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Dover (H) | North Ferriby United (A) | Torquay United (H) | Southport (FAC4Q A) | York City (A) | Macclesfield Town (A) | Lincoln City (H)
Saturday 15 October
Southport 1 Chester 0
FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,674 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Alibi.

Southport: Norman, Higgins, Howe, Thompson, Ashton, Weeks (G Jones 77), Lussey, Nolan, Ferguson (Caton 73), Allen (Cofie 83), A Jones. Subs not used: Grimes, Gray, White, G Jones, Crump.
Roberts, Vassell, Astles, Hughes, Hunt (Horwood 81), Lloyd, Mahon, Durrell (Chapell 28), George, Alabi, Richards (Akintunde 60). Subs not used: Killock, Evans, Waters, Joyce.
Referee: Wayne Barratt.

Chester went out of the FA Cup with a whimper as the in-form Blues failed to threaten the net of bottom-of-the-League Southport in a dismal encounter at Haig Avenue.

Despite Chester being cheered on by a large away following (the tannoy announcement of 738 away fans left us all scratching our heads), it was Southport who started the brighter on a balmy October afternoon, with Jamie Allen coming close with a shot over the bar in the opening spell.

Southport, managed by ex-Chester boss Steve Burr, continued to be the dominant team for the first half hour. It can't have helped Chester though when Elliott Durrell went off injured on the 29th minute, to be replaced by Jordan Chapell.

Soon after Southport's pressure finally paid off and they went 1-0 up. It was a sickening goal for Chester to concede after a poor clearance fell to Southport's Declan Weeks. His shot wouldn't have threatened Liam Roberts, but it ricocheted off a Chester defender and the goalkeeper could do nothing about it. It was a sorry way to end the run of seven clean sheets, and came on the 700th minute since Chester last conceded a goal.

The Blues failed to respond before half-time came and the disappointed away terrace were hoping matters would be different after the re-start when Chester were shooting towards them.

Chester did put on a brighter performance in the second half after a delayed kick-off while Southport's groundsman attended to a troublesome net. Craig Mahon proved to be a tricky customer, turning ex-Chester defender Ryan Higgins at least three times before getting one of his crosses over. The Blues also won countless corners, giving the travelling army hope that a goal would finally come.

Chapell also had one of his better games, and Sam Hughes impressed again with another confident display. But the closest they came to finding the net was an off-target header from James Alabi, who otherwise had a disappointing afternoon. As the final whistle beckoned, Ryan Astles came forward at every opportunity, but he failed to match his steady defensive performance at the other end of the park.

It was getting close to sunset when referee Wayne Barrett finally blew for full-time, ending Chester's FA Cup dream for another season. But even if the game had gone into the night I had the feeling that Chester wouldn't have found the net.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 8 October
Chester 1 Torquay United 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,201 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Vassell, Lloyd.

Chester: Roberts, Vassell, Hughes, George, Hunt, Astled, Durrell (Chapell 64), Lloyd (Joyce 81), Mahon, Akintunde (Richards 60), Alibi. Subs not used: Horwood, Hudson.
Torquay United:
Moore, Rowe-Turner, Young, Gallifuoco, Ward (Nicholson 81), Richards, Lathrope, Chaney, Reid, Blissett. Subs not used: Palfrey.
Referee: Andrew Miller.

Seven clean sheets on the run for the Blues who drop a place despite this victory given to them by a Ryan Lloyd first half goal.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 4 October
North Ferriby United 0 Chester 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 476 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Astles.

North Ferriby United: Watson, Topliss, Gray, Middleton, Hare, Skelton, Oliver (Mukendi 84), Russell, Clarke, Wootton (Kendall 76), Thompson (Emerton 76). Subs not used: Mukendi, Fallowfield, Robinson.
Roberts, Vassell, Hughes, Astles, Hunt, Durrell, Shaw (George 46), Lloyd (Joyce 46), Mahon, Akintunde, Richards (Alabi 66). Subs not used: Chapell, Horwood.
Referee: Alan Young.

A goal 15 minutes from time by Oluwaseun Akintunde saw Chester’s climb up the table continue. The Blues sit tenth after recording their first away victory that sees the unbeaten run continue to six matches.

The Villigers will probably think they should have got a point from the game in which they dominated for long periods in the opening half. Kyle Wootton went close early on and Liam Roberts pulled off a great save to deny Danny Clarke as the home side started well.

