game and Chester’s FA Cup fate was decided by
a stunning strike form Gateshead centre back Curtis
who lashed a high volley into the back of the net from
the edge of the box with a quarter of an hour to go.
In general it had been a dull game up to this point
but this goal was worthy of winning the final.
It was hard to see City coming
back to win once they had conceded – they have
found scoring hard to come by in recent weeks at home
– their last success was against Macclesfield
last month. The best we could hope for was a replay.
Killock, making his debut on loan from Leeds came closest
with a well-directed header from Higginbotham’s
cross but Bartlett in the visitors’ goal was alert
to the threat and caught the effort on the goal line.
Warning signs came early for
City who reverted to a straight back four in defence,
presumably the experiment with three at the back was
discarded after last weekend’s defeat at Braintree.
The ‘Heed managed to slice through in the opening
minutes anyway as James Marwood, son of Arsenal stalwart
Brian, played a neat one two and ran clear only to stroke
his shot wide of the goal. City’s midfield struggled
to compete, the outlet of wingbacks was stifled by reverting
to the old formation and the Blues continue to lack
a playmaker or two in the centre who can carry the play
to the opposition. The forwards become isolated and
long balls from defence come straight back.
Things improved for a while
after the break. Jarrett replaced Tichiner and Seddon
and Reed threatened briefly but City could not sustain
the pressure for long and it was Gateshead who gained
the territorial advantage; who were stronger on the
ball and who forced a succession of corners from which
Curtis’ winning goal came.
At times during the game when
the sun broke through, the floodlights were on and the
light reflected off the Heed’s day-glow yellow
kit, they dazzled the spectators. They certainly outshone
a feeble City on this showing.
It’s hard to see where
Chester go from here. The gains made from shoring up
the defence and maintaining clean sheets against tough
opponents seem to have evaporated over the last two
games. After the game, Neil Young spoke about strengthening
the squad with loan signings. Ben Mills has already
been moved on to make way. Young can be under no illusions
about the size of the task ahead this season. The old
adage about concentrating on the league now that we
are out of the cup comes to mind – but it looks
like re-enforcements are needed.
have to confess this was about my personal low point
in life as a Chester FC fan. Despite just one change
from a team which picked up a point against high-flying
Cambridge, Chester somehow crumbled against Braintree
I’d barely got used to the surroundings of the
ramshackle Amlin Stadium when an early Braintree attack
saw the ball go to a free Charlie Strutton. The on-loan
striker took advantage of his good fortune and shot
past John Danby to make it 1-0 after just five minutes.
And less than 60 seconds went by before he was on the
scoresheet again. This time Strutton collected the ball
in midfield and he had time to make an unstoppable strike
to put Chester two goals behind with just six minutes
on the clock.
John Danby showed his frustration when he picked the
ball up from the back of the net and thwacked it back
in before the re-start. I knew how he felt. It was hard
to be positive after that start, and Chester continued
to make little impact throughout the rest of the game.
It got even worse on the 28th minute when Braintree
captain Dean Wells hit the ball in from a corner. By
now the match was clearly over, and Chester had a couple
of first half chances in the shape of a Jamie Reed header
and an Alex Titchiner shot.
The travelling Chester fans gathered behind the goal
in the hope of seeing a second half Chester goal as
the sun began shining in Essex. But their hopes were
soon dashed when Paul Linwood was sent off for a foul
on Strutton on the 57th minute.
It was hard to know how life could get any worse, and
a good Danby save from another Strutton strike helped
prevent a total embarrassment for Chester. However,
Lee Pugh was sent off the 82nd minute for a reckless
challenge in the middle of the field to complete the
afternoon’s misery. It was a long way home from
Essex, and that Chester performance made it seem almost
Young kept the same team that had won at Alfreton –
and the same formation. This involved a back three with
Kay playing in between Linwood and Horan; with Pugh
and Lewis Turner given licence to push forward as wing
backs. Chester began aggressively launching the ball
in to the box from the wings – something that
they weren’t able to do earlier in the season.
The unbeaten league leaders were pushed back on the
Cambridge showed resilience, however and quality in
possession of the ball and applied pressure of their
own. Elliott, the rangy forward playing in place of
the prolific Cunnington, got behind the defence on a
couple of occasions. Then Appiah tiptoed his way through
a crowded penalty area and seemed certain to score until
his low shot was instinctively saved by Danby.
Appiah had an even more clear cut chance after Cambridge
were awarded a penalty for Horan’s trip of Dunk
as he broke into the area on the left. But the U’s
forward placed his spot kick wide of the goal and the
Harry Mac celebrated as if Chester had scored.
