Missed chances and the failure to defend set pieces
were once again the downfall of Chester who lost their
latest match 2-1 at The Shay against FC Halifax Town.
Like Tuesday at Gateshead, Chester
got off to a slow start and found themselves a goal
down in the opening five minutes as an Adam Smith corner
was met by Lee Gregory who scored from close range with
The Blues responded well to the early
set back with the pacy Alex Titchiner seeing a shot
blocked on seven minutes. Titchiner turned provider
to cross for ex-Shayman Gareth Seddon but his shot was
pushed over by ex-Blue Matt Glennon in the home goal.
Chester’s efforts were rewarded
in the 18th minute with an equaliser. Craig Lindfield’s
in swinging corner from the left was met by Danny Higginbotham
whose goalbound header was touched home by Seddon.
The visitors were getting on top now
and ten minutes later Glennon made a double save from
close range to deny Lindfield scoring the second following
good approach work from Titchiner. Lewis Turner also
found himself with plenty of time and space outside
the box but sent a weak effort straight to Glennon.
A timely tackle from Joe Heath in
stoppage time denied Gregory a goalscoring chance as
he raced through on Danby.
The early stages of the second period
were punctuated with a series of yellow cards. Paul
Linwood replaced Horan who picked up a yellow moments
before. Danby produced a great save tipping over for
a corner to deny the dangerous Gregory. However from
the resulting Dan Gardner flag-kick, Marc Roberts headed
home past Danby to restore the Halifax lead.
Manager Neil Young brought on Ben
Mills for Seddon but the striker made little impact
as once again the Blues failed to match their efforts
of the first half and succumbed to their eights defeat
of the season.
McIntyre became the fourth Chester player to receive
a red card in the opening 11 matches as the Blues lost
by the odd goal in five at Gateshead.
Manager Neil Young made a couple of changes to the side
that drew with Grimsby on Saturday, recalling nathan
Turner and Ashley Williams at the expense of Aiden Chippendale
and Ben Mills.
The home side got off to a dream start
with Carl Magnay thumping home a 40-yarder into the
top corner after just 52 seconds latching on to George
Horan’s clearance from a corner. Chester bit back
though through Nathan Turner, whose long-range effort
skimmed the crossbar following a Lee Pugh free-kick.
Chester came more into the game and
drew level on 27 minutes as Michael Kay sent Lewis Turner
through and his cross was met by Danny Harrison ten
yards out to score his second goal of the season.
Josh Lelan and Jordan Hugill both saw efforts go just
over the bar as the Heed responded to Harrison’s
equaliser. At the other end good work by Gareth Seddon
set up Lewis Turner but he was unable to control the
pass and the chance was gone.
Chester continued to press before
the break with Nathan Turner seeing an effort saved,
Seddon shooting high and wide when well placed and Horan’s
Gateshead had the better of the exchanges
after the break with James Brown and Hugill going close
before they hit Chester with two goals in as many minutes.
A Phil Turnbull shot was partially saved by Danby but
the ball fell to Hugill to score on his home debut on
Two minutes later James Brown set
up Colin Larkin who chipped a shot over the advancing
Danby to make it 3-1.
Mills replaced Williams before Danny
Higginbotham pulled a goal back for Chester - his first
for the club, controlling the ball with his chest before
dispatching it past Bartlett in the home goal.
The Blues had two chances to draw
level with both Kay and Nathan Turner going close with
shots just over the bar. As the game entered stoppage
time McIntyre was given a straight red card for a foul
on James Marwood.
The Mariners arrived still smarting from their midweek
shipwreck at Halifax and adopted a very cautious approach
to the game. City likewise, despite their victory over
Macclesfield, are still finding their way this season,
confidence wise. As a result, discretion won a handsome
victory over valour and, easy to say with hindsight,
the match had nil-nil written all over it.
Balmy weather coupled with the tentative attitude of
both sides combined to make this a game of lethargic
pace. City’s most common line of attack was to
launch Pugh’s long throw into the box from either
wing. Grimsby were well organised however and repelled
these aerial forays. Mills’ header set Seddon
off behind the defence but his cross cum shot came to
nothing. Mills then got behind the right back only to
go down too easily in the box and see his appeal for
a penalty brushed aside by the referee.
Grimsby’s sole effort of the first half was a
long range shot from the forward with corporate-sponsorship
potential – John-Lewis. His attempt had Danby
scrambling but passed narrowly wide.
The prospects for a lively encounter improved when right-back
Colbeck was shown a straight red card for appearing
to lash out following Pugh’s clumsy tackle. But
City were unable to cash in on their numerical advantage.
Chippendale was the only midfielder to offer a more
pacy option whilst McIntyre and Harrison held back.
The last time Chester faced opponents reduced to ten
men they had capitulated to Woking. This time there
was to be no repeat but no gung-ho either. Mahon was
introduced instead of Chippendale but the game continued
to drift into the afternoon.
Both teams seemed reasonably happy to share the points
and fans of both sides convivially shared the pints
in the Blues Bar Beer Festival after the game.
The Blues withstood terrific pressure in the second
half to ground out their first home win this season
against fellow strugglers Macclesfield.
Neil Young had asked for attitude and commitment following
the disappointing defeat to Salisbury. He made some
changes too. Horan came back in to partner Higginbotham
for the first time, Pugh replaced Heath at left back,
Chippendale returned in place of Harrison and Seddon
started alongside Mills in attack.
