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Chorley (H) | Blyth Spartans (A) | Kettering Town (H) | Gloucester City (A) | Guiseley (A)
Saturday 26 March
Guiseley 0 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 785 Half Time: 0-1
Booked: -.

Guiseley: Mason, Cantrill, Latty-Fairweather, Ekpolo, Bencherif, Mbeka, Felix, Hutchinson, Gale (Hollins 81), Johnston (Brown 70), Tear (Haw 70). Subs not used: Moloney.
Chester: Gray, Waters, Roberts, Burke, Grand, Fitzpatrick, Sargent (Roache 60), Weeks, Glendon, Dackers (Waring 60), Stephenson. Subs not used: Stanway, Horsfield, Dudley.
Referee: Ben Wyatt.

Chester made one change to the side that drew 3-3 at Gloucester City in midweek with Kevin Roberts returning to the starting X1 as Rowan Roach dropped to the bench.

Guiseley went close to opening the scoring with Kaine Felix latching on to a long throw down the left and crossing but David Fitzpatrick was on hand to clear the danger. After going close minutes earlier with a shot from outside of the box that went just wide of the post, Declan Weeks opened the scoring for Chester on 15 minutes with a shot of similar distance that flew past Owen Mason into the top right hand corner following good build up play down the right.

Matty Waters had a great chance to double the lead following a great through ball from George Glendon but his effort was saves by the outstretched leg of Mason.

The Lions started the second half brightest, forcing Chester back for long periods but without creating any real clear cut chances. The nearest they came was when former Blue John Johnston made a run down the right and passed to Felix but his cross eluded the lunging James Gale at the far post and went out for a goal kick. Felix saw a goalbound effort blocked before Chester sealed the points with a counter attack two minutes from time that saw Darren Stephenson pick up a Weeks pass on the right, cut inside before shooting left foot past Mason from the edge of the box.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Tuesday 22 March
Gloucester City 3 Chester 3
National League North
Attendance: 859 Half Time: 1-3
Booked: -.

Gloucester City: Armstrong, Hall, Harrison, Thompson, Barkers (McClure 77), Dawson, O’Sullivan, Hulbert, Tomlinson, Robert (King 35), Green (James 66). Subs not used: Avenell, Martinez.
Chester: Gray, Waters, Burke, Grand, Fitzpatrick, Sargent, Weeks, Glendon, Stephenson, Roache (Roberts 79), Dackers (Griffiths 84). Subs not used: Stanway, Heywood, Simmonds.
Referee: Jonathan Maskrey.

Long-suffering Chester fans could have written the script for this entertaining encounter at Gloucester City’s New Meadow Park ground, as the Blues let slip a two-goal lead in the closing spell of the game to head back north with a solitary point.

The match had marked Chester’s first visit to Gloucester, as the home side had been forced to play at a series of grounds since the original Meadow Park was submerged by floods in July 2007.

A healthy contigent of Exiles took the opportunity to ‘tick off’ a new ground as well as enjoy a pre-match tipple in the excellent Gloucester Brewery Tank pub in the nearby docks. However, some of them missed kick-off which inexplicably seemed to take place around five minutes early.

Thankfully there were plenty of Chester cheers around the unsegregated ground - built on the same footprint as the flooded pitch - when Marcus Dackers put the visitors ahead on the fourth minute with a great strike into the corner, following a pass from Darren Stephenson.

Chester were looking in confident mode, but the match was back to all square just nine minutes later with Gloucester’s first serious foray into the danger zone. A good cross found Fabian Robert well-placed to slot the ball home.

But Chester continued to press, and after they won a couple of corners, you felt another goal was on the way. Sure enough, a Matt Sargent pass on the 18th minute found Declan Weeks well-placed to fire into the corner to put the Blues back in the lead.

And just as the travelling fans were catching their breath, there was a third goal to cheer as dangerman Dackers saw a great shot go over the head of Gloucester ‘keeper Liam Armstrong and into the net.

Chester sat back further in the second half, hoping to secure a much-needed three points. But that didn’t stop Simon Grand and Weeks having opportunities to score. For the final ten minutes Rowan Roache was replaced by Kevin Roberts. But the change didn't help the Blues held on, as Gloucester’s Lucas Tomlinson got behind the defence and netted on the 80th minute.

Blues’ boss Steve Watson made another substitution, with Chippenham Town loanee Dan Griffiths coming on for Dackers. When an additional stoppage time of four minutes was announced, the away fans were keeping everything crossed that Chester would hold on to the lead.

