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Aldershot Town (H) | Hyde (A) | Hereford United (A) | Luton Town (H) | Nuneaton Town (A) | Barrow AFC (FAT1 H)
Saturday 30 November
Chester 1 Barrow AFC 2
FA Trophy Round 1
Attendance: 1,409 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Jarrett, McIntyre, Miller, L.Turner, Linwood.

Chester: Danby, L.Turner, McIntyre, Linwood, Higginbotham, Jarrett, G.Miller (A.Williams 63), Lester (Reed 63), Rooney, Mahon (Titchiner 75), Seddon. Subs not used: Heath, Horan.
Barrow AFC: McMillan, Burns, Edwards, O’Donnell (R.Williams 73), Reynolds, Allen, Harvey, Sheridan, Lacey, Rushton, Carver (Arnison 90). Subs not used: Thomson, Radcliffe, Parkinson.
Referee: Peter Wright (Southport).

For the third time in the last dozen years or so Barrow put Chester out of a cup competition. But this defeat was perhaps the hardest to take as the visitors are struggling in the League below.

The afternoon began brightly for City as Mahon fed the overlapping McIntyre on the left, who got behind the defence and teed up a simple finish for Seddon to open the scoring. It all looked too easy for the Blues and perhaps it was. More pessimistic fans remembered last year’s Trophy match against Worksop when City raced into a two goal lead only to be hauled back level and then succumb tamely in the replay.

Whether it was complacency on Chester’s part or Barrow’s excellent work rate or a combination of both, the tie slipped away from City in the second half. The warning signs were there in the first period, though, as the game was surprisingly open and Barrow’s pressing meant that Chester often had to resort to pumping the ball forward whereas the Cumbrians built slick passing moves from the back, through midfield and on to their lively forwards.

Of the latter, Carver was the pick. He cut in from the right and was prevented from scoring only by a last ditch Higginbotham tackle. His running and movement were intelligent and Barrow played much more as a team than their increasingly hapless hosts. One bright light for Chester was provided by John Rooney, signed on loan for a month from Bury. He acted as a fulcrum for much of City’s attacking play in the early stages and spread the ball about well. Increasingly though, Seddon became more isolated as City’s midfield was smothered and by-passed due to Barrow’s superior appetite for the game.

Carver, it was, who provided the finishing touches to Barrow’s strike back. First City’s other debutant, Miller, dwelt too long on the ball which was swept out to Barrow’s right Allen was able to shoot with ease and Carver reacted quickest to Danby’s save, turning home the rebound. City were sluggish in their response to this setback and before long Carver delivered the almost inevitable second. Again the damage was inflicted down the City left as Rushton crossed for Carver to stroke the ball past the exposed Danby.

Chester did, at least, threaten to equalise. Seddon’s effort from a narrow angle was tipped over the bar after McMillan had parried Reid’s superb volley from the edge of the box. Higginbotham narrowly failed to connect with Seddon’s driven cross. And, desperately, Danby came forward for a corner only to have the ball taken off his head by his counterpart in the Barrow goal who promptly launched the ball towards the unguarded net at the far end.

But generally Chester were outplayed and out fought by Barrow and that must be of considerable concern to Neil Young and the management team. The spirit that was so evident against Luton a couple of weeks ago and even in the opening minutes of this match evaporated into the cold night air. Now City really will have to concentrate on staying in the League…and retaining the Cheshire Cup of course (For which Barrow are ineligible – thank goodness).

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 23 November
Nuneaton Town 1 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,200 (334 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Nuneaton Town: Roos, Streete (Delfouneso 46) , Bell, Gordon, Dean, Armson, Walker (York 68), Trainer, Sleath, Hibbert, Ladapo (Moult 72). Subs not used: Adams, Barroilhet.
Chester: Danby, L.Turner, McIntyre, Killock (Linwood 35), Higginbotham, Jarrett, A.Williams, Lester, Lindfield (Reed 64), Mahon, Seddon (Wilkinson 43). Subs not used: Kay, Heath.
Referee: Paul Rees (Bristol).

A late goal from Louis Moult six minutes from the end of an instantly forgettable match gave Nuneaton all three points and left Chester still struggling in the relegation zone.

