been a while since there was a game in which it felt like
the pre-match activity was more important than the game
itself, but after a CFU meeting less than 48 hours earlier
revealed the club’s funds had almost run out, it
was back to waving buckets and planning fundraising initiatives.
After a handful of Chester
fans paid a quick visit to the excellent community-owned
Craufurd Arms in North Maidenhead, it was onto the serious
business in The Bell, which was handy for Maidenhead’s
historic York Road ground. The envelopes passed around
there before and after the game, as well as in the ground
itself, raised more than £650 in much-needed cash.
So onto the game itself, which I’m
sorry to report followed a familiar pattern of my recent
matches. Chester went behind in the opening spell, never
came back from it, and seemed to have no realistic chance
of winning throughout.
In a bit more detail, the two teams
were evenly matched on a cold and wet day until James
Jones was sent off for apparently fouling Maidenhead’s
Sean Marks in the area on the 10th minute. Harry Pritchard
sent Sam Hornby the wrong way and Chester were already
The 10-man Blues had barely recovered
from that when Pritchard scored again following a neat
interchange with Marks. Chester tried to come back into
it, and Tom Crawford was unlucky to miss with a great
free kick which just went over the crossbar.
His effort was to prove to be Chester’s
best chance of the game and there was no chance of coming
back when the home side went 3-0 ahead on the 35th minute
with a good strike from Sam Barrett.
The second half was largely insignificant
as everyone knew the result was not going to alter.
It was heartening to see a good Chester turnout, with
estimates of the away attendance in an unsegregated
crowd ranging from 200-450. Those fans will have to
stick behind their team as performances like that mean
tough times are ahead in the final stages of the season.
looking to bounce back from the recent disappointing display
against Gateshead started well forcing a corner in the
opening 30 seconds and seeing a Craig Mahon shot fly over
the bar as they looked to put the pressure on Hartlepool.
The visitors saw a Lewis Hawkins shot deflected into the
safe hands of Sam Hornby. Youngster Tom Crawford needed
treatment following a robust challenge on Jake Cassidy,
before Mahon again tried his luck from 20 yards only to
see his effort drift wide.
last ditch tackle by Louis Laing prevented Harry White
from a clear goalscoring opportunity following a fine
Mahon through ball.
Devante Rodney forced a great full length save from
Hornby pushing the Pools striker's 30-yarder round the
As half-time approached Scott Loach pulled of a couple
of saves to deny Chester a lead, first he pushed a James
Jones effort round the post for a corner before saving
at close range as Jones met the flag kick.
And Loach was on hand again as Kingsley James saw an
effort from 12 yards saved on the stroke of half-time.
James Akintunde picked up a White
through ball to race through on goal only to be cynically
tripped by Laing who received a yellow card for his
efforts. Lucas Dawson sent the resulting free-kick over.
Jones was on hand to deny Rodney
as he bore down on goal following a mistake from Lathaniel
Hartlepool took the lead on 62 minutes as Chester failed
to clear a corner allowing
Michael Woods to score from four yards out.
Hornby did well to save a Deverdics shot that had taken
a deflection off Jones. With 13 minutes left Chester
grabbed the equaliser as White picked up an Akintunde
pass before surging through on goal and giving Loach
no chance with his shot high into the net.
chances of surviving the drop were dealt another blow
on Saturday with another home defeat as Gateshead ran
out comfortable 3-1 winners.
A minute’s applase for former player Cyrille Regis
who died earlier in the week was held prior to the kick-off.
The Heed hadn’t won since November but scored two
goals in the final minute of the first half to take the
game away from the Blues. Debutandt Shepherd Murombedzi
sent Harry White through on goal in the opening five minutes
though the striker’s effort was blocked for a corner.
White missed another effort fom eight yards after playing
a one-two with Kingsley James as Chester pressed.
Scott Barrow saw a long-range effort fly wide for the
visitors and moments later Ryan Astles almost gave Chester
the lead as he saw his half volley crash back off the
post after Lucas Dawson and White had set up the defender.
