For the trip to the north-east Manager Mark Wright recalled
a fit again Dean Bennett at the expense of Paul Rutherford
and Kevin Sandwith replaced James Vaughan as City faced
a difficult task taking on league leaders Hartlepool
currently enjoying a 22 match unbeaten run.
that task wasn’t going to be hard enough, it was
made all the more difficult as the Blues conceded the
first goal of the game just three minutes from the start
through some slack defending.
Phil Bolland was penalised for a late
tackle on Eifion Williams. Richie Humphreys free-kick
was swung over to find unmarked dangerman Richie Barker
with plenty of time to plant a free looping header past
John Danby in front of the small band of travelling
James Brown saw a far post shot clear
the bar as the City defence reeled under some early
Chester came more and more into the
game after the early setback though. They enjoyed plenty
of possession as they showed a dogged determination
to get back on level terms.
Simon Yeo was pulled up by a late
linesman’s flag before the Blues saw two efforts
go close In a couple of minutes as Sean Hessey shot
wide and then Paul Linwood saw a header from a corner
cleared off the line, the ball fell to Bennett just
six yards out but his shot was straight at home ‘keeper
Dimitrios Konstantopoulos who saved when an equaliser
Chris Holroyd also tested Konstantopoulos
before, against the run of play, the home side doubled
their lead on 26 minutes.
Richie Humphreys broke down the right
and sent a cross-field pass to Andy Monkhouse who had
plenty of time to bring the ball down and shoot across
Dandy for the edge of the box for the second.
Brown was in the action again soon
after the break and Danby saved well to prevent the
youngster adding the third. Sandwith saved from Gary
Liddle and Barker saw an effort blocked by a City player
With 20 minutes remaining Chester
were reduced to ten men as defender Phil Bolland, booked
only moments earlier, was shown a second yellow card
for a challenge on Brown. Worse was to follow as Humphreys’
free-kick was crossed for Ben Clark to head home and
complete the scoring.
In a rare effort at the other end Sandwith shot wide
before City introduced Rutherford for Yeo with 11 minutes
remaining but it was too late for City who will rue
those first half missed opportunities.
24 March Chester City 2 Barnet 0 League Two
Attendance: 1,591 (143 Barnet) Half Time 1-0 Booked: Hand.
Chester City: Danby, Linwood, Bolland, Artell,
J.Vaughan (Bennett 77), Rutherford (Maylett 60), Hand,
Hessey, Wilson, Holroyd, Yeo. Subs not used: Steele, Brownlie,
Barnet: Flitney, Hendon, Yakubu, King (Devera
62), Gross, Cogan (Hatch 65), Sinclair, Bailey, Graham,
Birchall, Allen (Grazioli 81). Subs not used: Harrison,
Nicolau. Referee: A.Penn (West Midlands).
sweet smell of chocolate from the factory at the back
of the Harry McNally Terrace mingled with the equally
welcome taste of success as Chester notched a welcome
win in the March sunshine.
Wright handed starts to three of City’s young hopefuls.
Chris Holroyd had made his debut two games ago at Walsall.
Now Paul Rutherford and James Vaughan made their bow at
the Deva. Barnet started crisply and swept towards the
home end with a flurry of attacking movement. A free kick
on the edge of the box saw Danby stumble and in the ensuing
scramble Vaughan’s red boot seemed to slice the
ball towards the goal. Danby recovered well to claw it
away from the top corner.
Gradually City gained territorial advantage and the crowd
were heartened when the impish Rutherford skipped past
a couple of defenders to find himself one-on-one with
the keeper. The tall Flitney parried the youngster’s
shot but both the move and the player showed promise.
The Bees displayed a little weakness when defending corners.
Twice Linwood sent headers narrowly over when well placed.
In first half stoppage time Linwood won a header at the
far post from another and sent it back across goal for
Bolland to head into the net. Just prior to this we breathed
a sigh of relief when Oliver Allen’s shot hit the
base of City’s post at the other end.
At half time Fred Wilcox, veteran of the 1947/8 season,
leant on his white stick to take a bow. He had faced a
Blackpool team, Stanley Matthews included, on the way
to the FA Cup Final.
After the break, the Blues made the most of the psychological
advantage of a goal just before half time and pressed
for another. Linwood came sliding in at the far post but
his shot zoomed narrowly wide. Then the ever alert Yeo
intercepted a Barnet pass and nipped in to set Holroyd
into the box. He turned and pulled the ball back for Hand
to finish with a fine shot from the edge of the area.
Rutherford limped off to be replaced by Maylett soon afterwards
and a visibly tiring Vaughan gave way for Bennett. City
held firm, the defence never gave an inch and Hessey gave
a robust performance in the middle of the park.
The much needed win halted a seven match slide and all
but preserved City’s Second Division status for
Yeo was passed fit to start against Rochdale but a goal
from loan striker Louis Dodds after four minutes was enough
to give Dale the points and continue City’s miserable
home run that has seen them win just once, against Bury,
in their last eight matches at Deva Stadium.
