Chester: Danby, Brownhill, Horan, Taylor,
McGinn, Booth (Howard 85), Sarcevic, Brown, Wright (Cox
69), Wilde (Simm 61), McNeil. Subs not used: Rainford,
Smith. Mickleover Sports: Clarke, Grocott,
McAughtrie, Wood, Hoyle, Smyth, Walshe, Simpson (Farthing
73), Guy (Strzyzewski 34), Graves, Richie-Smith (Pawley
79). Sub not used: Dodsley. Referee: Paul Marsden (Preston).
discovered the football equivalent of Parkinson’s
Law as they raced to a two-nil lead in the first twenty
minutes but then spent the rest of the game in second
gear and even hanging on at times.
By the time Brown drilled an excellent shot home from
the edge of the box to put City ahead they might already
have been one up. Wilde was set up beautifully by McNeil
but Clarke was equal to the task in the Sports’
goal as the City forward tried to pick his spot. Chester
continued to apply the pressure and doubled their advantage
when Booth’s right wing cross was glanced inside
the far post by McNeil.
Sports had looked to come forward in between times. Richie-Smith
put in a couple of menacing corners underneath the cross
bar, looking to find the head of defender McAughtrie who
matched McNeil in stature and had a tremendous tussle
with him all afternoon.
Still there seemed to be no question of where the three
points were going to end up – just how many City
would win by – until Mickleover got back in to the
contest just before half time. McGinn was put under pressure
from Danby’s throw out and allowed himself to be
closed down by Smyth who crossed for Graves to skim a
header past the Chester ‘keeper.
Try as they might City couldn’t up the tempo enough
to put the game beyond doubt after this and Mickleover
continued to grow in confidence. Chester threatened in
spurts: Brown and Sarcevic combined brilliantly to feed
Wright but his cross was profligate and drifted over the
bar. Sarcevic had a thunderous shot himself which clipped
the top of the cross bar. Horan headed over when well
placed, as did Simm when he came on later.
New signing Stefan Cox was introduced into the attack
taking over from Jerome Wright on the left and looked
lively. But it was when Howard came on and Cox switched
to the right that he really tested the visitors’
defence. One promising move ended with him blazing over
the bar. Later he picked out McNeil at the far post but
his header which seemed to have allayed fears of Sports
netting a late equaliser was disallowed for offside.
So the agony continued until the final whistle and City
crept over the finishing line. Neil Young seemed as bemused
as any one why they had made such a meal of this match.
He said that playing with wingers did not suit City –
but it worked well for the opening spell when Chester
fleetingly showed the form that had swept them to the
top of the table. Still, other results meant that this
win extended their lead to three points.
were out-thought and out-played by title rivals Hednesford
as the visitors completed a League double and moved level
on points with the Blues at the top of the table.
Following the presentation of his manager of the month
award for December Neil Young was forced to re-jig the
team today due to injuries to Brownhill and Wright and
suspensions to Baynes and Powell. City lined up with Taylor,
Horan and Smith across the back with Sarcevic and McGinn
as wing/full backs and Mackin, Brown and Howard in the
centre of midfield. McNeill and Rainford formed the forward
Only five minutes had elapsed before Young had to re-arrange
things again. Levi Mackin was upended and fell awkwardly
to break his collar-bone and what must be one of the briefest
of home debuts was over. Bizarrely this is the third injury
of this type that Chester players have suffered this season
and the second against Hednesford – Ashley Williams
has been sidelined since the sides met in August. Wilde
whose season was disrupted by a similar injury replaced
the unfortunate Mackin.
The Pitmen adapted to the blustery conditions much better
than Chester. Playing in to the wind Hednesford forged
ahead into a two goal lead thanks to effective counter
attacks and lacklustre defending on City’s part.
Chester had just created an opening when Smith’s
raking pass found Sarcevic and the winger cut in only
to see his low cross cut out. Breaking away swiftly the
Pitmen threatened City’s goal. The danger appeared
to have been cleared only for Howard to lose the ball
and Clements latched on to it to unleash a superb dipping
shot from outside the area which just crept under Danby’s
Further woe for City arrived when Hay latched on to a
through ball, Taylor stumbled and the forward was left
with just Danby to beat. This he duly did with a precise
City, with the wind at their backs were restricted to
long range efforts in reply. McGinn and Rainford went
very close with free kicks. Earlier, Wilde had a great
attempt following good play by McNeil clawed out of the
top corner by the goalkeeper. But City did get back in
the game just before the break when McNeil was hauled
over in the box and McGinn converted the resulting penalty.
Blues players came out early after half time eager to
put pressure on the visitors from the off but after a
brief flurry of corners, Chester struggled to impose themselves
on the well-organised visitors. Hednesford defended well,
squeezing City’s midfield and forcing them to resort
to hit and hope balls on too many occasions. Chester did
begin to show more promise when Booth came on for Sarcevic.
