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Wednesday 29 March
Boston United 1 Chester City 3
League Two
Attendance: 1,651 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Artell.

Boston United: Kuipers, Silk, Greaves, Canoville, McCann, Maylett (Till 47), Holland (Thomas 47), Rusk, Clarke, Dudfield, Joachim. Subs not used: White, Hall, Melton.
Chester City: MacKenzie, Artell, Hessey, Albrighton, Regan (Dimech 48), McNiven, El Kholti, Davies, Drummond, Asamoah (Rutherford 73), Edwards (Tait 69). Subs not used: Harrison, S.Vaughan.
Referee: E.Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).

City’s long wait for a League win finally came at end at the 10th attempt here at York Street. On-loan striker Derek Asamoah rightly took the headlines after notching a hat-trick, but credit should also go to an all-round team performance that will boost confidence as City embark on their end of season run-in.

Ryan Lowe and Michael Branch both missed the game, it’s since been reported the pair had a disagreement with manager Mark Wright at Sunday’s game and as a result were dropped.

Their absence enabled a recall for Asamoah who played alongside Jake Edwards up front. There was also a welcome return of goalkeeper Chris MacKenzine after a thumb injury had kept him out of the previous 18 matches.

There was a slow start to the proceedings, MacKenzie comfortably saved a Jamie Clarke header and Ben Davies saw a 20-yarder fizz wide in the opening ten minutes.

Defender David Artell found himself in the referee’s notebook before bringing out a fine save from Michel Kuipers as his headed looked goalbound just a minute later.

Four minutes before the break Asamoah tried along range effort that flew just wide, two minutes later though he had the ball in the net. A blunder between Lee Canoville and his keeper in the box set up Asamoah who took advantage of the loose ball and tuned it into the unguarded net to give City a well deserved half-time lead.

Two minutes after the break Luke Dimech replaced Carl Regan and no sooner had he done so than City extended their lead. Artell headed back Davies’ far post corner and Asamoah reacted quickest, turning and shooting home.

City were on top with Asamoah’s pace giving the Pilgrims defence all sorts of trouble. Kuipers did well again to turn an effort from Drummond round the post before Asamoah completed his hat-trick on the hour racing through on to a well placed through ball before slipping the ball past Kuipers.

Paul Rutherford was introduced as Asamoah left the pitch to generous applause from both City’s small band of fans and the locals.

Just before the end Simon Rusk scored a consolation goal for the home side who suddenly found some urgency but City held firm for three valuable points to lift them clear of the relegation zone.

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Sunday 26 March
Wrexham 2 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 7,240 Half Time 2-0
Booked: Branch, Albrighton, Lowe.

Wrexham: Ingham, Pejic, Danny Williams, Lawrence, Bennett, Crowell, Ferguson, Mark Jones, Holt, Derbyshire, Sam Williams. Subs not used: Michael Jones, Walters, Spender, Done, Mike Williams.
Chester City: Harrison, Albrighton, Artell, Ellender, McNiven, Drummond, Davies, El Kholti (Rutherford 75), Regan (Lowe 62), Branch, Edwards. Subs not used: MacKenzie, Hessey, Tait.
Referee: A.Leake (Lancashire).

City’s first visit to the Racecourse for over a decade ended in defeat but only after a spirited late fight back that almost brought a point in a dramatic finale.

On-loan striker Jake Edwards returned to his old stamping ground to debut for the Blues alongside Michael Branch. Ryan Lowe started on the bench while Gregg Blundell missed out altogether through injury.

Edwards was in the action from the start and only a timely tackle prevented a shot at goal in the opening minutes, however, backed by a noisy following of just over 1300 fans City soon found themselves a goal down.

Referee Leake awarded Wrexham a corner, despite the ball coming off a home player last, Crowell’s flag-kick was whipped in to the near post where Danny Williams headed home into the bottom corner unmarked past Harrison who appeared to move late to attempt a save.

Things went from bad to worse two minutes later. An almighty melee in the penalty area saw players from both sides on the ground struggling to clear the ball. However Leake pointed to the penalty spot after adjudging a foul by David Artell on Williams.

Crowell stepped up to take the spot-kick but saw his effort saved by Harrison down to his right, first pushing the ball away then pouncing on the rebound.

