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Dagenham & Redbridge (A) | Stevenage Borough (H) | Plymouth Argyle (H) Cup | Trial Match | Plymouth Argyle (A) Cup

Tuesday 28 November 2000
Plymouth Argyle 1 Chester City 2 (AET)

AXA FA Cup First Round replay.
Attendance: 3,264 Half-time 0-1

Plymouth Argyle: Hodges, Fleming, Beswetherick, Wotton, Taylor, Phillips (M), Barlow (Gritton 109), Leadbitter, Peake (Stonebridge 68), Guinan (Wills 81), McGregor. Subs not used: Sheffield, Barrett.
Chester City:
Brown, Fisher (Ruscoe 93), Doughty, Lancaster, Ruffer, Beesley (P), Carden, Blackburn (Woods 76), Beesley (M), Whitehall (Wright 101), Porter. Subs not used: Moss, Gaunt.
P.Prosser (Gloucester).

A goal 13 minutes from the end of extra-time bought City a first ever victory at Home Park. Scott Ruscoe's late winner was reward for a battling performance from a never-say-die City.

City had a share of the opening exchanges forcing several corners in the opening 10 minutes.

Whitehall was in defensive action as he was on hand to clear off the City goal-line after Craig Taylor had beaten Wayne Brown. Brown was having an outstanding game though with a series of close range saves to deny the home side.

Minutes later though, on the stroke of half-time, Whitehall gave City the lead. Mark Beesley received a Paul Carden cross-ball in acres of space on the left of the box. He turned a defender and shot low on goal; 'keeper Hodges failed to hold his shot and Whitehall was on hand to sweep the ball home from six yards.

After the break Argyle stepped up a gear and Brown was forced into action making fine saves from Fleming and Barlow.

City's dogged defence was breached on 73 minutes. A through ball from Stonebridge sent McGregor clear and he made no mistake from 18 yards.

Both sides had chances to grab the winner in the frenetic last 10 minutes, but City held on to force extra-time.

Penalties were looming when Martyn Lancaster's ball into space found Scott Ruscoe, he chested the ball round 'keeper Hodge and cooly volleyed home from a narrow angle to send the small band of City fans behind the goal wild.
Monday 20 November 2000
F.A.X1 4 Unibond League X1 0

Scorers FA X1 – Brodie (2), Campbell, Arnold
Attendance: 209 Half-time 2-0

F.A.X1: Brown (Chester), Marples (Doncaster), McIntyre (Doncaster), Guyett (Southport), P Beesley (Chester), Ryan (Doncaster), Carden (Chester), Blackburn (Chester), Campbell (Doncaster), Brodie (Scarborough), Hawes (Altrincham). Subs – Miller (Doncaster), Woods (Scarborough), Doughty (Chester), Jones (Leigh RMI), Arnold (Southport).

All the subs were introduced at half time for Brown, Guyett, Carden, Campbell and Hawes.

A handful of Chester fans travelled to the Giant Axe at Lancaster to see the unusual sight of five Chester players appearing in England shirts. The selection of Wayne Brown, Paul Beesley, Paul Carden and Chris Blackburn for this representative match was well publicised but the late inclusion of Matt Doughty came as something of a surprise. This game was the first of three matches, played on successive nights this week, from which an England semi-professional squad will be selected for end of season international games against Italy, Wales, Holland and the Highland League of Scotland.

Although the FA X1 won the game convincingly it proved an entertaining match and all the Chester players can be happy with their contributions. Pick of the bunch was Paul Carden who had a superb 45 minutes before being substituted at half time. There is little doubt that his performance will have impressed the selectors and he should be in with an excellent chance of making the final squad. Wayne Brown had a reasonably quiet 45 minutes before being replaced by Andy Woods of Scarborough but he put in a confident performance and handled the ball well at all times. On the one occasion he was called into serious action he produced a magnificent save by tipping the ball over the bar when a Unibond player was put clean through. Chris Blackburn put in a solid rather than spectacular performance, particularly in the first half when he benefitted from playing alongside Paul Carden. He worked hard throughout the game and was not over-shadowed by the more experienced players around him. Paul Beesley was steady at the centre of defence but it seems unlikely that he will be selected for the final squad. As an added bonus he didn't get booked. Matt Doughty came on for the second half but tended to be isolated on the wing although he did manage a couple of promising runs.

The FA X1 scored the first goal after two minutes when Steve Brodie scored from close range and added a second on 20 minutes when Neil Campbell followed up Paul Carden's magnificent chip shot which rebounded off the crossbar. Ian Arnold added a third just after half time with a long range shot and Steve Brodie scored the fourth in a one on one with the keeper.

