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Forest Green Rovers (H) | Aldershot Town (A) | Guiseley (H) | Braintree Town (H) | Wrexham (A) |
Saturday 24 September
Wrexham 0 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 5,058 (550 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Hunt.

Wrexham: Jalal, Bencherif, Riley, Tilt, Carrington, Newton, Rooney, Rutherford, R Evans, Harrad (J.Evans 69), Bakare. Subs not used: Edwards, Powell, McDonagh, Harvey.
Roberts, Vassell, Hudson, Astles, Hunt, Durrell (Hughes 87), Shaw, Lloyd, Mahon, Alabi (Chapell 76), Richards (Akintunde 87) Sub not used: George.
Referee: Martin Coy.

Chester made it four clean sheets in a row as they emerged unscathed from the latest cross border derby. An early kick off; the fact that the match was televised and the restrictions on away travel all contributed to the lower than usual attendance of just over 5,000. As Chas Sumner, Chester’s historian points out though, crowds for this fixture when it was a League Division Four clash in the mid 1980’s were lower – around the three and a half thousand mark. Maybe economic recession and austerity is a common factor too.

Jon McCarthy had the unenviable choice to make between Sam Hughes, who had deputised so ably recently at centre back and Blaine Hudson, a veteran of these clashes albeit for the opposition, now fit again. In the end City’s boss went for experience over youth. Alabi also returned to resume his partnership with Richards up front

The hosts began on the front foot and raked long passes out to the left putting Vassell under pressure. The Walsall loanee responded well but an early cross from Rooney found Bakare at the far post. His header rippled the net but only side netting – much to the disappointment of the home crowd. Later Shaun Newton powered a driven cross from the same wing into the box but it eluded red shirted attackers.

As the game settled down it was the yellow-clad City who showed more composure and neater possession. Lloyd was industrious in winning the ball and passing well. Mahon’s forward ball forward under pressure found Richards who set off towards goal but had his heels clipped by Rob Evans – the first yellow card of the game. Durrell’s effort from the resulting free kick came to nothing but he was growing more influential on the right as the match wore on. Hunt and Mahon were beginning to combine well down the left too. The tricky Irishman fashioned a chance for Shaw who went down inexplicably in the box. Martin Coy waved away appeals for a penalty.

The Reds threatened again. Bakare missed his header from Rutherford’s inviting cross. Rooney tried to curl a free kick in from the left but found only the top netting. Then, in a pivotal moment, Rooney went in horribly late on Mahon and was fortunate to see only a card the same colour as Chester’s shirts, not his own.

Chester were the happier at half time as the home crowd became increasingly restive, and they came out the more confident side after the break. A good passing move down the left ended with Lloyd shooting disappointingly over the top. City continued to probe forward but Richards was well shackled by Curtis Tilt, a summer signing from AFC Telford, who gave a man of the match performance at the back. One “old fashioned shoulder charge” sent Richards sprawling but he got no sympathy from the referee. Alabi cut in and tried a shot from the edge of the box but he too was blocked.

At the other end Bakare squirmed free but his shot from a narrow angle went out for a throw in. Another effort flew well over the bar. And as far as chances for either side went that was about it. Neither keeper faced a shot on target. Both sides began in mid-table and that is where they remained at the end – separated by the one point. Blues fans were the happier and finished in better voice – the chanting of Jon McCarthy’s Blue and White Army gaining momentum as the game wore on and City scented an upset. A slight disappointment that they couldn’t find a winning goal did not detract from another solid performance by the Blues.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 17 September
Chester 1 Braintree Town 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,590 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Mahon, Joyce, Richards.

Chester: Roberts, Vassell, Hughes, Astles, Hunt, Durrell (Horwood 75), Shaw, Lloyd, Mahon, Akintunde (Alabi 65), Richards (Joyce 82). Subs not used: Hudson, Waters.
Braintree Town:
Beasant, Okimo, Ashton, Isaac, Akinola, Braham-Barrett, Matthews (Barnard 14), Goodship, Corne, Cheek (Maybanks 72), Cowgill. Subs not used: Williams, Lee, Strizovic.
Referee: Ryan Johnson.

Braintree punched well above their weight as a part time team last season, finishing third and losing narrowly in the play-offs to Grimsby. Since then they have had to cope with the loss of manager Danny Cowley to Lincoln and several players too. They arrived at the Deva on the back of only their second win of the season in midweek – a last minute triumph at Sutton after they had been reduced to ten men.

The Iron’s band of supporters were hard to distinguish from stewards as they wore a similar shade of fluorescent orange. One even sported a matching orange cone on his head, managing to keep it there all game. They had a good view of their team conceding the first and what proved to be the only goal of the contest after Sam Hughes pounced on a knock down at the end of a flurry of Blues’ corners. The youngster kept his composure and scored from close range despite a defender’s flailing tackle. This was after just twelve minutes but despite taking an early lead Chester were unable to capitalise and make the game safe – leading to an anxious few minutes as full-time approached.

Braintree dangerman Simeon Akinola caused a scare while the game was young with a neat turn on the edge of the box and a curling left foot shot which thwacked against the far post and away to safety. It was the closest the visitors came to a goal. City went as close again after the break as Hughes met Durrell’s corner from the left with a solid downward header that rebounded off the foot of the post. Later Alabi replaced Akintunde and the former latched on to Mahon’s threaded pass. He had a clear sight of goal but could not open up his body enough to shoot past Beasant and the Braintree keeper saved.

Durrell came off for Horwood, complete with Lone Ranger mask to protect his broken nose. Alabi and Richards had opportunities to shoot but in both cases their first touch took them away from goal and the chance went begging.

