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PRE SEASON 1997/98
July 12 Bangor City
Fisher 48.
July 15 Preston North End
Priest 44, Fisher 63.
July 17 Stockport County
July 19 Newtown
Jones 45, Ratcliffe 60.
July 21 Newport AFC
Rimmer 62, Thomas 82.
July 23 Aberystwyth Town
Fisher 5, Bennett.
July 25 Caernarfon Town
Thomas 6, Bennett 36, 45, McDonald 55.
July 29 West Bromwich Albion
Aug 2 Leek Town
Aug 5 Colwyn Bay
Jones (p).
Colwyn Bay 0 Chester City 1

City won their final pre-season game at Llaneilian Road thanks to a Jonathan Jones penalty.
"I was really pleased with the performance", said Ratcliffe: "It was a reserve side with a few YTS kids, none of them likely to play on Saturday and they all did really well. If I had to pick anyone out it would be John Murphy up front but the rest played so well it's rather unfair to single one out."

Leek Town 1 Chester City 0

Chester City:
Sinclair, Jenkins, Woods, Shelton, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett (Rimmer), Richardson, McDonald (Milner), Flitcroft, Fisher.
Referee: Paul Johnson (Stafford).

Despite having much of the ball and dominating most of the game at Harrison Park, City lost to a goal by Dean Trott on 58 minutes. City missed four good opportunities in the opening 20 minutes after some excellent approach play. McDonald's header was well held by the home keeper, Bennett blasted a drive wide, McDonald hooked another effort wide and Shelton tested the keeper with a firm shot. The Leek side contained four ex-City players in Neil Ellis, Don Page, Ray Newland and Craig Hawtin. Another ex-City star was also spotted amongst the crowd – Tony Loska. One notable absentee though was manager Kevin Ratcliffe – looking at another player perhaps?

Chester City 0 West Bromwich Albion 1

Chester City:
Sinclair, Davidson (Warrington 63), Jenkins, Flitcroft, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett, Richardson (Woods 61), Rimmer (Jones 72), Milner (Murphy 80), Fisher.
West Bromwich Albion: Spink, Holmes, Nicholson, Butler, Murphy, Raven, Caldicott, Hamilton, Peschisolido (Sneekes 60), Hunt, Kilbane (Smith 63).
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).

A disappointing crowd of just over 1500 saw Andy Hunt score the only goal of the game with about 20 minutes left, a blistering shot which gave Ronnie Sinclair no chance. Sinclair had kept City in the game with a string of fine saves but the home side missed a golden opportunity when Gary Bennett had a second-half spot kick saved by Nigel Spink in the Baggies goal.
Andy Milner and Dave Flitcroft joined Nick Richardson and Neil Fisher in midfield with Gary Bennett and Stuart Rimmer up front.
Ross Davidson was taken off by manager Kevin Ratcliffe after being told to do so by Chester based referee Mike Jones. He had earlier had a scuffle with Paul Peschisolido who was also replaced.

Caernarfon Town 1 Chester City 4

A brace of goals in a ten minute spell before half-time by Gary Bennett were enough to see off Caernarfon and earn City's first win on tour against League of Wales opposition. The home side had earlier cancelled out City's sixth minute opener from Rod Thomas. Rod McDonald wrapped up the scoring soon after half time.

Aberystwyth Town 3 Chester City 2

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Bentley (Woods 83), Alsford, Bennett, Woods (Richardson 45), Rimmer, Flitcroft, Thomas.

Chester City's losing run against League of Wales teams stretched to three matches at Aberystwyth Town last night.

City were never ahead all night and despite a spirited final flourish they could not find that elusive equaliser.
And the recent record must surely worry manager Kevin Ratcliffe who will be looking for a major improvement against Caernarfon at The Oval tomorrow night.

The Seasiders from West Wales are not the best side in the division yet coped extremely well all night in their first pre season run out.

Without around four first teamers Aberystwyth named Ryan Nicholls as their new skipper and he stunned Park Avenue with a goal just a minute in to the game after reserve keeper Wayne Brown failed to beat the striker to a cross.

But to their credit City were only behind for four minutes as a right wing corner came out to Neil Fisher who blasted the ball home on the half volley with a crisp finish.

That was where the goal rush ended though, as both sides settled down and City looked the more dangerous with Rod Thomas especially prominent.