Besides Paul Carden the most impressive players on display were Southport's centre-back Scott Guyett who won everything in the air and Scarborough's Steve Brodie who always looked dangerous. Graham Barrow and Joe Hinnigan were both watching the game and Graham was in discussion with Southport's Mark Wright at half-time, hopefully trying to persuade him to let us have Ian Arnold and Scott Guyett.

Chas Sumner

Saturday 18 November 2000
Chester City 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

AXA FA Cup First Round. 
Attendance: 2,393 Half-time 0-0

Chester City: Brown, Fisher (Ruscoe 70 (Gaunt 85)), Doughty, Lancaster, Ruffer, P.Beesley, Carden, Blackburn, M.Beesley (Wright 59), Whitehall, Porter. Subs not used: Moss, Woodyatt.
Plymouth Argyle: Hodges, Wotton, Beswetherick, Leadbitter, Adams (Wills 77), Taylor, Fleming, Barlow, Guinan (Stonebridge 82), McGregor, Phillips (Peake 67). Subs not used: Barratt, Sheffield.
P.Prosser (Gloucester).

[Match Programme]Plymouth were a yardstick for us against which we could measure our current footballng stock. There didn't seem to be much between the teams on the evidence of this ninety minutes. For Plymouth, with their green and white kit and familiarity with the M5 on their travels, you could have subsituted Yeovil (Mind you, given the Glovers crushing result against Colchester that is doing them down).

Whereas we fancied our chances against a side that had been struggling in the Third Division and hadn't won away since their slender victory at the Deva last season, Plymouth had just replaced their manager so were likely to be newly enthused. In looking for a new footballing challenge, Paul Sturrock could not have got much further away from Dundee in the UK if he had tried.

City dominated the first half, applying decent pressure on the Greens' back four who, as they attempted to play the ball around, were often guilty of hitting woeful passes. Chester seemed to have more fluency with Lancaster operating at right back and Ruffer alongside Beasley in the centre. Plymouth looked lively on the break but only made one genuine chance – blasting comfortably over when well placed. Beasley collected his customary booking early in the first half. Harshly treated I felt, the ball was there to be played, the momentum of Guinan's turn made him fall over and – if Beasley made contact with him rather than the ball – which I doubt – it was his first offence. If that was a harsh decision then so too was the sending off of the Plymouth captain after a handbags at five paces brush with Porter.

The closest Chester came to scoring in the first half was when Doughty's inswinging corner appeared to elude eveyone and come off the foot of the post. City went in for a cup of tea on top and with every chance of knocking their League opponents off their perch.

But after the interval City struggled to make their advantage in numbers tell. At times they played some lovely football – Carden volleyed over from a narrow angle after a seven man move. But Plymouth dug in and City's midfield, dominant in the first half found it difficult once again to link up with our forwards. A disappointing Mark Beasley was replaced by Darren Wright. And a disappointed Fisher was replaced by Roscoe. Dazza it was who pounced on Hodges fumble with ten minutes to go to bundle the ball into the net.

Earlier Lancaster had rescued City when he hacked a goal bound shot off the line. Brown too had played a stalwart role at corners and crosses.

After the goal, Chester seemed to be coping comfortably enough until Paul Beesley was booked a second time for an innocuous tap of the ball at the award of a free kick. Ill-disciplined no doubt, especially given Beasley's experience and Mr Prosser's volatility, but completely uneccesary. Roscoe was hastily withdrawn so that Gaunt could be thrown on to shore up a now creaking defence.

But with five minutes of added time looming we feared the worst as Plymouth began to see a chink in Chester's armour. Sure enough Mr Prosser gave them a free kick on the edge of the box and Jason Peake curled in the perfect shot into the top corner.

So honours even, yet another 1-1 draw, Mr Prosser's idiosyncracies had been applied equally. A long-haul on a Tuesday night for the replay but at least, with a blank Saturday coming up, City have ten days in which to prepare. Terry will probably take the opportunity to take them all to that army camp again.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 11 November 2000
Chester City 1 Stevenage Borough
Attendance: 1,708 Half-time 0-0

Chester City: Brown, Ruffer, P.Beesley, Woods, Fisher (Ruscoe 84), Doughty, Carden, Blackburn, Porter, M.Beesley, Wright. Subs not used: Moss, Kerr, Woodyatt, Lancaster.
Stevenage Borough: Wilkerson, Kirby, Trott, Smith, Bunce, Metcalfe (Miller 64), Martin, McMahon, Clarke, Hay (Leadbeater 78), Armstrong (Illman 89). Subs not used: Taylor, Wright.
R.M.Pollock (Liverpool).