Though Yeo was passed fit Dean Bennett wasn’t, the
midfielder failing to recover from a thigh injury picked
up at Walsall so in stepped Sean Hessey. After criticising
his forwards last week, manager Mark Wright dropped both
Lee Steele and Chris Holroyd to the bench in favour of
Yeo and on-loan Royce Brownlie.
front of another low Friday night crowd, over 2,000
down on the corresponding Friday match last season,
City couldn’t have got off to a worse possible
start. There were just four minutes on the clock when
Rochdale, playing with the wind behind them, took the
lead. Glenn Murray made a probing right wing run and
pulled the ball back for Dodds, on his full Dale debut,
to tuck the ball away in front of the away support.
Dangerman Murray fed Dodds again in the next meaningful
attack of the half but John Danby was well placed to
save his effort as City were being overrun in midfield.
The Blues were struggling to break
down the visitors defence, their only shot of note on
target in the half coming from Jamie Hand over 30 yards
out that was easily gathered by Matthew Gilks Just before
the break Brad Maylett blazed an opportunity over the
Ten minutes after the break
referee Taylor waved away penalty appeals as Yeo tumbled
under a challenge from david Perkins. Wright replaced
Brownlie with Steele as City looked to increase the
pressure. Seven minutes later Taylor did award City
a penalty after a foul by Rory McArdle in the box following
a corner. However after consulting one of his assistants
the decision was reversed and McArdle had his yellow
card scrubbed out.
Maylett and City created several chances of note in
the dying stages when they finally sparked into ilfe.
Hessey saw a shot fly over the bar and moments later
Paul Linwood saw a goalbound header matched by a great
save from Gilks to deny the City defender an equaliser.
As the game moved into added time
Yeo saw a shot crash against the woodwork but with City
pressing they were caught on the break, though Murray
could only turn Muirhead cross wide when a second goal
looked a certainty.
poor home performance from City who failed to test a
side lying four places below them until the final five
minutes. Next up is on Saturday at Deva Stadium are
Barnet another of the clubs just below City. The level
of attendance at the weekend, with no Premiership matches
taking place, may give a stark indication of what many
supporters think of the current ‘entertainment’
being dished up.
manager Mark Wright gave a full debut to Chris Holroyd
who started alongside Lee Steele up front for City’s
visit to a sunny Bescot Stadium. Holroyd had made 15 appearances
this season, all from the bench, and he was picked ahead
of on-loan signing Royce Brownlie.
youngster almost helped City to a dream start on 13
minutes after he won the ball on the left to feed Steele
only for the City forward, with just Clayton Ince to
beat, to blast his chance high and wide from close range
to spurn a priceless opportunity.
The home side started well, attacking
down the City left. Time after time Laurence Wilson
was left alone to deal with two onrushing forwards as
Walsall spread the ball around and attacked with pace.
They forced a succession of corners but the City defence
with Phil Bolland and particularly Dave Artell held
firm to clear any danger.
Craig caused concern in the City defence
as his cross shot was just out of reach of the onrushing
Artell caused outcry amongst the home
fans with he crashed in a two footed tackle on Wrack
but referee Foster produced a yellow card with the home
fans crying Off! Off! Off!. Wrack lasted a few minutes
more before being replaced by Hector Sam.
Brad Aylett tried an effort from long
distance but Ince gathered comfortably
John Danby, who has saved City on
a number of occasions in recent games, pulled off a
magnificent save low-down from Butler to turn the striker’s
shot around the post in front of the travelling support.
The resulting far post corner was blocked by the City
The Blues conceded a free-kick just
outside of the box but although Keates’ effort
cleared the City wall Danby gathered under the bar.
In the last action of the half Sam saw a long range
effort fly just wide.
Dean Bennett, injured on the stroke
of half-time was replaced by Glenn Cronin, making his
first appearance for Chester at the break while Brad
Maylett made way for Mark Kearney.
The Blues fans were treated to a glimpse
of record scorer Stuart Rimmer who was a guest of the
Saddlers, another of his former clubs, to help with
a marketing promotion.
Danby was once again in the action
straight after the break tipping over an effort from
danger man Butler and moments later Keates sent a flick
header just wide as the home side pressed for the opening.
At the other end City’s chances
were few and far between but when they did come they
were spurned. Steele turned and sent in a snap-shot
straight at Ince from eight yards and moments later
Holroyd made space, shook off a defender and sent in
a low far post effort that was saved well by Ince at
The only goal of the game came on
67 minutes. The ball was pumped into the City box from
a free-kick and a blue shirt appeared to handle it.
Wilson complained to the referee but he’d pointed
to the spot without hesitation and Keates smashed the
ball past Dandy.
Brownlie replaced Steele but
City could produce nothing in response as cramp got
the better of Holroyd in the latter stages of the game.
