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Friday 29 March
Buxton 1 Chester 4
National League North
Attendance: 2,042 Half Time: 1-1
Booked: Peers, K.Burton, Weeks.

Buxton: Petrovic, Livingstone, Shiels, Wright, Kirby, Minihan, Hull, Andreucci (Mottley-Henry 75), Weston, Ackroyd ( Elliott 66), Hunt (Etaluku 75). Subs not used: Granite, De Girolamo.
Chester: Stanway, Taylor (Woodthorpe 71), Weeks, Burke, Williams, Peers, Thomas, Tollitt, Murray (Glendon 61), Roberts (Daly 74), K.Burton. Subs not used: Norton, Heywood.
Referee: Lewis Dawson.

The Blues concede after two minutes but fightback as goals from Declan Weeks, Harrison Burke, Adam Thomas and Tom Peers seal an emphatic victory at Silverlands.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 23 March
Chester 0 South Shields 1
National League North
Attendance: 2,539 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Whitehouse.

Chester: Stanway, Woodthorpe, Weeks, Burke (Norton 90+2), Williams, Peers, Glendon (Thomas 82), Caton (Tollitt 42), Whitehouse, Murray, Roberts. Subs not used: K.Burton, Edwards.
South Shields: Boney, Clarke, Morse, Broadbent, Adams, Briggs, Smith, Jenkins, Heaney (Savage 78), Blackett, Stephenson (Martin 63). Subs not used: Abbey, Gomes, Sloan.
Referee: Matthew Scholes.

Paul Blackett – with 25 league and cup goals this season – featured as the one to watch among the visiting players. His goal five minutes before full-time separated the two sides at the final whistle. Though the Mariners created few opportunities their top scorer made the most of his chance when it came. Blackett latched on to a headed flick direct from a wind-assisted goal kick and worked the ball to the edge of the area before tucking a shot past the onrushing Woodthorpe and the unsighted Stanway.

It was a harsh outcome for Chester who had more than enough chances to have won the game but were denied by a combination of bad fortune, staunch defending and collective lack of incision in front of goal. Burke, operating at right back had City’s best efforts in the first half, blazing a shot narrowly over early on and then, with half-time approaching rattling the inside of the post with a superb header with no-one able to capitalise on the rebound. Whitehouse also saw his shot on the turn touched away by a full stretch keeper,

Chester lost Caton to injury just before the break when, following some good pressing a chance was created for him to shoot. Boney in the Mariners’ goal rushed out to save and clattered Caton in the process leaving him unable to continue.

Burke and Woodthorpe found space on either flank to cross into the danger area but could not find a finisher in the box. Peers was agonisingly close to one and, in the dying embers, Weeks was foiled in his attempt to turn the ball in to the goal. Tollitt lurking just behind the forward line was narrowly wide of the post with a shot from the left and was closed out on the right when shaping to shoot. George Glendon was another City casualty later in the game – subjected to a late tackle for which the miscreant was booked.

The Blues will be hoping their goal drought comes to an end sooner rather than later if they are to maintain a play-off push. Beginning with the trip to Buxton on Good Friday and the home fixture with Alfreton on Easter Monday.

Coln Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 16 March
Tamworth 0 Chester 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,205 (605 Chester) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Peers, Weeks.

Tamworth: Singh, Curley, Cockerill-Mollett (Tonks 87), Finn, Milnes, Acquaye (Williams 67), Liburd, Dolman, Creaney, Wray (Deaco 81), Sundire. Subs not used: Tshikuna, Enoru.
Chester: Stanway, Woodthorpe, Weeks, Burke, Williams, Peers, Glandon, Caton (Tollitt 74), Whitehouse, Murray, Roberts. Subs not used: Taylor, Norton, Heywood, Coates.
Referee: Lee Dibble.

Many of the Chester fans gathered for a pre-match tipple in the unmissable Tamworth Tap – rightly awarded the CAMRA national pub of the year – would have settled for a draw after their team’s visit to the high-flying league leaders.

Although Chester were awarded a vital point for their endeavours at the Lamb ground, it could actually have been a different story if the Blues had converted any of their second half chances.

In truth it was difficult to see how Tamworth, who Chester had dispatched 2-0 at home earlier in the season, were leading the Conference North by such a distance The first half was actually a really lacklustre game of football, with neither side able to make any serious attempt on goal and looking like they'd both be happy with a draw.

Declan Weeks and Elliott Whitehouse both had shots which went way over the bar, and at the other end Tamworth’s number 18, Jordan Cullinane-Libard had a bit of a stand-off with Wyll Stanway before a free kick taken by his captain Ben Milnes led to a couple of goal attempts which were well cleared by the Chester defence.

Centre back Cullinane-Libard went on to be named man-of-the-match and is perhaps a good reason why Tamworth have conceded only 22 goals so far this season. There also weren’t many balls getting past his larger-than-life fellow defender, Liam Dolman.

The second half was a better watch, with Chester looking more threatening after Ben Tollitt replaced Charlie Caton on the 74th minute. He’d barely been on the pitch when he was twisting the Tamworth defenders inside and out. Urged on by 605 Chester fans in a record National League North crowd for Tamworth, he had one of Chester’s first serious goal attempts which was well saved by Jas Singh.

Soon after, Chester came closest to scoring when a scramble in the box led to a Harrison Burke strike, which was somehow cleared off the line by the Tamworth defence. There was a look of handball about the clearance, but the referee was having none of it.

Chester continued to press, seemingly having more energy on the plastic pitch than their hosts. Both George Glendon and Tom Peers also had close range shots cleared in the dying embers of the game.

When the full-time whistle was blown, it was the Tamworth players who sat on the pitch to recover, looking more pleased than their visitors to have shared the spoils at this stage of the season against a determined set of opponents.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Tuesday 12 March
Chester 0 Southport 1
National League North
Attendance: 1,739 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Williams.