David Flitcroft went close for Chester before the Blues were stunned by a Nicholls volley when Brown again looked hesitant at a home corner.

Again City tried to fight back straight away and Fisher, Stuart Rimmer and Gary Bennett were all superbly denied by Aber's triallist keeper Richard Rowe.

But worse was to follow for City as they were again caught cold at the start of the second period when Gari Lewis ran through a massive defence hole to lob the cruelly exposed Brown.

But like many Aber keepers before him the display of flying saves by Rowe could not continue and he was at fault to let Chester back into the game.

The ever aware Bennett took a quick free kick, which caught Rowe napping, and the keeper could only palm the ball over the line.

And from that point City were largely the stronger team although they lacked the imagination to break down a packed Aberystwyth defence.

Rimmer, Thomas and Fisher all went close for City but they were condemned to another defeat as The Seasiders held out for a morale boosting victory.

And Chester must now travel north to Caernarfon where they will surely face an even sterner test where, Eifion Williams, one of the league's hottest strikers will be a constant threat.

Newport AFC 0 Chester City 2

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Woods, Alstord, Flitcroft, Richardson (Reid 72), (Jones 86), Rimmer, Milner, Thomas. Subs not used: Brown, Murphy, Bentley.

The result of the game was overshadowed by the injury to Shaun Reid. Reid appeared to turn and fall awkwardly near the end of the game, there was no other player within yards. He damaged cruciate knee ligaments and will be out of action for 12 months. This is the same type of injury that fellow midfielder Nick Richardson has just made a successful recovery from. It was a business like Chester City who paid their second visit to Wales in three days and there was no repeat of the defensive mauling suffered at Newtown on Saturday.

City's wide men David Flitcroft and Rod Thomas made some threatening early runs and Stuart Rimmer dragged a shot wide in the 14th minute though it was Newport who should have taken the lead three minutes later. Julian Alsford tripped Paul Burton inside the penalty area and though Robert Gough struck his spot kick well enough it was too close to Ronnie Sinclair who parried the shot. City had their hands full with Burton and his lively strike partner David Withers and Matthew Woods found himself in a tangle with Sinclair in the 28th minute. The Chester centre back headed the ball past the keeper who had raced to the edge of the area to clear but though Withers pounced he was unable to control his shot and the ball flew past the post. Neil Fisher created an opportunity for Chester to open the scoring in the 37th minute when his crossfield pass found Flitcroft but the winger snatched at his effort allowing the Newport keeper Peter Mason to save comfortably.

Having survived to the interval with their goal intact it was up to City to step up a gear after the break and that was exactly what happened. A succession of second half substitutions disrupted the home side and City took charge in midfield. Mason performed fine saves in quick succession to deny Andy Milner and then Rimmer on the hour but City's record scorer was soon to open his account. Rimmer collected a pass from Thomas in the 62nd minute and his angled effort beat both Mason and Robbie Painter's desperate attempt to stop it crossing the line. Rimmer returned the compliment in the 82nd minute when his cross from the right presented Thomas with an invitation which was gratefully accepted as he hammered the ball past substi-tute keeper Paul Rowlands.

There was a sting in the tail for City, however, when with just four minutes remaining and no opponents in the vicinity Sean Reid twisted his knee and had to be stretchered off the field. Welsh International team doctor Graham Jones was on duty at the stadium and his diag-nosis indicated that the midfield player had suffered a cruciate ligament injury.

Earlier both sides has posed for photographs with a party of Belarussian children who had attended the game at Newport's invitation. The children are all suffering radiation related diseases as a result of nuclear fall-out from the Chernobyl power plant disaster in 1986 and a collection at the ground raised £155.

Newtown 5 Chester City 2

Chester fell behind on 4 minutes and although they staged a mini recovery were taken apart with 3 goals in 13 minuted midway through the first half. Jonathan Jones managed to pull one back on half time and after the break the manager decided to bring himself on, scoreing later with a 20-yard free kick. Rod Thomas was sent off following a minor altercation with Jason Evans. He was allowed to return and play later in the game, when he'd cooled down no doubt. City's first booking of the season went to goalkeeper Ronnie Sinclair for descent after a farcical incident. He went to throw the ball out of his area but managed to throw it behind him. He picked it up and the referee blew for a backpass. Sinclair then booted the ball away and was promptly shown the yellow card. ITV's Teletext report described it as "a comfortable win for the League of Wales side".
Chester City 2 Preston North End 1

Not a match report – The Leader will do that better but some observations.

