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MATCH REPORTS 1998/99
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JANUARY 1999

Saturday 30 January 1999
Mansfield Town 3 Chester City 0

Mansfield Town: Naylor, Ford, Harper, Peters, Rydre, Kerr (Walker 45), Schofield, Clarke, Lormor, Christiie (Peacock 82), Williams. Sub not used: Hackett.
Chester City: Cutler, Davidson (A.Shelton 65), Smith, Richardson, Lancaster, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Conroy (Beckett 65), Reid Subs not used: Wright
Referee: Roy Pearson (Peterlee).

A second half cave-in by City allowed the Stags to claim all three points and there will be little complaint from the 200 or so City fans who made the trip to a murky Field Mill.

It was the home side the started the brightest, forcing a succession of corners that Neil Cutler managed to punch, palm and scoop away from under his bar. Christie and Harper both had shots on target for Mansfield but Cutler did well to smother both. City's first half chances were few and far between with the midfield getting over-run for long periods. Chris Priest hardly had a sniff and Dave Flitcroft's only contribution was another petulant challenge which earned him yet another yellow card.

Mansfield brought on Walker at half-time and five minutes later he opened the scoring. Tony Ford's speculative right wing cross was drifting towards the edge of the box when Neil Cutler and Nick Richardson got in an almighty mess. Richardson got in Cutler's way and the keeper dropped the ball for Walker to have the easiest task to lob the keeper.

Three minutes later City were gifted a great chance to equalise. Ross Davidson crossed from the left wing, Mike Conroy missed with his header from six yards out, the ball however fell to John Murphy who simply couldn't miss – he did, shinning the ball wide from point blank range.

That was it for City. Some superb saves from Neil Cutler helped keep the score down, however he was helpless to stop Lormor's superb shot for Mansfield's second goal.

A double substitution saw Luke Beckett and Andy Shelton on for Davidson and Conroy. Beckett looked lively up front and forced two saves from Naylor before the Stags completed the scoring in the final minute with Lormor adding his second goal.
Saturday 23 January 1999
Cambridge United 2 Chester City 1

Cambridge United: Van Heusden, Chenery, Joseph, Duncan, Campbell, Mustoe, Wanless, Russell, Butler, Walker (Kyd 85), Benjamin. Subs not used: Preece, Youngs.
Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Woods, Richardson, Crosby, Lancaster, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Conroy, Reid (Beckett 71). Subs not used: Wright, Shelton.
Referee:
M. Messias (York).

With Ross Davidson returning after injury City were looking to extend their unbeaten run of matches to eight at the Abbey Stadium. This was a hard fought game between two of the form sides in the league. In a swirling wind it was Chester who created the better of the opening chances. John Murphy sent a header wide from an in swinging corner and Chris Priest forced a fine save from United's Dutch goalkeeper Arjan Van Heusden. Murphy was sent clear again down the right by Davidson but was tackled on the edge of the box.

United took the lead on 38 minutes when Wanless, completely unmarked at the back post, headed home a left wing cross from Russell. Keeper Neil Cutler seemed rooted to his line.

Chester continues to press an shaky home defence and drew level on the stroke of half time. John Murphy was tripped by Marc Joseph n the box as he turned and, with new penalty taker Alex Smith suspended, Andy Crosby stepped up to smash home the equaliser.

That should have given City a boost for the second half but it was the home side who took advantage of a swirling wind that increased through the afternoon. A Russell corner in the 54th minute found its way to the edge of the box, after City failed to clear, and Jamie Campbell hit a low shot just inside the post for what proved to be the winner.

City found it difficult to exert themselves for the rest of the match and were forced to make a change with midfielder Shaun Reid limping off to be replaced by Luke Beckett with 20 minutes remaining.

Following the match City manager Kevin Ratcliffe commented: "I was very pleased with our first half performance against one of the top sides, but there was no doubt their midfield took over after the break and that was where the match was won. They were winning the majority of the second balls and we didn't have the possession to get out of the wind. But I've been very pleased with our run up to now, and I don't think a defeat in a game where we may have been slightly on top in the first half is going to be a big knock-back to us".
Friday 15 January 1999
Chester City 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

Chester City: Cutler, Woods, Smith, Richardson, Crosby, Lancaster, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Conroy, Aiston (A.Shelton 87). Subs not used; Wright, Beckett.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Ormerod, Brown, Sturgess, (Westcott 54), Minton (Mayo 62), Johnson, Arnott, Armstrong, Bennett, Moralee, Barker, Culverhouse. Sub not used, Ansah.
Referee: P.Walton (Northamptonshire).

