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Torquay United (A) | Solihull Moors (A) | Ebbsfleet United (H) | Gateshead (A) | Dover Athletic (A) | Maidenhead United (H) | Eastleigh (A)
Saturday 16 September
Dover Athletic 4 Chester 0
Football Conference National
Attendance: 1,102 (65 Chester) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Joyce, McCombe.

Dover Athletic: Walker, Passley, Ilesanmi (Deen-Conteh 85), Gallifuoco, Parry, Essam, Brundle, Pinnock, Bird (Sho-Silva 57), Nortey, Daniel (Richards 79). Subs not used: Allen, Deen-Conteh, Lewington.
Chester: Lynch, Rowe-Turner, Halls, McCombe, Astles, James, Dawson, Joyce (Waters 71), Mahon (Akintunde 63), Hannah, White (Bell 61). Subs not used: Mitchell, Sheron.
Referee: Daniel Middleton.

Managerless Chester are well beaten at Dover Athletic and remain in the bottom four.

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Tuesday 12 September
Gateshead 3 Chester 2
Football Conference National
Attendance: 567 (65 Chester) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Dawson, Hannah, Rowe-Turner.

Gateshead: Hanford, Vassell, Byrne, Fyfield, Williams, O’Donnell (Tinkler 78), Hannant (Langstaff 73), Penn, McLaughlin, Johnson (York 85), Peniket. Subs not used: Macleod, Burrow.
Chester: Mitchell, Rowe-Turner, Halls, McCombe, Sheron, Mahon, Turnbull (Dawson 28), James, Joyce (Waters 73), Hannah, Akintunde (White 59). Subs not used: Lynch, Davies.
Referee: Simeon Lucas.

Chester fight back from 2-0 down but are beaten with a last gasp goal at Gateshead.

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Saturday 9 September
Chester 1 Ebbsfleet United 1
Football Conference National
Attendance: 1,591 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Halls.

Chester: Mitchell, Halls, Rowe-Turner, James, McCombe, Turnbull, Sheron, Joyce (Dawson 76), Bell, Akintunde, Hannah (Mahon 68). Subs not used: Lynch, Davies, Hellawell.
Ebbsfleet United: Ashmore, Rance, Powell (Drury 71), Kedwell, McQueen, Graham, Payne, Shields (Coulson 65), Mambo (Clark 60), Magri, Bush. Subs not used: Miles, Mills.
Referee: Marc Edwards.

Chester did not find that elusive first home win of 2017 as they drew with newly promoted Ebbsfleet but in a sense it did not matter so much as the Blues rallied well to end the match strongly. It was desperately sad to see Blues boss Jon McCarthy who, as many testified, put heart and soul into his job, sacked on Wednesday. The players, perhaps knowing that there was now nothing more to do to save his job played with that burden lifted from their shoulders.

Tom Shaw, in temporary charge along with Dave Felgate and Callum McIntyre, chose a more adventurous 4-3-3 formation with Hannah, Akintunde and Bell all starting. Astles was still out injured so Halls resumed at centre back with Matthew Sheron, on loan from Fleetwood, making his home debut at right back.

The visitors found plenty of space on the flanks as their wing backs pushed forward but Chester gradually grew in to the game and Turnbull had a chance when the ball fell to him at the edge of the area but he pulled his effort wide. McQueen had ‘Fleet’s only effort of note on target as he shot from distance straight at Mitchell.

Powell broke the deadlock for the visitors after the break when he was allowed to run with the ball and shot from distance in to the top corner. It was a setback for the Blues who were competing well but the introduction of first Mahon and then Dawson gave them added impetus and they drove forward for an equaliser.

Bell went close with a couple of headers, both on target but blocked by Ashmore’s huge frame. Halls and McCombe, lingering upfield following a corner combined to set the former up for a rasping shot which Ashmore again parried. But it was the two substitutes who set up a deserved equaliser for City as Mahon latched on to Dawson’s delightful ball over the top and laid it off for Akintunde to stroke it into the far corner.

In the final ten minutes Chester pressed forward as they scented a second. Dawson shot narrowly over and then Bell went extremely close with a fierce shot across goal, missing by a whisker. In the end they had to settle for a draw but the mood was a lot more upbeat after this improved performance from the Blues.

Colin Mansley

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Tuesday 5 September
Solihull Moors 2 Chester 0
Football Conference National
Attendance: 651 (261 Chester) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Sheron, Halls, Bell.

Solihull Moors: Vaughan, K.Green, Carter, Kettle, Murombedzi, Liburd, Afolayan (Dunkley 84), Carline, Daly, Campbell (P.Green 67), Westbrooke. Subs not used: Thomas, Cleary, Kelleher.
Lynch, Halls, Sheron, McCombe (Shaw 71), Rowe-Turner, Chapell (Hannah 46), Dawson (Mahon 56), James, Turnbull, Joyce, Bell. Subs not used: Akintunde, Davies.
Referee: Thomas Bramall.

