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Saturday 31 January
Chester City 0 Gillingham 1
League Two
Attendance: 1,540 (340 Gillingham) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Hughes.

Chester City: Danby, Kelly, Linwood, Roberts, J.Vaughan, Harris, Hughes, Barry, Ellison, Lowe, Partridge (Rutherford 87). Subs not used: Dinning, Mitchell, McManus, Jones.
Gillingham: Royce, Lewis, Bentley, King (Richards 46), Nutter, Southall, Weston (Peters 73), Miller, Barcham, Jackson, Oli (Mulligan 63). Subs not used: Julian, Richards, Steer.
Referee: David Webb.

City’s current lack of a goal poacher was exposed again as their inability to convert their chances proved costly against Gillingham. The Kent side completed the double over the Blues with a goal eleven minutes from time through Andy Barcham. It was a battling performance from the Blues, and a game they didn’t deserve to lose.

Team selection options were restricted from the start with both Laurence Wilson and Glenn Rule absent through suspension, while Damien Mozika was ruled out with a hamstring injury as City looked to readdress the midweek disappointing defeat at Vale Park.

Wright was however able to recall both Shaun Kelly from injury and James Vaughan from suspension.

Vaughan was called upon to make a clearance in the opening seconds of the game as Dennis Oli was given a shooting opportunity from the kick-off.

Jay Harris, starting his first match of the year, headed straight at Simon Royce in the Gills goal after good approach work involving both Vaughan and Richie Partridge on the wing.

City enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening period but their best chances were restricted to long range as Kevin Ellison and Harris both fired wide.

The Gills had a great chance to break the deadlock just after the break but Simeon Jackson shot well over from close range when well placed. Minutes later Adam Miller missed the target as the visitors started to press for an advantage. John Danby got down well to save another Miller effort and was relieved to save a Jackson effort at the second attempt soon after.

At the other end Royce produced a good save to push away a low shot from Partridge. Paul Linwood also came close but saw his header from a pin-point Lowe corner sail just wide.

The decisive goal came eleven minutes from time. Substitute Jaime Peters skipped past a Paul Linwood challenge out on the right wing and his cross was met by Barcham who steered the ball into the roof of the net from six yards.

In the dying minutes the Blues almost snatched a deserved equaliser but Kevin Roberts saw his looping header cleared off th eline by both Stuart Lewis and the crossbar to safety after looping over Royce.

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Tuesday 27 January
Port Vale 3 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 4,448 (262 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Rule, Roberts, Barry, Dinning, Linwood. Sent-off: Wilson, Rule.

Port Vale: Anyon, Griffith, Collins, Owen, Edwards, Richman, Brammer (Davidson 65), Brown, Howland (Taylor 46), Glover, Thompson (Lawrie 75). Subs not used: Martin, Prosser.
Chester City: Danby, Rule, Roberts, Linwood, Wilson, Partridge (Rutherford 80), Hughes (Owen 86), Barry, Dinning (Harris 66), Ellison, Lowe. Subs not used: Jones, Rawlinson.
Referee: Andy Hall (West Midlands).

Buoyed by their battling point at Sincil Bank on Saturday the Blues made the short trip to Vale Park for their first league visit there in 17 years. Manager mark Wright was able to recall defender Laurence Wilson following his suspension though a hamstring injury forced the absence of midfielder Damien Mozika. Tony Dinning kept his place in the side following his weekend recall.

Playing a side one place above them in the table City started the better of the two sides at a rain soaked Vale Park, with Ryan Lowe, Richie Partridge and Kevin Ellison all pushing up front the Blues kept Vale on the back foot for long periods.

Indeed, both Lowe and Ellison saw long range efforts fly just wide in the opening ten minutes. At the other end ‘keeper John Danby was on hand to collect a Steve Thompson header with ease as the hosts produced a rare break.

Partridge came closest to opening the scoring in the 13th minute when following a fine Mark Hughes through ball he saw his clever lob over the Vale shot stopper Joe Anyon bounce on top of the bar and out to safety.

Anyon was better placed moments later to gather an Ellison header after Partridge had done well to beat Paul Edwards before crossing into the box.

Glenn Rule, Anthony Barry and Kevin Roberts all found their way into referee Andrew Hall’s notebook in the opening period.