He was set up to shoot following a superb run by Wilde
but couldn’t keep his effort down. Later he curled
another shot just wide of the far post.
City’s closest efforts to equalising came towards
the end as they racked up the pressure. Wilde’s
downward header was beaten away by Crane. Then Smith had
two attempts – a header from a corner which went
narrowly over and a shot from the edge of the box which
was definitely going in until Crane tipped it round the
post at full stretch.
Chester are still in pole position following this humbling
setback but must know they have a lot more to do before
being sure of a second successive promotion.
with its ramshackle, but large and traditional ground
on the Thames estuary, seemed a world away from last
week’s away venue at Rushall, but the Chester
performance was almost a match to the previous Saturday.
In the end, Chester couldn’t beat the team two
leagues above them, but they emerged from this entertaining
FA Trophy tie with the respect of all at the game. They
must now concentrate on the job in hand – not
moving from the top of the EvoStik Premier.
Chester, playing for some reason in yellow when their
blue-and-white stripes could not possibly have clashed
with Ebbsfleet’s red strip, were in their opponents’
half right from the off. They won a couple of corners
in the opening spell, with one effort being cleared
off the line.
Jamie Rainford featured for Chester for the first time
since his loan spell at Halifax and was clearly trying
to make an impression. But it was captain George Horan
who nearly got the first breakthrough when he went over
in the box and a penalty appeal followed. The shouts
were turned down, but it left the travelling support
of around 600 Chester fans thinking the Wembley dream
was still alive.
But Ebbsfleet had some strong players who were hard
to shrug off the ball. And as the half-hour mark neared,
one of those players – Calum Willock – was
free in the box after some poor Chester defending. John
Danby almost saved his powerful header, but couldn’t
quite stop it.
Chester didn’t let their heads drop though and
soon after Rainford saw a shot saved by Fleet ‘keeper,
Preston Edwards. Before long, the action was then at
the other end, with Danby making a save from another
dangerous Ebbsfleet player, Nathaniel Pinney.
Still, at half-time with the score at 1-0, there was
definitely a feeling that Chester could come back into
it and it was good to renew some old acquaintances as
the icy shadows lengthened during the break. For some
this was their first sight of the new Chester –
I hope they’ll be back for more.
But the sense that this game was not yet over didn’t
last for too long when Ebbsfleet’s Yado Mambo
had another free header in the box and it was 2-0 to
the Blue Square Premier team with just ten minutes gone
in the second half.
However a Chester comeback was almost on the cards soon
after when the ball pinged around the Ebbsfleet box
and a Blues’ header hit the underneath of the
crossbar and landed on the wrong side of the line. This
bought Chester back to life though and it wasn’t
long before they did get the score back to 2-1. First
Antoni Sarcevic was fouled and Alex Brown’s well-taken
free-kick resulted in another headed goal – this
time for Matty McNeil.
The entertainment wasn’t over yet and it was Ebbsfleet’s
turn to score again – this time another dangerman,
Ricky Shakes, pounced on a rebound to make it 3-1 to
the home side.
Michael Wilde and Iain Howard were on the field by now
and they certainly played their part in Chester’s
attacking spirit continuing. Indeed a Howard cross led
to Chester’s second goal when the ball went through
a crowd of players to find Rainford. His 72nd minute
strike was deflected into the goal and it was still
There were enough decent chances for Wilde, Rainford
and Brown in the final spell of the match to keep every
Chester fan glued to the match - some not even noticing
the passing container ships (is this always a feature
of cup defeats? Middlesbrough and Canvey Island spring
to mind...). But it wasn’t too be and we had to
settle for a creditable performance in defeat, with
slight worries over injuries to Sarcevic and Jerome
Those of us who lingered in nearby Gravesend after the
match were around to hear the team praised by Ebbsfleet
fans, who made the incorrect assumption that we were
“streets ahead” in our league. If we carry
on playing like that, they just might be proved right.
7 January Rushall
Olympic 0 Chester 4
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Attendance: 714 Half Time 0-1
Rushall Olympic: Gemmell, Platt, Spittle,
Tolley, Skedgel, Haynes, Dacres, Forde (Keenan 46), Briggs,
Lewis (Adaggio 73), Obeng (Melbourne 46). Subs not used:
Blythe, Gomes. Chester: Danby, Baynes, Horan, Taylor,
McGinn, Booth (Wilde 63), Smith (Mackin 73), Powell, Wright,
Sarcevic, McNeill (Simm 80). Subs not used: Rainford,
John Law (Worcester).
started 2012 away days in style with a cracking 4-0
win away at Rushall Olympic – made all the sweeter
as League title rivals Northwich and Hednesford dropped
points in their games.
It was a great day all round for the fans, with some
of us starting it at the 12 noon opening time at the
Black Country Arms in Walsall. This even gave us an
unexpected chance to re-live old times as a group of
Bournemouth fans were have a pre-match drink before
their League game at the Bescot.
