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Tuesday 9 August
Chester 1 Hyde 2
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 591 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Judge, Brownhill (Woodward 57), Powell, Smith, Marsh-Evans (Baynes 70), Booth, Williams, Brown (Ormrod 80), Howard, Simm, Rainford (McNeil 57). Sub not used: Danby.
Hyde United: Carnell, Ingram, Martin, Fox, Havern, Evans, Worsley, Birchall, Whitwell, Spencer, Fallon. Subs: Mack, Griffin, Byrne, Broadbent, Pearson, Berkeley, Crowther.
Referee: J.Dowd (Wirral).

Two late goals in quick succession meant that Chester snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Hyde but the disappointment would not be lasting for City’s lowest crowd of the pre-season friendlies.

Both teams put in an energetic performance, there was no lack of running endeavour the whole evening – fitness levels beginning to peak after a long pre-season. City had an experimental central defence with Powell at centre-back alongside trialist Christian Smith. Neither looked uncomfortable in the role and Smith looked assured and steady under pressure.

At the other end Simm was a real livewire, chasing everything and harrying to good effect. He might have done better when Rainford set him up for a one on one with the ‘keeper but his cross shot was easily read. Brownhill and Booth had pot shots from outside of the box and Brownhill also got a couple of decent crosses in as Chester took the game to the visitors. Judge did not have a lot to do in Chester’s goal but was bailed out by Brownhill who headed Havern’s header off the line. The referee had to hold up play two or three times in as many minutes as tempers boiled over towards the end of the first half.

After the break Hyde made a number of changes I suspect – though these went unannounced. City began to change things around as the half wore on with new signing Woodward swapped for Brownhill and Matty McNeil making a welcome return from injury. Surprisingly the latter was made to play at centre-back whilst Smith moved into midfield. Smith went close with a header from Howard’s free kick on the left. Earlier he had set up a chance which Powell flicked towards the top corner.

City finally broke through when the impressive Brown spun on the centre spot and released Simm on the right. He powered forward and exchanged passes with Brown before driving a low shot into the far corner. It was a fine goal and no less than City and the industrious Simm deserved. Ormrod might have increased the lead but blasted over when well set up.

Smith conceded a free kick with a tackle from behind outside the right corner of Chester’s penalty area. Crowther’s free kick went through both wall and crowded penalty area and past Judge into the net. It was reminiscent of a couple of lax goals last season. Within a minute substitute Crowther had scored again, his lofted shot looped over Judge. Baynes was desperately unlucky not to equalise when his shot from all of twenty-five yards almost uprooted the goal frame as it crashed on to the underside of the bar and was scrambled away.

The result was unimportant but the match was no doubt a good work out and a last chance for Neil Young to tinker with possibilities for his starting line-up on Saturday. With a couple of suspensions and injuries to contend with he will have learned a bit more about certain players’ abilities to adapt to new positions. Who will make the first eleven on Saturday? It will be fascinating to see.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 6 August
Chester 2 Bangor City 2
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 820 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Brownhill, Stones, Marsh-Evans (Taylor 58), Howard, Baynes (Wright 46), Powell (Barnes 78), A.Williams, Booth (Ormrod 89), Reed (Brown 46), Rainford (Simm 46).
Bangor City: Idzi, Hoy, Roberts, Morley, Pejic, Johnston, Jones, Thomas, Davies, Wilson, Edwards. Subs: Walsh, Bull, Jebb, Williams, Brewerton, Smith, Owen, Flanagan.
Referee: A.Scregg (Merseyside).

Chester continued their pre-season build-up with a 2-2 draw against the Welsh Premier League champions Bangor City. There was a warm welcome for ex-Blue Kyle Wilson who joined the Citizens in the summer.

The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges. John Danby did well to palm a Dave Morley effort out for a corner. Chester rarely threatened and it was nearly 30 minutes before their first effort on goal when Iain Howard sent an overhead kick just over the bar.

