lost for the fifth time in succession at home as Barrow
mounted a push for the play-off places. It was a niggly
and bad tempered affair which referee Peter Wright struggled
The signs were not good in the first minute when an obvious
throw-in to Chester was given the other way by the linesman.
The same official was even more unpopular shortly afterwards
when Richie Bennett was given onside and ran through clear
on goal. He put the Bluebirds ahead in only the second
The Blues responded well and moved the ball about with
some purpose. Durrell latched on to a diagonal crossfield
pass from Horwood and struck a shot which Flatt did well
to parry. Richards also had a good run but scuffed his
shot when the opening appeared. Richards was cynically
taken out by Platt as he made ground on the left wing
which saw the referee produce a yellow card for the first
time. Durrell too was injured as he was brought down from
behind by Harvey.
Barrow pressed and Vassell was caught in possession by
Meikle but fortunately the resultant shot on goal was
wide. Bennett had a long range effort which whistled closely
over the top corner of the net.
As half time drew near the home fans became more and more
frustrated by what seemed to be blatant time-wasting and
slowing the game down by the visitors as their players
went to ground at regular intervals for innocuous-seeming
injuries. Five minutes of stoppage time resulted. The
antics continued after the break as Harvey went down,
went off after attention, came back on again and then
sat down on the pitch before finally being substituted.
Durrell was City’s liveliest forward in the second
half. His deep cross from the right wing was caught by
Flatt under pressure from Alabi. The keeper’s time
wasting antics did not endear him to the Harry Mac Terrace
but he played every trick in the book to frustrate and
run down the clock. The fans at the home end kept up a
regular barrage of vocal support throughout as they urged
the Blues forward for an equaliser. Making headway against
a sturdy back four was proving difficult however and Alabi,
in particular seemed to be running on empty.
Ross Hannah came on to respectful applause – justified
in recognition of being Chester’s top scorer last
season. Most of this, he has warmed the bench for Barrow.
He produced a moment of sheer genius shortly after coming
on as he hit a first time shot from inside the centre
circle which had Lynch back pedalling just in time to
tip the effort over the bar.
Lynch made an unfortunate error when Jordan Williams tried
an effort from the left wing corner of the penalty area
which the Chester keeper caught but then dropped and backspin
took it over the line.
Two-nil was always likely to be a tall order to claw back
with just a quarter of an hour to go but City gave it
a go. With just two minutes left Shaw halved the deficit
as he latched on to Vassell’s threaded pass and
let fly a venomous cross-shot which flew in past Flatt.
Then in stoppage time Richards chested Shaw’s pass
down to Durrell who hit it first time only to see it blocked
by Diarra. Barrow then saw the game out but there was
still time for Jordan Williams to crock Vassell with a
challenge that could easily have ensured a red card, but
yellow was the decision from Mr Wright.
Before the game, manager Paul Cox bemoaned the fact that
no-one seemed to like Barrow. They won few friends tonight
with their ‘game management skills’ but it
was effective for them. At least Tom Shaw’s late
goal denied them a place in the play-off places tonight
on goal-difference giving grumpy City fans a crumb of
comfort to chew on.
honestly was little to remember from this match until
Elliott Durrell popped up with a goal on the 88th minute
when his strike bumped over a couple of bobbles before
hitting the net at Hayes Lane.
game had an otherwise 'end of season' feel about it,
with the spring-like appearance of the blue skies being
countered by the strong winds which had the Exiles'
banner straining at the leash on the open away terrace.
Both teams found the conditions, including
the rough surface, a struggle at times. There was nothing
much to report from the first half until close to the
break when Sam Hughes was in the right place on the
line to clear a shot which had beaten Chester ‘keeper,
Jon McCarthy opted for a change at
the re-start, with Blaine Hudson and Evan Horwood replacing
Lucas Dawson and Jonny Hunt. Before long, Chester were
putting on a better display for the 152 passionate away
Some of the Blues’ faithful
in fact thought they’d gone ahead half-way through
the second half when a Horwood strike hit the side netting.
There was almost a goal at the other end when Lynch
made a great diving save to stop the home side going
With a late start, and a few appearances
of the physio, this was always going to be a late finish.