Despite the home side being on top for long periods, City were presented with a great chance to equalise midway through the half. Branch intercepted a cross-field pass just over the half-way and raced through on goal one-on-one, he took the ball wide however and a Williams tackle prevented the striker from testing Ingham in the home goal.

Minutes later the Blues were paying for that miss as the home side added a decisive second before the break. Carl Regan was dispossessed by the lively Matt Derbyshire down the right, he fed the ball to Mark Jones who skipped another tackle before launching an unstoppable 20-yarder past Harrison who had no chance.

Whatever was said at half-time on the Chester dressing room certainly hit home and the Blues, out early for the second half, upped their tempo as they kicked towards their away following.

Ryan Lowe replaced Regan and City suddenly had an urgency about them missing in the first half.

City forced a number of corners and both Branch and Drummond both saw headers go wide. Lowe also forced a good save from Ingham and saw a great teasing cross evade everyone in the box before being cleared.

Derbyshire, sent through one-on-one, had a chance to put the game beyond doubt but Harrison came rushing out and saved at the feet of the striker when a third goal looked likely.

With 15 minutes remaining Paul Rutherford joined the fray at the expense of Abdel El Kholti and immediately despatched a curling long range effort that Ingham comfortably held. Minutes later the young winger made a run across goal into the box, just before Ingram tackled him he managed to flick the ball back but it fell agonisingly just behind the onrushing Drummond.

Two minutes from time City got the breakthrough their pressure deserved. Edwards picked the ball up outside the box, stormed through two tackles before lashing home an unstoppable shot.

As the Blues fans behind the goal roared on their team, the fourth official indicated a minimum of four minutes of added time was to be played. Edwards saw a shot saved and Drummond saw an effort scrambled clear as City pushed for the equaliser.

In the third minute of added time Paul Ellender found himself with the ball six yards out at the back post after another goalmouth spot of pinball, he turned to shoot, and, as a goal looked certain a last ditch save from Shaun Pejic’s leg on the line deflected the ball clear with almost the last kick of the match.

As Leake blew the final whistle, the City fans remained behind to applaud off their team for a valiant effort. The spirit and fight shown in the second half must now be taken into the remaining nine fixtures though if the Blues are to avoid a quick return to the Nationwide Conference.

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Wednesday 22 March
Bury Reserves 3 Chester City Reserves 3
Pontins Holiday Deague Division One west
Half Time 2-1
Booked: Lowe, McNiven. Sent-off: Hessey.

Bury: Smith, Brass, Quigley, Adams, Parrish, Wallwork, Newby, Baguley, Speight, Tipton (Stepian 57) Pugh. Subs not used: Clarkson, Peatfield, Stephens, Williams.
Chester City: Lake, J.Vaughan, El Kholti, Hessey, Artell, Dimech, Rutherford (Scales 88) S.Vaughan, Richardson, Asamoah (Marsh-Evans 79) Holroyd. Subs not used: Brookfield, Potter, Cadwallader.
Referee: M.Short.

With a sombre mood hanging over the club in recent weeks, it was a delight to be in attendance at Radcliffe Borough, where I witnessed players wearing the shirt of the club with immense pride.

The game started at an electrifying pace and rarely relented throughout, with the play switching from end to end with slick passing and fast counter attacks. With Chester playing a 3-4-3 formation, one felt that Hessey, Artell and Dimech might struggle at the back, but credit where credit is due they coped well, up against the youthful legs of Speight and Tipton.

With the pace so frantic it wasn’t long before gaps where being found and the first chance fell to Bury, in the shape of Adams, who put through by Tipton, found himself 1-on-1 with Lake. In blocking his shot, Lake lay prostrate as the ball rebounded back into the path of Adams; only for Dimech to save the day with a well timed last ditch challenge. From the resulting clearance, Rutherford started a fast counter attack, carrying the ball some 30 yards and releasing El Kholti on the left. Unfortunately play broke down when Richardson under-hit his cross and it was easily cleared. Nonetheless, Chester went close two minutes later when Artell headed the ball narrowly over from Rutherford’s corner.