Chester went into this match with a desperate need for a good performance and ideally a win against the League's basement side. In the event, it was a dismal showing against a team down to 10-men for the last 20 minutes and it was no surprise manager Jon McCarthy was dismissed the following morning.

The monsoon-like downpour about 90 minutes from kick-off could actually have been a sign of what was to happen as Chester’s showing throughout much of the game was almost as dismal as that shocking spell of weather.

But when kick-off approached the skies had cleared and there was no chance of this fixture being cancelled for a second time. McCarthy gave a debut to 19-year-old defender Nathan Sheron, a loan signing from Fleetwood Town. Midfielder Paul Turnbull was also back in action after a family bereavement saw him miss the Torquay game.

Both sides failed to make much impression until the 16th minute when Solihull, who were also without a home win so far this season, went ahead with a good strike from Oladapo Afolayan.

Chester did fight back, but were pulled up for offside on a number of occasions. By the time half time came, the Blues had not had a shot on target and it looked like they’d have to make a Aldershot-style comeback.

Manager McCarthy was back out of the dressing room much earlier than the Chester players and cast a lonely figure under the near full moon at Damson Parkway before the team ran out for the second half.

Chester undoubtedly improved when Craig Mahon came on for Lucas Dawson on the 56th minute. They also came close to scoring when a Turnbull free-kick just missed the target.

It suddenly seemed there might be all to play for when Solihull’s Zain Westbrooke was dismissed for a wild challenge on Wade Joyce on the 74th minute. But it was hard to tell they were only playing with 10 men, and Chester failed to take advantage of the sending-off.

In fact, just three minutes after the red card, Solihull went 2-0 ahead with another goal from Afolayan. He’d found himself in plenty of space after Chester made a poor attempt at a clearance.

There were only 13 minutes of normal play left at this stage and it looked like Chester would never find the net in that length of time. Meanwhile many of the 261 travelling fans were making their feelings known towards McCarthy, and it was not a happy atmosphere amongst the away supporters when the full-time whistle did go.

Sue Choularton

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Saturday 2 September
Torquay United 1 Chester 1
Football Conference National
Attendance: 1,455 (155 Chester) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: McCombe.

Torquay United: Dorel, McGinty, Young, Keating, Anderson, Gray, Reid, Haworth (Pittman 80), Higgins, Dowling, Cole. Subs not used: Fallon, Klukowski, Osborn, Mitchell.
Lynch, Halls, Astles, McCombe (Chapell 76), Rowe-Turner, Mahon (Shaw 59), Dawson, Joyce, James, Akintunde (Hannah 76), Bell. Subs not used: Davies, Waters.
Referee: Sam Purkiss.

Chester needed the finishing prowess of Ross Hannah to escape from the English Riviera with a valuable point after this National League basement clash at Plainmoor.

Both sides were without key players, but it was Torquay’s loan signing, 18-year-old George Dowling, who made the first impression on the match. He seized on a Chester clearance, finding himself in plenty of space to put the Gulls ahead with a great strike inside just 12 minutes.

Chester, kicking towards their 151 travelling fans in the first half, were unlucky not to get an equaliser in front of their faithful followers. The best chance fell to John McCombe, whose header hit the post and somehow spinned out of the goal instead of into the net.

The Blues fans had their heads in their hands again when a good move saw Craig Mahon pass to Kingsley James in the box. He tried to find the goal by almost passing the ball into the net, but it just went wide and the chance went begging. James had another opportunity soon after when a Torquay clearance hit his back and the ball landed well for him to have another strike - but he hit the crossbar.

The match’s main talking point came in the second half when the Chester fans saw McCombe clearly take the full force of a Torquay boot in his face. The captain went down clutching his head, but play continued and Torquay put the ball in the back of the net. There was a huge outcry from both Chester fans and players, who were relieved to see referee Sam Purkiss taking his time to talk to his assistant about the incident. As McCombe’s bloodied shirt was being changed, the goal was rightly chalked off, although there was no booking for the offender.

Towards the end of the game, Ryan Astles was clearly struggling with a leg injury, and James Akintunde was looking tired. It was time for a 76th minute double substitution for the Blues, when Jordan Chapell and Hannah came on to replace Akintunde and Mahon. Astles manfully carried on to help keep the Chester defence rock steady as the end of the game approached.

Meanwhile Hannah looked a threat to the Torquay defence as soon as he ran onto the field, and it was no surprise when he scored the equalising goal after a well-placed header from Assistant Manager Tom Shaw. He doesn’t need many chances to find the net and Chester will must hope he remains fit for the rest of the season.

Sue Choularton

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