City progressed through to the last 16 of the northern
section of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the expense
of Cheshire neighbours Stockport County. The Blues bounced
back from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Barnet, their
first reverse in six matches, as late goals from Gregg
Blundell and Laurence Wilson cemented the victory though
the final scoreline flattered Chester.
in the competition rules this year state that clubs
must field strong teams. City gave a debut to Lee Steele
signed earlier in the day on loan from Leyton Orient
and Jamie Hand replaced the suspended midfielder Roberto
Martinez in the City line-up.
County started the brighter of the
two sides, Mark Robinson testing John Danby with a long
range effort from 25 yards.
At the other end City were finding
it hard going against a resolute Stockport defence though
Blundell saw a shot go wide following a through ball
from Dean Bennett. Danby was in the action again soon
after saving from David Poole as the visitors continued
At the other end James Spencer in
the visitors’ goal was called to make his first
save of the night from a Sean Hessey piledriver.
Somewhat against the run of play City
took the lead with two minutes of the first half remaining
as Hand took advantage of some sloppy defending to drill
the ball home from 20 yards after the County defence
failed to clear their lines. On the stroke of half-time
former City player Michael Rose saw a free-kick saved
by Danby to preserve the half-time advantage.
The second half followed the same
pattern of the first. Liam Dickinson saw a long-range
effort pushed away by Danby for a corner though Greg
Tansey’s flag-kick was cleared by the City back
Dickinson saw a shot saved by Danby
before City put the game beyond County seven minutes
from time. Simon Marples fed Gregg Blundell who fired
home from 20 yards for his first goal since the opening
day of the season, and a well taken goal it was.
Two minutes later the Blues wrapped
the game up as Wilson shot past Spencer for his first
goal in City’s colours sending the blues into
Saturday’s quarter-final draw.
six game unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt at Underhill as the Blues
turned in a below par performance against a team missing five players
that had only won once at home this season. Attempts to sign Leyton
Orient striker Lee Steele in time for the clash failed so once again
Gregg Blundell and Jon Walters led the line for City. The suspension
of Jamie Hand meant a return from injury for captain Stephen Vaughan.
Kicking uphill City started well and had a glorious
chance to open the scoring as early as the eighth minute as Blundell
was sent through on the left, just when it looked like he would shoot
for goal he squared the ball for Walters who missed the pass entirely
and the ball drifted away to safety to the frustration of the 273 visiting
supporters housed in the nearby corner.
Roberto Martinez saw a free-kick punched clear by Flitney
in the home goal, Jason Puncheon picked up the loose ball and set up Vieira
who threaded a ball through for Dean Sinclair whose shot was superbly
pushed round the post by John Danby. Ten minutes later though Sinclair
opened the scoring. A through ball was met by the midfielder who took
the ball forward before he was bundled down by Kevin Sandwith when there
was no real danger on the left side of the box. Sinclair picked himself
up to send Danby the wrong way from the penalty spot.
City found themselves on the back foot for most of the
remaining first period. Play was getting niggly and in the first of three
fare-up’s (there was an almighty one last season), Blundell and
Ashley Westwood found themselves in the referee’s notebook along
with Flitney. When play was resumed Sandwith fired a free-kick straight
at the Bees shot-stopper who was also on hand save save a 12-yard effort
from Dean Bennett just before the break.
Mark Wright sent his side out early for the second period
and changed personnel with Stephen Vaughan being replaced by Phil Bolland
and David Artell replacing Paul Linwood as the manager tried a change
in formation with three across the back and an extra man in midfield.
The first action of the period though came from Nicky
Nicolau who blasted a shot high and wide and moments later veteran Andy
Hessenthaler tried his luck from long range only to see his volley go
On 69 minutes the Bees were awarded a second controversial
penalty as referee Lee adjudged that Bolland had fouled Ismail Yakubu,
the man in green was surrounded by furious City players and justice was
seen to be done as Danby saved Nick Bailey’s spot-kick low down.
The Blues faithful, still wound-up over the incident, got behind the team
as they broke quickly down the right, a pinpoint cross from Simon Marples
was sent in only for Walters to head agonisingly over from close range.