With the pace still frantic, it was not unusual that the first goal came from an error, and unfortunately for Chester, Richardson’s loose touch on the halfway line led to Bury’s goal, with Adams going on a mazy run and winning a corner. From the resulting set piece the ball was headed back across the box, where it fell to Tipton, who from 12 yards out slammed the ball into Lake’s bottom right-hand corner. Despite this setback, Chester dug in and responded well with good phases of play involving El Kholti, Rutherford and Stephen Vaughan. Hence, it was no real surprise when Chester pulled level in the 25th minute!

Having played a short corner to SVJ, Rutherford assisted by running back out along the touchline, and on receiving the ball back from Vaughan then whipped in a magnificent ball to the far post, which was met by the head of Artell. However, some seven minutes later, Rutherford found himself putting the ball into the wrong net!

With Dimech conceding a free kick out on the left flank, the ball was whipped in, where it dropped inside the six-yard box and Lake produced a magnificent save low to his right, unfortunately it rebounded back out into a melee of Chester players. With no one looking to clear the danger, Rutherford ran back and in an attempt to clear, then steered the ball into his own net. Not to be outdone Chester continued to ask questions of the Bury defence and in the 40th minute they came close to equalising. Rutherford’s corner was headed down into a crowded penalty area, where it eventually came out to Hessey, whose thunderous shot was cleared off the line.

Little did we know that the turning point of the game was to come, with Hessey being dismissed three minutes later! Having been on the receiving end of a reckless and late challenge on the edge of his own area a couple of minutes earlier, it was apparent that Hessey spoke out of line to referee Short, resulting in him being sent off for foul and abusive language. Hence, resulting in at least a three-match ban. With Chester now down to ten men it would be interesting to see how they responded in the second half?

Chester started the second half in vibrant mood, and took the game by the scruff of the neck. Early doors saw some good link up play between El Kholti, Rutherford, Asamoah and SVJ, with Holroyd and Richardson continuing to show willing up front. Surely it would only be a matter of time before Chester got on equal terms, but they so nearly went another goal behind eleven minutes into the half. Thankfully, Lake was up to the challenge and pulled of a magnificent save from Speight’s snapshot into the bottom right corner.

Despite this little glitch Chester continued to probe the Bury defence and in the 57th minute squandered a golden opportunity, when Holroyd shot wide with Rutherford the better option, totally unmarked to his left inside the penalty area. However, two minutes later they got themselves level, when SVJ split the Bury defence wide open, playing a delightful ball into the path of Richardson. Richardson evaded the challenge of the covering defender and rounded the keeper to stroke the ball into the back of an empty net.

Having got themselves level, Chester failed to take the lead in the 61st minute when Richardson latched onto SVJ’s through ball and whipped the ball across the face of the goal, where Asamoah sliced his shot. With the left back then shielding the ball out of play, for a throw-in Rutherford nipped the ball of his foot, and on leaving him for dead crossed the ball in to Asamoah who narrowly headed wide. With Chester in such buoyant mood you’d have thought they had twelve men on the pitch, such was their dominance, with El Kholti continually causing problems on the left, Richardson and Holroyd up front participating in shooting practice. Backed up by two sturdy centre backs, who won everything in the air, and two centre midfielders who worked their socks off.

Having dominated for a good 20 minute spell, they where so unlucky not to take the lead again, when Rutherford produced a sublime piece of play in the centre of the field where he broke free from two challenging players, brushing aside their desperate challenges, he drove forward finding Richardson. Richardson’s resulting shot rebounded back of the keeper and into the path of Rutherford whose lob from 25 yards just fell short and was headed clear.

Nevertheless, despite this exciting period of play it was Bury who took the lead, much against the run of play in the 73rd minute. Having broken up the left wing, the ball was played across the face of the penalty area where it eventually fell to Pugh and he didn’t need a second invitation.

Despite running on empty the ten men of Chester continued to press, and with the introduction of fresh legs they got their just rewards in time added on, when El Kholti went on a mazy run, culminating in a one, two with Marsh-Evans, El Kholti drilling the ball into the back of the net, thus clinching a hard earned point.