Manager Neil Young picked and unchanged side from the one that drew 1-1 with Luton Town on Saturday. A ridiculous colour clash saw Chester playing in their all-purple second strip against Boro in all-dark blue which made for difficult viewing throughout the match, especially later under the floodlights.

The first chance of the game fell to Freddie Ladapo whose effort on goal was well blocked by Danny Higginbotham. Nuneaton controlled most of the opening period without really testing John Danby except from distance as James Armson forces a save.

Midway through the half Jason Jarrett saw a long range effort drift well wide of goal, that was the nearest the Blues came to troubling Kelle Roos in the home goal!

Young was forced into two changes as injuries to Ross Killock and Gareth Seddon saw the introduction of Paul Linwood and Ross Wilkinson before the break.

Chester seemed to step it up a bit after the restart and Jarrett volleyed just over from the edge of the box. Their only other real chance of note should have seen Paul Linwood heading home from a pinpoint Lewis Turner cross but the substitute headed wide of the right hand post from six yards out in front of the 300+ away support.

At the other end an Emmitt Delfouneso cross-shot crashed off the bar ten minutes from time with Danby beaten, moments later Nuneaton scored the decisive goal as Moult, running through on goal, appeared to handle the ball, before slotting it under advancing Danby. The Blues defence were furious and protested to the referee’s assistant on the far side, who appeared to raise his flag, but referee Paul Rees awarded the goal.

Chester had no response and David Hibbert almost volleyed a second in the closing minute as the home side held on for all three points.

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Saturday 16 November
Chester 1 Luton Town 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 3,291 (890 Luton Town) Half Time 1-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, L.Turner, Killock, Higginbotham, McIntyre, Lester, A.Williams (Kay 90), Jarrett, Lindfield, Mahon (Heath 90), Seddon. Subs not used: Reed, Linwood, Wilkinson.
Luton Town: Tyler, Smith, McNulty, Lawless (Whalley 82), Griffiths, Parry, Guttridge (Howells 71), Henry, Benson (Cullen 66), Gray, Lacey. Subs not used: Justham, Stevenson.
Referee: Darren Handley.

It was the sort of penalty appeal that you see given every week on Match of the Day. Think of the one that was awarded to Tottenham against Hull City for instance or the other given against Swansea, allowing Stoke to escape with a draw last Saturday. Unless it is deliberate handball, none of them should be given in my opinion, but you can understand the frustration of both players and supporters at the inconsistency of decision making.

So when Gareth Seddon’s overhead kick from Lester’s looping cross was blocked by McNulty’s outstretched arm, there were loud appeals around the Deva for a spot kick for the Blues. Referee Darren Handley, however, waved the claims away much to the chagrin of City players, Seddon in particular.

The incident proved to be a turning point as City channelled their sense of injustice positively and took the game to their high-flying opponents. Seddon himself latched on to the loose ball won by Ashley Williams’ tackle and lashed a low, long range drive beyond Tyler into the back of the Luton net.

Seddon’s strike restored parity after City’s insipid start. Luton threatened to walk all over Chester in the early stages. Andre Gray in particular showed the form which is making him a leading scorer and sought-after person in the Conference. When Chester failed to properly clear a free kick, given after Williams lost possession and fouled, Gray it was who found time and space in the box to turn and shoot with ease past Danby. It looked then as though it would be a torrid afternoon for the Blues.

But Chester bucked up considerably after their spurned penalty appeal and had Luton rocking back on their heels. Williams gave a tigerish display, Jarrett grows in stature with each game, Mahon provided speed and control down the left and Seddon led the line superbly. When Mahon’s lofted cross shot dipped wide of the far post just before the break, Blues supporters hoped it would presage further onslaught in the second half.

The Harry Mac has seen only one home goal in ten outings this season (Mills against Forest Green) so we were hopeful that City might notch another, perhaps even a winner against the pre-season favourites for the title. Alas this was not to be, despite an intriguing end-to-end game there were few clear-cut chances in the second half. The visitors went close with a chip from the edge of the box but the excellent Killock also narrowly failed to connect with McIntyre’s free kick towards the end.

Both teams seemed content with a draw and Blues left the field to a rousing reception after a gutsy and well-earned point. The Blues Bar was buzzing afterwards as fans talked animatedly about the game. Included among their number was former City midfield maestro from the seventies and Gareth’s namesake – Ian Seddon. How we could do with his guile and craft today to help the Blues claw their way up the table.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 12 November
Hereford United 2 Chester 2
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,512 (227 Chester) Half Time 2-2
Booked: -.

