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Saturday 28 March
Chester City 0 Bradford City 0
League Two
Attendance: 2,735 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Linwood, Ellison.

Chester City: Danby, Roberts, Linwood, Wilson, J.Vaughan, Harris, Barry, Ellison (Jones 77), Rule, Lowe, Partridge. Subs not used: Mannix, Rutherford, Owen, Ellams.
Bradford City: Evans, Rehman, Lee, Clarke, O’Brien, Law, McLaren (Bullock 82), Furman, Jones (Brandon 75), Mullin, M.Boulding. Subs not used: Arnison, Nix, Gillespie.
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

For the second time in a week City picked up a well deserved point against a side chasing for promotion, the point however was not enough as only victories can help save City’s Football League status now.

It’s the same old story with Chester as once again the lack of a recognised striker cost City dear as chances were created and not converted as the Blues battle to keep in touch with Grimsby Town just above them in the relegation dog-fight.

Manager Mark Wright made one change from the side that drew at Gigg Lane bringing in Richie Partridge for David Mannix who took a place in the bench.

The Bantams arrived at Deva Stadium on the back of four straight defeats and looked determined early on to take the game to their hosts. John Danby made a great save to deny Michael Boulding after he’d been sent through by Paul Mullin in the 12th minute.

Chances were few and far between in the blustery conditions. Jay Harris forced a save from Rhys Evans in the visitors goal as he sent in a 25-yarder. Kevin Ellison also saw a long range effort saved in an evenly contested first half. Danby was also on hand to save from Mullin, who incidentally played for Accrington Stanley when City last won a game on Boxing Day.

Dangerman Boulding produced another fine save from Danby and before the half ended Ryan Lowe saw an effort saved by Evans, pushing the ball round the post and out for a corner.

The second period started as the first with the visitors having the first effort on goal as Luke O’Brien shot over on 50 minutes. Moments later Nicky Law saw an effort fly wide of Danby’s goal.

But City started to gain the upper hand and Lowe saw another long-range effort tipped round the post by Evans just before the hour mark. The Blues almost grabbed the lead through Partridge but the winger was denied by a Zesh Rehman challenge when a goal seemed inevitable. Partridge saw another effort saved by Evans after good work by James Vaughan on the wing had set him up.

Manager Wright replaced Ellison with Ben Jones with just over ten minutes remaining and in stoppage time the Blues almost grabbed all three points. Lowe fed a fine through ball to Partridge who rounded Evans but couldn’t find the net from a narrow angle.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 21 March
Bury 1 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 3,049 (352 Chester) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Mannix.

Bury: Brown, Haslam, Sodje, Cresswell, Buchanan , Bennett, Dawson, Barry-Murphy, Jones (Racchi 82), Bishop (Hurst 82), Morrell (Futcher 48). Subs not used: Baker, Rouse.
Chester City: Danby, Roberts, Linwood, Rule (Rutherford 71), J.Vaughan, Harris, Barry, Mannix (Jones 56), Wilson, Ellison, Lowe. Subs not used: Partridge, Owen, Ellams.
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex).

Despite picking up a point against promotion chasing Bury, the Blues dropped into a relegation spot after all their rivals for the drop won. The Shakers looked to be heading for their first win over Chester since 1990, 19 matches ago, before Ryan Lowe popped up in the final minute to equalise for the Blues to the delight of the 300+ travelling fans behind the goal.

Manager Mark Wright kept the same side that picked up a point against Grimsby last Saturday. As you’d expect for a team that has lost just one of its last 13 matches The Shakers started in a confident mood putting City under pressure right from the off.

Andy Bishop am close to notching his 15th goal of the season in the fifth minute but he saw his header cleared off the line by Kevin Roberts with John Danby beaten. Danby was on hand minutes later though to make a reflex save from Efe Sodje and then collect a follow-up header from Michael Jones.

Sodje then saw a header clip the crossbar as he rose head and shoulders above the City defence to meet a right wing free-kick.

City’s first effort of note came from a Jay Harris long-range effort that flew well wide. But still the home side came at City and Laurence Wilson had to make a last ditch tackle just outside the area to deny Stephen Dawson who had taken the ball half the length of the pitch.

The Blues’ resolute defence was finally breached in first-half added time. Harris was adjudged to have fouled Brian Barry-Murphy. Jones swung over the free-kick that was met by Sodje who headed to Andy Morrell to score from close range. The City defence appealed against a foul on Danby but referee Graham awarded the goal.

