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Tuesday 25 November
Darlington 1 Chester City 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,416 (50 Chester) Half Time 1-1
Booked: Harris.

Darlington: Brown, Austin, White, Ryan, Valentine (Blundell 61), Purdie (Main 86), Kennedy, Ravenhill (Hulbert 64), Burgmeier, Foran, Clarke. Subs not used: Oakes, Miller.
Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Roberts, Kelly, Linwood, Wilson (Rule 69), Harris, Barry, Hughes, Lowe (Rutherford 89), McManus (Partridge 72). Subs not used: Williams, Dinning.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).

City came from behind to beat second placed Darlington with a great strike from Ryan Lowe and a first senior goal from Shaun Kelly. The victory at Darlington keeps the Blues in 19th place in League Two and bring to an end a run of four successive defeats.

Manager Mark Wright made two changes frm the side beaten by Aldershot on Saturday. In came Paul McManus for Eddie Johnson up front, while Jay Harris replaced Paul Rutherford in midfield.

The omens had not looked good for the Blues when Darlo took an early lead. There were just seven minutes on the clock when Rob Purdie was allowed time to slot the ball home from 12 yards out following a Franz Burgmeier cross.

Darlington pressed and John Danby was called into make a save from Burgmeier, despite plenty of possession in the opening quarter the home side couldn’t convert it into more goals, Billy Davies missed the best opportunity when he shot straight at Danby.

At the other end City created little with Lowe sending a free-kick high and wide in a rare effort on the home goal. Laurence Wilson tested Brown from distance with the home ’keeper failing to gather at the first attempt.

On 37 minutes City drew level with a spectacular goal from Lowe. The City player picked up a Jay Harris through ball before crashing a volley past Simon Brown in the home goal from the edge of the box into the top corner.

Danby saved once again from Burgmeier as City went into the interval level.

Darlo started the second half, like the first, on the attack. Billy Clarke and Burgmeier both went close before the Blues turned the game round.

Eight minutes into the second period Lowe swung over a corner from the right that was met by Shaun Kelly who headed past Brown and a defender on the line to give City the lead.

Danby was immediately called int action as he saved well from Jason Kennedy. Former Chester striker Gregg Blundell came off the bench and saw an overhead kick blocked by a Paul Linwood in a resolute Blues defence.

The home side were restricted to long range efforts with an effort from Kennedy failing to his the target. It was Chester who had the best chance to score next as substitute Richie Partridge was sent through, by Lowe, one-on-one with Brown but he dragged his shot wide from 18 yards.

Five minutes of injury time was endured before the small band of City fans could celebrate a victory for only the fourth time this season.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 22 November
Chester City 0 Aldershot Town 1
League Two
Attendance: 1,653 (286 Aldershot) Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester City: Danby, Linwood, Kelly, Roberts, J.Vaughan, Barry, Hughes, Rutherford (McManus 63), Wilson, Lowe, Johnson (Harris 46). Subs not used: Rule, Ryan Williams, Mitchell.
Aldershot Town: Bull, Blackburn, Day (Sandell 42), Charles, Straker, Soares, Harding, Davies, Hudson, Grant, Morgan. Subs not used: Chalmers, Elvins, Newman, Jaimez-Ruiz.
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire).

Brought in from the cold by Mark Wright earlier in the week, Butler and Dinning were both unavailable due to injury. With Partridge reporting in with a pain in the neck and Ellison beginning the first of his three match suspension, the last thing City needed was for Damian Mozika to tweak a hamstring in the pre-match warm up. So it was a depleted City side that took the field against Aldershot for the first time in the Football League since the ‘Shots went out of business eighteen years ago.

The visitors had a poor away record but came into this encounter buoyed by a three-nil win at Rotherham in a cup replay earlier in the week. They moved the ball about quickly and confidently and looked likely to score a number of times when they came forward. Marvin Morgan, signed from Woking in the summer was the chief attacking threat, tall and busy – a constant menace. But it was his fellow forward, Grant who came the closest to scoring when his shot from the edge of the area hit the bar emphatically and rebounded to safety. Then, following a one-two in the the box, Soares hit the base of the post with Danby beaten.

Chester, though outplayed, battled hard and competed well. Encouraged by riding their luck and reaching the half time interval level, City came out trying to press home an advantage. Roberts was guilty of missing a chance of glory when he headed wide Lowe's corner with the goal at his mercy.

At the other end, Morgan was still proving a threat and Kelly capped an outstanding display at the back by denying Grant a goalscoring chance with a last ditch tackle. City grafted hard to chisel out chances. Lowe was now leading the line on his own as Johnson had been replaced at half time by Harris. Lowe's best opportunity came after McManus had been introduced to the game. The latter set Lowe through but he shot too early and wide.

Aldershot were denied a goal in the 78th minute by the linesman flagging for offside but just when it looked like City might get away with a hard earned point, Morgan struck. There was an almighty scramble in the six yard box and at the third attempt the tall striker thrashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Heads went down on the field after this and heads had to go down just behind the ‘Shots’ goal as Wilson's last gasp thunderbolt went narrowly over the bar and into the crowd.