Minutes later Bennett also headed wide and another chance had gone begging.
At the other end Yakubu headed over from an inswinging
corner and Bailey saw a shot go wide. Marples once again sent in an inch
perfect cross that was met by Bolland, however his header was directed
just wide of the right hand post.
With five minutes remaining City were reduced to ten
men after Roberto Martinez, who’d received a yellow card in the
first half for a foul on Puncheon, was shown a second one as he slid in
There was no way back now, despite a long period of
added time, City’s despondent fans were already heading for the
must have been something in the air at the Deva on Friday night. A dozen Norwegian
visitors arrived at the club shop and started snapping up City souvenirs: “Would
you like to try the shirt on sir?” “No thank you, that will not
be necessary. XXL is ...enough.” Vaughan Promotions own Derry Matthews
presented his WBU Featherweight title belt which he’d won last weekend;
a young dancer celebrated her fightback from a severe spinal injury with a vigorous
work out on the pitch and there was a display of kick boxing at the interval.
Perhaps inspired by this League Two’s leading scorer, Jon Daly got his
retaliation in early on Dave Artell and was shown the red card after only fifteen
minutes of this keenly fought encounter.
A few minutes earlier, Daly had gone down under a challenge by Artell and seemed
aggrieved when the referee dismissed his appeals for a free kick. Mr Woolmer
and his assistant interpreted Daly’s wayward elbow as revenge and the visitors
were down to ten men. It was a key moment as City cashed in on their numerical
advantage and stretched the Hartlepool defence to breaking point.
City had to chase the game after Hartlepool took the lead in bizarre fashion.
Danby, in kicking away a back pass hit it so forcibly against Porter that it
cannoned straight back into the net from a narrow angle. The Aussie forward held
his hands up more in embarrassment than celebration but no one could deny it
Chester sought to pass the ball around and make the visitors run themselves into
the ground. Sometimes City’s build-up play appeared too slow. Blundell
was presented with a golden chance before half time as Walters headed the ball
perfectly into his path but the goal-starved Gregg volleyed over the bar. Earlier
Foley had missed an equally clear cut opportunity after Porter’s overhead
kick had opened up a glorious chance for him.
The visitors had tried to slow the game down after the sending off so it was
ironic that City equalised deep into first half added time. A free kick on the
left was spread across to Marples on the right and the move seemed to be laboured
but the full back got to the by-line and his cross caused confusing in the box.
Westwood was on hand to steer the ball into the net and was duly mobbed by his
After the break Chester swept forward and really made the most of their one-man
advantage. Wilson was in a good place to score from a Martinez free kick but
misdirected his header. City’s passing and movement was as slick as we’ve
seen in recent months and they took the lead from one such flowing move.
Martinez played a one-two with Marples and the latter’s first time cross
was met perfectly by Blundell. Konstantopoulos managed to parry the ball but
there was a thrill of anticipation on the North Terrace as Walters homed in on
the rebound and smashed it into the net.
City swept forward repeatedly in an effort to put the game beyond reach. Konstantopoulos
made a magnificent save from another Blundell header, clawing it out of the top
corner. Just prior to this the keeper had been injured as Blundell couldn’t
quite force the ball in following a touch by Martinez. If this had been a Featherweight
title fight Hartlepool would have been out for the count. But City could not
find an elusive third goal.
Danby was called upon to make one more vital save as City survived five minutes
of stoppage time to earn the reward their compelling performance had deserved.
can tell Chester are looking much more positive these
days when you drift out of away matches feeling the
0-0 resut was two points dropped, rather than a point
Not a bad sign at this stage of the season.
The first half was dominated by Chester, with Roberto Martinez,
made captain because of Stephen Vaughan’s injury/suspension, pulling
all the strings. Martinez had a shot himself in the first minute and then was
involved in most of the City chances.
Chester’s downfall was that they seemed to lack the
final killer instinct on goal. They dominated the first half in terms of possession,
but it was a defender who came closest to scoring – Dave Artell, who
hit a powerful header against the crossbar after a short corner.
goalkeeper Matthew Gilks was the butt of many of the 704 away supporters’ attention
for his horror tackle on Gregg Blundell at Chester last season. He seemed distinctly
rattled by the barracking at times and it was a shame he was barely tested
by the City team.
