It was time for another Chester takeover as around 1,000
Blues fans poured into the Kirklands Stadium to make it
almost a home match for the travelling team.
The Lairds’ fans almost didn’t seem to know
what had hit them, and that seemed to apply to the team
as well. For the opening half hour the pressure was all
from Chester, and it only seemed a matter of time before
a goal came.
Lairds’ goalkeeper Phil Palethorpe, who spent his
earlier career as Chester City’s reserve during
John Danby’s solid reign, made a couple of good
saves from Iain Howard, Bradley Barnes and George Horan.
But it was Michael Wilde who put Chester ahead on the
25th minute when he headed in a Greg Stones’ cross.
There were no shortage of outstretched Chester hands for
him to mark his celebration as he ran along the touchline.
Wilde could have scored again before half-time, being
denied this time by Palethorpe. When the break came, Chester
fans were worried that Halloween might be coming a day
too soon and there was a nervous sense of expectation
as people queued for their half-time pasties.
And their concern was right, as it was 1-1 soon after
the re-start, with Lairds’ player manager Alex Hay
slotting it home after a defensive blunder. Chester goalkeeper
Richard Whiteside seemed to shout for the ball, then didn’t
come to meet it. The ex-Tranmere player pounced to make
the scores level.
The match continued at a gallop, with referee Richard
Bartlett booking five players along the way, and Chester
having several more goal attempts denied them.
Referee Bartlett showed red on the 73rd minute when Lairds’
Anthony Gardiner threw his arm up to handball the ball
away. If his arm hadn’t got in the way, Chester
would have been through on goal.
Chester now had chance to pounce and just five minutes
later, it was Wilde who struck again, with a great volley
from a cross by Antoni Sercevic.
But the excitement was far from over and – with
a Lairds’ player having lengthy treatment for a
head cut – we knew there was going to be a lot of
injury time. The tension became almost unbearable when
it was Whiteside’s turn for the physio’s attention.
Knowing there’s no reserve ‘keeper at the
club, he tried to stuggle on, but it was painful to watch
and it was no surprise when he came off on the 88th minute.
So goal hero Wilde now had a chance to prove himself at
the other end, and donned Whiteside’s gloves and
orange top. He did have to make one solid save, and it
was a nervy seven minutes of injury time before the referee
finally blew up for full-time.
It’s a long time since I’ve heard any Chester
fans chant: “We are top of the League”, but
that day has come and it roundly completed an action-packed
progressed impressively into the second round of the
President’s Cup after beating Cheshire neighbours
Witton last night.
Manager Young rested several players from last Saturday
but those who came in did a collectively good job as
they attacked the visitors from the off.
Though it was still goalless at half time, City had
by far the greater amount of the play. The industrious
Wilson had the ball in the net but was given offside;
Booth had a shot which nearly crept in at the near post
and then he crafted an opening for Foulkes whose shot
was blocked for a corner. Albion didn’t manage
a shot on target. The only criticism of City’s
play was that they resorted too often to hopeful balls
forward rather than playing it through the middle. The
veteran Pritchard at the back of the Witton defence
marshalled his colleagues well.
After the break Witton put City under a bit of pressure
and for a while it seemed that Chester’s dominance
would come to nothing. But then Sarcevic was sandwiched
on the right side and from the resultant free-kick Horan
powered a header home. The confidence of the goal led
to Chester really turning the screw on Witton, who at
times struggled to get out of their half. Aspin and
Sarcevic linked up well down the right and Field became
ever more commanding in the middle.
Twice Titchener ran on to through balls to have shots
saved by the keeper as City began to carve more openings.
Eventually Sarcevic ended a flowing move by a clever
turn to make space and then lashing the ball past Cooper
in the Albion goal.
