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Brackley Town (A) | Alfreton Town (H) | Brackley Town (A FAT3Q) | Bradford (Park Avenue) (H)
Saturday 30 November
Chester 2 Bradford (Park Avenue) 1
National League North
Attendance: 1,875 Half Time: 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Griffiths, Taylor, Livesey, Grand, Morgan, Glendon, Stopforth, Ngwatala (Elliott 77), Jackson, Asante (Waring 84), Dudley (Hughes 84). Subs not used: Waters, Burton.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Green, Bazeley (Royle 46), Staunton, Lowe, Nowakowski (Hughes 70), Priestley, Knight, Toulson, O.Johnson (Clare 77), Hurst, Marriot. Subs not used: Dickinson, A.Johnson.
Referee: Adam Herczeg.

The corresponding fixture last season produced an eight goal thriller back in September 2018. Bradford were then play-off contenders. Today they visited in bottom position albeit striving for a revival with Mark Bower recently returned as manager and having progressed in the FA Trophy last Saturday by beating Gloucester. Their league form was still poor however and they started the game as definite underdogs.

City began on the front foot but found their opponents stubborn and ready to graft and deny the Blues space. Soon City were struggling to make headway despite dominating possession and when Bradford broke they carried a threat. Johnson stabbed the ball wide when well placed and then Griffiths was forced to palm Hurst’s speculative shot wide for a corner.

From the set piece the visitors took the lead. The delivery was low and skimmed under the radar as defender Priestley prodded it through a thicket of legs and found the back of the net. The Blues’ response was sluggish and disjointed. Debutant Ngwatala got hold of the ball and went on a rambling foray but his resultant shot lacked venom and hardly troubled the Bradford keeper.

City emerged from the break with a flea in their ear and a bit more urgency to boot. Jackson began to menace down the right and the crowd livened up. Dudley was played onside by a defender’s flick and latched on to shoot. His effort was too strong for Green in the goal and it went through him for the equaliser.

Soon afterwards Chester had the lead when Asante, with minimal back-lift powered a shot from the edge the area which took a slight deflection as it looped over Green and dipped under the bar. City were now rampant and Taylor progressed down the left and launched a tantalising cross that Asante met and crashed against the cross bar. A defender nodded it out for a corner.

But that was the summit of City’s achievements as they slipped back into torpor for much of the rest of the game and Bradford harried and hustled in search of an equaliser. A surreal mist crept over the west stand and slumped on to the pitch, symbolic of City’s lethargy. In the dying embers Bradford’s Marriott received a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Stopforth. Their threat tended to peter out with the dismissal.

Chester had made very heavy weather of beating Bradford but they had got there in the end. Taylor scooped the Man of the Match award for another committed performance and on the day when the new stadium name (If not yet the signage) was announced as the 1885 Arena, the attendance was an almost appropriate 1875.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 23 November
Brackley Town 0 Chester 1
FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round
Attendance: 334 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Livesey.

Brackley Town: Lewis, Myles, Franklin, Byrne, Audel, Dean, Lowe, Murombedzi (Daire 84), Ndlovu (Armson 70), York, Walker (Fairlamb 74). Subs not used: Langmead, Noon.
Chester: Griffiths, Morgan, Livesey, Grand, Taylor, Stopforth, Burton, Glendon (K.Roberts 88), Waters (Dudley 67), Jackson, Waring (Asante 67). Subs not used: Murray, G.Roberts, Elliott, Hughes.
Referee: Dean Hulme.

A goal from substitute Anthony Dudley was just enough to send Chester through to the first round of the FA Trophy and an away tie at Hednesford Town.

Chester made three changes from the side that beat Alfreton Town with Scott Burton, Jamie Morgan and Gary Stopforth all making the starting X1.

It was the home side who had chances in the opening period with Danny Livesey clearing a Lee Ndlovu effort after the Brackley striker had seen his shot go under the out rushing Russell Griffiths in the Blues goal.

The Blues gradually got into the game and Livesey headed wide from a Matty Waters cross and Burton also saw an effort go wide following a Waters corner.

Shep Murombedzi sent a tantalising cross across the face of the Chester goal but fortunately no one was able to get a touch on it and the danger was cleared.

Early in the second period Griffiths produced a fine save to deny Ndlovu and Matt Lowe saw two efforts go close without troubling Griffiths.

The only goal of the game came on 73 minutes as Dudley, introduced from the bench six minutes earlier, met an inch perfect pass from Bradley Jackson to shoot past Lewis in the Saints goal.

Despite pressure from the home side in the closing staged the Chester defence held firm to book their place in the first round.

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Saturday 9 November
Chester 3 Alfreton Town 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,687 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: G.Roberts, Taylor.

Chester: Griffiths, K.Roberts, Livesey, Grand, Taylor, Waters (Dudley 75), Glendon, G.Roberts (Stopforth 66), Jackson, Waring, Hughes (Elliott 75). Subs not used: Morgan, Burton.
Alfreton Town: Andrew, Clackstone, Thacker, East (Grice 59), Smith, Qualter, Killock, Clarke, Blake (Bacon 64), Morgan-Smith, Johnson (Witham 66). Subs not used: Atkinson, Bennett.
Referee: Richard Holmes.