Laurence Wilson looked lively again and made some forays
into the Dale box. Dean Bennett and Jon Walters also played brightly and had
some half chances. But there was no serious threat on the Rochdale goal.
Rochdale’s strikeforce, including 6ft 7ins Morike Sako,
were also distinctly toothless. It seemed hard to believe they were the same
side who put five past Darlington just eight days before.
The first half wound to an end not long after Martinez took
a free kick which zoomed about two feet above the bar.
Rochdale looked a better side in the second half, with a
couple of tame shots early on by the giant Frenchman, Sako. Chester also had
a chance with a Walters header, which went wide.
both sides seemed determined to cancel each other out. Rochdale bought on 19-year-old
Clive Moyo-Modise, who looked a very tricky customer, and livened things up
in the game’s final spell. Mark Wright tried to turn Chester’s
fortunes around by replacing Blundell with Drewe Broughton.
The game’s closing minutes were actually dominated
by referee Phil Joslin. There was a flurry of late bookings (three in five
minutes) as both teams flared up at each other – but there was nothing
really harsh in any of the incidents.
Jamie Hand fell down hard in the Rochdale box and lay without
moving for sometime while all the Chester fans and players tried to draw Mr
Joslin’s attention to him. Play continued without Hand, and Walters received
one of those late bookings for pleading with Mr Joslin for the City physio
to be allowed on after Dale won a corner.
Hand eventually got his treatment and there were then many
minutes of added time – impossible to tell how many as the Rochdale Tannoy
didn’t seemed to extend to the away stand and I missed the fourth official’s
board. It was fingernail-chewing time for City fans when Rochdale pressed forward
and won a free-kick just outside the area as the clock ticked close to 5pm.
But Dale’s free-kick flew over the crossbar.
It was an appropriate end to the match – close, but not quite close
enough, for both sides.
battling performance from City in difficult conditions
on Friday night could well have yielded maximum points
from top of the table side Walsall. The Saddlers had
debutant goalkeeper Bertrand Bossu to thank for a remarkable
double save late in the game to deny Chester victory.
Wet and windy conditions made life
difficult for players and spectators alike with over
1,000 visiting supporters made the trip from the west
Chester appeared to adapt to the
conditions quicker and forced a couple of corner’s
in the opening five minutes, Bossu forced into the
of the night as Jonathan Walters met Kevin Sandwith’s
flag-kick with a header.
City took advantage of having the
wind behind them and opted for a couple of long range
efforts, Jamie Hand and Walters both saw efforts on
target but well held by Bossu in the driving rain.
Five minutes before the break manager
mark Wright was forced to replace Stephen Vaughan with
Drewe Broughton, the City captain suffering a hamstring
Chances on goal were at a premium,
the nearest the visitors came to troubling John Danby
came just before the break as the Saddlers forced a
couple of quick corners. David Artell headed the danger
away from the first while referee Haywood blew for a
foul by Tony Bedeau following the second.
The visitors continued their spell
of pressure after the restart. Danby was forced into
his first save of the night as he pushed wide David
Pead’s corner, minutes late he caught a Kris Taylor
Walters sent over a teasing cross
that evaded everyone before being cleared by Westwood.
With minutes remaining City had a
great opportunity to snatch the points. A right wing
cross was met by Broughton, he tried to place his shot
and saw it pushed onto the post by Bossu, the rebound
fell for Dean Bennett whose effort grazed the crossbar.
Wright said after the game: “Our
best scoring chance of the game looked harder to miss
than it did to score.
I know Drewe (Broughton) was trying
to be precise and he was trying to pop the ball in the
corner because of Walsall’s big keeper, but I
thought it was harder to miss. We also flashed a lot
of balls across their box, but nobody was quite getting
in there which was a bit disappointing.
We’re certainly going to look
for another striker to help everybody out. We’ve
got togetherness within the squad but the only thing
missing is for us to score off our knee, our shin, or
our shoulder – I don’t care how it goes
in, I just want us to score goals.”