Alarm bells began to ring when MacPherson swept a goal
back as Chester failed to clear decisively. Only three
weeks ago Witton had poached a brace of goals in stoppage
time. But Howard, on as a substitute, made the tie safe
when he cut in from the right. Despite having his shirt
pulled and avoiding an attempted trip, Howard got his
shot in and a wicked deflection sent Cooper the wrong
Half time scores from the League Cup at Villa Park and
an interview with Derek Draper brought back memories
of City’s vintage cup run in 74-5. A very healthy
crowd of 1,209 went home well contented and dreaming
of further glory to come no doubt.
were definitely in the pink as they took this game by
the scruff of the neck from the beginning and imposed
themselves on the Lancaster, the Dolly Blues and last
up. Antoni Sarcevic, on loan from Crewe Alex, made his
debut and added much needed pace and steel to Chester’s
But it was Howard, man of the match for the second week
running, whose pace and panache put Chester in control.
Wilde chested a forward pass into the area and, with
his back to goal, lifted the ball out to the left. There
Howard also used his chest to control it and lashed
in a stunning drive from the corner of the penalty area
into the opposite corner of the goal. The second goal
was even better – a sweeping move from left to
right and back again ended when Wilde’s first
time flick found Howard and he lifted the ball over
the onrushing keeper and into the net.
Lancaster came closest to scoring when Jarvis’
shot went just wide of the post following a corner but
Chester were generally comfortable – their pace
and work rate in midfield notably higher than the previous
week against Leigh.
The club had designated today “Think Pink Day”
as funds were raised for the breast cancer unit at the
local hospital. Pink tee shirts were on sale to raise
money for the cause and those worn by the players auctioned
after the game in the Blues Bar (Pink Bar for the day).
Michael Wilde’s shirt raised £100 –
a token of the esteem he is currently held in. He it
was who assisted Wilson to score his first league goal
for the club by racing down the right wing and crossing
first time. Wilson’s cool finish was harder than
Chester might well have added more to the tally, Wilde
and Barnes went close with headers and Howard had half
a chance for his hat trick when Wilson’s shot
was parried by Fearon. Sarcevic, who might have had
a penalty when he appeared to be nudged over in full
flight, then had the edge taken off a very impressive
performance when he picked up a second booking for a
mistimed jump for a header.
This was a business-like and confident performance by
City, much needed after a couple of stumbles at home.
Manager Neil Young dressed appropriately with matching
shirt and tie mixed with the fans in the Pink Bar later,
able to bask in the rosy glow of a job well done.
It was hard to pinpoint the reason why Chester didn’t
win this match by a country mile against a very unambitious
But for all their possession, City failed to create many
clear cut chances, they lacked the cutting edge to really
keep the visitors under pressure.
Howard, easily man of the match,
was indefatigable in his efforts to break the deadlock.
We thought he had done it when he skipped past the full
back and his cross caused confusion in the goalmouth.
Unfortunately Hopley had strayed offside before he put
the ball in the net.
Then Peers on the right wing crossed perfectly for Horan
but the skipper’s header was directed straight
at Judge. It was fellow defender Carl Ruffer who got
the breakthrough City craved a few minutes after this.
His glancing header was directed downwards and deceived
the excellent keeper. Hopley might have made it two
when Judge made a rare mistake and missed a cross. And
again Hopley won a race with the ‘keeper to a
bouncing through ball but his lob went just wide of
Such near misses seem all the more agonising given Leigh’s
last gasp equaliser. A long punt sliced off a City defender
to give Gleaves an open goal. It was a sickening blow
to Chester’s hopes of catching leaders Chorley
and a harsh lesson in working harder at finishing teams
Chester booked their place into the second round of the
League Challenge Cup after coming from behind to beat
their Division One South opponents in extra-time.
changes were made the starting line-up with Richard
Foulkes making a debut in midfield, whilst striker Rob
Hopley appeared at the centre of the defence!
It was Foulkes who had the first meaningful
effort on goal seeing a shot drift wide on 20 minutes,
Wilson should have done better minutes later but shot
straight at the ‘keeper when well placed. Gareth
Evans, making his home debut, headed just wide of Luke
Cunningham and the post as Chester started to get their
The Pics has a golden opportunity
to open the scoring in the 31st minute as Stuart Graves
felled Ahmed Obeng in the box, referee Brooks had no
hesitation in pointing to the spot. However Mitchell
Tolley crashed the penalty against the crossbar and
the chance was missed.