Hereford United: Lloyd-Weston, Leadbitter, Bush, McDonald, O’Keefe, Walker (Brown 70), Collins, Rankine, Artus (Edwards 78), Lathrope, Dyer. Subs not used: Smith, Odhiambo, Murphy.
Chester: Danby, Jarrett, Lindfield, L.Turner, McIntyre, N.Turner (Kay 52), Higginbotham, Seddon (Lester 66), Mahon, Killock, Wilkinson (Reed 59). Subs not used: Linwood, Fearon.
Referee: Brett Huxtable (Torrington).

A series of fine saves from John Danby ensured that Chester came away from Hereford with a point that moves them out of the bottom four for the first time this season.

Over 200 supporters made the midweek trip to Edgar Street and they saw the Blues line up with one change from the side that won at Hyde on Saturday, Chris Lester dropping to the bench with Gareth Seddon making he starting X1.

After an even exchange in the opening period the Bulls took the lead on 17 minutes. Danny Leadbitter picked up a loose ball and surged through two defenders down the right, his cross into the box was met by on-loan Mansfield Town signing Ross Dyer who lost his marker and sent a good header, that flicked off Jason Jarrett, and past the despairing dive of Danby and into the left hand corner.

Chester responded and were level within a minute. A ball in from the left was flicked on by Connor Wilkinson, the ball fell to Craig Lindfield whose back heel attempt was stopped on the line by Rod McDonald but Lindfield reacted quickest to the loose ball to prod it home from close range.

Two minutes later the Blues were in the lead! Goalkeeper Daniel Lloyd-Weston came a long way out of goal to make a clearance, his kick though went straight to a Chester player whose first time ball forward found Seddon who coolly slotted it past the stranded ‘keeper into the empty net from 30 yards.

The action continued at the other end as Damon Lathrope tried a long-range effort and Danby saved well after a long-throw had caused confusion in the Blues defence and made a better block minutes later from a Josh O’Keefe strike.

The home side leveled on 36 minutes with a second goal of the night for Dyer. Frankie Artus curled in a free-kick from the right flank and Dyer rose amongst a melee of players to flick his header past Danby.

A fine tackle under pressure from Ross Killock prevented Dyer bearing down on goal for his hat-trick three minutes before the break.

Hereford started the second half the stronger side and Danby produced a fine save three minutes in from a Dyer volley to keep the scores level. Chester suffered a setback with an injury to Nathan Turner, the midfielder, who may be out for up to six weeks as a result, being replaced by Michael Kay.

Michael Rankine was twice denied by Danby as the home side began to apply the pressure and dominate the second period. McDonald and Dan Walker both saw efforts just miss the Chester goal and Danby produced his best save of the night in the final five minutes to deny O’Keefe.

The home side did get the ball in the net in the closing stages but the ‘goal’ by Rankine was disallowed for a foul on the Chester man of the match Danby.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 9 November
Hyde 1 Chester 2
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,232 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Jarrett, Wilkinson, Lindfield, N.Turner.

Hyde: Vigouroux, Griffin, Brizell, Belezika, Ashworth, Tomsett, Mainwaring (Poole 59), Brown, Gray (Collins 85), Almond, Spencer (Hughes 75). Subs not used: Haining, Thurston.
Chester: Danby, L.Turner, Killock, Higginbotham, McIntyre, Mahon (Heath 77), Jarrett, N.Turner, Lester (Kay 90), Wilkinson (Seddon 73), Lindfield. Subs not used: Reed, Linwood.
Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (Doncaster).

Chester picked up three vital points after coming from behind to beat bottom of the table side Hyde. Manager Neil Young recalled Craig Mahon from his loan spell at AFC Fylde and the midfielder went straight into the starting X1 replacing Joe Heath who started on the bench. Conditions at the Ewan Fields ground had been made difficult as a result of heavy rain that had fallen throughout the morning.

The Blues, who were backed by a following of around 700, found themselves a goal down in just three minutes as Louis Almond raced through a static Chester defence to meet a Reece Gray through ball, before curling his shot past the dive of John Danby and just inside the left hand post.