A double block by Sam Hornby and White
prevented Neil Byrne giving Gateshead the lead following
a 41st minute corner but moments later Paddy McLaughlin
smashed the ball home from 12 yards to open the scoring
on the stroke of half-time. With the game entering first
half stoppage time Heed doubled their lead as Jordan
Burrow turned Astles following Wes York’s cross
to strike low past Hornby.
Chester found themselves three down
just seven minutes after the break as james Preston
took advantage of a slip by substitute Craig Mahon to
score from 20 yards. Preston had the ball in the net
agan but was flagged for offside.
White pulled a goal back on
69 minutes finishing well from a Jordan Gough cross,
and the striker blazed over on another break with Kingsley
James better placed.
made a dismal attempt to reach the third round of the
FA Trophy with a disappointing performance on their first
ever visit to the Rookery Hill home of National League
South East Thurrock United.
Blues ran out to a ground which was reminiscent of their
EvoStik days, complete with free sausage rolls and spuds
for the fans who'd travelled down to this surprisingly
scenic part of Corringham. Some of those who swerved
the complimentary fare had a pleasant stroll through
the 11th century churchyard next door on their way to
a drink and a pre-match chat in the 500-year-old Bull
The tourist trail complete, it was
into the ground for the game. Chester manager Marcus
Bignot made one change since the draw against Fylde,
with Ross Hannah replacing injured Reece Hall-Johnson
in the starting line-up.
Chester had the best of the first
10 minutes, with Hannah and Ryan Astles both squandering
what proved to be rare opportunities for the Blues.
But East Thurrock soon realised their Conference National
opponents weren't out of their league and the match
began to turn. Chester goalkeeper Sam Hornby made a
good save from a Sam Higgins' free kick, boosting the
growing confidence of the home side.
It was no surprise when East Thurrock
went 1-0 up after the Chester defence were caught napping
and Calvin Epiteta found the net from a great cross.
The rest of the first half meandered on without any
side making much of an impression, and Chester looking
worryingly unlikely to conjure up an equaliser.
The second half introduction of Craig
Mahon did give Chester some more sparkle, but it was
down to Hornby to keep his side in the match with another
top-notch save. Another substitute - in the shape of
hometown boy Gary Roberts making his Chester debut -
did make a dramatic impact following his appearance
on the 70th minute.
First Roberts laid on a sublime pass
to Hannah, which the striker squandered by failing to
beat Lucas Lidakevicius. Then he was sent off after
a reckless midfield challenge on the 80th minute. Blues
fans were left open-mouthed that their local hero had
lasted just 10 minutes on the field, and there was no
real way back on the Wembley road after that. It was
a deserved win for East Thurrock and disappointing to
see the Blues miss out on some much-needed prize money.
9 January AFC Fylde
1 Chester 1 Football
Attendance: 1,531 Half Time: 0-0
AFC Fylde: Lynch, Montrose, Francis-Angol,
Tunnicliffe, Finley, Rowe, Muldoon (Blinkhorn 79), Grand,
Richards, Smith (Tasdemir 63), Chettle (Bond 74). Subs
not used: Burke, Stubbs. Chester: Hornby, James, Astles, Turnbull
(Hannah 61), White, Dawson, Jones, Akintunde, Shaw, Hall-Johnson,
Gough. Subs not used: Lynch, Mahon, Crawford, Roberts. Referee: Matt Donohue.
White found the net again as the Blues came from behind
to earn another priceless point at AFC Fylde.
Young defender James Jones
started instead of the suspended Andy Halls and that was
the only change from the side that picked up three points
at Ebbsfleet on Saturday.
home side started well with dangerman Danny Rowe forcing
a save from Sam Hornby after just three minutes with
Astles clearing the danger from the subsequent corner.
It wasn’t all Fylde through and a quick break
by Kingsley James saw his dangerous cross headed clear
by Jordan Tunicliffe before White could get on the end
A quick Paul Turnbull free kick found
james Akintunde in space, he squared for Astles who
in turn set up Jones ten yards out but his mis-hit effort
went straight to goalkeeper Jay Lynch.