Referee Ryan Johnson attracted the ire of the home crowd with some strange decisions as the match drew to a close and Blues fans became increasingly anxious. But the Blues successfully ground out another win and another clean sheet making this a great week. Now they have moved to within a point of Wrexham whom they meet in the bubble match next weekend.

Colin Mansley

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Tuesday 13 September
Chester 2 Guiseley 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,578 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Vassell.

Chester: Worsnop, Vassell, Astles, Hughes, Hunt, Shaw, Lloyd, Mahon (Waters 90), Durrell (Chapell 73), Richards, Akintunde (Joyce 86). Subs not used: Roberts, Horwood.
Maxted, Vidal, Lawlor (Walton 56), Hatfield, Boyes, Palmer, Clee, Preston (Rankine 67), Purver, Atkinson, Webb-Foster (Porritt 56). Subs not used: Atkinson, Williams.
Referee: Simon Barrow.

Chester followed up Saturday’s hard fought point at Aldershot with three more at the expense of bottom of the table Guiseley.

The first half proved a scrappy affair in wet conditions with Jonny Maxted in the visitors’ saving an Elliott Durrell effort at the far post following a deep Kane Richards cross.

Midway through the half Chester almost broke the deadlock when Tom Shaw saw an effort saved by Maxted and Ryan Lloyd's follow-up hit the post, the rebound fell to Richards whose effort was finally saved by Maxted.

Five minutes into the second period Chester took the lead, Oluwaseun Akintunde was put through down th eleft wing and he cut the ball back for Richards to score from 12 yards out.

Eight minutes later the Blues doubled their advantage. Jonny Huny worked his way into the box before being brought down by Javan Vidal, referee Simon Barrow point to the spot and Shaw duly converted the penalty.

Guiseley were reduced to ten men when Luke Porritt left the field with a head injury, the visitors having used all their substitutes. They finished the game with nine players as Will Hatfield was sent off for a second yellow card.

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Saturday 10 September
Aldershot Town 0 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,245 (132 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Shaw, Chapell.

Aldershot Town: Cole, Arnold (Straker 87), Reynolds, Evans, Alexander, Fenelon (Allen 66), Mensah, Gallagher, Bellamy (Wakefield 46), Rendell, McClure. Subs not used: Conroy, Smith.
Roberts, Vassell (Waters 64), Hunt, Astles, Hudson, Mahon, Durrell (Chapell 77), Shaw, Lloyd, Alabi, Richards (Joyce 64). Subs not used: Worsnop, Akintunde.
Referee: Antony Coggins (Oxfordshire).

This was one of those 0-0 draws that felt like a satisfying result for the Blues after they put on a sterling performance against a side which had won every home game until that point.

Chester, with two changes from the previous game as Liam Roberts came in for Jon Worsnop and Theo Vassell for Luke George, were actually the dominant side of the first half.

After Aldershot had the first threatening attack of the game, the focus switched to Chester. Elliott Durrell came close when he hit the side netting, and Blues fans were delighted to see Craig Mahon coming back to his best form.

Mahon laid on a good cross for Kane Richards, but he didn’t find the net. The best chance of the game fell to Ryan Llloyd when the ball came to him well outside the area. His sweet shot came close to breaking the deadlock, but it thwacked off the crossbar and away from danger. There were more chances for Durrell and Richards, but Chester failed to notch up the goal their efforts deserved before half-time came.

The second half was more evenly balanced, with Aldershot missing a good opportunity early on. Chester goalkeeper Roberts was caught off his line, but the Shots didn't make the most of their first chance, and Roberts was able to get back to stop the second goal attempt.

As the game was drawing to a close, there was a penalty shout from Chester when James Alabi fell in the area. But referee Antony Coggins ignored the claims and the five minutes of injury time continued without any real threat from either side before full time came.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 3 September
Chester 1 Forest Green Rovers 2
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,820 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Shaw, Hudson.

Chester: Worsnop, George, Hudson, Astles, Hunt, Mahon, Shaw (Waters 65), Durrell, Lloyd, Alabi (Chapell 77), Richards. Subs not used: Roberts, Joyce, Hughes.
Forest Green Rovers:
Russell, Jefford (Frear 65), Clough, Bennett, Marsh-Brown (Robert 79), Noble, Pinnock, Moore, Carter, Racine, Murphy (Tubbs 70). Subs not used: Lefebvre, Doidge.
Referee: Andrew Miller.

Blues manager Jon McCarthy made two changes from the side beaten at Woking last week with Craig Mahon and Luke George in the starting X1 at the expense of the suspended Evan Horwood, and Jordan Chapell.

Forest Green took the game to Chester in the opening minutes with both Darren Carter and Kieffer Moore both having efforts on goal, and Moore was given more space on 19 minutes to head just wide of the Chester goal. At the other end a Ryan Astles header that slipped wide of the goal was all the Blues had created.

The visitors broke the deadlock on 25 minutes. A Liam Noble free kick from the left slipped under the dive of Jon Worsnop and bounced up into the roof of the goal.

Moore had a great chance to double the lead ten minutes later but somehow managed to hit his shot over from point blank range. Elliott Durrell forced goalkeeper Sam Russell into a fine one handed save just before the break from the midfeilder's free-kick.

Seven minutes after the break Rovers did find the net again as Carter’s 20 yard shot beat Worsnop following a neat build-up.

Worsnop produced good saves to deny both Matt Tubbs and Marsh-Brown before Chester pulled a goal back ten minutes from time as Durrell received a through ball from substituete Chapell, turned on the edge of the box before smashing the ball home.

Chester almost equalised in the dying minutes as Blaine Hudson saw a header cleared off the line by Ethan Pinnock but Forest Green held out to take the three points that took them to the top of the table.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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