Overall, a heroic performance from a team who bounced back three times, showing no fear whatsoever, with good individual performances all round. But special mentions must go to Artell and Dimech at the back. SVJ for some splendid passes that dissected the Bury defence, Paul Rutherford for his tenacity, subbed in the 88th minute having run his legs off. El Kholti for his menacing runs up the left wing, Richardson who showed just what he is capable of, given the right ball, and Chris Holroyd who showed no fear in front of goal, not afraid to shoot and take responsibility. The last and final mention goes to Jim Hackett, who remains unbeaten as Reserve Team Manager!
Saturday 18 March
Chester City 0 Cheltenham Town 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,281 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Lowe, McNiven.

Chester City: Harrison, Regan (S.Vaughan 52), Albrighton, McNiven, Ellender, Davies, Curtis (El Kholti 46), Drummond, Branch, Blundell (Richardson 63), Lowe. Subs not used: Artell, Hessey.
Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Caines, Townsend, Armstrong, Melligan, McCann (Bird 58), Finnigan, Wilson (Bell 83), Odejayi (Spencer 63), Guinan. Subs not used: Brown, Wylde.
Referee: J.Moss (Hull).

Despite enjoying plenty of possession throughout the 90 minutes City once again failed to get on the scoresheet and suffering another 1-0 defeat to leave them propping up the Football League.

Michael Branch returned for City at the expense of Shaun Hessey who dropped to the bench while there was no place at all in the squad for striker Paul Tait.

The Blues started brightly. Tom Curtis tried a long range effort on just 30 seconds that we held by Shane Higgs in the visitors goal, seconds later Stewart Drummond sent Gregg Blundell through, he elected to pull the ball back for Branch but defender Craig Armstrong stuck in a leg at the vital moment, the same defender blocked an effort from Ryan Lowe as City looked for a confidence boosting early goal.

City however were caught with a sucker punch just a minute later as Grant McCann’s long ball sent Brian Wilson away and the Robins midfielder swept the ball past Paul Harrison to open the scoring.

The Blues enjoyed plenty of possession for the rest pf the half but found it difficult to break down a determined Cheltenham defence. Ben Davies sent in some teasing crosses, Blundell was just unable to get on the end of one midway through the half. At the other end Wilson saw a deflected shot saved by Harrison after McCann’s free-kick had been charged down by the City wall.

Five minutes before the break Drummond saw a volley well saved by Higgs after good work on the right from Carl Regan.

Manager Mark right made a change at the break bringing of Abdel El Kholti at the expense of Curtis. As with the first, City started the second period well forcing an early corner that Davies wasted. Lowe tested Higgs with a close range effort before the Blues forced a succession of corners though, as before, they were unable to test Higgs with any of them.

Stephen Vaughan replaced Regan and Marcus Richardson was introduced at the expense of Blundell as City looked to for that elusive equaliser. Richardson knocked down a great ball for Drummond who shot wide and Higgs saved low down from Davies in City’s last real chance of the game.

Harrison remained a virtual spectator in the City goal for the second period such was City’s dominance. However this dominance must be turned into goals if City are to pull clear of the relegation zone in their final ten matches.

Manager Mark Wright said after this latest defeat: Wright said: ”We’ve more or less dominated after naive defending gifted them a goal. When you look at our forwards you think there are enough goals there, but perhaps I need to look at bringing someone in. It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but I don’t know how we didn’t score three or four.”

League Two table

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Chester City Under 18 3 Burnley Under 18 1
Youth Alliance North and Midlands West Conference
Half Time 1-1

Chester City: Lake, Potter, Feliciello, Roberts, Marsh-Evans, Scales, Rutherford, Wade, Cadwallader (Owen 73), Holroyd, Newton (Carrol 65). Subs not used: Armstrong, Morgan, Jones.
Matthews, Stott, Casey, Smith (McDonald 70), Overson, Hoskin, Underwood, Kay, Turner (Thomas 70), Rodriguez, Akbar. Subs not used: Young.

As well as giving Feliciello a full debut at left back, Chester welcomed back Sean Lake in goal. Lake, who impressed during Keith Curle’s reign, is now being given a second chance to impress.