Chester is a much happier club since our last trip away
to Bournemouth and we could look forward to an away
day to relish. Determined to make the most of it, several
Chester fans also called in at the canalside Manor Arms
– just a goal-keeper’s kick from the ground.
Then it was onto Dales Lane and a pre-match meal of
chips and peas as we studied the team line-up. Chester
were featuring Matty McNeill as the lone striker, with
Chris Simm and Michael Wilde on the bench, alongside
new signing Levi Mackin.
It was all Chester in the opening spell as the Blues
won several corners and McNeill, as well as Robbie Booth,
tested the Olympic ‘keeper inside the first few
It felt like there was only one side in it, when Antoni
Sarcevic received a cross from Jerome Wright on the
half hour mark. Sarcevic crossed to the ever-lively
McNeill and he scored the first goal of the afternoon.
The goal sparked Rushall into life and their well-marked
striker Ahmed Obeng had a couple of forays into the
box, as well as a shout for a penalty. But the closest
they came to scoring all game came just before half-time
when a powerful Matt Lewis strike beat John Danby, but
not the crossbar.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with McNeill
very much the danger man. He was in the box again, when
the ball came to Michael Powell who hit for home at
relatively close range.
So at 2-0, Chester were very much in the driving seat
and they were soon having the chequered flag waved at
them. McNeill was bought down in the penalty area and
a spot-kick was awarded. Up stepped Matty McGinn to
make it 3-0 to coasting Chester.
Chris Simm, Michael Wilde and Levi Mackin all came on
as second-half substitutes to add to the attacking options.
Indeed, all three combined for the fourth goal of the
day. Wilde passed to Simm, who pulled it back for Mackin
to score on his debut in the last minute of the game.
It’ll be much tougher next week at Ebbsfleet,
but there’s nothing like a confidence-boosting
win to help the team’s FA Trophy preparations.
dominating this contest for large periods, Chester failed
to beat Nantwich for the second time this season and
ended up with another derby stalemate over the festive
Good weather brought out a record crowd for this Bank
Holiday clash – 3,560 was the largest since the
club re-formed. Neil Young rang the changes once again
with the team. McGinn was out through injury rather
than suspension and Christian Smith deputised at left
back. Howard sat out his one match ban – Jerome
Wright started in his place. Up front McNeil led the
line again with Sarcevic given a roving brief just behind
Urged forward by Powell and Brown, City began to dominate
possession but the visitors were well organised and
defended stoutly. They were rocking after quarter of
an hour when a move from the left was half cleared to
the right and, from a narrow angle, Sarcevic thwacked
a shot against the underside of the bar. City looked
to get the ball out to the flanks but Nantwich defended
in numbers and rarely allowed the Blues to get behind
them. Often Chester were reduced to launching deep crosses
which were dealt with by the ‘keeper and the tall
visiting defenders. Horan, returning to lead the team
from a four match ban, headed narrowly over from a right
City’s best attempts came from quick breakaways.
Powell intercepted on the halfway line to set Sarcevic
away but he shot too high. Then, as half time approached,
Sarcevic set up Wright from the left whose shot was
tipped around the post by ‘keeper Brain. At the
other end the Dabbers showed that they were no mugs
when they broke forward – holding on to the ball
effectively. They threatened briefly when Taylor was
put under pressure facing goal and took the ball away
from Danby before recovering to clear. Veteran midfielder
McPherson had a half chance to score when the ball fell
to him in the box but scuffed his shot wide.
Chester were left to regret their inability to capitalise
on their first half dominance when Lennon put the visitors
ahead with a well worked goal. He twisted and turned
in the inside left position and carved an opening from
which he shot past Danby. Dabbers fans clearly loved
the moment but it was to be short-lived euphoria as
Smith went on a run from left back and prodded a through
ball for Sarcevic who raced on and clipped a sublime
shot past Brain for the equaliser.
There was still plenty of time to get a winner and City
began to pile on the pressure but couldn’t quite
do enough to make it tell. Brown was unlucky when his
volley from the edge of the box sped through a crowd
of players and crashed against the foot of the post.
Powell also had a half chance but couldn’t keep
his shot down enough and it flew over. Wilde came on
to replace the excellent McNeil but despite plenty of
effort did not have a clear cut chance.
Once the Dabbers had weathered this storm they took
the game to City in the last quarter of an hour or so
and, as the Blues became more ragged, might even have
forged ahead themselves. Ormrod came on for the weary
Booth but had a wretched time. Simm replaced Wright
and looked lively but to no avail and City’s dominance
It’s hard to put a finger on it but Chester didn’t
fire on all cylinders today. With a bit more luck a
first half goal might have made a different game of
it but the Blues had to be content with a point which
just about keeps them ahead of the chasing pack at the
top of the league.