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Saturday 31 October 1998
Chester City 1 Shrewsbury Town 1

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, Reid, Murphy, Beckett, Smith. Subs not used: Wright, Whelan, Priest.
Shrewsbury Town: Edwards, Seabury, Hanmer, Wilding (Brown 60), Winstanley, Gayle, Berkley, Kerrigan (Jagielka 74), Steele, Evans, Jobling. Sub not used: Preece.
Referee: Terry Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).

Once again there was a terrific atmosphere as another bumper gate flocked to the Deva Stadium to see their clash of two in-form sides. But it was City who will have been most disappointed after failing once again to kill off the opposition when they were in charge. They were robbed of three points with a dodgy penalty decision given by referee Terry Heilbron.

City have only won one of eight home games this season, drawing five others. If only their home form was as good as on their travels we'd be top three certs by now.

Chester were in command for most of the game and had the majority of possession but again failed to create many chances. Indeed it took a double save by Wayne Brown to prevent Steel from giving the visitors the lead after Matt Woods got caught in possession.

City appealed for a penalty as Luke Beckett appeared to be tugged back in the area after Flitcroft and Murphy teamed up well. A mistake by Ross Davidson almost let in Jobling but he headed wide of the target as half time approached.

Following the break City pushed a bit more. On 55 minutes a Jon Cross in swinging corner was bundled over the line from close range by John Murphy, having a fine game. City never looked capable of getting a second though they were hardly troubled at the back either.

The equaliser came on 65 minutes as Shaun Reid was adjudged to have pushed Austin Berkley in the area. Paul Evans smashed the spot kick home.

City hit back with Beckett and Murphy and at the death Flitcroft going close for City.

The draw extends the Blues' unbeaten run to eight matches and they now face two tough away fixtures at Scunthorpe United and Halifax Town.
Tuesday 20 October 1998
Chester City 1 Hartlepool United 1
Attendance 2,182. Not bad considering Hartlepool brought just a coachload.

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, Reid, Murphy, Beckett, Smith. Subs: Jones, Wright, A.Shelton.
Hartlepool United: Hollund, Knowles, Heckinbottom, Barron, Lee, Beech, Ingram, Miller, Howard, Stokoe (Midgley 45), Stephenson.Subs not used: Brightwell, Clark.
Referee: T Bates (Stoke-on-Trent)

Ratcliffe kept the same team as for the Swansea match. Priest was not risked because of his recent hamstring injury. City attacked from the off, Flitcroft ending a promising move by putting his cross the wrong side of the crossbar. Hartlepool moved the ball quickly on the break and the best early chance fell to Beech but he shot straight at Brown.

Gradually City began to dominate. Reid won a couple of bionic tackles which galvanised the team forward and inspired the crowd – back to the normal size but fervent in support.

The chances started to come. From a half cleared free kick Reid chipped the ball back towards the far post where Beckett stole in to head goalwards – but his effort was saved. The pressure was really piled on with a succession of right wing corners as Hartlepool struggled to get the ball out of their own half. Jonathan Cross swung his indippers over. Reid just failed to connect with one. From another Richardson's firm header thumped against the bar and back in to play.

Smith broke down the left and cut a ball across the eighteen yard line for Reid who hammered his shot against the post. As half time approached three more corners strained the visitors' defence to breaking point. Cross looped the third over, Crosby finally connected with a nearpost flick which caused chaos in the goalmouth. Eventually Woods rammed the ball home. It was the culmination of intense pressure and no less than City deserved.

Would one goal be enough we wondered. Unfortunately not as this turned out to be a classic example of a game of two halves. Tait made one half time substitution and the new attacker immediately caused our defence problems. Breaking through twice and threatening to score in the first five minutes. Now it was Hartlepool's turn to win a succession of corners and City had to withstand the pressure. Big John Murphy helped out in defence to head one cross clear. But from another corner the visitors equalised as Beech met the inswinging ball to head in from six yards. Brown came in for criticism for staying on his line when he might have been expected to claim the ball.

