City and County set served up a proper cup-tie at Edgeley
Park. Chester calmly forged ahead in the first half then
found all their good work undone in a whirlwind beginning
to the second, only to find their composure again and
book their place in the next round.
Stockport provided traditional opposition for Chester
but their path has not crossed ours too often recently.
The programme made similar references to the two clubs’
familiarity with each other – including memories
of how this fixture became a local derby when City were
tenants at Macclesfield just down the road. Then County
became Chester’s first ever opponents at the Deva
Stadium as they were drawn against each other in the first
round of the League Cup.
Both clubs have hit hard times since those good old days.
Chester’s cycle still has upward momentum while
Stockport’s – enduring their second season
Conference North – will undoubtedly come. The Cheadle
End, opened in 1995 holds almost as much as a full Deva
Stadium. While the County fans drifted in, the Railway
End opposite became full to overflowing. And whilst County
roars reverberated around the roof of their stand, Blues’
songs disappeared into the ether as dark clouds lowered
above and a steady stream of low flying aircraft trundled
The gulf in class between Conference North and Conference
Premier became apparent in the opening half as City moved
the ball around quickly and to good effect. Hobson got
on the end of a flowing move and directed a header on
target. Then he followed the ball into the net when Gregson’s
touch had deceived the keeper. But the flag had been surprisingly
raised for offside.
City, playing in a smart third kit of yellow and black
were not to be denied the lead, however. Mahon fed the
ball to McConville and he won the fifty-fifty challenge
with a defender to drive the ball home. He was no doubt
spurred on to succeed by the unfriendly welcome he received
from the home fans for previous misdemeanours. His goal
celebrations in front of the Cheadle End tasted sweet
for him but earned him a yellow card.
A second goal arrived on the
half hour, also from the left wing, as Roberts and Hughes
combined with the latter cutting in to the box, beating
a couple of defenders and rifling in past Hurst. Chester
had been lifted when Hughes had been given permission
to pay by Fleetwood and the skill and balance he brought
to the attack helped them gain control of the tie. Stockport
in contrast were restricted to a couple of efforts from
outside the penalty area.
Visiting supporters speculated over half time on who
they would like to play in the First Round Proper –
although the more faint hearted refused to be so complacent.
The latter’s fears were justified a few minutes
after the break when Stockport stormed back with a couple
of goals in as many minutes to rock City back to square
one. First Mahon was dispossessed by Lees and then Wolfe
lofted a ball over the top. Dennis had stolen a march
on Chester’s ball-watching defenders and ran through
to prod the ball past Worsnop. While this goal stirred
the Cheadle End back into life, Spencer’s goal
a moment later sent them apoplectic. From a throw in
on the right the County forward turned and the ball
sat up for him to launch a dipping half volley from
the corner of the area into the far side of the goal.
The Hatters had City on the back foot and Worsnop did
well to tip Dennis’s shot onto the bar. But City
began to regain their composure with James and Rooney
getting their passing game going again.
James found Mahon on the right and he produced the champagne
moment in a cracking game when he turned Fagbola three
or four times until the defender fell over. Mahon then
scurried past, drove in a pass and McConville arrived
to finish, quick as a flash. This time his celebrations
were in front of a much more receptive audience. City
began to assert their authority again and McConville
turned provider as his right wing corner was nodded
in by Heneghan for Chester’s fourth and final
The only fly in the ointment this afternoon was the
sly punch that Dennis dug at McConville at a Chester
corner and was sent off. Kay also followed the Stockport
man into the dressing room for putting his hand on the
back of the culprit’s neck. Although this happened
right in front of the referee he took no immediate action
until he seemed to be persuaded into producing a red
card by County defender Belezika.
There was no way back for the home side but both teams
had contributed hugely to a very enjoyable Cup-tie.
City fans were then kettled by the police into an adjoining
side street before train travellers were escorted back
to the station and they and fellow Cestrians went off
to savour the sweet taste of a fine victory.
is an old cliché to say that history is written
from the winners’ perspective and it’s also
true to say that a stoppage time goal can change completely
the way in which a football match is viewed. You watch
a match for ninety minutes plus a few added on and it
seems certain to finish a certain way. You psyche yourself
up for how that will make you feel for the evening ahead
and then someone scores a goal and all of that goes out
of the window.
Craig Mahon’s amazing finish from the most acute
of angles settled an absorbing match in City’s favour.
Jamie Menagh’s raking cross from the right bounced
on the six yard line. Mahon, challenged by a defender
on the left clipped it with the outside of his right foot
and managed to loft it over the tall figure of Dawson
in the Alfreton goal and saw it nestle in the far corner
of the net.
