Christmas came early for the 119 Chester fans who made
their way to Eastleigh for a match most of them wouldn’t
have been expecting to produce such an emphatic result
for the Blues.
In fact, the opening spell of the
game looked like a confident Eastleigh would emerge
as victors. Their newly-signed winger Ross Stearn repeatedly
found himself in space, but failed to capitalise on
the opportunities. The hosts almost went ahead with
a strike which saw Tom Shaw in the right place to clear
the ball off the line.
Eastleigh were also featuring recent
record signing Bonz N’Gala,
but he was among those caught out by Chester’s
first chance on goal. A good move saw James Alabi pass
to Johnny Hunt. He made a great cross for Kane Richards,
who slotted the ball home to make it 1-0 to yellow-clad
Chester after 20 minutes.
Both sides pressed to score before
half-time, but it was Chester who came closest with
one of those spells where the ball pinged about in the
box but somehow failed to find the net.
Not long after the re-start, Eastleigh
had a good chance to equalise, but Chester goalkeeper
Alex Lynch made his best save of the afternoon. Chester
were still looking dangerous, with Craig Mahon looking
increasingly lively. But it was a pass from Ryan Lloyd
that ultimately led to the second Chester goal. Richards
was pushed in the box as he ran onto Lloyd's excellent
assist, and despite Eastleigh protests, a penalty was
spot-kick was saved, but Elliott Durrell pounced on
the rebound to put Chester 2-0 up with 20 minutes to
41-year-old substitute Jamie Cureton, couldn’t
find the net in the remaining minutes. In fact it was
Chester who rubbed in their win with a 90th minute goal
from Jordan Chapell.
He took the ball well and slotted
it past Scott Brown to send the Eastleigh fans heading
straight for the exit. There were five minutes of injury
time, but neither side looked like making another impact
on the scoreline and the visitors went home with a well-deserved
Burr returned to Chester for the first time since his
departure last April. The match was perhaps typical of
what might have been expected with his Southport team
fighting back from a two-goal deficit to achieve a draw.
When Burr took Chester to his former club Kidderminster
for the first time it was a similar match and result –
a Kiddie fan remarking that we should know what to expect
from a Steve Burr side – they never ever give up.
After this game Burr said he felt it was travesty that
the Sandgrounders were 2-0 down at half time. In truth
they had posed a serious attacking threat in the first
period but they also looked liable to concede. Richards
got City off the mark with the first following a move
which started on the left with Mahon and finished with
Durrell on the right floating in a clever cross. Richards
met it at the far post and nodded in for 1-0. The goal
came soon after a narrow escape for the Chester goal.
Hughes had been sold short by a pass and had the ball
nicked from him by Grimes who looked certain to score
but Lynch saved superbly.
Alabi did well to find Shaw with a lobbed pass but the
Chester skipper could not quite bring the ball under control.
It was Alabi himself who doubled City’s lead shortly
after when he headed home at the same far post direct
from Lloyd’s corner. Hughes might have added another
as he followed up Alabi’s shot, parried by Norman,
but the chance went begging. But Southport continued to
try to strike back. Grimes’ stooping header at the
near post was blocked by Lynch and then centre back Jack
Higgins nodded wide when well placed from his namesake
Ryan’s right wing cross.
Blues weathered a storm after the break as the Sandgrounders
came out with a flea in their ear. They continued to pin
Chester in their own half as the Blues sat deep and allowed
the visitors to build from the back and run at them with
the ball. It looked as though City were going to tough
it out and protected Lynch fairly well. Grimes had another
effort magnificently saved by the City keeper but then
the Blues cracked when the ball came to Andrai Jones rather
fortuitously on the edge of the area but he hit a first
time shot into the corner to pull a goal back.
The visitors had their tails up now and Allen and McKenna
began to run City ragged. Blues were unable to match the
energy with which Southport chased the game and not even
the introduction of Chapell and Joyce – the same
combination as last Saturday- could stem the flow of the
incoming tide. Again Lynch was beaten by a crisp low effort
from outside the box. This time it was Allen who fired
in to equalise. Lynch had already been named man of the
match by then and if it wasn’t for his efforts City
may well have slipped to defeat.