For the second successive game City were robbed of a victory with a last-gasp goal. However on an emotional Fans United 3 night, what happened off the pitch was more important. The Blues couldn't have tried any harder and created numerous goalscoring opportunities but once again failed to turn their superiority into goals. At the back City were solid with man of the match Alex Smith and Martyn Lancaster outstanding.

Supporters from more than 40 clubs came along to show their support for the problems faced by clubs in the lower divisions. Banners, club colours and the Lincoln City air-raid siren! helped create a carnival atmosphere.

The Blues had several half-chances to open the scoring with Murphy, Woods and Smith all having efforts on goal. The Seagulls' only real chance came following a Sturgess cross which the sliding Jeff Minton just failed to connect with 12 yards out.

City took the lead in first half injury time direct from a Brighton corner. Chris Priest's close range block fell to Dave Flitcroft whose inch perfect pass from defence sent Alex Smith racing away. The full back ran the length of the pitch before cutting inside Culverhouse and shooting for goal, his effort was saved by Ormerod but Mike Conroy was on hand to net the rebound to the delight of the home fans.

Following the break it was all City. Dave Flitcroft missed a glorious chance to double the lead. He found himself six yards out with the ball at his feet following a close turn only to shoot straight at the keeper. In a brief flurry up field Brighton thought they'd equalised when Moralee headed home but was adjudged offside.

The action swung straight down the other end and there is remained for the most of the half. Sam Aiston, playing his last game for City, was causing problems down the right and he set up chances for both Murphy and Priest. Richardson and Flitcroft also had shots on goal.

As the end of the game approached, Ormerod almost punched the ball into his own net following another City corner but Johnson hacked the ball clear.

But, just as City was holding out for a well deserved three points, Jamie Moralee was adjudged to have been pushed by Martin Lancaster and the referee pointed to the spot. Cutler was sent the wrong way by Armstrong from the spot and the points were shared.
Saturday 9 January 1999
Leyton Orient 2 Chester City 2

Leyton Orient: Mackenzie, M.Joseph, Lockwood, Smith, Ampadu, Clark, Ling, Richards, McDougald, Simba (Watts 69), Beall. Sub not used: Inglethorpe.
Chester City: Cutler, Davidson (Richardson 65), Smith, Reid, Lancaster, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Conroy, Aiston. Subs not used; A.Shelton, Wright.
Referee: A.Hall (Sutton Coldfield).

The Blues will be disappointed at once again letting a victory slip away as they fought back after an early setback in this entertaining game at Brisbane Road.

They found themselves a goal down after just 90 seconds as an underhit back pass from Martyn Lancaster caught Neil Cutler short and fomer French International striker Amara Simba ran through to beat the keeper to the ball, lobbing him and heading into an empty net despite challenges from Lancaster and Woods. Orient went for the kill with their main threat coming from a succession of inswinging corners that troubled the City defence. Orient were wasteful up front with Simba being the main culprit missing two great chances.

Against the run of play City equalised following a superb run by on-loan Sam Aiston. Having switched wings, Aiston picked the ball up from Chris Priest and steamed down the right touchline leaving everyone in his wake. His cross was met by Conroy whose effort was blocked only for John Murphy to be on hand to net his eight goal of the season. City should have taken the lead with Priest just not being able to reach Dave Flitcroft's teasing cross only yards in front of goal. Both sides had chances to go in at the break in front, Matt Woods cleared off the line from Simba and Shaun Reid's snap shot was well covered.

After the break Orient again started strongly but it was City who took the lead on 60 minutes. Matt Woods cracking goalbound shot was saved two-handed by defender Richards on the line and he was red-carded for the offence. Alex Smith coolly slotted home the penalty, 2-1.

The game turned minutes later though as Ross Davidson pulled up in front of the City fans with a pulled hamstring. Before he could be replaced, and with both sides now down to 10 men, Orient equalised. Joseph's right wing cross was turned home by Simba as City's defence looked at one another.