It came as no surprise when Bangor opened the scoring in the 37th minute as Alan Bull met a right wing cross from Peter Hoy and shot past John Danby from close range, the Blues ‘keeper having no chance.

Robbie Booth and Ashley Williams both saw efforts go narrowly wide as Chester looked to get on level terms before the break. Blues manager Neil Young made three changes at the interval, and the introduction of Chris Simm, Jerome Wright and Alex Brown seemed to be just the tonic as they stepped up a gear after the break.

Chris Jones missed a great chance to extend Bangor’s lead before Wright leveled the score on 63 minutes. Simm latched onto a through ball from Greg Stones and although Lee Idzi did well to save Simm’s effort, Wright was on hand to drill home the rebound.

Simm gave the Blues the lead seven minutes later with a deserved goal as he raced through on another great through ball, this time from Brown, to beat Idzi.

The lead was short lived as Bangor found the net again just five minutes later. Once again Bull was on the scoresheet heading home a loose ball at the far post after Dandy did well to block a Sion Edwards effort. Bull almost completed his hat-trick in the dying minutes seeing his effort hit the post.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 2 August
Stalybridge Celtic 3 Chester 1
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: - Half Time 2-0
Booked: -.

Stalybridge Celtic: Budtz, Bembo-Leta, McWilliams, Meynell, Platt, Warburton, Kay, Wilkinson, Jennings, Ellams, Hobson.
Brownhill, Horan (Ormrod 73), Taylor (Stones 46), Marsh-Evans (Howard 46), Baynes (Booth 46), Pilkington (Brown 46), Williams (Powell 58), Wright, Simm, Gall (Reed 46). Sub not used: Judge.

Referee: J.Simpson.

Chester suffered their second defeat of the pre-season when they were beaten in an entertaining encounter by their Conference North opponents at Bower Fold. Celtic managed by former Chester boss Jim Harvey fielded a number of ex-Blues in their squad.

Chester contained a couple of trialists in their squad, forward Kevin Gall and midfielder Danny Pilkington.

The visitors started well, Chris Simm was twice presented with goalscoring opportunities in the opening minutes both saved by Jan Budtz in the home goal, with the Blues failing to create anything from the resulting corner on the second occasion.

Connor Jennings saw a chance hit the side netting before Celtic were awarded a penalty after john Dandy was penalised for bringing down Craig Hobson in the area. Jennings stepped up to take the spot-kick by Danby made amends for his error with a fine save to keep the scores level.

Danby was left exposed as the home side took the lead midway through the half. Adam Kay released Jennings who, beat the offside trap before racing through on goal and coolly slotting the ball past the Chester keeper.

The home side doubled their lead with a superb strike from former player Lloyd Ellams, he picked up the ball following good work from another ex-Blue Rhys Meynell before curling a shot from the edge of the box pasty Dandy’s outstretched dive into the top corner.

Simm saw another effort saved by Budtz as Chester looked for a way back into the match but it was the home side who had the ball in the net only for Jennings’ effort to be ruled out for offside.

Manager Neil Young made a host of substitutions at the break and one of these, Robbie Booth (on for Wes Baynes), forced another good save from Budtz. Chester were enjoying the better of the play after the break but fell a further goal behind on 77 minutes with Phil Marsh scoring at the far post after Jennings had beaten the City defence to a loose ball.

Chester finally pulled a goal back their play had deserved five minutes from time with Mark Reed raced through on goal following a fine Booth through ball to finally beat Budtz with a well taken effort from the edge of the box.

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Saturday 31 July
Heswall 0 Chester 1
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 300 (est) Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Heswall: Jones, Halt, Swan, King, Coan, Houghton, Holden, Swaine, Fleetwood, Bailey, Harrison. Subs: Foulkes, Strode, Bentley, Moody.
Judge, Baynes (Connolly 73), Stones, Marsh-Evans, Brownhill (Wright 61), Booth (Ormrod 65), A.Williams (Powell 8, (Barnes 32)), Smith, Howard, Reed (Simm 51), Rainford. Subs not used: Danby, Taylor, Aspin.
Referee: TBC.