The Silkmen went close early on with Rowe crossing invitingly
for Holroyd, formerly of this parish. He missed his
kick but still had time to retrieve and turn with the
ball before Danby gathered it. City replied with a cross
from the left falling to McIntyre – his shot was
saved at full stretch.
McIntyre played more centrally and effectively as City
got in the faces of their Cheshire neighbours. A series
of long throws from either flank by Pugh caused consternation
in the visitors’ defence and cracks began to show.
Chances fell to Horan and Higginbotham whose efforts
were blocked. The latter hammered a free kick from the
edge of the box straight into the defensive wall.
City reaped reward for their pressure when they were
awarded a free kick on the right. Chippendale whipped
the ball in and it kicked off the turf to bounce high
into the top corner without anyone claiming a touch
on the way.
On the half hour Chester went two up as Seddon pounced
on a mistake by the veteran Sodje and left him floundering
in his wake as he bore down on goal and lifted the ball
over the advancing Taylor. It was a brilliant finish
delivered with elan and just reward for City’s
dominance at that stage.
Macc got themselves back into the contest crucially
just before the break. Blues’ defenders were slow
to react as Danny Whittaker was left with plenty of
space to pick his spot and drive the ball past Danby
from the inside left position. The visitors, always
lively on the break, scented an equaliser and Chester
seemed to wilt alarmingly after the break.
Ironically it was City who had the clearest chance to
score in the second half. They were awarded a penalty
when substitute Williams wrestled Higginbotham to the
floor in the area. Mills’ body language did not
inspire confidence, however and though on target, the
ball was punched clear by Taylor.
As the half wore on City seemed more and more inclined
to sit back and invite pressure from their opponents.
At times it looked like they could not venture over
their own half way line as they became more and more
gripped by a siege mentality. Yet despite almost continuous
pressure in the last twenty minutes or so Macclesfield
could not carve out a clear opportunity.
The Blues defence, with Danby, Horan and Higginbotham
outstanding, held firm until the referee’s final
whistle signalled relief. The result was all important,
taking City out of the bottom four for the first time
by dint of having scored more goals than Dartford.
Neil Young made just one change to the side that drew
with Dartford last week, bringing in defender Joe Heath
at the expense of Aidan Chippendale who took a seat
on the bench, along with new signing Shaquille McDonald
who started a three month loan spell with the Blues
Heath made an immediate impact, as
after an initial spell of opening possession and pressure
that saw Kevin McIntyre curl a free-kick just wide,
he gave Chester the lead on 14 minutes. Danny Harrison's
long free-kick, following a foul on Lewis Turner, found
the head of Ben Mills who headed across goal for Heath
to nod home from close range.
The home side hit back with Elliott
Frear forcing a good save from Danby and Danny Higginbotham
blocking another Frear effort as the home side looked
to draw level.
Just after the half hour the Whites
got the equaliser they had been threatening as Christopher
McPhee crossed for Daniel Fitchett to send a header,
that took a deflection off Paul Linwood, past Danby.
Danby made another fine save to deny
Fitchett a second soon after, and bettered that to pull
of a one-on-one save to deny Clovis Kamdjo a certain
goal before the break.
Gareth Seddon, on for Mills, sent
a header over the bar ten minutes after the restart
before the home side took the lead in the 67th minute
as the dangerous Frear met a James White cross to give
Danby no chance with a smart volley.
The Blues worked a great chance for
the equalsier as Seddon and substitute McDonald set
up Lewis Turner but the Leeds loanee saw his shot go
high and wide.
Chester were punished for failing
to take their chances as they conceded a third goal
five minutes from time as Kamdjo headed past Danby from
a near post corner.
Both sides were reduced to ten men
in the closing stages. First Angus MacDonald was shown
red for a tussle with seddon before Chester’s
McDonald received a similar punishment for lashing out
at James Clarke.
There was a bizarre ending to the
game as a parachutist descended onto the pitch in the
the euphoria of the first win of the season at Wrexham
last Saturday Chester began this game brightly. They
swept forward towards the Harry Mac End and won a flurry
of corners. Mills and Tichiner were lively, with the
latter having the best of the earlier efforts, firing
goal-wards from twenty five yards to be saved at full
stretch by Julian.
Dartford were resilient opponents,
however, and played the ball around well coming forward.
The Londoners, who finished a creditable eighth position
last year dominated the next period of play. They went
closest when Hayes, a left-footer playing on the right,
twice tried to curl an effort inside the far post but
was narrowly wide on each occasion.
City began to build fresh momentum
as half time approached. Tichiner’s back heel
made space for Nathan Turner to fire on target but Julian
was well positioned to catch it. But the best chance
of all came on the stroke of the interval as the same
Turner twin headed narrowly wide following good play
by Kay on the right.
After the break Dartford were marginally
the more threatening of the two sides and Chester appeared
to wilt a bit as the game went on. Chippendale, who
had replaced the injured Laidler in the starting line-up
was replaced himself on the hour by Jamie Reed. In the
last minutes Seddon and Lindfield were thrown on as
Young tried to get the vital breakthrough. Seddon thought
he had clinched it when his header appeared to cross
the line but was ruled offside in any case.
At the other end City were rescued
in similar fashion as Harris tapped in from Danby’s
parried save only to see the linesman’s flag raised.
A winner would have been cruel on
either side as a draw seemed the fairest result. Having
shored up the defence with Danny Higginbotham’s
manifest skill, City now need to develop more of a cutting
edge. At least they seem to be making steady progress.