So, as final scores were coming in elsewhere, the clock
was ticking towards 5pm when Durrell found himself a
bit of space and his shot found the net.
The Chester fans and players were
clearly relieved when referee Dean Treleaven blew for
full-time. Not only was it three points, but it put
Chester above their afternoon’s opponents and
all but guaranteed National League safety for another
Chester put in a much improved performance against a very
accomplished Macclesfield side but once again saw no results
for their efforts.
The evening began with a touching tribute to Garry Allen,
a supporter who died on the Harry MacNally Terrace during
the recent game against Tranmere. Members of his family
laid flowers and a scarf and shirt behind the goal and
all showed their support for the family with sustained
It quickly became clear that City would have their work
cut out against the Silkmen – who moved the ball
about with a skill appropriate to their nickname. But
it was Chester who took an early lead thanks to great
work by Durrell on the right who first won possession
then tricked his way inside to put a cross low into the
box. Alabi latched on to it and turned his marker to beat
Flinders in the visitors’ goal.
Macclesfield would not let Chester dwell on this early
success however and continued to sweep forward. Rhys Browne
on the left and Jack Mackreth on the right were the main
prongs of their attacking play and City, playing with
a back three struggled to cope at times. Lynch saved at
point blank from Byrne’s header to preserve the
lead. But then Macc drew level following a slick move
down the right. Mackreth split two defenders to find Norburn
who back-heeled the ball into Halls’ path and the
full back curled a shot beyond Lynch to score.
The Blues did well to defend heroically for much of the
ensuing half. Both Hunt and Astles threw themselves into
last ditch tackles to help stem the tide. They held their
breath as Fitzpatrick hit the post. But just before half
time Mackreth looped a cross from the right and Dudley,
seeming to fall off balance headed the ball over his shoulder
and into the goal off the near post.
Still Chester were in the game at half time and after
the break made two immediate changes: Danny O’Brien
who struggled to provide cover on the right was replaced
by Richards and Hudson was withdrawn for Vassell as City
reverted to 4-4-2 formation in an effort to counter Macclesfield’s
dominance down the wings. The Blues also upped the pace
and began to threaten again. Good work by Durrell set
Alabi through and, as Flinders came rushing out, the Blues
No.9 saw his shot come crashing back off the upright.
Durrell was a little over eager in tackling Fitzpatrick
and found his way into the referee’s notebook. Then
Durrell himself was brought down by Danny Whitaker as
he made ground towards the penalty area and City lined
up a free kick. Astles did a disco dance in front of Flinders
– presumably to obscure his view of the wall but
the Macclesfield custodian kept his concentration and
clawed Dawson’s shot away from the top corner. Eventually
Chester’s spirited pressure brought its reward as
Richards bundled Alabi’s cross into the net and
equalised with quarter of an hour to go.
An already entertaining game became enthralling as both
teams went all out for the win. Norburn beat the ground
in frustration as his goal-bound shot was blocked by another
last ditch tackle. But the visitors did regain the lead
with five minutes to go as Vassell stumbled and allowed
Browne to find Norburn on the edge of the box to rifle
the winner just inside the post. Not quite the last minute
this time but close enough to ensure another heart-breaking
result for City.
A point would have been a good achievement against a Macclesfield
team still on the crest of the wave following their victory
at Tranmere at the weekend but in the end Chester had
nothing to show despite showing great spirit. The fans
showed their appreciation as the players left the field
but have begun to fret as the poor run of results continues.
collectively took their eye off the ball right at the
death of this dour encounter to allow Eastleigh to grab
all three points.
It was an even and – at times absorbing match between
two mid-table sides who mostly cancelled each other out.
If the sides were level on points at the start of the
match – there was a wide discrepancy in the size
of playing budgets and expectations. While Chester continue
to be part-time and mostly pleased with a mid-table position,
Eastleigh’s Spitfires are seen as under-achievers
and are currently on their fourth manager of the season
– Richard Hill has been there before though and
has returned to inspire a mini revival in form.
