again defensive errors were to blame as Chester’s
winless run in the league in 2016 continued with this
defeat at Braintree Town. Manager Steve Burr gave a
debut for striker James Alabi who partnered top scorer
Ross Hannah up front.
It took The Iron just ten minutes to unlock the Blues
defence as Matty Philips was left unmarked at the near
post to prod home a Dan Sparkes corner.
Chester responded as Jordan Chapell saw a powerful 25-yarder
pushed away by Michael Crowe in the home goal before
Crag Mahon saw a shot blocked after working his way
into the box past a couple of defenders.
Ten minutes before the break Chester’s inability
to defend set pieces was exposed again as another Sparks
corner was not cleared and fell to Matt Paine gave Jon
Worsnop no chance from close range.
Burr made changes after the
break bringing on Jason Gilchrist and Sam Hughes (for
Chapell and Mahon) and although Chester improved slightly
as Crowe had to deal with efforts from Johnny Hunt
and Ben Heneghan they never looked likely to get back
into the game that was lost through sloppy defending
in the opening half.
City and the Sandgrounders settled for a hard-fought
stalemate which, although goalless, was not short of
intrigue and entertainment.
Southport arrived unbeaten in their last half dozen
games, transformed by the new regime of Dino Maamria
into a difficult to beat, well-organised unit. Blues
had Astles making his league debut, having cut his teeth
in the midweek Cheshire Cup tie against Hyde. The visitors,
in luminous day-glow as opposed to normal yellow, pressed
high up the field and made it difficult for City to
build from the back.
Chapell was back in the side following a good display
in the Hyde match and looked lively all afternoon. A
move down the right got behind the Southport defence
and ended with Rooney carving out a shooting opportunity
only to see him drag it left-footed into the side netting.
He protested that Crocombe got a touch but a goal kick
was given. That proved to be the best chance of the
first half in a game where clear opportunities were
hard to come by. Southport were proving tough opponents
and a physical challenge was never far away. Phenix
and Challoner were shown yellow cards for their efforts
and Heneghan joined them in the ref’s notebook
for a mistimed tackle on young lone striker Jamie Allen.
After the break Southport’s clearest attempt came
from the edge of the box, but Foster’s shot was
straight at Worsnop. Chester began to edge ahead in
a highly contested game and started to threaten. Hunt
was unlucky to be given offside in a promising move.
Phenix then had a header well-saved by Worsnop at the
other end. Hunt did well to get behind the Sandgrounders’
defence on the left but his low cross somehow eluded
Chapell. After 64 minutes came the game’s defining
moment as Higgins tried a long range shot from midfield
which Crocombe spilled. Hannah with the goal at his
mercy skied the ball over the bar. Was the linesman’s
flag raised to indicate offside or a goal kick? No-one
was quite sure – but it was a horrible miss.
Hannah almost broke the deadlock towards the end with
an improvised flick – but could not get enough
power to beat Crocombe. Then Southport won a succession
of corners and threatened to snatch the points but Chester’s
defence – solid throughout – held firm.
A draw was probably fair but Blues could have done with
the win – they slipped down to seventeenth in
the table as a result.
Just after half time there was one of the most bizarre
announcements heard at a football match when Southport
supporters were informed that their coach was leaving
at five past four. Perhaps some of them had come on
a shoppers’ coach we wondered. In reality the
announcement referred to a coach load of late arrivals
who had tried to force entry in to the stadium. The
police arrived in force to escort them back from whence
Two goals from Sam Hughes and a third from Steven Hewitt
saw Chester into the second round of the Cheshire Senior
It took Chester just six minutes to open the scoring
as Hughes headed a Jordan Chapell cross following a
short corner past Vinve in the Hyde goal. Ryan Astles,
making his Bues debut, produced a fine block to deny
Reece Gray an equaliser.
Chester doubled their lead on 18 minutes, Chapell again
the provider with Hewitt heading home his cross. Matty
Waters went close for Chester soon after the break but
the Blues wrapped the tie up wit their third goal as
Chapell again set up Huhes who headed past Vince.
Kick off was delayed while everyone waited for the Hungerford
‘keeper to take the field. Presumably the reason
was a clash of colours - he eventually emerged wearing
a green Chester top. Several home supporters urged the
ref to blow for kick off with the visitors’ goal
still empty – it might not have made a lot of
difference, so seldom did City trouble the Hungerford
custodian in the first half. Strudley was only called
into meaningful action by a skimming Rooney effort from
twenty yards or so.
The rest of the opening period was a mediocre affair
with the well-organised Crusaders frustrating City’s
attempts to break the deadlock. Lack of confidence on
the field and frustration off it was much in evidence
as the Blues struggled to get behind the Reds’
defence. In truth Worsnop had little to do either –
though Hungerford did threaten at one or two set pieces.
At half time the tie was goalless and there remained
the possibility of an upset.
Chester made a change at the break with midfielder Lloyd
coming on for target-man Hattersley. The alteration
seemed to give City more impetus and more possession
in midfield where they needed it. After an initial flurry,
however, Chester lost possession carelessly and Hungerford
were close to scoring on the counter attack. Worsnop
did well to save at the feet of Rees.
The scare gave the Blues a wake-up call and Mahon skipped
through a couple of challenges to thread the ball to
Chapell. His right foot shot took a slight deflection
and beat Strudley low down to his left to give City
Strudley made a number of saves after this – from
Rooney’s free kick and full length from Hannah.