Louis Gray made a great diving save to keep his side ahead until the 94th minute. But none of the travelling support seemed surprised that the equaliser came after Gloucester’s star striker Matt McClure, a 79th minute substitute, headed home a cross to make it 3-3 in the game’s dying moments. There was no chance for a comeback as the referee blew for time almost straight after the re-start.

Sue Choularton

League table after this match |

Saturday 19 March
Chester 4 Kettering Town 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,796 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Livesey.

Chester: Gray, Roberts (Waters 49), Livesey (Griffiths 76), Williams (Grand 59), Fitzpatrick, Weeks, Sargent, Burke, Stephenson, Dackers, Roache. Subs not used: Stanway, Simmonds.
Kettering Town: Jackson Smith, Barrett (Empson 89), Brown, Jack Smith, Daly, C.Smith, Stead (Herbert 85), Deacon (Milovanovic 69), Crawford, Sharpe, Sheriff, Daly. Sub not used: Davies.
Referee: Simeon Lucas.

Illness to George Glendon meant a swift debut for Matt Sargent, signed on loan from Salford yesterday. And what a debut it was, scoring with his first touch of the ball in the second minute. Architect of the goal was Stephenson who held on to the ball on the left and turned defenders inside out before crossing. Dackers picked it up in the penalty area and squared for the debutant who curled a left footed shot inside the post.

Backed by a swirling wind, the Poppies responded and enjoyed spells of possession without really creating an opening. The closest they came was when Sheriff almost got on the end of a headed through ball as it trickled towards Gray. In midfield Chester were winning most of the fifty-fifty exchanges with Burke and Sargent forming a dual enforcement role, freeing Weekes to dominate creatively. City’s approach play was slick at times. A flick from Dackers allowed Fitzpatrick to curl a delightful pass to Stephenson who tormented again. Then Weeks set up Stephenson down the right this time and the move ended with another shot by Sargent.

The Blues defence benefited from the experience and battling presence of Livesey back in the side again. He required treatment when his opponent fell heavily on him after an aerial clash. He played on but it transpired that he’d broken his collar bone in first half stoppage time a long throw into City’s box led to Stead hooking a shot towards the top corner but Gray got a hand to paw it away for a corner.

There had been enough from the visitors to suggest that the second half would be a struggle but again they got off to a slow start and within three minutes of the break City had doubled their lead. A series of miskicks in their own penalty area led to Weeks picking up the ball on the edge and his whipped shot skimmed under the dive of Jackson Smith in the Poppies’ goal.

City were now playing with confidence and using the wind to their advantage as they pinned Kettering back. Roberts appeared ill and was withdrawn for Waters. When Sargent won a free kick on the right Waters curled a delightful delivery for Dackers to glance in for Chester’s third. And five minutes later Waters himself made it a happy return to the Deva when he struck sweetly a direct free kick just inside the right post to make it four-nil. Dackers looked to have added a fifth from yet another right wing cross only for the referee to rule it out.

Matty Williams struggled on after picking up a hamstring injury in the first half until he was replaced after an hour to go by Grand. There was time for Dan Griffiths to make a debut appearance and harry the Kettering defence further. He replaced the ailing Livesey. Burke dropped to centre back.

With another match away to Gloucester on Tuesday, the injuries were the only down side of another stand out performance by the Blues and the first time this season that they have won back to back games.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match photographs | Watch the highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 12 March
Blyth Spartans 1 Chester 3
National League North
Attendance: 852 Half Time: 0-2
Booked: -.

Blyth Spartans: Mitchell, Reid, Buddle, Hicke (Dale 58), Maguire (McKeown 46), O’Donnell, Byrne, McNall (Capello 46), Deverdics, Lees, Almond. Subs not used: Watson, Barlow.
Chester: Gray, Roberts, Weeks, Livesey (Grand 77), Fitzpatrick, Glendon, Stephenson, Apter, Williams, Dackers, Waters. Subs not used: Stanway, Burke, Horsfield, Roach.
Referee: Richard Aspinall.

Manager Steve Watson made four changes from the team beaten at home by Chorley last Week. In came Matty Williams, Danny Livesey, Darren Stephenson and on loan Matty Waters. It took just three minutes for Chester to open the scoring, Rob Apter swung over a right wing free kick that cannoned against the bar, the ball came out to Williams who turned and sent a snap shot past the stranded Alex Mitchell in the home goal.

Both sides created few chances in the next period, JJ O’Donnell saw a long range effort go over for the home side, the same player also saw a header from a Nicky Deverdics cross drop over the bar onto the roof of the net.

Chester doubled their lead on 19 minutes through Marcus Dackers. Great work by Declan Weeks won the ball back in midfield, Dackers pounced on the loose ball and raced through on goal before slotting it past Mitchell into the bottom corner.