Team: Sinclair (7) Did not really have anything to do.
Davidson (8) Customary accomplished performance and covered for Woods on a number of occasions.
Woods (5) Looked slow and weak in the air although promising coming forward when given time.
Alsford (6) Reeves won most in the air but some good work.
Jenkins (8) Good performance with some good timing and ball playing.
Fisher (7) Well taken goal and looked considerably sharper than last year.
Flitcroft (6) Largely ineffective – like latter part of last season. Still looks overweight.
Priest (8) Caught in possession a few times but very good performance. Scored one well taken goal and made the second. Good box to box game – got better in second half.
Thomas (7) Looked promising before going off injured. Too soon to pass judegement.
Bennett (7) Well, it is definitely the same Benno. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in sheer energy and commitment. The Preston centre backs did not enjoy this game! He had very little service.
Milner (6) Tried hard but little came off.

Subs: Richardson (for Thomas) (8) I must confess to a view that Richardson gets a bad press from the fans - I have always rated him and felt vindicated by a very good game. Some fluent touches and good first time balls. Yes, he did give the ball away on occasions but so does every ball player. If he can get a good run in the side I bet he can damage teams in the final third.
Rimmer (for Davidson) (6) Ran around but hardly got a touch on the right side of midfield.
Murphy (for Milner) (5) Very ineffective and his lethargic style was already annoying the fans. He needs to give the appearance of trying more.

Overall comments: Hugely encouraging performance with some very good football in parts. It is obviously too early to tell very much from one game but speaking as someone who had very mixed feelings when I heard that Benno was back I was much heartened. I think that once he gets tuned in to the team he will do well. The midfield looks very strong with Priest, Richardson, Reid, Shelton, Fisher, Thomas, Flitcroft and probably Rimmer competing for places. I think there is also ability in the forward line now with McDonald, Milner, Jones, Murphy, and Bennett (and possibly Rimmer). It is the defence that bothers me.

The first choice line up is sound enough: Jenkins, Alsford, Wheelan, Davidson. But with speculation rife about Jenkins (linked today in the Echo with West Ham), Davidson out of contract and both Alsford and Wheelan capable of injury and loss of form it looks fragile to me.

One rather bizzare thing in tonight's game was that when Davidson went off late in the second half (precaution I think after a knock) one would have expected Fisher to drop to right back. But no. Richardson played there. I am still puzzled by Fisher playing on the left when he is so clearly right footed. Together with Jenkins this does mean a lack of balance.

Overall rating Chester 7 Preson 6

Match rating ***

David Evans

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson (Rimmer 72), Jenkins, Fisher, Woods, Alsford, Bennett, Priest, Milner (Murphy 55), Flitcroft, Thomas
(Richardson 32).
Preston North End: Moilanen, Parkinson, Barrick, Murdock, Jackson, Rankine (Davey 82), McDonald, Ashcroft, Reeves, Nogan, Darby.
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).
Attendance: 1,315.

All eyes were on Chester's prodigal son – Gary Bennett. Benno is back in town and the Blues faithful are more than happy. More than 1,000 turned up to see Psycho part three last night – and as ever this predatory striker was ready to plunge the knife.

He might not have scored but he's back in the Blues' good books. The 'We hate Wrexham' chants were already into their third chorus when Bennett nailed his true colours to the mast.

Once a red, Bennett, is true Blue again and his £50,000 transfer could prove a master stroker. Promotion was the big word at the Deva last night. Talk of slashing the 16-1 odds for the Third Division title may be a little premature.

But City showed up well in the first real outing of the season against a well-oiled Preston side.
They went behind to a 17th minute penalty – and didn't really look in the game.

City's other summer signing, Rod Thomas, lasted only 32 minutes. The former England U21 international had a couple of decent runs but was crocked by Neil McDonald and worryingly limped off to the dressing room.
Thomas, playing on the left side of midfield, has the ability to go outside or cut inside. He looks as if he will frighten third division defences to death – if he doesn't get floored first.

He gives City an extra dimension in a side that now has a lot of competition for places. And it was the performances of two players, whose Blues futures are on the line, that really caught the eye.
Chris Priest, who has yet to sign a Deva deal, was singled out by manager Kevin Ratcliffe. As was Neil Fisher, who was left out in the cold for most of last season.