Twice City cleared dangerous attacks as the home side went for the winner, but Neil Cutler pulled off a superb late save to deny Martin Ling as City held out and extended their unbeaten run to six matches.
Saturday 2 January 1999
Chester City 1 Southend United 1

Chester City: Cutler, Davidson, Smith, Reid, Lancaster, Woods; Wright, Priest, Murphy, Conroy (Moss 86), Aiston. Subs not used; Carson, Blackburn.
Southend United: Margetson, Morley (Gooding 42), Dublin, Beard, Newman, Coleman, Maher, Livett (Clarke 81), Conlon, Burns, Houghton. Sub not used Johnson.
Referee: Roy Pearson (Peterlee).

After the latest in a series of incredible escapes for the Chester goal, early in the second half, Terry turned round and said. "That's it, we'll win today. Cos if they don't score from a chance like that they never will." What happened was that Cutler missed a tackle and left the goal gaping, the ball was pulled back, the shot came in only for it to be scrambled off the line. Just after half time Southend had City penned into their own half.

The most incredible miss was still to come. Again another attempt on goal was hacked off the line by a City defender (Sorry this was all happening at the far end and it was really difficult to identify who it was) only for it to hit a Southend forward on the head and for the ball to cannon off the underside of the bar and away again.

Southend were not a great side but they easily had more clear cut chances than City on Saturday. Chester had a severely weakened team out with Crosby and Shelton suspended and Flitcroft still off with the flu. Richardson failed a late fitness test. Play was pretty scrappy for much of the first half, the game littered with errors. At the far end Conroy went close with a flicked shot from Aiston's cross, Priest brought out a reflex save from Margetson after a quickley taken free kick. For their part Southend came closest in the first half when Lancaster inexplicably ducked under a cross and Woods hacked the ball inches over his own cross bar. Cutler mesmerised the wily Conlon into heading the ball straight at him when a downward header would surely have brought a goal.

Comical entertainment was provided by Alex Burns who responded to barracking from the crowd with a lewd gesture and then made a complete arse of himself a minute later when he sliced a cross over the roof and ended up on his back right in front of us.

Morley, having a torrid time against Aiston was substitued before half time. He was replaced by the veteran Gooding who came on as the match was engulfed in a torrential downpour.

After half time, as I said, Chester could hardly get out of their own half. Scott Houghton who has already scored a spectacular goal for Peterborough against us earlier this season was particularly threatening with his running with the ball.

Darren Wright was having difficulty getting much sight of the ball as he valiantly tried to fill in on the right of midfield. But after about an hour or so City, perhaps taking heart from all those escapes in front of their own goal began to string a few passes together. Priest, as ever worked his socks off trying to get Chester in the game, (but still some of the home fans barracked him for the odd mistake).

Chester's goal when it arrived was an absolute stunner. Conroy floated a pass to the far post from forty yards out and Murphy came steaming in to volley the ball in with perfect precision.

After that City seemed the stronger side and the vistors heads visibly went down. Several niggles had begun to develop in this hard fought match though and Reid was booked for a late tackle. On 82 minutes worse was to follow when Aiston, reacted to having his ankle tapped by shoving Gooding to the floor. A red card followed for him instantly. Smith closely followed into the ref's notebook as City's collective discipline went for a Burton.

Four minutes of injury time were signalled by the reserve official, not an unreasonable amount though the ref had actually caused about half of it by being fussy about when the trainers could come on.

City kept the ball by the corner flag for three and a half of those minutes as they won several throws and a corner. The ref pointed to his watch a couple of times to indicate he was perhaps adding more time on while the ball was out of play.

Then Reid was tackled and Southend sprung the play to the Chester end. Smith looked to have mopped up the danger but slipped slightly getting the ball on to his left foot and conceded a corner. Years of experience made every cynical City fan expect, no demand, that we let Southend equalise. And sure enough the ball came over and bobbled around for an agonising few seconds until Newman put the ball in the net and us out of our misery.

The Southend fans went apopleptic and who could blame them. They had seemed cursed never to score in a month of Sundays.

No complaints about the result but what a cruel way to snatch yet another (Our eighth) home draw from the jaws of victory.

Colin Mansley

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