Chris Oldfield saved well low down
to deny Anthony Maguire and send the teams in level
Five minutes after the break Tolley
atoned for his first-half miss as he was left unmarked
to smash home a loose ball following a Anthony Maguire
The visitors were reduced to ten men
as Decio Gomez picked up two yellow cards in quick succession.
Manager Neil Young introduced in-form
striker’s Michael Wilde and Bradley Barnes and
the former went close with a header on 77 minutes before
the equaliser eventually came eight minutes from time.
Oldfield’s long goal kick was flicked on by Wilde
to Kyle Wilson who raced through one-on-one and slotted
the ball under Cunningham to mark his home debut with
Chester pushed for the winner and
thought they’d got it when Williams found the
net but he was adjudged to be offside and in the dying
seconds Cunningham pulled off a great save from a Barnes
header to send the game in to extra-time.
Cunningham again produced a fine save
to deny Wilde’s header following a Barnes free-kick,
but he was given no chance as Tom Filed rifled home
into the top corner from 20 yards to give Chester a
98th minute lead.
Lucan Spittle saw red for the visitors
who were reduced to nine men following his high tackle
on Wilson before Wilde wrapped the game up scoring from
ten yards with virtually the last kick of the match.
second half hat-trick from Michael Wilde, his second treble
of the season, ensured Chester continued their impressive
away form and closed the gap on leaders Chorley, who drew
at Cammell Laird, to three points.
Neil Young gave a debut to new signing Tom McCready
whilst another new signing, defender Gareth Evans, made
an appearance from the bench in the second half.
Young had warned pre-match that that
the Locomotives would start well and get at Chester
from the off, which they did. Robbie Booth and Wilde
both had efforts on goal before Young was forced into
a substitution as McCreedy came out worst in a strong
challenge, picking up a knee ligament injury, and had
to be replaced by Kyle Wilson.
Chances were few and far between in
the opening period though Bradley Barnes his the post
and Iain Howard failed to really test Chris Elliott
in the home goal when he was given a free header.
Six minutes after the break Chester
took the lead as Dan Thirkell diverted a cross from
Tom Field past Elliott and into his own net. They doubled
their advantage 14 minutes later when Wilde met an accurate
cross from George Horan to steer a header home in front
of the away fans behind the goal.
Wilde added the third minutes later
as he robbed Thirkell before curling a shot past Elliott.
The home side soon reduced the arrears as Horan was
penalised for a foul in the box on Jon Maloney and Thirkell
gave Richard Whiteside no chance from the spot-kick.
Any fears of a Witton-style colapse
at the back were soon eased as Wilde completed his hat-trick
six minutes from time scoring with ease from close range
following a Wilson delivery.
dominated this match with high-flying Witton for ninety
minutes. They harried, moved the ball about crisply and
neatly and forged ahead with two goals either side of
half time and might have added to this tally but for some
fine saves and a goal line clearance.
Then came stoppage time. Botham cut in from Witton’s
left and curled a speculative punt into the penalty box.
Whiteside punched the ball but only on to another player
and it squirted to the ground to give Dave MacPherson
the easy task of scoring a hardly merited consolation
goal. Worse was to follow when a cross was whipped in
from the left and Ashley Stott deflected it just inside
the far post. Cue wild celebrations as he ran round the
back of the goal to celebrate with the home faithful.
They had had so little to cheer about during the match
and now they were level, got out of jail, absolutely unbelievable.
Chester’s massive following had already begun to
thin out thinking that three points were in the bag and
wanting to escape the gridlock of the car park and nearby
narrow streets. Those who departed would never believe
that City had thrown two points away.
An article in the entertaining match day programme described
Chester’s first promotion in 1974-5 when they pipped
Lincoln by 0.038 of a goal after the Imps had lost their
last remaining fixture at Southport. “Never give
up hope!” the article concluded. It looked like
the Albion players had taken this message to heart and
robbed City of the points they needed to keep pace with
As it turned out it was City who showed tremendous character
to come back from this blow and snatch a dramatic victory.