[Match Programme]What is Terry Smith on? Chester fans must have asked themselves that question many times when reading his legendary programme notes. Well not food and water apparently. According to his bit in the thicker than ever ("48 pages is like a Book") Matchday Magazine, Terry's punishing schedule of 16-18 hours a day and 100 plus hours a week means that he does not have the time to stop and eat or drink – even a glass of water. He's probably got a stash of krypton stored away in his office somewhere.

Yet another 1-1 draw, our fourth in a row. The pools punters must love us – when the Conference fixtures get to feature on the pools that is. But this was a vastly different match from the most recent Deva stalemate against Leigh RMI. This time City, chided by Barrow for only getting going when they go a goal behind, seemed to start in the right frame of mind and took the game to the visitors. Much of the play was confined to midfield but Chester's midfield and defenders worked hard to be first to the loose ball.

But though they threatened, they just could not get the ball in the net. Darren Wright, in for the injured Whitehall, was the culprit of missing an absolute sitter just before half time. Not only did he blaze the ball over from just below the bar, he actually got it out of the ground. Doughty and Beesley also missed good shooting opportunities. At our end a bad slip by Ruffer let in Dean Martin but Brown saved courageously.

City went in at half time to lukewarm applause, having dominated but lacking the killer touch once again. It only took them a minute of the second half to find it however. Goalkeeper Wilkerson made a meal of a bouncing ball in the box and lost control of it when he collided with Smith. Beesley struck the loose ball into the empty net.

Inspired by this piece of luck City came sweeping forward in an effort to grab another goal. Beesley was put clean through on the right by Carden's clever flick but shot straight at the keeper. Wright got through in the same position but his squared ball was lacking a bit of pace and Wilkerson was able to smother Beesley's effort. Wright stabbed a loose ball goalwards but Smith booted it off the line as it threatened to creep over he line.

When a lot of chances go begging a side is often made to pay and that is just what happened to City. Boro threw on Miller in the right wing back role and he was soon operating in acres of space to cause City problems. For much of the game play was concentrated in the central corridor and Chester struggled to find any width. Porter, Carden and Blackburn worked admirably hard but wereoften falling over each other in a densely packed midfield.

From a seemingly innocuous right wing cross Stevenage equalised. Woods seemed to leave the ball but it went straight to the unmarked Armstrong who gave Brown no chance of making a save.

Chester bustled forward in reply forcing several corners (Stevenage did not have one all game) – the closest effort was when Doughty swept in from the left, his right foot shot was heading for the top corer before Wilkerson finger tipped it away.

Another extremely frustrating afternoon.

Colin Mansley
Saturday 4 November 2000
Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Chester City 1

Attendance: 1,244 Half-time 0-0

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Cole, Broom, Goodwin, Matthews, Terry, Janney, Cobb (McDougald 55), Shipp (Keen 86), Heffer, Jones. Subs not used: Brennan, Broughton, Forbes.
Chester City:
Brown, Lancaster (Fisher 51), Doughty, Woods, Ruffer, P.Beesley, Carden, Blackburn (Ruscoe 80), M.Beesley (Wright 59), Whitehall, Porter. Subs not used: Kerr, Woodyatt.
S.Rubery (Ilford).

[Match Programme]Same old Chester! Once again the Blues had an abundance of possession but, not for the first time, failed to turn this dominance into efforts on goal.

As against Leigh RMI and Forest Green Rovers in recent weeks, Chester bossed the entire opening of the match but had only one worthwhile effort on goal, that a fine free-kick by Steve Whitehall which was pushed round the post by home 'keeper Tony Roberts. Anything that the home side created was dealt with comfortably by Doughty, Ruffer and Paul Beesley at the back. Jones' free-kick being the only real effort Wayne Brown had to save in the first half.

Soon after the break, City replaced Martyn Lancaster with Neil Fisher and Mark Beesley with Darren Wright and immediately a couple of half chances were created for Whitehall.

Dagenham took the lead out of the blue on 72 minutes. City's defence failed to deal with a bouncing ball in the six-yard box, Heffer's header wa cleared off the line by Fisher but Danny Shipp was on hand to head home the loose ball. The impressive Junior McDougald should have doubled the lead soon after being put through on Brown but Matt Doughty rescued the situation.

With time running out the Blues scored a deserved equaliser. Darren Wright had a shot blocked with the ball falling to Andy Porter just outside the box. Porter unleashed a beauty through a crowd of players that flew into the bottom right corner giving Roberts no chance.

Cue a mass brawl that saw a dozen players trading punches and kicks, amazingly only one from each side was booked, Matt Woods unluckily for City as he'd been on the receiving end of most of the blows.

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