Chester: Stanway, Burton, Williams, Edwards (Norton 78), Coates, Burke, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Tollitt (Caton 60), Peers Subs not used: Woodthorpe, Daly, Murray.
Southport: Renshaw, Doyle, Arthur, Hockenhull, Quansah, Thomson (Anson 46), Philliskirk, Hmami (Burgess 83), Lloyd, Bennett, Carver (Russ 90). Subs not used: McMillan, Flowers.
Referee: Robert Claussen.

Chester’s inability to score haunted them at home once again as they slid to defeat against Southport – the first time the opposition had won here since 2001.

They began brightly enough pushing the Sandgrounders back for spells. For all their endeavour however none of the crosses into the box found a Chester head or foot and the visitors’ goal remained intact. Weeks went close when he opportunistically lobbed the keeper from the edge of the area. But his volley clipped the top of the bar. Tollitt fired a free kick over as the last act in anger of the first half.

Danny Lloyd was guilty of missing a gilt edged opportunity for the visitors midway in the first period when he met Thomson’s sweeping cross from the right but shanked his shot wide.

As the game wore on a familiar pattern developed with Southport restricting City’s ability to play through midfield. When forced to go long Peers and Tollitt found little joy against colossal centre backs Arthur and Hockenhull. Things got even more congested in the middle after the break as the Sandgrounders replaced wing back Thomson with another centre back, Anson. When Chester tried to go down the flanks, Coates in particular was isolated and outnumbered and struggled to make progress despite great efforts.

Southport hit City on the break when Qansah’s deep cross was met by Bennett who headed home. Despite seeming to shove Matty Williams to the ground, Bennett’s goal stood. City strove for an equaliser: Caton who’d replaced Tollitt hammered a shot straight at Renshaw and the keeper gathered. Whitehouse seemed to get in the way of a goal bound shot and Burke’s majestic header was scrambled away from the line. Burton’s cross from the left glanced off the crossbar and unfortunately over the head of the onrushing Coates.

City were out of luck in the final third as so often this season, and they struggled to find rhythm and cohesion as a team despite the talented parts. It meant an intensely frustrating evening for Chester and their followers who will now begin to fret about qualifying for the play-offs – so intense is the competition.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 9 March
Chester 0 Curzon Ashton 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,172 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Whitehouse, Peers.
Sent-off: K.Burton.

Chester: Stanway, Burke, Williams, Peers, Glendon, Caton (Thomas 66), Whitehouse, Tollitt (Woodthorpe 71), Murray (Weeks 56), Coates, K.Burton. Subs not used: Norton, Edwards.
Curzon Ashton: Ollerenshaw, Matthews, Sinclair, Spencer, Hayhurst, Mols (Lewis 74), Allen (Campbell 81), Richards, Mahon, Barton, Hughes. Subs not used: Kenyon.
Referee: Niall Smith.

Kieran Burton’s debut for the Blues was nothing if not uneventful. In a drab game he stood out – giving a man of the match performance and, on another day, might have scored a debut hat-trick if he had finished the chances that came his way as a marauding left back. Sadly, his afternoon was curtailed when awarded a second yellow card after expressing his annoyance at a throw in decision by slamming the ball down on the ground.

The Hartlepool loanee made his bow in a back three along with Burke and Williams. Nathan Woodthorpe was on the bench along with Declan Weeks. Kev Roberts was absent whilst City started with Tollitt, Peers and Caton in their line-up. Curzon were only able to name three substitutes.

City began attacking the Harry Mac applying pressure but not creating clear cut opportunities. The closest they came was when Murray’s clever cut back found Gendon on the edge of the area. The captain’s clipped shot rebounded off the crossbar and away to safety. He had another effort from a similar position but found only the arms of Ollerenshaw. Burton saw his opportunistic volley parried behind by the keeper and Whitehouse headed over the bar when the ball returned back across goal from a corner.

The visitors defended deep and fought tigerishly to wrest the ball from the Blues and retained it skilfully. Though carrying a threat on the break they seldom troubled Stanway except for a ball inside which put Jamie Allen through on goal. Stanway parried his shot onto the post.

Weeks replaced Murray soon after the break and Thomas came on for Caton shortly after as City tried to break down stubborn opposition. A fine run forwards with the ball by Burton culminated in a one-two with Peers and the newbie just unable to finish past the keeper. Following Burton’s early departure, Tollitt was sacrificed for the defensive cover of Woodthorpe, limiting City’s attack further.

Numbers were evened up when Curzon skipper Spencer received a second yellow for following through on Matty Williams. This and the addition of seven extra minutes at the end gave City fans hopes of three points a fresh impetus. But despite a flurry of corners at either end, no side was able to fashion a shooting chance and the game finished goalless.

This was Chester’s fourth draw on the run – a sequence which threatens their bid to hold on to a play-off position.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 2 March
Scunthorpe United 2 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 7,511 (1,142 Chester) Half Time: 0-1
Booked: Glendon, Stanway, Roberts, Whitehouse, Williams.

Scunthorpe United: Fitzsimons, Ogle (Elliott 79), Evans, Boyce, McAlinden, Pugh (Beestin 65), Butterfield, Scales, Sembie-Ferris, Denton, Whitehall. Subs not used: Kelly, Clarke, Burrows.
Chester: Stanway, Woodthorpe, Taylor, Burke, Williams, Glendon, Caton (Peers 61), Whitehouse, Tollitt (Thomas 87), Murray, Roberts. Subs not used: Norton, Daly, Edwards.
Referee: Luis Griffiths.

Chester are pegged back twice as they come away from Scunthorpe with a point in front of a record National League North crowd.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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