Within minutes of the start Chester began asking questions of the Burnley defence, with Rutherford impressing down the right wing, giving the left back Casey a real headache, and Holroyd also looking to add to his goal tally. After 6 minutes Casey having had enough of Rutherford gave away a silly free kick in a dangerous area, and was fortunate to see the resulting header shave the crossbar. With Chester firmly in the driving seat, they took the lead three minutes later when Scales put Holroyd clean through with a delightful pass that split the defence wide open, and with only the keeper to beat Holroyd coolly slotted home.

Immediately from the restart Chester where denied a stonewall penalty when Holroyd was pulled down by the prostrate Matthews. With the opening goal having a hint of offside about it, one can only surmise that this decision was a leveller. Nonetheless, Chester continued to control the tempo of the game, with Rutherford continually ghosting past the left back and delivering some delightful balls into the box, where Holroyd, Wade and Cadwallader came close to increasing the lead.

Despite Chester laying siege on the visitor’s goal, Burnley continued to ride their luck, and in the 33rd minute the sucker punch arrived. For the first time in the game Chester failed to clear their lines when the ball was played long up field, and Turner set it back to Smith, who thumped the ball past Lake from just outside the penalty area.

The second half started off with the same familiarity as the first half, with Chester dominating in every department. Holroyd was denied early on when Matthews thwarted his effort with a good 1-on-1 save. Nevertheless, the break through come just ten minutes after the restart when Scales played the ball over the top for Marsh-Evans, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net from some 12 yards out.

For the remainder of the half, Chester continued to dominate with Rutherford and Scales putting in excellent displays in midfield; Burnley now doubling up on Rutherford in an attempt to quell the onslaught, a tactic that failed dismally. Unfortunately, some of the home team at times showed naivety, and made the schoolboy error of wanting to get on the score-sheet when better options where clearly available.

However, unlike the first half, one felt assured that Burnley wouldn’t be allowed back into this game as Chester remained encamped in their opponents half, and in the 83rd minute Chester scored a third. After some delightful passing between Rutherford and Carroll, the latter found Potter out on the right wing, who in turn crossed the ball first time, where Scales, unmarked in the penalty area, headed the ball home.

In fairness this was a young Burnley team, but in truth Chester have only ever lost by the single goal on the two previous occasions that these teams have met. Albeit, Chester squandered numerous chances and should have come away with a much bigger margin, thus lessons need to be learnt, that against better opposition you will get punished! Hence, the need to maintain your discipline, and the importance of making the right choices by finishing your chances has got to be like second nature, on a different day against a better team, those misses could have been more costly!
Saturday 11 March
Darlington 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,593 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Albrighton, Curtis.

Darlington: Russell, Stockdale, Clarke, Martis, Valentine, Webster (S.Johnson 84), Keltie, Peacock (Wainwright 59), Dickman, Cooke (Sodje 76), J.Johnson. Subs not used: Norton, Kendrick.
Chester City: Harrison, McNiven, Albrighton, Ellender, Hessey (El Kholti 77), Regan (Tait 70), Drummond, Curtis, Davies, Lowe, Blundell. Subs not used: Artell, Richardson, S.Vaughan.
Referee: C.Boyeson (East Yorkshire).

A single goal fifteen minutes from time was enough to sink City who slipped precariously to within a point of a relegation spot after this latest defeat at the TFM Darlington Arena. Slack marking from a corner allowed Shelton Martis to head home the only goal of the game that had seen the home side reduced to ten men with half an hour to go after Clark Keltie was red carded after lashing out at Ryan Lowe.

In truth the Blues will be kicking themselves for not coming away from the cold north-east with a point after missing several second half chances.

City had to weather some early pressure as the home side as Robbie Stockdale and Andy Cooke looked for an opening but goalkeeper Paul Harrison, making his second appearance for City was rarely troubled in the opening stages. As the half wore on through he was called upon to deny both Cooke and the pacy American Jamel Johnson who was making his Darlington debut.

For City, their first real effort on the Quakers goal came just after the half hour mark, when Gregg Blundell and Ryan Lowe combined well to set up Ben Davies whose 20 yarder produced a superb save out of Russell in the home goal who pushed the ball behind for a corner.

The game was being evenly contested with neither side able to take control in a lacklustre first half.