Chester enjoyed plenty of possession and Danny Higginbotham shot over following a corner as Chester looked for a quick reply to the early setback. At the other end Danby saved well from Arnold as Hyde countered quickly.

The home side should have doubled their lead on the half hour mark. Ross Killock lost possession on the right and sent Scott Spencer through on goal, as Danby came out he lobbed the ball over the City ‘keeper only to see his effort slip just pass the far post by a whisker!

Five minutes before the break Chester equalised as Craig Lindfield rose to meet a left wing Mahon cross to head past Chilean goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux from close range.

Two minutes after the restart Chester grabbed the lead and this time it was Lindfield who set the goal up crossing for Mahon to flick the ball over the advancing ‘keeper and into the net.

Vigouroux, who is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, produced a fine save to deny Chris Lester adding to Chester’s lead ten minutes later. Lewis Turner saw an effort fly over following good work from Lindfield as Chester pressed for a third decisive goal.

But the home side too were looking to get back into the game and Danby was forced to save from Adam Griffin whose free-kick had curled round the defensive wall.

Substitute Gareth Seddon, playing against one of his former clubs, sent Lester through with minutes remaining but the on-loan midfielder saw his effort well saved.

AS the game entered five minutes of stoppage time there were appeals for a penalty as Kevin McIntyre appeared to push Almond in the area but neither referee Richard Wigglesworth or his assistant were interested and Chester held on for three more points.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 2 November
Chester 1 Aldershot Town 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,029 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Heath, Jarrett.

Chester: Danby, Heath, Jarrett, Lindfield, L.Turner, McIntyre, N.Turner, Higginbotham, Killock, Wilkinson, Lester. Subs not used: Linwood, Reed, A.Wiliams, Seddon, Menagh.
Aldershot Town: Henly, Barker, Butler, Webster, Goodman, Mekki (Rowlands 90), Oyeleke, Roberts (Gibbs 87), Stanley, Young (Paterson 72), Williams. Subs not used: L.Williams, Douglas.
Referee: Amy Fearn (Swadlincote).

City fans had their weekend spoiled when a rare home victory was snatched from their grasp thanks to a last minute equalizer for the Shots. Jaydn Gibbs, brother of Keiran, Arsenal’s England international, met a deep centre from Butler on the left and nodded in past Danby to earn a point.

No one could deny that the visitors did not deserve a draw but it had looked like Chester were going to hold on to the lead given to them on his debut by Conor Wilkinson. It was a fine effort too following a quickly taken free kick into the box. The tall teenager, on loan from Bolton, controlled the ball well, beat his man and fired a fine left foot shot across Henly’s despairing dive and in.

Wilkinson had shown his talent early on as City attacked the Harry Mac end. With a right foot- left foot shimmy down the wing he created space to run at the defence only to see his whipped in cross caught at the near post by Henly. The youngster showed excellent ball skills for a tall man and was lively throughout the game. It was a shame his goal did not prove to be the winner.

Fellow Bolton loanee Chris Lester also showed promise as he had an industrious game in right midfield. Alongside him Jason Jarrett started a match for the first time in ages and showed signs of increasing confidence as he won and sprayed the ball around with style. One of his changes of direction seemed right out of Sarcevic’s book. It will have done him no end of good to have been naed sponsors’ man of the match.

It was Aldershot who had begun the game more brightly however with John Roberts impressing in midfield and Lewis Young – another one with a famous brother (Manchester United’s Ashley) proving pacy and difficult to handle on the right. But Chester responded with Wilkinson having another long range effort easily saved by Henly. They came closest to breaking the deadlock when a cross from the right eluded Goodman in the swirling wind and found Heath whose header went narrowly wide.

The conditions made it difficult for both sides and did not make for a free flowing game. Throw-ins looped in and off the pitch without anyone touching the ball and one or two strange decisions meant that the officals went off for their half time cuppa to a chorus of boos.

Aldershot upped the tempo after Wilkinson’s strike and put some dangerous balls into the box. Danby matched a good save in the first half with another great stop from a free kick on the edge of the box. It looked like a tiring City had done enough to earn the three points but they were undone when Gibbs came on in the 87th minute and his fresh heels helped him spring to leap and nod in the sucker punch.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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