As it was they dug in and rallied and could have snatched
the points if Hughes had been able to direct his header
better – but it was a rare opportunity in a heavy-legged
second half display by the Blues. The home fans left despondent
and disappointed not to have closed out a win in retaliation
for defeat to Southport in the FA Cup a few weeks ago
but few would argue that the Sandgounders did not deserve
the point. It had been a roller coaster ride for them
on the Steve Burr Express. Jon McCarthy, in contrast,
seems more content with the steady progress City are making
this season and remarked afterwards that he is really
looking forward to pitting his wits against the formidable
challenge of Eastleigh on Saturday.
the euphoria of snatching a point in an entertaining draw
at Prenton Park, Chester had lost the services of assistant
manager Ian Sharps who left the club this week to take
up a full-time post with Walsall. There were times this
afternoon when Jon McCarthy cut a forlorn figure in the
technical area as he stood alone and watched his charges
struggle against a well-disciplined Bromley.
The visitors began in more business like fashion than
City who seemed sluggish in comparison. The high pressing
Ravens employed their wings well and pinned the Blues
back for long periods of the first half. They took the
lead following a comedy of errors on the edge of the Chester
box. Mahon blocked a pass then tried to clear but struck
Tobi Sho Silva. The ball cannoned to Hudson whose clearance
struck Mahon and the rebound fell to Turgott. The in-form
striker drove the ball past Lynch for his seventh league
goal of the season.
Bromley’s industry off the ball forced Chester into
clearing long and starved forwards Richards and Alabi
of the ball. Mahon fed Alabi for a rare chance at goal
with the ball at his feet but Swaine timed his tackle
well to deny him.
When City continued to struggle after the break, McCarthy
made a double change. After shenanigans with the electronic
board when the fourth official (He held up two elevens)
seemed to indicate Chapell was coming on to replace himself,
he took Durrell’s place, while Joyce came on for
Mahon. Richards took up a position on the left and the
Blues began to move the ball with more urgency. As Richards
was presented with opportunities to run at Bromley with
the ball at his feet, the visitors tried to deny him room.
But soon he was travelling at speed into the box, having
beaten two defenders he was caught by a third and sent
sprawling. Skipper Tom Shaw despatched the penalty kick
magnificently and celebrated exuberantly – frustration
Chester could not do enough to win the three points, though
they might have snatched it at the death when Chapell
found the ball at his feet following Alabi’s flick
on – but Julian saved well and scrambled the ball
away. Even then Bromley almost grasped a winner too but
Lynch did extremely well to turn Higgs’ header round
The games are coming thick and fast now with Steve Burr’s
return to the Deva with Southport on Tuesday. Only after
that match, said McCarthy will he look to find a replacement
for Sharps. Until then he is working a double shift.
Astles scored a stoppage time
equaliser as Chester come from two goals back to draw
an entertaining game at Prenton Park.
Manager Jon McCarthy made just one change from the side
beaten at home by Lincoln City last week with Kane Richards
replacing Jordan Chapell who dropped to the bench.
The first period was shared with both sides having plenty
of possession without producing any real efforts of
note. Tranmere struck twice in four minutes to take
control of the game after half an hour. First Andy Cook
controlled a left side cross from loanee Ben Tollitt
before sending a half volley past Alex Lynch in the
Chester goal. Minutes later Tollitt himself scored firing
across Lynch from 15 yards out after there appeared
to be a handball in the build-up.
Chester settled and began to create chances themselves
just before the break. Richards was unlucky to see an
effort come back off the bar following good build-up
play from Craig Mahon and Elliott Durrell saw an effort
saved by Scott Davies low down.
The Blues started the second period well and pulled
a goal back on 50 minutes as Ryan Lloyd’s cross
from the right was met by captain Tom Shaw who steered
an unmarked header into the top right corner of the
net leaving Davies stranded.
Shaw almost added a second soon after
this time heading Durrell’s cross straight at
Davies. Tranmere responded and Andy Mangan forced a
great save out of Lynch just as it looked like the striker
would add a third from close range.
On 65 minutes Rovers were reduced
to ten men as Tollitt was shown a second yellow card
after diving in the penalty area. Chester began to get
a grip and make their extra man count. Both Durrell
and Astles saw efforts fly just wide as they pressed
for an equaliser. Lloyd saw another effort just clear
the bar from a Mahon pass.
As the game entered five minutes added time the Blues
sent Astles up. Sam Hughes played the ball out of defence
to Johnny Hunt on the left and he pushed forward unchallenged
before lifting a cross that was met on the edge of the
box by Astles on the turn and he sent a half volley
into the bottom corner of the net to spark jubilant
scenes with the 1,200 away support behind the goal.