But it would be unfair to blame the loss of two points on one player as in truth all were a pale imitation of their first half selves. Tactically City were out thought in the second half as Hartlepool push up and closed them down. Richardson and Reid couldn't get into the game. Chris Priest's pace was sorely missed. Chester seemed unable to vary their game and could barely string two passes together. In the end Hartlepool could and should have won the game – their centre forward had a golden opportunity coming in on the blind side but steered his header wide.

We grumbled at another failure to win at home but in truth we were just glad to still have a match to watch.

Colin Mansley
Saturday 17 October 1998
Chester City 1 Swansea City 1

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft (A.Shelton 89), Reid, Murphy, Beckett, Smith. Subs not used: Jones, Wright.
Swansea City: Freestone, Jones, Howard, Cusack, Smith, Bouned, Price, Jenkins, Alsop, Watkin, O'Gorman (Coates 73). Subs not used: Bird, Lacey.
Referee: D.Laws (Whitley Bay).

An emotional greeting met the teams at a wet and windswept Deva Stadium. The citizens, not to mention the councillors of Chester, had been persuaded, cajoled and encouraged to get down to support the town's football team in their hour of need. And the home sections of the stadium were packed solid to produce an attendance of almost 4,000 – twice the usual home gate. This was a great response to the supporters' campaign and just reward for the hard work of the ISA in publicising the plight of the club.

Cleggie had borrowed Sunderland's Prokofiev theme to lend drama to the occasion and the ticker tape baloons and applause which swept round the stadium was brilliant. City need this kind of support regularly and could get it if the fans continue to play a big part in the running of the club. This was a taste of what it could be like.

As for the match, well it didn't live up to the Cardiff game and was spoilt in large part by the wind but there was still enough to persuade all but the hardened cynics (of which it has to be admitted there are a few amongst the City faithful – They watch Chester as part of their therapy) that Chester are worth following.

The most clear cut chances came in the first half an hour of the game. Swansea's gangling wing back – Price – cut swathes through the City defence and had three gilt edged chances to score - all of which he squandered. First he made a mess of going round Brown and dived into the box as an afterthought. It was such a crude attempt to win a penalty that the referee gave him a stern talking to but did not book him as most Chester fans would have liked. A few minutes later he was clean through again with the goal at his mercy but incredibly pulled the ball wide of the post. At our end the best chances fell to Luke Beckett, happily restored to the front line. Twice he broke through the Swansea rearguard, cleverly beating a defender before seeing his fierce shot saved by Freestone's outstretched leg. Then, sent through by Richardson's exquisite pass, Beckett's shot went just wide.

The breakthrough came with Beckett as provider, his looping cross was met perfectly by Murphy who steered it inside the post. An early birthday present for him.

The lead was shortlived, however, as Davidson failed to clear Watkin's cross properly. May be the wind caused him to mistime his header but all he did was set up Alsop to score with ease.

Although City had the swirling wind behind them in the second half, it was Swansea who looked the stronger. In midfield especially they played more as a unit and though Reid broke up play occasionally and Richardson tried to inject a bit of pace from time to time there was little they could do to creat clear chances. A few minutes from time however, Becket created an opportunity for himself and his rasping shot had the grandstand on its feet only to moan with disappointment as it crashed into the angle of post and bar.

A shame then that Chester could not crown a glorious afternoon for the club with a victory but Swansea who were strong and well organised deserved their share in the spoils. A pity too that they didn't bring as many fans as rivals Cardiff which would have boosted the attendance to near capacity.

On the way home I stopped for petrol just south of Whitchurch and met four football fans from just west of Swansea travelling back to South Wales. They had all been to Old Trafford and were all wearing the colours of the Red Devils – I should have pointed them to my ISA sticker – Support your LOCAL club – but I suppose its the people of Chester who need to hear that message most at the moment.