City began to pile on the pressure but we were still
restive without a vital second goal. Hungerford then
made it difficult for themselves when Rees was booked
twice in as many minutes for reckless tackles on George
and was dismissed.
Hannah took advantage of a ball over the top and raced
clear, held his nerve and finished clinically past Strudley
to ease Cestrian anxiety. Hunt then added a third when
Hannah got in the way of the Crusaders’ keeper
gathering the ball and it fell kindly to the left back
who gleefully struck it into the empty net.
Gilchrist came on for the last few minutes – long
enough for him to provide a crisp finish to Higgins’
cross from the by-line to make it four-nil.
Hungerford players saluted their supporters. About seventy
had made the trip from Berkshire – a total that
represents around fifty per cent of their normal home
attendance. Their players had put on a good show for
the first hour until the wheels had come off with the
red card. The wheels on the awaiting Swindon Town team
bus looked intact as it trundled along to take them
game, played on a greasy surface in torrential rain
for much of the 90 minutes, hinged on a number of incidents
that went against Chester – two defensive lapses
by the Blues and an almost inexplicable refereeing decision.
Chester, cheered on by 158 travelling
fans housed undercover in one of Aldershot’s
traditional stands, started brightly enough. Ross
Hannah came close in the opening spell when he tried
to lob the Aldershot goalkeeper Phil Smith. But his
strike was just too high to find the net.
Soon after that, Aldershot’s
man-of-the-match Sean McGinty came close with a header
from a corner. Ross Hannah also had another effort
saved by Smith.
But the first incident that turned
the game came just before half-time when an Aldershot
header back to their keeper from midfield was chased
down by Craig Mahon. The Chester player went down
in the box – seemingly after a lunge at him
by the Aldershot keeper. The away fans thought the
only debate was if it was a penalty and a sending-off
for Smith, or just a penalty.
None of the Aldershot players protested
about a dive by Mahon, and they must have been among
those amazed when the referee awarded a goal kick
to the home team. As Mahon hadn’t touched the
ball at that stage, the least it should have been
was a corner for the Blues.
I don’t know if that unsettled
Chester, who made their feelings known to both the
referee and his assistant at half-time, but they went
2-0 down inside the first seven minutes of the re-start.
Their first goal came after a great
save by Jon Worsnop fell well for Aldershot. The resultant
strike by McGinty bounced around Ryan Higgins and
into the net.
Another defensive slip-up not long
after the re-start saw Ian Sharps fail to stand up
to Alfie Pavey and he easily found the net to make
it 2-0 to the hosts.
By now the weather conditions were
getting worse, but an amazing shot from John Rooney
gave the Blues something to play for when he found
the goal from 25 yards out.
There was then a hint that
Chester might get back into the game, but a poorly
taken corner by Mahon went straight to the feet of
an Aldershot player. He got the ball upfield and a
Jim Stevenson goal sealed the result for Shots.
2 January Chester 1 Altrincham 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,155 Half Time: 1-0
Worsnop, Higgins, Heneghan, Sharps, Hunt, Mahon, George
(Hewitt 72), Shaw, Lloyd, Hattersley (Hobson 72), Hannah.
Subs not used: Forth, Chapell, Rooney.
Altrincham: Deasy, Sinnott, Havern, Leather,
Griffin, Moult, O’Keefe (Clee 46 (Heathcote 70)),
Richman, Lawrie, Reeves (Bowerman 66), Rankine. Subs
not used: Williams, Swift. Referee: Rob Jones (Wirral).
created enough chances to wrap this game up by half-time
but had to settle for just a point after gifting Altrincham
an equaliser. Manager Steve Burr made one change bringing
in Craig Mahon for Alex Whitmore whose loan-period had
The visitors went close after
just three minutes as Michael Rankine’s effort
hit the woodwork with Jon Worsnop beaten.
Tom Shaw blazed over the bar after good work from
Mahon before Danny Hattersley saw an effort deflected
to safety. Ryan Higgins forced a save from Deasy.
Hattersley was in the thick of the
action heading wide from more good work by Mahon and
then seeing another effort cleared off the line as
Chester pressed. Pressure finally paid off in the
20th minute as the Blues took a deserved lead as Hannah
scored from close range after being put through by
striker partner Hattersley.
Referee Rob Jones waved away loud
appeals for a penalty after Deasy had challenged Hattersley
before Luke George sent a 20-yarder just wide of the
The overworked Deasy pulled off
another good save to deny a long-range Higgins effort.
Just before the break the Robins missed a great chance
to level as Reeves headed straight at Worsnop from
eight yards out.
Chester continued to create
chances after the break with Luke Shaw missing the
best of those shooting over after good work from loanee
Ryan Lloyd. They were left to rue those missed opportunities
as the visitors equalised on the hour mark as Jordan
wing cross was met by Rankine who beat Worsnop to
the ball to head home.
Sharps deflected a Reeves effort
over the bar at the visitors looked to grab the lead.
Burr brought on Steven Hewitt for a debut and Craig
Hobson for George and Hattersley.
Hobson saw a long range effort cleared
and ben Heneghan also saw an effort scrambled away
and Hannah hit a post from close range.
The last chances went to Rankine
who produced two saves from Worsnop in the dying minutes.