They swept forward one more time as the four minutes of
stoppage time ticked away. Substitute Kyle Wilson collected
the ball on the right, cut in and threaded a ball through
to Wilde whose shot was brilliantly saved by Cooper and
parried just beyond another City player and out for a
corner on the left wing. Booth had been taking them all
evening from that side but had been replaced by Wilson.
The tireless Howard stepped up and whipped in the perfect
delivery. Captain Horan rose head and shoulders above
all the rest in the crowded penalty area and headed firmly
into the back of the net.
Don’t ask me to describe what happened next as I
was too busy – along with all of the Chester contingent
– going absolutely delirious with joy. Relief all
round when the final whistle was blown.
Had Chester dropped points tonight it would have tarnished
a very hard-working and dominant performance – they
really stepped up for this one. Wilde’s goal came
as the culmination of the pressure of a string of corners.
Barnes’ shot from outside the box was deflected
and Wilde was on hand to knock it over the line. Barnes
himself scored a beauty in the second half, latching on
to Wilde’s header, gliding past a defender and striking
sweetly, low past Cooper’s right hand. That goal
gave City breathing space needed given the fragility of
a 1-0 lead.
Then came that sensational stoppage time and a finish
that will last long into the collective memory of the
Chester supporters who were there – and those who
will hear their stories about it over and over again.
What a game. What a team. What a club!
2 October Chester 1 Prescot Cables 1
Evo-Stik Division One North
Attendance: 2,419 (83 Prescot) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Booth, Peers, Wilde.
Chester: Whiteside, Connolly, Horan,
Ruffer, Williams (Graves 16), Burgess (Peers 55), Stones,
Barnes, Booth (Howard 63), Wilde, Hopley. Subs not used:
Prescot Cables: Jackson, Hollett, Calland, Spearitt,
Foy, Wright, Gibiliru, Holme, Thomas (Brown 57), Madin
(Rey 57), Cass (McGann 87). Subs not used: Jarret, Ojapah. Referee: Mr. A.Ackerman.
Chester lost ground on leaders Chorley after they were
held at home 1-1 by Prescot Cables. The visitors had recorded
their first win of the season during the week and were
determined to build on that as they worked hard for their
point in front of another good crowd.
Neil Young brought in Robbie Booth and Andy Burgess
in place of Iain Howard and Stuart Jones, while new
signing Kyle Wilson took a place on the bench. The Blues
had the better of the play in the opening period but
found it difficult to break down a resolute Prescot
Chester created half-chances from
the start, George Horan saw a header drift wide and
Burgess sent a long range effort in that was comfortable
saved by Farai Jackson, who had a good game all afternoon,
in the visitors’ goal.
Cables also had their moments in the
opening stages, Chris Williams headed a dangerous cross
out for a corner and Richard Whiteside saw a long range
effort from Dale Wright drift harmlessly wide.
Young was forced to replace Williams
with Stuart Graves and Chester continued to press. Jackson
was in action again as he turned a Rob Hopley header
wide and soon later finger tipped over a Robbie Booth
25-yarder. A last ditch tackle by Tom Spearitt denied
Michael Wilde a goalscoring opportunity following a
good through ball from Booth.
On the stroke of half-time Greg Stones
went close with a lob over the stranded Jackson that
just drifted wide of the far post.
The visitors took the lead on 65 minutes
with a well taken goal. Dale Wright worked an opening
on the right and his far post cross sailed over the
Chester rearguard to the unmarked Aaron Rey whose controlled
volley gave Whiteside no chance from ten yards.
Chester gave an instant response with
Wilde seeing a point-blank header tipped over following
good work from substitute Mark Peers and there were
loud appeals for a penalty, refused be referee Ackerman,
after Stones appeared to be fouled in the area.
Whiteside made a crucial saved to
deny Rey a second goal before Chester restored parity
with ten minutes remaining as Bradley Barnes headed
home a near post Peers corner to the relief of the City
faithful massed behind the goal.