The home side almost doubled their lead as Sam saw a
shot bounce out from the inside of the post as City
slumped to their second away defeat in five days.
dwindling play-off hopes all but disappeared with two
defensive lapses which saw Mansfield claim a 2-1 victory
despite an early City lead.
89 travelling fans did at least have something to remember
from their trip, with 10 shots on and off target, as
well as eight corners and an impressive ninth minute
goal from Brad Maylett.
The match had actually barely started
when Maylett made the most of a Mansfield backpass blunder
and fired an unstoppable low shot right into the far
corner. City had already threatened with two corners
and a Kevin Sandwidth shot.
Mansfield, who just before kick-off had been told a
Barbados trip awaited them if they reached the play-offs,
were dreaming of sandy beaches, blue skies and cocktails
when Maylett woke them up.
Soon after the Stags went behind they
were threatening City’s goal, but John Danby parried,
then held onto, a powerful shot from Stephen Dawson.
They had another handful of chances, but captain Phil
Bolland, Simon Marples and Jamie Hand were all in the
right place to deal with them.
However they got their equaliser on
the 27th minute, when a well-measured pass over the
top of the midfield found Simon Brown perfectly placed
to meet it as he ran towards goal. He collected the
ball well and had no trouble slotting it home.
Thankfully City still pressed for
another first half goal, with Laurence Wilson and Maylett
working hard to supply lone striker, Royce Brownlie.
He had a shot towards the end of the half, but didn’t
seriously threaten the target.
Soon after the re-start, Mansfield
were preying on goal again and Danby’s blushes
were spared by an off-the-line Bolland clearance from
a Nathan Arnold strike.
Chester then got back into the action,
with Marples getting into the most attacking positions
I’ve seen so far this season. He made one powerful
run past three Mansfield players, but Wilson failed
to find the target when he passed to him.
Steele came on for Brownlie on the 61st minute, but
mostly seemed to be behind the run of play for the rest
of the game. City did win a couple of corners, but didn’t
really look like scoring from them.
City’s next substitution came
on the 77th minute when Alex Meechan replaced Maylett
and it looked like they were playing for another draw.
Danby does seem to be getting expert at taking his time
But Chester were punished soon after
when the defence failed to deal with a Stags’
corner. The cross came through to Alex Baptiste and
he headed an unstoppable goal to keep Mansfield’s
Barbados dream alive.
Both teams continued to make a game
of the closing spell and it looked a distinct possibility
that there would be a fourth goal. Mansfield’s
Brown came the closest and Dean Bennett had a wild injury
time shot, which went well wide.
But it was Mansfield who collected
the three points and the City fans had to console themselves
by reflecting on a spirited performance and a rare post-match
statistic which showed Chester were only responsible
for three fouls. Even if City don’t reach the
play-offs, perhaps there’s a chance of a late
bid for this season’s Fair Play Award?
Thorpe scored for Torquay with their first meaningful
shot of the game. The fact that it came in the last minute,
from the penalty spot and equalised Dean Bennett’s
earlier goal for City summed up a frustrating evening.
There seemed little threat to Chester’s goal when
substitute Hockley collapsed in a heap in the penalty
area. Andre Marriner, who had earlier been verbally abused
by the supporters in the Harry McNally End, awarded the
spot kick. Thorpe, a striker admired by Wright as he admitted
before the match, scored confidently in front of a deserted
South Stand but wheeled away towards the 155 Gulls fans
in the West.
City may well have to settle for a rebuilding period after
their slim hopes of making the play offs were all but
ended with this result. Losing star players like Walters,
Blundell and Martinez, not to mention erstwhile captain
Stephen Vaughan was always going to mean difficult times
ahead and so it has proved.
Wright drafted in Brownlie on loan from Swindon and the
Aussie led the line fairly well tonight. Unfortunately
for him his debut is likely to be remembered for a glaring
miss which would have secured all three points for City.
He got there a fraction of a second too late from Wilson’s
low cross and his stabbed shot from four yards flew narrowly
over the bar. Earlier Bennett had put Chester in the lead
following a similar left wing attack which resulted in
him firing home from eight yards (Picture below).
The first half had been largely undistinguished with the
highlight being Kearney’s rasping shot from the
edge of the box turned spectacularly round the post by
the Torquay keeper. Chester dominated possession and worked
hard not to allow Torquay time on the ball all game. They
also had to contend with an early injury to Artell, following
a clash of heads with Thorpe and Yeo too limped off later
to be replaced by debutant Brad Maylett, having joined
Chester from Boston. Intriguingly there was no place on
the bench for Lee Steele, rumoured to have fallen out
with Wright following criticism of his form.
In contrast to the vast majority of City fans I enjoyed
the game – apart of course from the last minute.
For my two lads (6 & 7) it was a first night match
and a special occasion for them. They, if they remember
anything will think of a big orange Cheshire Cat handing
sweets out to them and maybe the cheers when City scored.
Not for them the frustration and disappointment of failing
to win. Next morning they were too busy re-enacting the
match dressed in full City kit, wellies and making a right
mess of the lawn.