Wootton saw a header his the outside of the post before Roberts pulled off another tremendous save to deny Clarkes header that was destined for the top corner of the net.

The home side did have the ball in the net following a corner just before the break but Ben Middletons effort was ruled out for a foul in the area.

Chester came out stronger folowing half-time and were soon in the action with Ryan Astles hitting the woodwork and the pace of Akintunde and Richards causing problems. Elliott Durrell forced a fine one handed save from Rory Watson before the home side were reduced to ten men following a second yellow card for Middleton.

The decisive goal came on 75 minutes as Akintunde took advantage of a mix-up in the home defence on half-way to race clear on goal before slipping a shot past Watson. There was a scare in the dying moments as a Vinny Mukendi dipping shot just cleared the Blues goal before referee Alan Young blew for full-time.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 1 October
Chester 5 Dover Athletic 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,686 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Durrell.

Chester: Roberts, Vassell, Hunt, Astles (George 46), Hughes, Shaw (Joyce 74), Lloyd, Mahon, Durrell, Alabi, Richards (Akintunde 75). Subs not used: Horwood, Chapell.
Dover Athletic:
Arnold, Magri, Thomas, Stevenson, Grimes, Sterling, Emmanuel (Jackson 66), Moore (Pinnock 85), Parkinson (Ayo Obileye 70), Lafayette, Miller. Subs not used: Kinnear, Fazakerley, Jackson.
Referee: Joe Johnson.

Chester came through a big test of character against in-form Dover with flying colours as they found five second half goals without reply in an emphatic victory. The visitors, play-off semi-finalists last season and looking likely to challenge once again came to this fixture on a good run. They had won four out of the previous five matches including those against both Forest Green and Lincoln, only losing to league leaders Dagenham & Redbridge.

The visitor’s confidence was apparent as they dominated proceedings to begin with. In Ricky Miller, playing on the right they had one of the National League’s hottest properties with twenty goals to his name last season – including the goal of the season in the 1-1 draw at the Deva - and seven already this. The Whites consistently found him with raking passes from midfield and he tested Jonny Hunt but the Blues full back was up to the challenge and was superbly supported by Craig Mahon doubling up to help him defend too. Miller earned the wrath of home supporters when he made a back for Ryan Astles and the giant centre back fell awkwardly to the ground. He was refused the trainer by the referee but was clearly in discomfort as the half progressed – clutching his wrist – and was substituted at half time.

Chester defended superbly during that first forty-five and as they grew in confidence began to offer a threat of their own. The best opening came when Richards wriggled free on the left, slipped a challenge on the by-line and crossed hard and low but without finding on-rushing strike partner Alabi. It nevertheless seemed a pivotal moment and the Blues began to believe in themselves. They did really well to maintain their record of clean sheets up to the break but seemed to be up against it when Astles did not re-emerge. George filled in alongside Sam Hughes in the backline.

City started off on the front foot and began to exert pressure on Dover. Richards toyed with the ball on the edge of the area and just when he seemed to be dithering prodded it through to Hunt, still lurking there after an overlapping raid. The left back turned and hammered home a goal despite the keeper getting a hand on it.
If there was relief at breaking the deadlock, Chester were euphoric a minute later after Alabi latched on to the ball and went on one of his driving runs. A slight sway to the left threw off his markers and he found the net from the edge of the penalty area. The game had been turned on its head.

Again, Steve Arnold in the Dover goal had got a hand on Alabi’s effort but was unable to keep it out. He’d received lengthy treatment in the first half following Chester’s best effort on goal and he now seemed to be struggling to kick the ball. The visitors continued to strive to get back in the game. They looked as though they had ended Chester’s stretch without conceding when Moses Emmanuel’s effort approached the goal, only to be swept away by Vassell’s last ditch clearance.

City continued to counter-attack with increasing elan, Mahon back to his best form on the left and Durrell a constant threat from the opposite flank. Mahon and Alabi combined with 79 minutes on the clock to set up Durrell on the penalty spot who was brought down just as he was about to shoot. Durrell wrested the ball from Alabi’s grasp to put it back on the spot before firing past Arnold to make it three-nil.

Dover were looking increasingly ragged as Akintunde came on to torture them further. First he teed up Mahon to rifle home from the edge of the area and then he glanced home Durrell’s cross in the dying embers of the game to send the home faithful ecstatic. In between, Roberts had thrown himself spectacularly at the top corner to beat away a goal bound effort and preserve City’s clean sheet. It capped a wonderful display.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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