Keltie went close for the home side soon after the break with a volley that stung Harrison but minutes later the midfielder was departing after his straight red card after aiming an elbow at Lowe right in front of referee Boyeson’s nose. For the second time in a week City were up against ten men for the final half hour.

The home side could easily have been reduced to nine men after Valentine, already on a yellow card, was involved in a mini-brawl but received only a lecture from referee Boyeson.

As is often the case the dismissal only served to boost the the remaining ten players and with a quarter of an hour of the game left Martis struck to head neil Wainwright’s corner past Harrison, and a defender on the post, to keep alive the hosts hopes of securing a play-off place.

Blundell missed a great opportunity to draw City level just minutes later as he managed to head the ball away from goal when an equaliser seemed certain. Paul Tait, on for Carl Regan, set up Blundell again but the striker screwed his shot wide from 18 yards as City pressed.

At the other end Harrison kept City in the game three minutes from time when he saved from a Johnson one-one-one after the striker had been sent clear by Sodje.

With five minutes of added time to play City went close two more times with a long range efforts from substitute Abdel El Kholti and Blundell, but it wasn’t to be and the Blues were left to contemplate on another point that has slipped through their hands.

After the game manager Mark Wright bemoaned City’s lack of width that is costing them dear: “We’ve not really got any wingers or width. We know that and it stood out again. When you’ve got width it hurts people. We’ve got to try and look this week to bring a couple of people in because I think it’s important to what we want as a football club. Other than that I don’t see a lot wrong.”

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Tuesday 7 March
Chester City 1 Torquay United 1
League Two
Attendance: 1,806 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester City: Harrison, Albrighton, McNiven, Ellender, Regan (Asamoah 58), Drummond, Davies, Hessey, Blundell, Lowe (Curtis 90), Tait (Richardson 78). Subs not used: S.Vaughan, Artell, Curtis.
Torquay United: Marriott, Hockley, Sharp, Villis, Reed, Phillips (Lloyd 67), Garner, Woods, Hill (Kuffour 59), Thorpe, Bedeau (Robinson 74). Subs not used: Taylor, Afful.
Referee: K.Hill (Hertfordshire).

In the greater scheme of things the point gained tonight could have been a vital one for City. The result stopped the rot of home defeats and edged Chester a couple of places up the table. But in reality it was a nervous and stumbling performance once again showing an almost total lack of confidence.

City began with a charge. A couple of efforts from Blundell and a cross from Lowe which fizzed across the face of goal showed early promise but not the early goal which we all craved. Chester have not scored first in a match since November.

After the initial action it was Torquay who settled better, moving the ball around neatly. Woods saw his header from a free kick brilliantly saved by Harrison at the foot of the post. The visitors scored when Thorpe ran through on the blind side of Ellender to whip in a cross which Hill met on the half volley. Harrison did his best to block it but the ball crashed into the back of the net. The setback visibly affected City and they spent the rest of the half trying to get back into the game, playing in fits and starts.

The game turned on fifty-one minutes when Thorpe fouled Davies and then followed up with a head butt. His lack of discipline cost him a red card and, arguably, his team a couple of points. Chester began to move forward more purposefully but often moves broke down with a stray pass here or there or a player wanting to dwell on the ball too long.

Lowe’s raking pass from the right found Hessey and he cut inside to send in an angled cross to the far post. It was just too high for Drummond but Blundell slid in to knock the ball past a wrong-footed Marriott. Blundell was ecstatic at his first goal for ages and the relief round the City supporters at seeing a goal was tangible. Chester had their best spell after this with Marriott making spectacular saves from first Lowe who shot after a dribbling run and a deflected effort from Drummond which was looping in at the opposite post until the ‘keeper tipped it to safety.

Other chances came and went. Tait’s header nearly sneaked in at the far post and Davies’ cross invited three City players to turn it into the net but it eluded them all. Torquay almost grasped a goal in the dying minutes when City’s defence was caught napping and a shot flashed across the goal.

The faithful went home disappointed that City failed to beat the bottom team with ten men for most of the second half but confidence has seeped to such a low ebb among the players that it’s probably better to take heart from the point gained.

Colin Mansley

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The squad building continues as Chester announce the signing of 25-year-old forward Dan Turner from Brackley Town.
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