But both shone last night – and both scored. Priest's crisp volley on the turn put City back on level terms on the stroke of half-time. Fisher, who started off in the centre and then moved to the left, hit the winner on 63 minutes. It was Fisher's second goal in successive game.

That's a good return from someone who you could hardly describe as prolific. Perhaps he's going to get an Eddie Bishop-type goal rush. That would be a boost.

Another big bonus for City was the return of Nick Richardson. Richardson – out for 11 months after snapping cruciate knee ligaments – was back in competitive action for the first time.
He played for almost an hour and looked impressive.

He didn't waste one pass and Richardson's return is like having another new signing at the club.
Richardson, Fisher and Priest were City's star players who had their work cut out against North End's experienced midfield quartet of Julian Darby, Neil McDonald, Lee Ashcroft and Mark Rankine. Preston's front line pairing of Kurt Nogan and David Reeves were lively but Julian Alsford was solid as a rock at the back.

Alsford was partnered by Matt Woods at the back after regular centre half Spencer Whelan pulled out with a knee niggle.

The City back four were caught square on too many occasions and the signing of an experienced centre half might be the final piece in the City jigsaw. That is is the only criticism of a more than encouraging friendly display.

Preston are confident of at least making the play-offs next season. And when Ashcroft thumped home a 17th minute spot kick after Woods had handled in the box, City were up against it.

Ashcroft missed a sitter five minutes later after Ronnie Sinclair had produced a full stretch save from Kurt Nogan.

City first chance fell to Bennett but his header was off target from Dave Flitcroft's tasty cross. City's second chance fell to Priest - and he buried it after Andy Milner had headed down Fisher's far post centre.

Priest then returned the favour for Fisher's winner 18 minutes into the second half. Bennett also played his part.

He enticed Colin Murdock out of position and Priest invaded the space, skipping over the challenge of Dean Barrick before squaring the ball into the box. John Murphy's dummy left Fisher in the clear and City's number four made no mistake.

Bangor City 2 Chester City 1

Graeme Sharp, Bangor City's new manager, had indicated that he would have preferred Saturday's curtain-raiser game against Chester City to have taken place behind closed doors.
His thinking was that this could have been a casual, disjointed affair and certainly not a showpiece.

Since he and new assistant John Hulse are just starting to build the Farrar Road club's squad – and are still getting to know the players – the time was not ripe to show off the wares.
Sharp made a similar comment about Chester, stressing that this was the first outing by Kevin Ratcliffe's outfit as well.

But, as events turned out, the Bangor faithful who clicked through the Farrar Road turnstiles – adding to the club's funds – were greatly encouraged by what they saw.
Bangor, as represented by players retained from last season and half-a-dozen newcomers, acquitted themselves well, even though they were subjected to a great deal of back-pedalling in the second half.

Host club introductions involved the two summertime signings, the twins John and Chris Whelan from Llansantffraid, trialists Phil Owen, the Caernarfon Town goalkeeper last season, Paul Jones, ex-Wrexham and midfielder Neil Sang for Chorley and ex-Caernarfon.
Bangor enjoyed the advantage from the 10th minute, when Darren Pritchard scored from 15 yards to complete a slick exchange of passes to Sang and Marc Lloyd Williams.
Chester should have equalised on 38 minutes, when awarded a penalty, following a foul by Chris Whelan in sending opponent Andy Milner tumbling.
But Rod Thomas's conversion attempt for the spot was well saved by Phil Owen.

Boosted by that one-goal lead, Bangor kicked off the second spell in more enterprising fashion and an early raid produced a comforting extra goal inside 60 seconds.
Marc Lloyd Williams was the scorer, after rushing forward – in typical style – to bypass a couple of Chester defenders, before firing from 15 yards beyond 'keeper Ronnie Sinclair.
Chester were clearly rattled and their stinging reaction was to claw one back on 48 minutes, through Neil Fisher, who slammed a glorious 20-yarder after meeting a pass from Rod Thomas.
The remainder of the exchanges were dominaed by the full-timers from the Deva Stadium, who mounted an incessant series of attacks, which Bangor repulsed with some spirited defensive play.
Sharp's team were lucky once, on 73 minutes, when a measured lob from Chester's David Flitcroft was blocked by the home crossbar.
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