Louis Gray produced a fine save at full stretch to deny Deverdics and moments later Apter had a great chance to add a third be he shot over from six yards out. At the other end Jordan Hickey saw a couple of efforts blocked just before the interval.

Within five minutes of the restart Chester added a third goal to effectively put the game beyond Spartans. Weeks and George Glendon played a neat one-two before the captain slotted the ball into the empty net.

Louis Gray was again called into action as Blyth responded well. O’Donnell shot over and Karl Byrne headed against the post from a Deverdics corner as Chester seemed to sit back and allow the home side plenty of the ball.

On 69 minutes Sean Reid pulled a goal back scoring from close range following an corner.
Reid almost grabbed a second, shooting just wide following a fine Cappello cross.

Despite a late flurry by the home side Chester held firm to record a rare and welcome three points from the north east.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Saturday 5 March
Chester 1 Chorley 2
National League North
Attendance: 1,689 Half Time: 0-2
Booked: Apter, Simmonds.

Chester: Gray, Roberts, Grand, Weeks, Fitzpatrick, Glendon, Burke (Stephenson 46), Horsfield, Apter (Heywood 74), Dackers, Simmonds (Roache 61). Subs not used: Stanway, Williams.
Chorley: Urwin, Smith, Halls, Leather, Whitehouse (Shenton 75), Calveley, Sampson, Tomlinson, Ustabasi, Blakeman (Baines 58), Hall (Ali 66). Subs not used: Blyth, Holmes.
Referee: K.Silcock.

Chester were caught napping by a free kick, harshly awarded and quickly taken. Hall chased a diagonal ball behind the defence and pulled it back to Blakeman. His first time cross was flicked on by Ustabasi and the ball looped over Grand to Samson who swept it in for an early lead.

It was a definite blow to the Blues’ fragile confidence but they began to work the ball well in possession and carved out a glorious chance to equalise when Glendon’s inviting cross was met by Dackers. His header hit the ground and bounced kindly for Urwin who parried the ball away.

Chorley doubled their tally when Ustabasi was afforded too much room on the left and drove the ball across goal. Sampson slid in at the far post to stab it over the line. It appeared for a couple of moments that Chester might be overwhelmed but they came forward again. Weeks played a one-two with Glendon and went through only to see his shot cannon off the upright and out for a goal kick.

City reshuffled at the break, bringing on Stephenson for Burke. Kevin Roberts dropped back from midfield to fill the gap in central defence left by the youngster’s withdrawal. Stephenson had an instant impact on the game as he terrorised the Chorley left. His pace, strength and trickery carved an opening for Dackers whose shot was blocked. Grand headed straight at Urwin from the resulting corner. Next Stephenson breezed past two defenders before his shot hit Urwin and Weeks’ volleyed shot from the rebound was deflected wide for another corner.

Simmonds found Apter in space but the youngster blazed his shot well over the bar. Roache came on to replace Simmonds and combined well with Fitzpatrick to launch a cross from the left. Dackers controlled it at the far post and was very unlucky to see his shot crash back off the angle of post and bar before being scrambled away. Back it came again and Roache crossed once more. Dackers’ shirt was pulled back by White but the offence was ignored as City’s central striker was bundled over.

Fitzpatrick’s incisive ball allowed Apter to get behind down the left and his low cross was gathered by Dackers who seemed certain to score but Urwin somehow managed to get in the way. Next Weeks and Glendon worked the ball out to Roache. His in-swinging cross was headed narrowly over by Dackers.

Finally after Glendon found the overlapping run of debutant Heywood on the left, Dackers headed the cross into the danger area. Glendon was first to pick it up and was felled by Urwin’s lunge. Dackers lined up the resulting penalty and, after having been denied all afternoon, scored with cool aplomb.

The visitors had been under the cosh although threatening to break quickly through Ustabasi. They tried every trick in the book to run the clock down as they hung on. Urwin and then Baines were booked for time-wasting and six minutes were added on to the ninety. Approximately four of these were spent contesting the ball by City’s corner flag as the seconds ticked away further but there was still time for Grand to meet Roache’s right wing cross – his header was blocked however and Urwin gathered in the Magpies’ goal.

This was City’s fifth successive defeat in the league but they did enough in the game to merit at least a point. As Steve Watson said after the match, the damage had been done in the first seventy seconds when the visitors took that early lead. It allowed them to sit back and hit City on the break – which they did to double their advantage. They toughed out City’s response to keep themselves in the play-off places. There was no lack of effort or character in Chester’s performance but the suffering endures both for the players and the supporters alike.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]




































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