It was a plucky display by City which nearly scraped a point against a classy looking side – but the result was the same and Aldershot were not to be denied in the end. Now City face a daunting long distance trip to high flying Darlington on Tuesday and face an equally long journey to fellow strugglers Bournemouth after that.

Colin Mansley

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Saturday 15 November
Chester City 1 Morecambe 2
League Two
Attendance: 1,647 (312 Morecambe) Half Time 0-1
Booked: Linwood, Wilson, Partridge. Sent-off: Ellison.

Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Linwood, Roberts, Wilson, Harris, Barry (Partridge 62), Hughes, Ellison, Lowe, Johnson (Rutherford 61). Subs not used: McManus, Kelly, Rule.
Morecambe: Roche, Bentley, Adams, McStay, Parrish, Stanley, Drummond, McLachlan (Artell 85), McGivern (Wainwright 80), Howe (Taylor 73), Carlton. Subs not used: Davies, O’Carroll.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).

It was a frustrating return to the Deva for Mark Wright and Steven Bleasdale as they began their new regime in charge at Chester. City dominated the match for long periods but paid the price at the back door which Wright wants to keep closed in future. Morecambe hit them twice on the break to snatch the points.

The visitors threatened goal first when Carlton, their new loan signing glanced a header to the far post from a corner. Barry managed to clear the danger. As City pushed the visitors back they began to get behind their defence. Lowe got through but with the goal at his mercy never quite seemed to have the ball under control and his shot was blocked. Johnson had a header just over the bar and Lowe, after a brilliant turn, had a shot from distance saved at the foot of the post by Roche.

Harris and Barry were getting through a lot of work in midfield and were helping City dominate possession but the Blues were caught cold on the half hour mark. As ex-City star Dave Artell went for a substitute’s warm up down the line, his presence distracted the crowd. City’s defence also had their minds elsewhere as midfielder Craig Stanley ghosted in down the middle to latch on to a through ball and had all the time in the world to slot it inside Danby’s left hand post.

As Mark Wright resumed his seat in the dugout after the break, City began to press for an equaliser. Johnson headed straight at Roche from Lowe’s free kick. Chester applied concerted pressure but Morecambe defended doggedly and were hard to break down. As a City attack broke down on the right with a poor pass to Vaughan which left him stranded, the Shrimps broke quickly and directly. There was no immediate danger when Carlton went down in the box but he made the most of Wilson’s challenge and referee Hooper pointed to the penalty spot. Howe converted the penalty, despite Danby getting a touch on the ball.

A few minutes later Chester got themselves back in the game when Johnson glanced in Wilson’s left wing cross to notch up his first goal for his home town club. It was a beauty too. Johnson grabbed the ball and ran with it back to the centre spot, eager to look for an equaliser. Bizarrely he was substituted straight away and with it went much of City’s momentum. The double substitiution of Partridge and Rutherford had been pre-planned but seemed to unnecessarily complicate things.

Still City pressed, Ellison nearly equalised when the ball bobbled on the line following a corner but the best chance fell to Lowe on the inside right channel. His rasping shot from just inside the box hit the side netting.

Morecambe did their utmost to break the game up and slow it down whenever they could. Adams was eventually booked for taking too long over a throw in and when, a few minutes later, he ran several yards to mither the referee following the foul which led to Ellison’s dismissal he received a second yellow and joined Chester’s number eleven for an early bath – as Eddie Waring used to say.

The omens had not been good at the beginning of the match as the match sponsors were revealed as local funeral directors. After Ellison’s red card City’s hope in this game were well and truly buried.

This game had been there for the taking for City, they really shouldn’t have lost it but then that has been part of the problem this season and why Mark Wright’s expertise in shoring up a leaky defence has been called upon once again.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 8 November
Chester City 0 Millwall 3
FA Cup Round 1
Attendance: 1,932 (389 Millwall) Half Time 0-0
Booked: J.Vaughan.

Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Linwood, Roberts (Rutherford 84), Barry, Harris, Mozika (Wilson 33), Hughes, Ellison, Lowe, Johnson. Subs not used: S.Williams, Kelly, McManus, Mitchell, Rule.
Millwall: Forde, Dunne, Craig, Robinson, Frampton, Grabban (Grimes 85), Bolder, Fuseini (Spiller 67), Martin, Easter (Hackett 67), Harris. Subs not used: Edwards, Forbes, Moore, Bignot.
Referee: Richard Beeby (Northamptonshire).

The FA Cup stardust failed to sprinkle on the Deva Stadium as nearly 2,000 paying fans watched the most tedious first round encounter I’ve witnessed in my 35 years of following football.

That may sound a harsh summary, but all Chester could muster in 94 minutes of football was two shots, neither of which showed any danger of threatening the goal. And Millwall, clad in their day-glo orange third kit, may have scored three goals, but they were not exactly an advert for League One football.