One of Hill’s recent recruits is Matt Tubbs, re-united
with both Hill and Eastleigh after a year wandering with
Forest Green, Woking and Sutton. He looked lively at the
beginning of this game and had the first snap shot at
goal which Lynch managed to deal with and then was more
wasteful a few minutes later as he fired wide.
Lucas Dawson made his full debut for Chester and showed
promising signs of creativity as he distributed the ball
well. Occasionally he was guilty of a wayward pass but
was not afraid to re-double efforts to win it back. His
performance earned him Chester’s Man of the match
award. Durrell ran Dawson close though and put in another
whole hearted effort.
In a game of few chances Durrell’s flick sent Richards
through but his effort flashed across the goal and wide.
Richards was withdrawn soon after picking up a yellow
card for flying in to the tackle against the huge figure
of Reda Johnson. The burly defender had crushed Richards
a few moments earlier when he fell on top of him. Earlier
Alabi had turned in the loose ball into the net but Richards
was adjudged to be offside in the move.
With the match meandering towards a draw McCarthy switched
Hudson for O’Brien and shifted formation back to
4-4-2 in an effort to push for the win. In the last minute
Vassell took a hasty throw in and O’Brien was pressed
out of possession. Astles sliced the resultant Spitfires
cross out for a last ditch corner. Green swung the ball
in and found the unmarked Scott Wilson who crashed home
It was hard to take but Chester paid a heavy price for
the lapse in concentration. Nerves began to fray amongst
the home faithful. Colin Mansley
3 March Chester
2 Tranmere Rovers 3
Attendance: 3,696 Half Time 1-0
Chester: Lynch, Hughes, Hudson, Astles,
Hunt, Durrell (Mahon 84), Joyce, Lloyd, Horwood (O’Brien
60), Richards (Dawson 67), Alabi. Subs not used: Roberts,
Killock. Tranmere Rovers:
Davies, Vaughan, McNulty, Ihiekwe, Ridehalgh, Hughes,
Maynard (Harris 7), Mekki, Sutton, Stockton (Cook 58),
Mangan (Norwood 65). Subs not used: Turner, Jennings. Referee: Antony Coggins.
Chester were beaten at home for the second time in a month
in front of the TV cameras as local rivals Tranmere Rovers
scored twice in the final ten minutes to snatch a victory.Manager Jon McCarthy was without
both Luke George and Tom Shaw through injury and handed
the captain's armband to Sam Hughes who became the clubs
youngster ever player to hold that honour.
Blues got off to a dream start having been handed a
penalty just two minutes in by referee Antony Coggins
after Evan Horwood had been brought down by Adam Mekki,
the TV replay showed the incident had taken place a
yard outside the box. After a delay James Alibi stepped
up to smash the ball past Scott Davies in the Rovers
Despite plenty of possession
in the opening stages Tranmere couldn’ t break
through the Chester rearguard with Alex Lynch called
on just once to save a back flick from Cole Stockton
from six yards.
Hughes saw a glancing header
just go wide following a corner before the Blues almost
doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time as Elliott
Durrell saw a curling free-kick over the defensive wall
hit the outside of the post with Davies beaten.
Tranmere started the second half
strongly and drew level ten minutes in as ex-Chester
player Jay Harris sent a low 20-yarder into the bottom
corner just out of the reach of Lynch.
Davies did well to prevent Alibi adding a second as
he rushed out to block the striker on the edge of the
box, but on 63 minutes Chester regained the lead as
Ryan Lloyd's right wing corner was met by Ryan Astles
who glanced a header past Davies and the defenders on
Nine minutes from time Tranmere drew
level again. Substitute Lucas Dawson, on for Kane Richards,
lost possession and Liam Ridehalgh crossed to Rovers
substitute James Norwood to head past Lynch from close
range. A great tackle by Hughes prevented Andy Cook
from adding a third but the substitute had the final
say as Mekki layed-off a long punt upfield from Davies
to Cook who volleyed past Lynch for the winning goal
in the 89th minute.
Despite seven minutes of stoppage
time Chester couldn't find a way back into a pulsating
game with Dawson shooting over from a free-kick as the
visitors held out for all three points.