The home side were reduced to ten men two minutes after the restart. Ryan Lowe was sent through on the right and as he headed for the box he was pulled back by Ryan Creswell who was given a straight red card. Ben Futcher came on in a tactical substitution to bolster the home defence.

Wright brought on Ben Jones and later Paul Rutherford, for David Mannix and Glenn Rule as the Blues looked to press home their one man advantage. Kevin Ellison came lose when he steered a volley just past the post on 57 minutes.

The Blues almost drew level ten minutes from time as Dawson sliced his clearance from a Wilson corner right across the face of his own goal.

But the equaliser finally came in the dying seconds. Roberts crossed from the right and leading scorer Lowe tucked the ball past ex-City ‘keeper Wayne Brown for a precious point in the fight for League survival.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 14 March
Chester City 1 Grimsby Town 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,836 (1,197 Grimsby) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Ellison, Rule, Barry.

Chester City: Danby, Rule, Linwood, Roberts, J.Vaughan, Barry (Rutherford 81), Mannix, Harris, Wilson, Lowe, Ellison. Subs not used: Partridge, Owen, Jones, Smith.
Grimsby Town: Henderson, Atkinson, Newey, Bennett, Clarke, Hegarty, Hunt, Boshell (Llewellyn 34), Widdowson (Jarman 74), Proudlock (Forbes 68), Akpa Akpro. Subs not used: Stockdale, Montgomery.
Referee: Phil Crossley (Kent).

It was an entertaining and to some extent enjoyable match at the Deva as the two sides with the poorest records in League Two this campaign clashed. Grimsby were still buoyant from thrashing local rivals Lincoln last weekend, despite a midweek defeat at Chesterfield in between, while Chester were still licking their wounds after the mauling they received from Rotherham on Tuesday night.

Eleven hundred visiting supporters boosted the attendance and made for a cracking atmosphere. Windy conditions made it difficult for both sides but the quality of play was not brilliant all afternoon. Here were two sides low in self esteem and nervous of their precarious League position. The Mariners – all seemingly solid and stockily built – settled slightly better and went closest to scoring early on. Hegarty found space on the left and latched on to a pass over the top. He mis-hit his shot but then it took a wicked deflection off Roberts and just missed the near post with Danby stranded.

The same player did not miss the target in the twenty-first minute when he again had plenty of room to home in on goal and Danby was hopelessly exposed by lack of cover. First blood to the Mariners in this relegation battle.

If anything, Chester improved after this and, though the play was scrappy they forced the visitors back for long spells. Ellison who had blazed a good shot into the side netting was guilty of snatching at a great chance when the ball was nodded down to him. With the goal at his mercy he volleyed the ball first time over the bar and out of the ground. City did get the ball in the net later but were penalised for fouling goalkeeper Henderson. Just before the break Mannix had two attempts at scoring from a direct free kick. The first Henderson just managed to claw over the bar, the second – granted because of a defender’s encroachment – was much more easily caught by the keeper.

After the break City applied a bit of pressure and missed a couple more great opportunities to equalise. First Barry controlled the ball well on the edge of the area and let fly a rasping shot which was cleared desperately off the line. The rebound came to Roberts who, like Ellison before him, blazed a first time shot over the bar – though narrowly this time. Then a corner to the far post found Roberts free again but the wind made it difficult for him to direct his header on target.

Just as it began to seem if City would never score they broke rapidly upfield and Barry teed up Ellison. His fierce shot was blocked and came out to Lowe – he kept his head well to evade a tackle and then lash the ball home into the roof of the net. The relief among City supporters was palpable and there was a genuine belief around the ground that the game was there to be won. Linwood went close as Henderson flapped at a corner but his header went wide of the post.

Grimsby rallied after the equaliser and might have scored themselves but a combination of desperate defending and luck kept them at bay. Hegarty repeated the move from which he scored but this time his shot flashed wide.

Barry was replaced by Rutherford for the last ten minutes or so – perhaps it was a precaution after he had been yellow carded but City lost pace and threat with Barry’s removal. Still there was time for one last gasp miss as a cross bounced and found Wilson in space on the right. He hurried his header and it sailed over the bar.

Neither side will have been over joyful at gaining just a point – but City fans who had been inclined to resign themselves to the drop can take a crumb of comfort from the fact that Grimsby seem as unconfident and disjointed as we do.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Evening Leader

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Tuesday 10 March
Chester City 1 Rotherham United 5
League Two
Attendance: 1,235 (77 Rotherham) Half Time 1-3
Booked: Harris, Wilson.

Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Rule, Linwood, Roberts, Wilson, Mannix (Partridge 50), Barry, Harris, Lowe, Ellison. Subs not used: Rutherford, Owen, Jones, Smith.
Rotherham United: Warrington, Tonge (Joseph 73), Fenton, Sharps, Green, Cummins, Mills (D.Harrison 70), Hudson, Reid, Broughton (R.Taylor 75), Clarke. Subs not used: Cann, J.Taylor.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse City suffer a humiliating home defeat in front of the lowest Deva attendance of the season. The Blues, who have picked up just two points from the last 45 looked prime relegation candidates as their other rivals for the spot, Accrington Stanley, Barnet, Bournemouth and Grimsby Town all seem capable of picking up points at the moment.

With no sign whatsoever of any promised loan players coming in manager it appears that Mark Wright must make do with his shell-shocked squad who have now conceded eight goals in four days.

Things started well for City and Millers goalkeeper Andy Warrington was on hand to intercept a through ball from Ryan Lowe as Kevin Ellison bore down on the ‘keeper in the first five minutes. At the other end John Danby was also in early action pushing an effort from former City player Drewe Broughton onto the woodwork and out to safety following a poor clearance from Paul Linwood.

The Blues took the lead for the first time in eleven matches with a well worked goal from Ellison, his second in successive games. Jay Harris started the move with a through ball to Lowe that was pulled back into the path of Ellison who struck the ball first time from 20 yards past Warrington in the 14th minute.

But, as so many times in the recent past, City became their own worst enemies when they conceded a poor equaliser twelve minutes later. Defender Kevin Roberts claimed he’d been pushed in the box before handling the ball, referee Swarbrick was having none of it however and Reuben Reid converted the spot-kick.

City responded well and Warrington pulled off a fine save to deny Laurence Wilson whose long-range effort was heading for goal. Six minutes before the break however the visitors took the lead as Micky Cummins headed unchallenged past Danby following a pin-point Jamie Green cross.

To compound the first-half misery Broughton deflected a Roberts effort past Danby in stoppage time to give City a second half mountain to climb.

Richie Partridge replaced David Mannix five minutes after the break, but the game was put well beyond City moments later as Reid grabbed his second goal after bearing in from the right and sending an unstoppable shot past Danby.

Reid sent another effort crashing against the bar on the hour mark as City beleaguered defence was being run ragged.

As an attacking force City showed little though Partridge did at least test Warrington before Reid completed his hat-trick sending a shot past Danby from 15 yards.

And is could have been worse as Jamie Clarke went close twice in the closing minutes to complete a miserable night for the Blues.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 7 March
Barnet 3 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 2,085 (186 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Harris, J.Vaughan, Linwood.

Barnet: Cole, Hughes, Yakubu, Breen, Lockwood (Gillet 84), Adomah (Birchall 78), Bishop, Deverdics, Bolasie, O’Flynn, Furlong (Akurang 77). Subs not used: Kadoch, Leary.
Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Roberts, Linwood, Rule (Mannix 80), Wilson, Barry (Rutherford 80), Mozika (Partridge 56), Harris, Lowe, Ellison. Subs not used: Jones, Owen.

Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).

Whoever coined the phrase “six-pointer” to describe fixtures between two clubs vying to avoid relegation could also have branded them “six-pintas” as that’s how much beer I felt like drinking before this nervy match at Underhill.

Both teams also started in an edgy fashion, with neither getting anywhere near the goal for the first ten minutes as each seemed scared to leave their defences open. It was City’s Ryan Lowe who had the first serious effort of the game with a strike which rattled the woodwork of the North Terrace goal.

That was actually the only real action of the opening 45 minutes as both sides cancelled each other out in midfield and whistle-happy referee Trevor Kettle also played his part in making it a very staccato performance.

So with all to play for in the second half, Barnet ran out with more determination and within five minutes were awarded a free-kick for a Jay Harris foul on Neal Bishop. Harris received a yellow card and John O’Flynn stepped up to make it 1-0 from the subsequent free kick, spoiling John Danby’s record-breaking appearance for the Blues.

City didn’t allow their heads to drop and just six minutes later, a good Laurence Wilson pass found Kevin Ellison in space. He slotted it home past Barnet ‘keeper Jake Cole, signed on loan from QPR just the day before.

It was beginning to feel like it was odds-on for a draw, until 40-year-old Paul Furlong drew a booking against James Vaughan and there was a feeling he was beginning to make his experience count. Lowe did have another shot on goal, but it was easily held by Cole.

On the 69th minute, Furlong was adjudged to have been held in the box by Paul Linwood and Barnet were awarded a penalty, with Linwood being booked in the process. Danby dived the right way, but couldn’t stop O’Flynn’s well-taken penalty putting Barnet back in the driving seat.