The Blues ended a seven match sequence without a win as they fought hard to overcome a dogged Alfreton Town.

The weather conditions were pretty atrocious, cold, wet and windy to boot which will have had an effect on the attendance but did not dampen the spirits of those who were there. After a silent tribute to the fallen on this weekend of remembrance, City began attacking the clock end. The Reds pressed City high up the field and were stubborn competitors in the middle, generally quicker to the second ball on the rare occasions that it landed on the ground. Alfreton were also adept at winning free kicks in threatening positions and saw this as their principle route to goal.

Griffiths was rarely troubled, however, and the closest Alfreton came to breaking the deadlock was Shane Killock’s header from a corner which skimmed the top of the crossbar. As half time approached it was Chester’s turn to win a free kick over on the right. Waters launched a curling ball towards the far post. Waring knocked it down and then, following a scramble, the ball ended in the back of the net. It was difficult to see how and for a while it was hard to believe a goal had been scored. It must have been one of the most underwhelming reactions to a home success at the Deva for a long time. The goal was initially attributed to Grand but replays showed that a defender’s clearance rebounded off a prone Livesey to make him the scorer.

Shortly afterwards City should have doubled their lead. A clever flick by Roberts set up Glendon to cross from the right, Waters, headed on and gave the unmarked Waring the chance to volley. Unfortunately his effort was high, wide and handsome as the ‘goal of the season award’ flashed before his eyes.

In the dying embers of the half, Amari Morgan-Smith – who tormented City last season in a Telford shirt – ran with the ball towards goal. Gary Roberts won the ball with his tackle on the edge of the box but as Morgan Smith stumbled and went down in stages, Mr Holmes the referee awarded a free kick. To rub salt in the wound he showed Roberts the yellow card (Meaning a suspension). A truly harsh decision considering some persistent offences from the visitors. Still, Johnson’s free kick sailed over the cross bar and Mr Holmes was greeted with a chorus of boos as he stepped off for half time.

Blues began after the break on the front foot and were soon two goals to the good. Livesey was again the scorer, drilling the ball home the Reds had struggled to clear. Gary Roberts returned the ball into the area, and Grand nodded down for Livesey to notch his, and his team’s second of the afternoon. Skeins of geese flew northwards across the stadium as Chester too swept forward looking for a decisive third. Substitutes Elliott and Dudley added fresh impetus to the attacks.

When the third goal did arrive it was in the most bizarre of circumstances. As City forced a succession of corners, Reds’ keeper Andrew came under pressure. He had a lucky escape from one effort as he fumbled at the far post and the ball went out between his legs for another corner. Next time Taylor’s kick curled beyond Andrew’s despairing grasp and straight in. Some, on and off the pitch thought that a goal had been given, others that Mr Holmes had awarded a free kick for an infringement. Andrew assumed the latter, took it quickly and passed to a defender who, (thinking that it was a goal and it had to go back to the centre circle) helped it casually forward – straight to Danny Elliott. The Chester forward had the presence of mind to beat another defender and stroke a left footed shot past a frantic Andrew. This time the goal stood but the confusion was comical.

The rain continued to pour and the wind to blow but City fans were at last re-acquainted with that resultant warm inner glow following a home win.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 2 November
Brackley Town 1 Chester 1
National League North
Attendance: 476 Half Time: 1-1
Booked: Waring, Waters.

Brackley Town: Lewis, Myles, Franklin, Byrne, Audel, Dean, Lowe, Armson (Murombedzi 87), Ndlovu, York (Fairlamb 63), Walker. Subs not used: Daire, Langmead, Worby.
Chester: Griffiths, K.Roberts, Grand, Livesey (Morgan 46), Taylor, Glendon, G.Roberts, Dudley (Hughes 81), Jackson, Elliott (Waters 60), Waring. Subs not used: Burton, Stopforth.
Referee: Scott Simpson.

Chester took at early lead at a wet and windy St James Park before battling to a deserved draw with Brackley Town, a point that keeps them second in the league. Brackley, who are unbeaten at home in 11 months, fell behind to a fine strike from just outside the box by Bradley Jackson in the ninth minute.

The home side equalised on 20 minutes as a Shane Byrne free-kick fell for Thierry Audel whose shot took a slight defection taking it past Russell Griffiths in the Blues goal. Byrne almost added a quick second goal, as the Blues failed to clear a dangerous cross, but his shot from 25 yards out went inches wide of the Chester goal.

Lee Ndlovu missed a golden chance to give the Saints the lead on the stroke of half-time as he shot wide with just Griffiths to beat.

Chester were forced into a change with Jamie Morgan replacing the injured Danny Livesey at half-time. Griffiths produced a smart save to deny Ellis Myles early in the second period, while Morgan and Gary Roberts both blocked efforts as the home side pressed.

Both side created half chances with Luke Fairlamb shooting just wide from a free-kick, and Matty Hughes just failing to latch on to a George Waring knockdown in the dying minutes as Chester finished strongly.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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