A last ditch tackle from Tom Shaw
denied Smith a run through on goal and another late
intervention from Jordan Gough denied Rowe a goalscoring
Astles saw an effort from a Turnbull
corner go straight at Lynch as Chester started the second
Despite the Blues having the better
of the second period, Rowe gave the home side the lead
on && minutes glancing home a corner giving
Hornby no chance. The Blues ‘keeper did well to
save from Zaine Francis-Angol’s long-range effort
Chester deservedly drew level on 69
minutes, Ross Hannah intercepted a poor Simon Grand
backpass, he should have converted by Lynch smothered
his shot, fortunately the ball broke to White who slotted
it home to the delight of the travelling support.
The Blues almost grabbed a winner
five minutes from time as Akintunde raced clear down
the right, he pulled the ball back for Reece hall-Johnson
but his effort was saved by Lynch.
produced a dogged defensive display as Harry White scored
the only goal of the game to pick up three vital points
at Ebbsfleet United.
Manager Marcus Bignot made one change from the side that
was second away from winning at Guiseley on New Years
Day, bringing in Tom Shaw for John McCombe. Goalkeeper
Sam Hornby was straight into the action in the opening
minutes collecting Myles Weston shot from the edge of
Striker Danny Kedwell was proving a handful for the Blues
defence, forcing Hornby into another save from a glancing
header. White had the ball in the net on 12 minutes but
unfortunately Kingsley James had been flagged for offside
in the build up.
Andy Halls picked up his tenth yellow card of the season
as he brought down Weston as he was heading clear through
On 21 minutes the Blues struck as James Akintunde fed
White who saw goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore off his line and
curled a shot past him from 30 yards out to open the scoring.
Hornby produced a series of saves
as Ebbsfleet pushed for an equaliser, Sam Magri, Sean
Shields and Kedwell all saw efforts saved and both Ryan
Astles and James were on hand to deny Kedwell on two
White flashed a shot over the bar
just after the start to the second period, the striker
almost doubled the lead on 65 minutes picking up a James
through ball, beating Clark, before sending a shot towards
the corner of the net that Ashmore did well to save
with one hand, though Akintunde was unable to convert
the loose ball.
Reece Hall-Johnson made a couple
of fine tackles to deny Fleet and Jack Powell saw a
shot curl just over from a free-kick. The final effort
of the game fell to Kedwell two minutes from time who
saw Hornby make a superb one handed save to keep out
the striker’s header.
The home side were reduced to ten men in the final minutes
as substitute Bradley Bubb saw red for a late tackle
on Paul Turnbull.
manager Marcus Bignot made four changes to the side beaten
by Guiseley on Boxing Day, as John McCombe, Andy Halls,
Paul Turnbull and James Akintunde came in to replace James
Jones, Tom Shaw the injured Ross Hannah and suspended
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner who was sent off in the home match.
The Lions started the better but it was Paul Turnbull
who had the first chance of the match in the opening ten
minutes firing wide from 20 yards. James Akintunde saw
two half efforts cleared before Rowan Liburd hit the crossbar
with Sam Hornby well beaten after the home player had
shrugged off a Ryan Astles challenge.
Roberts curled a free kick just over following a foul
on the edge of the box by Harry White as the home side
continued to press.
Astles thought he had given Chester the lead after he
stabbed the ball home at the far post following an out
swinging corner but his efforts was ruled out by the referee
for a foul on ‘keeper Maxted.
On the hour mark the Blues did take the lead, Lucas Dawson’s
through ball was held up by Akintunde who slipped a pass
to Kingsley James to fire home into the bottom corner.
Hornby produced a great save to deny Mike Fondop’s
header with six minutes remaining as Guiseley put the
Blues under pressure.
As the game entered stoppage time MacFadzeanv’s
long throw into the box wasn’t cleared by the Blues
defence and Ash Palmer was on hand to equalise from close
range for the home side and deny Chester two crucial points.