Lowe, who was City’s liveliest player on the day, had a shot which just went wide of the post not long after. But, just five minutes after their second goal, Barnet were on the score sheet again. Chester failed to clear the ball properly, giving Albert Adamah time to make a dangerous pass into the area. Danby came close to saving it, but Furlong’s head connected with the ball and it was 3-1 to the jubilant Bees.

Chester had an attempt to make it as grand a finale as the previous Saturday, with a great Wilson strike being pushed onto the crossbar by Cole on the 91st minute. But that was the closest City came to finding the net and as the final whistle blew you couldn’t help but think that time was running out for the Blues to escape the relegation trap door.

There’s another “six-pinta” coming up on Saturday. Actually, that home game against Grimsby is beginning to feel like a “nine-pinta” and I’m sure some City fans will be downing that many beers if the Blues finally get three points in 2009. Time to get those hangover tablets in the medicine cabinet – just in case!

Sue Choularton

Picture © Evening Leader

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Tuesday 3 March
Wycombe Wanderers 2 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,713 Half Time 1-0
Booked: -.

Wycombe Wanderers: Young, Casement, Johnson, McCracken, Woodman, Phillips (Spence 89), Doherty, Mousinho, Zebroski, Pittman (Harrold 68), Beavon (Ashton 84). Subs not used: Shearer, Oliver.
Chester City: Danby, Roberts, Wilson (Owen 46), Linwood, Rule, J.Vaughan, Partridge (Rutherford 72), Barry, Mannix (Smith 82), Lowe, Ellison. Subs not used: Jones, Ellams.

Referee: Rob Shoebridge (Derbyshire).

Chester’s latest defeat, coupled with victories for relegation rivals Barnet and Bournemouth plunged the Blues deeper into the relegation dog-fight.

On a rain soaked pitch, and in front of Wycombe’s lowest home crowd for over ten years, City competed well in the opening stages and were once again left to rue missed chances that would ultimately be their downfall.

Manager Mark Wright was forced into a change bringing in Glenn Rule for the injured Shaun Kelly while up front Richie Partridge was preferred to Ben Jones.

It was the hosts who had the first effort on goal in the opening five minutes as Matty Phillips saw his long range effort spilt by John Danby, but the Blues keeper who equaled the club record of consecutive appearances here at Adams Park, recovered to gather the ball at the second attempt.

The Blues (in yellow) should have opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Partridge made a run down the left, cut inside and send in a near post shot that Chairboys ‘keeper Jamie appeared to save. The ball however seemed to slip out of his hands to Ryan Lowe four yards out but City’s top scorer could only send his shot straight back at Young. The Blues knew it was a guilt-edged chance as the traveling fans looked at the big screen replay in disbelief!

The home side responded moments later with a quick counter attack that saw Danby save low down following a Matty Philips shot from a narrow angle.

Kevin Ellison saw shot from just inside the box flash just wide and another City effort forced a corner on 26 minutes. The corner was taken short but the return pass was woeful and intercepted. Two passes later the ball was with winger Jon-Paul Pittman in space on the left of City’s box. He worked an opening and crossed for Phillips to crash the ball on the turn into the roof of the net from 12 yards giving Danby no chance.

As the rain continued to make conditions extremely difficult, James Vaughan and Ellison combined well to give Lowe another opening but he volleyed wide as City still continued to enjoy plenty of possession. Once again it wa Ellison who was causing the problems and he forced Young into a superb one handed save to push over the City midfielder’s dipping effort from 25 yards for another corner.

Laurence Wilson hobbled off with a foot injury on the stroke of half-time to be replaced at the break by James Owen (who appeared to be wearing Tony Dinning’s No4 shirt!).

Kicking towards the 100 or so traveling fans, Ellison again tested Young from long range as once again the keeper just managed to fingertip a fierce dipping effort over the bar. Such was the power in the shot that the ball smashed a front row seat in the away end!

Lowe broke free from David McCracken but he sent a shot skidding wide when well placed as another chance went begging.

Chester were ultimately made to pay for their misses in the 66th minute when Pittman doubled the home advantage to put the game beyond City. A free-kick on the left by Craig Woodman was headed back by an unmarked Chris Zebroski to Pittman who had the easiest of chances to steer the ball home from close range past Danby.

Paul Rutherford and Paul Smith joined the action but there was to be no way back now for the Blues as substitute Matt Harold almost added a third for the high-flying hosts in the closing stages.

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