A goal four minutes from time by transfer-listed Mark Connolly brought Chester a last-gasp win in a scrappy pre-season encounter at Gayton Park.

Blues manager Neil Young was without George Horan, Michael Wilde, Alex Brown and Matty McNeil through injury. He introduced trialist Christian Smith to the starting X1, Smith is a former Port Vale and Wrexham midfielder.

Smith almost made a dream start in the opening minutes as a long-range effort from inside his own half! dropped just over the bar with David Jones in the Heswall goal beaten all ends up.

Michael Powell came on after just eight minutes following a an injury to Ashley Williams who needed treatment following a late Steve King tackle that angered the Chester following.

Chester controlled much of the opening period but rarely threatened the home goal. Baynes saw a free-kick from the edge of the box palmed away by Jones and Powell headed wide following a fin run and cross from Robbie Booth.

HOward headed wide just after the half hour before and there was trouble moments later when Smith was caught by a late Adrian Moody tackle. Powell and Moody clashed as a result and both were asked to leave the field by the referee.

The home side almost opened the scoring ten minutes before the break as Matt Houghton’s long range effort crashed against the crossbar.

Manager Young made more changes in the second period and one of those substitutes Chris Simm forced a fine save from Jones in the 56th minute after being set up by Bradley Barnes.

The Blues created several chances, Rainford pulled a shot wide when well placed and Joe Ormrod, introduced for Booth, forced a save from Jones following a good cross from Rainford.

Chester were finally rewarded four minutes from time when Iain Howard crossed from the left wing for Connolly to smash the ball home from ten yards out.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Tuesday 26 July
Chester 0 Southport 3
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 975 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Stones, Marsh-Evans, Horan (Brownhill 20), Taylor, Powell (Barnes 69), Wright, Brown (A.Williams 61), Rainford (Simm 61), Wilde (Reed 20), Baynes (Booth 46). Sub not used: Judge.
Southport: Usai, Lever, McGinn, Davis, Owens, Wilkinson, Carden, Noubissie, Daly, Gray, Walwyn. Subs not used: Spencer, George, Marsden, Ralphs, McCormack, Nemes.

Referee: N.Davies (Wirral).

Chester are comprehensively beaten by their Conference opponents and see Michael Wilde and George Horan injured in the process. Wilde has since been diagnosed with a fractured collarbone.

Manager Neil Young described this as the worst performance in his time at the club; despite sharing the opening period the visitors scored on the stroke of half-time and added further goals after the break to compound a miserable night for the Blues.

Wes Baynes saw a free-kick in the opening five minutes headed out. Jerome Wright swung in the resulting free-kick which Wilde headed wide. It was ten minutes before the Sandgrounders threatened, on that occasion Matt Walwyn saw a well taken effort flash just wide of John Danby’s post. Minutes later Tony Gray saw another effort for the visitors flash just wide.

A 16th minute tackle with Matty McGinn resulted in Wilde falling awkwardly on his shoulder and the striker left the pitch, to be replaced by Mark Reed, following a spell of treatment. Danby twice saved from Gray as the visitors began to wrestle control of the game.

Captain George Horan left the field through injury to be replaced by Liam Brownhill but it was Danby who was seeing most of the action saving from Gray once again and Steve Daly. At the other end Reed saw an effort cleared off the line after he’d met a Greg Stones cross.

Southport went ahead in the last minute of the first half, the dangerous ex-AFC Fylde marksman Walwyn beating Danby with a well taken volley from the edge of the penalty area.

Wright had a decent chance to level matters five minutes after the break breaking free of the defence be he shot over from 20 yards with just ‘keeper Usai to beat.

Southport doubled their lead in the 56th minute when a Matty McGinn free-kick was flicked onto the top corner by Daly giving Danby no chance.