Chester fans and players alike were jubilant. It was another
case of persisting right until the end as they had done
in the Wrexham match and as Welling did to them a couple
of weeks ago.
City began the
game on the front foot attacking the Harry Mac end.
The Blues moved the ball sweetly from defence to attack
and found most joy down the left. Here Hughes and Roberts
combined well to set up a couple of glorious crossing
opportunities, only for the final ball to be lacking.
As an attack on the right broke down, however, the visitors
hit City on the counter. Ironside broke forward and
twisted and turned before his deft pass gave Shaw a
chance to score with a reverse shot past Worsnop. It
was neat football but against the run of play as far
as Chester were concerned.
The Blues retaliated. Rooney had a
couple of over-ambitious efforts from distance. McConville
had a promising attempt block by a defender who threw
his body in the way. But the quick and intricate footwork
of Hughes opened up a shooting opportunity which he
took as he cut in from the left to equalise. It seemed
strange that he was playing on the wing rather than
alongside Hobson in the middle but the tactic worked
too good effect in the first half.
The pattern of play continued after
the break with City trying to resume their passing game
and build from the back while Alfreton pressed and denied
space where possible. Hobson had a great chance as he
was put through but his shot beat the keeper it went
the wrong side of the post. Dawson somehow managed to
save from Hobson when a rebound fell kindly for him
in the box. City dominated but couldn’t find the
telling finish. Kingsley James – pivotal to play
all afternoon – ran with the ball a long way into
the box but was then booked as he lunged to retrieve
With fifteen minutes to go the tiring
Hobson was replaced by Menagh and he nearly crowned
his cameo appearance with a rasping shot just over the
bar. Alfreton continued to prove resilient and threatened
to steal the points themselves until Menagh and Mahon
combined to provide a thrilling finish.
Chester looked down from the top of
the bottom half of the table – seven points above
the relegation zone and seven away from the play offs
the other way. If they can maintain this kind of form
and position most Cestrians would be happy with that.
After Mahons’s brilliant goal it was more glass
half full than half empty this weekend.
Steve Burr named an unchanged
side for the long trip to Dover after the Blues had made
it 13 points out of 18 with the midweek defeat of Aldershot
Chester started well
with Gareth Roberts having a shot blocked early on and
John Rooney seeing a free-kick curl past the post before
the home side came more into the game with Nick Deverdics
having a shot cleared off the line by Roberts.
Deverdics had another effort blocked
by Sean McConville and Chester cleared off the line
again as Michael Kay denied Chris Kinnear as the Whites
looked the more likely side to break the deadlock.
Ricky Miller saw a lob clear Jon Worsnop
but drop just over the bar as the hosts continued to
press but Chester created the last chance of the half
as Matty Hughes raced through onto Rooney’s through
ball only to see his low effort saved by Andrew Rafferty
in the home goal.
Two minutes after the break the Whites
took the lead as Tom Murphy’s low shot was deflected
past Worsnop by Ben Heneghan.
Burr brought on Craig Hobson for Roberts
and Chester looked to get back on level terms. Craig
Mahon forced a save from Rafferty who turned his shot
round for a corner. The resulting flag-kick saw Kieran
Charnock flick the ball on but McConville wasn’t
able to convert the loose ball.
Dover doubled the lead on 64 minutes
as Connor Essam headed home a Murphy cross giving Worsnop
no chance.A minute later Murphy almost
made it three as his shot came back off the post after
Worsnop had dropped Chris Nanetti’s shot.
Chester created several chances as
they looked to get something from the match that was
slipping away. Kingsley James set up Hughes who sliced
his shot wide and both McConville and Hobson headed
wide from corners.
Ten minutes from time James saw a
goal ruled out for offside and Rooney saw a long range
effort fly wide in stoppage time before referee Powell
blew for full time.
superb turn and finish put the gloss on a great debut
by City’s new golden boy Matty Hughes. Blues banished
the disappointment of last Saturday when victory was snatched
from their grasp at the last gasp by Welling with a late
winner against Aldershot Town this evening.
Signed on a month’s loan from Fleetwood in the morning
Hughes went straight into the starting line-up. In the
absence of both Iwelumo (Unwell) and Hobson (Hamstring
injury) he was joined in a seemingly lightweight forward
line by Sean McConville - like Hughes a former Skelmersdale
player. What they lacked in height and stature, however,
the two forwards more than made up in mobility and good
footwork as City began the game with pace and energy and
moved the ball around neatly.
Mahon tried to repeat his good luck with a similar strike
to the one he got off the mark with on Saturday but Smith
was not to be beaten. Winn was back in the side on the
opposite wing and saw a good effort fizz over the bar.