Ellison and Partridge both saw goalbound efforts deflected wide as City looked to turn their first-half dominance into goals. Their last real effort of the half saw Lowe volley high and wide after Gareth Owen had miss- timed a clearance on the edge of the box.

City were to rue their missed chances of the opening half when the home side took the lead on 59 minutes as Danny Glover took advantage of a mix-up between Danby and Roberts to score past Danby. The striker almost doubled the advantage moments later shooting just wide following a miss-placed Barry pass.

Chester hit back as Ellison headed over from another Partridge cross and Hughes saw an effort from the edge of the box go wide.

The game changed dramatically though in the space of three minutes as City were reduced to nine men and Vale doubled their lead.

On 69 minutes Wilson was given a straight red card following a two-footed lunge on Steve Thompson and a minute later Rule saw red after picking up his second yellow card of the match following a late tackle on the lively Glover.

A minute later the game was effectively over for City as substitute Robert Taylor shot past Danby from six yards after meeting Glover’s pin-point cross.

In the closing minutes the home side made it three as fellow substitute James Lawrie curled a 20-yarder past Danby to complete City’s second half misery.

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Saturday 24 January
Lincoln City 1 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 3,760 (113 Chester) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Ellison, Rule, Dinning, Mozika.

Lincoln City: Burch, Beevers, Kovacs, Sinclair, Brown, Mullarkey (John-Lewis 67), Frecklington, Kerr, N’Guessan, Horsfield (Patulea 85), Elding. Subs not used: Oakes, Swaibu, Duffy.
Chester City: Danby, Roberts, Linwood, Lowe (Rutherford 90), Ellison, Barry, Rule, Dinning, Partridge (Jones 79), Mozika (Harris 71), Hughes. Subs not used: Rawlinson, Owen.
Referee: Nigel Miller (County Durham).

Blues manager Mark Wright was happy to see his team pick up a point at Sincil Bank after being forced to make several changes to his side caused by injury and suspensions. James Vaughan and Laurence Wilson both sat out the match through bans while promising defender Shaun Kelly is sidelined nursing a knee injury.

So, with Kevin Ellison playing in defence, it was a reshuffled team with Tony Dinning making an appearance. Youth team players Ben Jones, Connell Rawlinson and James Owen took their places on the bench.

As you’d expect it was the home side that started the stronger with Geoff Horsfield heading over and John Danby pulling off a fine save to deny Scott Kerr’s free-kick that seemed destined for the top corner of the goal.

Horsfield again caused problems for City beating John Danby but Paul Linwood was well placed to clear his effort from near the goal line.

At the other end ex-Imp Kevin Ellison had Chester’s first real attempt on goal sending a trademark long-range free-kick just wide, but moments later the Blues opened the scoring in spectacular fashion.

Anthony Barry picked up a short free-kick from Dinning on the left, he cut inside unchallenged before unleashing an unstoppable 35-yarder giving Rob Burch no chance in the home goal. It was the midfielder’s first senior goal for the club and it couldn’t have been bettered.

Danby went on to make saves from both Janos Kovacs and Lee Frecklington to keep City in front at the interval.

Lincoln drew level just three minutes after the break through Frecklington who headed home unmarked in the six yard box as the Blues failed to defend Aaron Brown’s right wing corner.

With 30 minutes remaining City were forced to replace Damien Mozika with Jay Harris as the popular French midfielder picked up a hamstring injury.

The home side continued to press and Danny N’Guessan was guilty of shooting wide when well placed.

Danby was again well placed to keep out a late Horsfield strike as the patched up City defence held firm to glean a point.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 17 January
Chester City 1 Chesterfield 3
League Two
Attendance: 1,806 (371 Chesterfield) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Linwood.

Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Linwood, Roberts, Wilson, Barry, Mozika, Hughes, Ellison, Lowe, Partridge (Jones 87). Subs not used: Rutherford, Harris, Platt, Rule.
Chesterfield: Lee, Gray (Winter 69), Hall, Downes, Austin, Till (Gritton 69), Lowry, Kerry, Robertson, Ward, Lester. Subs not used: Currie, Goodall, Boden.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire).

The harsh realities of Chester’s current position were felt in this match which they were unlucky to lose. With quarter of an hour to go and with an entertaining game in the balance, the visitors were able to bring on two substitutes who, between them turned the game in their favour. In contrast City’s bench included two sixteen year olds – one of whom, Ben Jones, made his debut for the last few minutes – but, by then the game had been taken out of City's control.