Four minutes later McCormack wrapped things up firing home a well-taken effort from 20 yards after turing the Blues defensive line. The only effort of note from the Blues was a Reed effort that was blasted over eight minutes from time.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Friday 22 July
Chester 3 Airbus UK 0
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 1,035 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby, Brownhill, Marsh-Evans (Stones 76), Horan, Taylor, A.Williams (Baynes 46), Wright (Booth 80), Powell (Ormrod 82), Simm (Rainford 55), Wilde, Brown (Barnes 82). Sub not used: Judge.
Airbus UK: Bulmer (Hawthorne 88), Taylor, Darlington, Holmes (Allen 55), G.Cadwallader (Woodward 55), G. Rule (M.Cadwallader 55), Edwards (R.Rule 76), Desormeaux (McManus 67), Sheridan (Moran 76), Hayes (Jones 67), Hope (Nicholls 76).
Referee: J.Dowd (Wirral).

A stuttering first half in which Airbus seemed sharper and quicker to the ball was followed by a more convincing Chester performance after the break.

The Wingmakers did a good job in breaking up the flow of play and City struggled to string passes together. Ashley Williams, playing against his old club, was often by-passed as Chester’s central defenders tended to loft the ball out to either wing where City’s attacking moves, by and large, foundered. One exception came when Marsh-Evans headed into the box, Wilde nodded down and Wright’s rasping drive was tipped over the bar. The visitors’ best reply came when Edwards drove narrowly wide from the edge of the area as City struggled to clear.

Baynes replaced Williams after half time and Chester, perhaps with a flea in their ear from the manager, seemed to go up a gear. They broke the deadlock when Wilde nodded down a cross from the right and Wright stole through to flick the ball over the keeper with a deft left footed touch.

New signing Rainford was introduced into the action, replacing Chris Simm. It was City supporters’ first opportunity to see him play and he impressed from the start with his positional awareness, good control and imaginative passing. One pass to Wilde down the right with the outside of his boot was sublime.

City forced a number of corners and from Wright's inswinger Horan nodded in at the far post. Airbus introduced three subs straight after this and they barely had chance to draw breath before Wilde had broken down the left and pulled the ball back invitingly. Wright just failed to connect but Rainford made no mistake as he lashed it home.

In the end a comfortable win for Chester against close friends and neighbours from just over the border who competed well and might have taken the lead by half time. Despite its hasty arrangement to replace the fixture against Fleetwood and the Blues Bar being occupied by a private function, a healthy crowd of just over a thousand turned out. Their anticipation of the new season will have been further whetted by the second half display in particular.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Evening Leader

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Saturday 16 July
Chester 2 FC United of Manchester 1
Supporters Direct Cup
Attendance: 1,927 Half Time 0-1
Booked: -.

Chester: Judge (Danby 46), Stones (Brownhill 46), Horan, Taylor, C.Williams (Marsh-Evans 46), Booth (Connolly 61), A.Williams (Brown 46), Barnes (Powell 46), Baynes (Wright 46), Simm (Wilde 46, (Ormrod 68)), Howard (Reed 46).
FC United of Manchester: Spencer, Jacobs (Grimshaw 68), Jones, Stott (Parker 60), Neville, Wolfenden, Platt (Holden 60), Cottrell, Metcalfe (Roca 46), Carrs (Battersby 60), Norton (Deegan 60). Subs not used: Ashton, Edwards, Devenney.

Referee: M.Jones (Wirral).

Teenager Joe Ormrod had a debut to remember as he lashed home a 25-yarder to bring Chester level with nine minutes remaining, before fellow substitute Alex Brown scored the winner to bring the first silverware of the season as the Blues held on to beat FC United of Manchester in the Supporters Direct Cup.

The Blues were managed for the day by Andrew Donaldson a partner at club sponsor BiG Storage. He bid £1,600 at the club’s awards night auction at the end of last season to take his place in the dugout. The money raised went to the Chester’s youth development programme.

Before the kick-off there was a penalty shoot-out between supporters of both sides – with the result of the spot-kicks determining which club would lift the cup should the game finish in a draw after 90 minutes. Chester duly won!