Aldershot were pegged back but looked dangerous at set
pieces. The chief scare came when Phillips made poor contact
with Hattons’ free kick when well placed to head
home and the chance went begging. Brett Williams also
lurked with a menacing presence and when Mahon lost the
ball he was put through dangerously but shot over the
bar. As half time approached Mahon beat a defender to
the ball to knock it into the net – only to see
the linesman’s flag raised for offside.
As the second half began Mahon had a shooting opportunity
from almost the same spot as Williams before - Rooney’s
pass found him in space on the right. His low effort was
saved by Smith and with McConville and Hughes looking
for a rebound – the ball stuck to the keeper. City
began to rattle the visitors’ defence as they persisted
with their passing game. Worsnop resisted kicking the
ball long as the Blues tried to build from the back. At
times they won applause for the way they kept the ball
– at times they gave it away too cheaply but always
fought hard to win it back again. Gradually they gained
the upper hand but it was a tight game and as the clock
wound down we got the feeling whoever scored first would
McConville went close after a good run and raking shot.
Roberts was booked for the Shots for a foul on Heneghan
– retaliation for the right back’s reckless
tackle on him previously. Oastler followed him into the
book shortly after as City began to press forward. Touray
replaced Peter Winn.
Rooney ran into too many defenders as he tried to engineer
a way through. McConville went down under a challenge
on the edge of the box but the referee waved away claims
for a penalty. But then with ten minutes remaining Hughes
– who had run indefatigably all evening –
produced a brilliant turn and shot with his left foot
into the far corner of the net. The frustration was lifted
and Hughes mobbed by ecstatic team mates and fans alike
but emerged from the huddle to see the ref’s yellow
Anxiety levels increased amongst the home fans as Aldershot
pressed for an equaliser. A free kick on the left seemed
to have produced a goal when it was met at the far post,
nodded down and somehow scrambled off the line. Worsnop
also pulled off a great save moments earlier. Just like
Saturday four minutes stoppage time was awarded and the
tension was almost unbearable. But the Blues hung on to
the three points on this occasion and moved above the
visitors in the table to the lofty heights of fourteenth
Matty Hughes basked in the glory of a fine debut performance
and goal in the glow of an almost full moon. The road
shone white in the moonlight. It was a long way back to
Aldershot for the Town and their 101 supporters. City
fans were elated to win this hard fought contest –
one that gives us real hope that progress is being made
second game in a row at Chester turned on a last-minute
goal – this time it was for the opposition, and
gave Welling a deserved point to take back to London.
In a lacklustre game, Chester went
ahead on 10 minutes when a Craig Mahon shot was fumbled
by Welling goalkeeper Jonathan Henly and –
to everyone’s amazement –
ended up in the back of the net.
I'm struggling to think of another
attempt on goal in the first half in a match which was
largely devoid of goalmouth action. I even think there
were only two corners in the game –
and one of them resulted in the Welling equaliser.
Chester started with Chris Iwelumo
for the first time since August, after Craig Hobson
picked up a knock in the Grimsby match. Hobson, the
club's top scorer this season, still made the bench.
Iwelumo didn’t really make an
impression again, and seemed to be most effective when
he was called into defensive duty during a couple of
occasions in the first half. He actually missed the
best goal chance of the match on the 53rd minute when
a good cross from Gareth Roberts found him in space
right in front of the net. But he headed the ball way
wide – later blaming
the sun for him missing such a great opportunity.
It was one of those days when everyone
in the main stand had to shield their eyes to follow
the action in the second half –
a real sign that the clocks are about to change and
winter will soon be on the way.
As the game wore on, Chester seemed
to be hoping a more defensive approach would allow them
to keep their slender advantage. Kingsley James, who
went on to be man-of-the-match sat further back in the
second half to steady the defence.
It was Mahon who’d actually
caught my eye as a potential man-of-the-match. He played
with a bit of adventure and never seemed to stop working.
It was no wonder he got a rousing round of applause
when he was replaced by Danny Harrison on the 81st minute.
Iwelumo was replaced by Peter Winn at the same time.
It’s actually hard to believe
that we’re now a third of the way through the
League season, and just when I was thinking Chester
could end up in their highest ever league position since
the reformation, Welling finally hit back. In fairness,
a goal had been coming as they’d been continually
pushing forward following the Chester double substitution.
Just when Chester nails were being
bitten as the referee allowed four minutes’ injury
time, Welling won a 92nd minute corner. The Blues failed
to clear it, and Tyrone Marsh was in the right place
to score an easy equaliser. The final whistle went about
90 seconds later, leaving Chester reflecting on another
set piece which cost them two points.