Once again City were slow to settle, disrupted no doubt by the absence of Kelly, due to injury. The highly rated Ward burst through to threaten goal before Roberts tackled and a few minutes later his dangerous strike partner, Lester, also got a shot in.

When Chester did establish a pattern, however, they took the game to the Spireites and began to threaten. Vaughan had a shot from distance deflected on to the base of the post and Ellison’s diving header from Vaughan’s cross just sailed wide of the far post. City’s attacking play, especially down the left was showing promise with Ellison, Lowe and Partridge combining to good effect.

It was from a spell of City pressure that Chesterfield broke away and should have taken the lead. Vaughan and Danby hesitated slightly and Ward was through to shoot at the unguarded goal from a narrow angle. Unaccountably he put his shot wide of the far post, leaving the £400,000 rated player with his head in his hands. Shortly afterwards however, the visitors took the lead. A wickedly inswinging corner from the right deceived Wilson in the flight at the near post and his header flew into his own net. The wind was now creating difficult conditions for both sides and rain came lashing down with it.

City pressed for an equaliser and a few minutes after the break it came. After patient build up play from right to left, Hughes crossed into a crowd of players for Mozika to send the deftest of glancing headers into the bottom corner of the net. Chester were in the ascendant now and looked like scoring again. Hughes went close with a header of his own, but the best chance fell to Lowe after a superb flick on by Ellison. Lowe, under pressure from a resilient defender shot just wide.

Then came the turning point when Winter and Gritton were introduced by Chesterfield. They helped the visitors step up a gear and tip the balance in their favour. After failing to clear the ball away properly, City went behind when Winter picked it up and ran strongly to create an opening before planting a shot firmly into the bottom corner of the net. Worse was to follow a few minutes later when Kerry’s shot from the right corner of the penalty area took a cruel deflection and looped over Danby for Gritton to walk it into the net.

Ben Jones came on for the last three minutes and looked useful for a sixteen year old but by then the game had drifted away from City. 3-1 was harsh because Chester had played quite well but the Spireites strength in depth proved decisive.

Colin Mansley

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Tuesday 13 January
Chester City 2 Luton Town 2
League Two
Attendance: 1,652 (370 Luton) Half Time 1-2
Booked: J.Vaughan, Wilson, Kelly.

Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Linwood, Kelly, Roberts, Partridge (Barry 65), Mozika, Hughes, Wilson, Lowe, Ellison (Harris 81). Subs not used: Platt, Rutherford, McManus.
Luton Town: Logan, Spillane, Roper, Beavan, Emanuel (Howells 45), Henderson, Jarvis, Keane, Craddock, Gallen, Martin. Subs not used: Brill, Gnakpa, McVeigh, Hall.
Referee: Karl Evans (Greater Manchester).

City battled back from a two-goal deficit to claim a point against Luton Town in a highly entertaining match. The visitors, eager to get their points tally into the black following their 30-point deduction, started as though they meant business. They had Chester under pressure for the first five minutes or so but then Ellison broke free at the other end. He was caught by a defender, however, and his shot under pressure was disappointing.

Luton took the lead when Chris Martin, on a season long loan from Norwich, lost Kelly with a slick turn on the corner of the six yard box and turned to fire powerfully across goal and just inside the far post. Worse was to follow ten minutes later when Luton were awarded a free kick twenty five yards out. It was an innocuous award as Roberts seemed to be the injured party as he tangled with a Luton player. More controversially James Vaughan was booked by the referee for encroaching when the ball had been touched by a Luton player and was active. From the re-taken kick, Emanuel drove a stunning shot through the wall and low into the net.

The large Luton contingent were ecstatic, convinced that they were on the way to another victory. But Chester had other ideas and when Ellison was brought down in the box, Lowe smashed the resultant penalty into the top corner. The first half went into nine minutes of stoppage time following an injury to Emanuel – who had to be stretchered off.

Five minutes after the break City were level when Lowe’s right wing corner was met by Roberts. His header was blocked on the line but Ellison was on hand to bundle it over. City then pressed for a third – their best chance came when Ellison broke clear beating two men on the way and squared the ball for Lowe on the edge of the area but by the time the ball reached him a couple of defenders had raced back to block his shot. At the other end, Spillane went close from a free kick.

It was a good contest, with City arguably finishing stronger of the two teams but the draw a fair result in the end.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Evening Leader

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