Both City efforts fell in the first 45 minutes, when a Ryan Lowe free kick on the eighth minute was easily held by Lions’ goalkeeper, David Forde. Soon after, Lowe saw a chipped effort go over the bar.

Otherwise, the best chance of the first half fell to Millwall’s Ali Fuseini. His low, powerful, shot was well blocked by John Danby, leaving the 389 travelling fans little to cheer in the opening half.

Jay Harris’s determination to win the ball at one stage led him to accidentally kick Damian Mozika in the face, as the Frenchman attempted the head the ball away. After lengthy treatment, Mozika had to go off for a new, numberless, shirt. But he was so disorientated that he couldn’t stay on the pitch for long and was replaced by Laurence Wilson on the 31st minute.

Kevin Ellison has apparently vowed to keep growing his hair until he scores a goal. But I’m afraid that on his first half performance, he’ll be getting an Alice band or two for Christmas. Striker Eddie Johnson made himself busy, but didn’t have a sniff of a shot either.

Ellison did win a couple of free kicks in the early stages of the second half, but City failed to capitalise on them and the game continued much as the first half. Millwall’s leading scorer Lewis Grabban made himself unpopular with the main stand with a late tackle on Wilson that left the City defender writhing in agony.

Wilson, only just returning to first-team action after a long lay-off, wasn’t the same after that challenge and after Millwall manager Kenny Jackett made two substitutions, replacing Jermain Easter and Fuseini with Chris Hackett and Daniel Spiller, the initiative switched to the Lions.

It wasn’t long before Grabban made himself even more unpopular with the City fans by putting his name on the scoresheet after Chester failed to clear a 75th minute corner. Any thoughts of a replay at the New Den were then immediately wiped from my mind.

The Millwall fans finally woke up after their 6am start, cheering on their side as a good Grabban pass a few minutes later led to an unstoppable strike from Neil Harris, as the City defence backed off him.

The time ticked by, and it wasn’t until the 84th minute that Paul Rutherford came on as an attacking replacement for City man-of-the-match, Kevin Roberts. But it was too late for Rutherford to make an impression.

Referee Richard Beeby added on four minutes of stoppage time, but as City pressed forward they were caught out at the back and Millwall substitute Ashley Grimes made it 3-0 on the 93rd minute with his first ever senior goal. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long 12 months before Chester are in with another chance of Cup glory.

Sue Choularton

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Saturday 1 November
Exeter City 2 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 4,448 (143 Chester) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Roberts, Harris, Hughes.

Exeter City: Jones, Tully, Seaborne, Taylor, Moxey, Logan (Obersteller 72), Cozic, Edwards, Gill, Stewart, Stansfield (Watson 86). Subs not used: Marriott, Harley, Basham.
Chester City: Danby, J.Vaughan, Linwood (Kelly 62), Roberts, Barry, Harris, Mozika, Hughes, Ellison, Johnson, Lowe. Subs not used: S.Williams, McManus, Rutherford, Mitchell.
Referee: Steven Cook (Surrey).

Chester were a little unlucky to be facing a side still smarting from a 6-1 midweek home defeat that was so embarrassing the local TV company ran the Benny Hill theme tune behind their match report.

But there were no comedy capers for Exeter on Saturday as they scored two easy goals against Chester, without any real danger of the visitors stealing a point.

Exeter manager Paul Tisdale made no changes from the side that lost so heavily to Chesterfield , with Simon Davies keeping faith with the team which beat Brentford 3-0 in their midweek encounter. The opening spell of the game was quite evenly matched, with Kevin Ellison and Ryan Lowe both having chances inside the first five minutes.

But a defensive error cost City on the 21st minute when a Marcus Stewart pass came to the feet of Adam Stansfield, who was almost right on the line. He somehow managed to get a back-heel flick past John Danby to put the Grecians 1-0 up.

Chances were a rarity for the rest of the first half until Kevin Ellison stepped up to take a free kick in injury time. His fierce shot was well saved by Exeter’s orange-shirted goalkeeper, Paul Jones.

At the other end, Danby was obviously carrying a bad knock as he didn’t take a goal-kick all game and grimaced every time he had to kick the ball. But he turned City hero on the 51st minute when he saved a Richard Logan penalty after Kevin Roberts was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area.

Soon after, the only City substitution of the game was made when Paul Linwood was replaced by Shaun Kelly. The captain’s armband was handed to Ellison, but he was largely quiet for the rest of the match.

Exeter substituted Logan with the intriguingly-named Jack Oberstellar on the 71st minute, and they seemed to take on a bit more of a defensive outlook as they aimed to hang onto their lead.

Then, just as the game seemed to be petering away, Exeter made sure of the three points when a Rob Edwards cross was headed for home at pointblank range by Matthew Taylor.

City won three corners in the match’s dying moments, but all came to nothing. It was by no means the worst City performance I’ve seen so far this season, but they may need more than the Benny Hill theme tune to inspire them to beat Millwall on Saturday.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Evening Leader

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