dunbavin but referee Hill waved away the City appeals.

Minutes later, Just after the hour mark, Stanley took the lead. Craney lobbed the ball over Danby after the City ‘keeper had done well to save Roscoe D’Sane’s shot. The Blues were back on level terms just five minutes later though as Kevin Roberts made a great run down the left, his pass found Wilson who curled a spectacular effort into the top corner giving Dunbavin in the home goal no chance.

As has happened a number of times in recent weeks the Blues conceded a soft goal from a set piece as D’Sane beat everyone at the near post to head home a Craney corner. Once again though City were quick to respond and Holroyd scored the fourth goal of the match in a 15 minute spell. A City free-kick caused panic in the home defence and Linwood, once again, was the provider as he crossed for Holroyd to tap home from a yard in front of the delighted traveling support.

There was time to snatch a later winner but both Roberts and Kelly saw efforts go wide as City had to be content with a point from a pulsating second half.

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Pictures © Evening Leader

Tuesday 1 January
Chester City 0 Grimsby Town 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,255 (236 Grimsby) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Welsh, Danby, Butler.

Chester City:
Danby, Vaughan, Butler, Linwood, Newton, Partridge, Welsh, Roberts, Ellison, Holroyd (Yeo 70), McManus (Hughes 74). Subs not used: Ward, Marples, Rutherford.
Grimsby Town: Barnes, Bennett, Atkinson, Newey, Hird, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Hegarty (Fenton 65), Butler (North 56), Jones. Subs not used: Till, Montgomery, Taylor.
Referee: Karl Evans (Greater Manchester).

Bobby Williamson favoured youth over experience in his team selection today as City sought to recover from the hangover caused by two heavy defeats on the road. Newton came in at left back to make his home debut. McManus came in on the left side of midfield and new loan signing John Welsh made his debut in the middle.

Chester were the more purposeful in the the first half and had the most efforts on goal – though they were few and far between. Ellison had a couple of range-finding shots which were well off target. When he lined up a free kick on the edge of the penalty area we hoped it might be third time lucky but it was Welsh who curled his shot narrowly over. Ellison – who seemed more effective when he drifted wide rather than in the central role he was asked to play – swept in a dangerous cross from the left which the Mariners scrambled to safety.

Just before the break City missed a golden chance to score. McManus capitalised on a misunderstanding between two defenders and surged forward towards goal with only the ‘keeper to beat. Unfortunately for him and the team he snatched his shot wide of the post.

During the interval Kevin Hodge tried to win the cross bar challenge, organised by the Trust but failed to get enough lift to come close to hitting the woodwork. Cleggy, harsh critic that he is, described the attempt as “rather pathetic”. Instead his words became a forecast of City’s second half efforts.

After half time the visitors were the more ambitious and City seemed to lose their way. Chester were stifled in midfield and were misfiring up front as the forwards failed to combine effectively together. Eventually Williamson replaced Holroyd with Yeo and McManus with Hughes to shake things up but by then the damage had been done.

Grimsby took the lead when Danby brought down one of their forwards. It appeared unnecessary as North had knocked the ball too far forward and was heading away from the goal at the time but it was no surprise when the referee pointed to the spot. The goal itself was little surprise either as City had been conceding territory to the Mariners and received a warning when Boshell headed narrowly over a few minutes earlier.

In reply City could not organise the momentum to pressurise the visitors’ defence. Yeo had a good shot saved by the post and a header just over the bar but Chester’s pressure was sporadic. The game was put beyond doubt when Atkinson glanced in a header from a right wing free kick.

With this third successive defeat City’s season is in danger of crumbling at the half way stage just like the previous two campaigns. It’s a tricky time to blood several youngsters at once. Of those that played today, Sean Newton had a very steady game; McManus looked uncomfortably out of position; while Welsh looked the accomplished player he promises to be apart from one rash moment when he lunged in for a venomous tackle and was booked. Just to add to City’s woes Butler was also booked for arguing with the referee and is due for suspension. Testing times ahead for the Blues.

Colin Mansley

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