Against a strong United side Chester opted to play Chris Simm as a loan striker on a 4-5-1 formation. There were appeals from the traveling fans after six minutes when Chester ‘keeper Adam Judge picked up a George Horan back pass. United shot-stopper James Spencer was called into the action soon after when he turned a Wes Baynes shot round the post. Minutes later Spencer denied Baynes again as the Chester player capitalised on a defensive mistake.

Simm sent a shot wide before the game got niggly midway through the half when Horan was involved in a scuffle with United's Mike Norton with other playing having to separate the feuding duo. Good work by Iain Howard set up Simm whose low shot was well saved by Spencer.

Just after the half hour the visitors took the lead as Lee Neville headed home a left wing corner from Nicky Platt. Two saves by Judge ensured that Chester only trailed by that single goal at the break.

Chester changed their formation after the interval with Michael Wilde replacing Simm to partner Mark Reed up front. Four other changes in personnel were also made as Chester reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2.

There were ugly scenes in front of the dugouts as a late tackle by Martin Parker on Wilde saw the Blues striker retaliate with Kyle Jacobs with both players being asked to leave the pitch.

Wilde’s exit brought Ormrod to the pitch and the 16-year-old leveled matters ten minutes later as he shot into the top left hand corner with nine minutes left on the clock.

The winning goal three minutes later came after good work from Mark Connolly. He received the ball from John Danby and surged forward before passing to Liam Brownhill on the right and his cross was met by Brown who converted from close range.

Picture © Evening Leader

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Tuesday 12 July
Chester 1 Tranmere Rovers 0
Pre-season Friendly
Attendance: 1,806 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Danby (Judge 54), Brownhill (Stones 80), Horan, Taylor, Marsh-Evans, Booth (Baynes 46), Howard (A.Brown 46), Powell (Barnes 57), Wright (C.Williams 80), McNeil (Simm 23), Wilde (Reed 74).
Tranmere Rovers: Coughlin, Holmes (Kay 46), Vaulks (A.Taylor 46), McChrystal (Raven 46), Bakayogo (D.Brown 46), Atkins (Weir 46), M.Ngadrira (Welsh 46), Power (Wainwright 72), Appleton (O’Mahoney 46), Labadie (Robinson 46), A.Ngadirira (Arnaldo 46).

Referee: M.Dean (Wirral).

This local derby of a friendly set off at a feisty pace as both teams seemed keen to get some match experience under their belts. Although there was never any question of Premiership referee Mike Dean getting his yellow or red cards out – there were no half measures with several of the tackles that flew in.

The promising McNeil was an early casualty, an over zealous tackle from the Tranmere No.6 put paid to his debut after quarter of an hour. He had shown enough, however to show that he might be a real handful and forge an good partnership with Wilde. Others to catch the eye in the first half were the solidly built Marsh-Evans on his return to Chester who seemed to strike up a good understanding with Jerome Wright down the left and Michael Powell impressed in midfield with his tenacious winning of the ball. Powell it was who had City’s best chance as he sprung a one-two into the area and saw his shot beaten away by the Rovers’ keeper.

Tranmere were physically strong and Chester had to work hard to compete. Danby saved at full stretch to keep the visitors from taking the lead. City did well to hold them by half time.

After the break Tranmere changed the entire side. City’s changes were more sparing – Baines and Brown came on for Howard and Booth. Both looked to play with assurance. Brown won the ball well and used it effectively. Baines showed good control and set the game alight when he let fly from outside the area and curved a shot into the to corner after 55 minutes.

Andy Robinson went close with a long range shot. Later he tested substitute keeper Judge who just managed to tip his venomous free kick over the bar. City carved out more openings after this – Wright and Barnes went close with shots from the edge of the box. Simm linked play up well and caused problems in the Tranmere box. City’s substitutes flowed throughout the second half and Chris Williams nearly capped a sweeping move with a flying header at the far post.

At the back Horan and Taylor battled well and contained Rovers forwards most of the time.

All in all it was a pretty encouraging performance. Neil Young seems to have assembled a very competitive squad and on this showing they hold much promise for the coming season.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Evening Leader

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