Colin Mansley
Sunday 11 October 1998
Barnet 0 Chester City 0

Barnet: Harrison, Manuel, Harle, Sawyers, Basham, Arber, Searle (Onwere 90), Doolan, Charlerey (Devine 80), McGleish, Currie. Sub not used: King.
Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Beckett (Jones 83), Smith. Subs not used: A.Shelton, Reid.
Referee: R.Olivier (Sutton Coldfield).

Few complaints I suppose in that a draw was a fair result. Luke Beckett started his second League game for the Blues partnering John Murphy up front. City had plenty of possession without troubling Bees keeper Lee Harrison too much. Whereas Wayne Brown at the other end produced two fine saves in the final quarter to deny the home side a goal.

Urged on by an impressively large away following, it was City who had the first of the openings, both falling to Chris Priest who shot wide on each occasion, the second after a good knock back by Alex Smith.

Bees winger Darren Currie was giving Jon Cross a torrid time on the wing and after a great turn on the edge of the box was guilty of missing Barnet's best chance to open the scoring. Seconds later, Ken Charlery also found himself unmarked in the six yard box but stalled, and Andy Crosby superbly blocked a goalbound effort from Searle, as Barnet attacked down the Underhill slope.

The contrast is styles was there for all to see. City continued their patient build-up style, Barnet resorted to the long hoof down field at every opportunity.

Most of City's attacking options were centred on John Murphy who was winning a lot in the air though the service to him for most of the game was poor. Alex Smith found his was to some good positions but couldn't deliver the final ball while Dave Flitcroft got no change from Barnet full back Harle. Beckett, still not fully match fit, found himself free on the penalty spot midway through the second half but Murphy failed to square the ball to him from the edge of the box for what should have been a certain opener.

Charlerey should have done better that send a free header straight at a relieved Brown. The keeper then made a brilliant tip over save from Doolan's effort and got down well to stop a Devine drive. City best chance in the second half fell to Beckett who had two efforts to beat Harrison but the keeper blocked both shots from a narrow angle. Right at the end John Murphy headed over from Smith's free kick.
Saturday 3 October 1998
Scarborough 2 Chester City 4

Scarborough: Elliot, Kay, Jackson, Radigan (Worrall 60), Lydiate, Mirankov, Bullimore (Russell 60), Hoyland, Williams, Brodie, Robinson (Tate 75).
Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy (Beckett 76), Thomas, Smith. Subs not used: Reid, Wright.
Referee: P.Richards (Preston).

This result lifted City into 10th spot and kept up their superb form away from the Deva. It was their biggest and no doubt most impressive performance of the season. All four goals were of high quality and a brace from Rod Thomas continued his impressive run of form.

The Blues took the lead in the 24th minute after Chris Priest volleyed home into the top corner after Rod Thomas' cross was headed out by Lydiate. His 20 yard first-time shot gave goalkeeper Tony Elliot no chance in the home goal.

Nine minutes later and City were 2-0 up after a wonderful bit of skill from Rod Thomas. He took out two players on the edge of the box with some nifty footwork before drilling the ball home. Wayne Brown was hardly troubled in the first half as City ended it on top.

A spell of home pressure after the break was brought to an abrupt end as Rod Thomas scored his second goal of the game Good work by John Murphy who turned and lost Lydiate before squaring the ball for Thommo to shoot low past Elliot, 3-0.

Scarborough hit back immediately (how often do we fall to a sucker punch!) City's defence was asleep as Mirankov was allowed a free header past the stranded Wayne Brown. Minutes later though Flitcroft had added City's fourth with a 25-yard screamer to finish a spell of three goals in three minutes.

Luke Beckett made a welcomed appearance for the last 15 minutes. he was soon in the action volleying inches wide after good approach play from Alex Smith and Thomas. There was just enough time for the home team to add a second with another free header this time from Chris Tait.







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