After the break Horan succumbed to a shoulder injury
to be replaced by Higginbotham with Linwood switching
to the right. City were forced back on the defensive
as Cambridge upped their game following a hilarious
hokey-cokey warm up before the second half kicked off.
But City stood firm and even after the visitors introduced
Cunnington to the fray, they came no closer to piercing
the Blues resolute defence.
Though Chester were on the defensive for much of the
game, they discovered second wind as full time approached
and Nathan Turner and Seddon provided fresh legs. The
latter carved out a promising opening as he cut in from
the left but his cross-shot flew across the goal. The
home fans lifted the noise levels as they sensed a potential
They would have raised the roof had it arrived but instead
stayed to give the Blues a well-earned ovation for their
display against an accomplished and well organised Cambridge
outfit. Perhaps a win was too much to expect –
we haven’t beaten Cambridge at home since the
first time we met them at Sealand Road in 1970.
first half goal from Jamie Reed brought Chester their
second away victory of the season at Alfreton Town.
It was a good night for many of the clubs at the wrong
end of the table, as a result the Blues remain 22nd
in the league but will have been encouraged by his performance
coming on top of the home point earned against second
placed Kidderminster on Saturday.
Danny Higginbotham missed the game
with concussion so captain George Horan returned to
partner Paul Linwood in the defence. There was a healthy
contingent of away fans in the crowd of 743 and they
saw an Alfreton side, who hadn’t lost at home
since April, begin strongly.
John Danby was called into action
in the opening minute as he cleared a dangerous inswinging
corner from under the bar. Minutes later Lee Pugh was
well placed to clear the danger as Danny Wishart caused
problems with his pace for the Blues rearguard.
After weathering the early home pressure
Chester set about their hosts creating a chance themselves
when good build-up play between Horan and Danny Harrison
set up Craig Lindfield whose header was palmed out by
Ross Atkins in the Alfreton goal.
There was an escape for Chester as
a long range effort from Dan Bradley flew just wide
and target man Job Ayo Akinde shot just over, before
Horan cleared a John McGrath effort as the home side
continued to press for the breakthrough.
The breakthrough did come on 34 minutes
but it was Chester who found the net as Lewis Turner
ran to the byline before crossing for Reed to power
a header past Atkins for his first goal in Chester’s
Paul Linwood saw a header graze the
bar as Chester looked to build on their lead. Danby
was forced to save three times before the break but
Chester held firm for the half-time lead.
So often this season Chester have
started well but faded after the break, but tonight
the Blues pressed for a second goal and weren’t
content to sit on what they had. Reed sent a header
over from Michael Kay’s cross and Lindfield just
failed to connect with another effort.
The home side continued to press
in the final stages but Chester held on to the delight
of their 200+ following.
Another goalless draw at the Deva but this was no moribund
stalemate as Chester more than held their own against
high flying Kidderminster and were within a whisker
of claiming all three points.
Titchiner in particular can count himself unlucky not
to have opened his scoring account this afternoon. Three
chances came his way in the second half. First, put
through by McIntyre’s exquisite pass, he twisted
and turned Grimes before lashing a shot which crashed
off the underside of the bar and back in to play. Reed
could not quite convert the rebound. Later Titchiner
shot over the bar at the end of a crisp move down the
Finally it was third time unlucky as the diminutive
striker stabbed a cross which had eluded all the tall
players around him, within a hair’s breadth of
the post with the ‘keeper rooted to the spot.
A goal for Titchiner would do wonders to restore his
confidence one feels. He won’t get much closer
This was City’s purple patch in the second half
as they rattled the Harriers and had them pinned back.
But the visitors were always strong and quick on the
break and posed a constant threat, finishing the match
strongly as the game swung from one end of the pitch
to the other. Substitute Byrne headed Jackman’s
cross narrowly wide, Danby saved a piledriver at full
stretch and City breathed a sigh of relief when the
visitors had the ball in the back of the net but it
was ruled offside.
Chester had grown in confidence following a first half
when Kidderminster showed the quality that had got them
high in the table but were restricted to few chances
by disciplined defending. The Blues did enough to force
some good positions but then the ball into the box was
often lacking in quality.
There were signs that City are slowly turning the ship
around. Reed’s control and approach play impressed.
Lewis Turner was indefatigable and the team as a whole
did not fade as they had done in previous matches. While
home fans were desperately disappointed not to be applauding
a win, they stood to acclaim the Blues’ efforts
and a point gained at least.