Bignot, newly appointed on Wednesday, arrived at Chester
as a man with a plan. Immediately after this heartening
and long awaited home victory, the new City manager gathered
his squad in a huddle before the Harry Mac. The fans were
still applauding and cheering the first home win since
last December but Bignot was not one to miss the opportunity
to re-inforce the message he had got the players to carry
out on the pitch.
Although they had only had one
training session together with their new boss the Blues
played as a coherent unit from the off. Bignot had promised
that they would be organised and they certainly were
– moving the ball about quickly and with purpose,
pressing the opposition and confident in the roles to
which they’d been assigned. It also helped that
City took an early lead. Akintunde showed tricky feet
on the right before crossing into the box. A frisson
of anticipation passed around the ground as the ball
fell to Astles’ feet and he hammered the ball
towards the goal. Despite keeper Pentney being in the
way there was nothing he could do to prevent it ripping
in to the roof of the net.
The match continued to ebb and flow. The Magpies were
flying high in fourth place in their inaugural season
in the National League Premier and they moved the ball
around well. But the Blues did not sit back. Dawson
made himself available when Lynch gathered the ball
to give City forward momentum. James hugged the right
touchline to give them an outlet and Rowe-Turner went
marauding down the left. Blues looked certain to double
their lead when Akintunde out-muscled Inman and squared
the ball for Hannah. But the City no.10 shot agonisingly
wide as he came under pressure from Massey.
Magpies captain Massey was also on hand to clear a James’
shot off the line following another raid down the left
by Rowe-Turner. Then keeper Pentney denied Astles from
close range and the visitors survived to half time without
conceding further. James high-fived Bignot’s assistant
Ross Thorpe as he came off for the break – clearly
things were going according to plan.
After the break the Blues continued to press for that
all important second goal. Shaw missed his kick when
well placed after Hannah’s through ball found
him on the edge of the six yard box. Then Mahon was
denied by a defensive block after more good attacking
play by the excellent Akintunde and James – who
continued to hug the right touchline. It began to seem
as though City were not going to break through again
when Pentney saved Dawson’s goal-bound effort
at full stretch. But from the resultant throw in, James’
header was handled by Inman and Chester were awarded
a penalty. Hannah sent the Magpies keeper the wrong
way and Blues at last had the cushion of a two goal
lead. Astles might have added another but just failed
to connect with Dawson’s corner and headed wide.
At the other end Clifton had Maidenhead’s best
chance but headed straight at Lynch.
So Marcus Bignot made the ideal start to his managerial
reign at Chester, securing City’s first home win
of the season and indeed calendar year. The organisation
and motivation he had instilled was evident all over
the pitch. The way he gathered the troops around him
after the game indicated that he has no intention of
resting on any laurels but wanted his players to learn
from this experience and move on. Blues fans had forgotten
what it was like to leave the ground with a smile on
their faces – an emotion they would love to get
used to again.
again Chester were left to rue poor defending as they
collapsed in the second half to a heavy defeat at The
Crabble. Caretaker manager Tom Shaw recalled Alex Lynch
in goal for Conor Mitchell, there were also starts for
Ryan Astles, Lucas Dawson and Harry White.
home side started brightly with both Andy Halls and
John McCombe blocking efforts from Kadell Daniel in
the opening minutes. Chester began to get into the game
with Halls making a surging run that saw his effort
finish in the side netting and Kingsley James saw a
free kick saved by Mitch Walker in the Whites goal.
Dover took the lead on 22 minutes as Giancarlo Gallifuoco
was allowed a free header from Mitch Brundle’s
corner to score with ease.
James went on a weaving run
into the Dover area but his pull-back ball eluded the
yellow shirts in the box and a great chance went begging.
On the stroke of half-time Wade Joyce missed another
opportunity failing to find the target from a good position.
Chester started the second
period brightly, White set up Hannah who was fouled
just outside the penalty area. Hannah took the free-kick
but hoisted it just over the bar.
White saw a flick header skim
just past the post before Pinnock added a second goal
for Dover on 62 minutes, turning James inside out before
unleashing a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner giving
Lynch no chance.
Seven minutes later Nortei Nortey
made it 3-0 volleying home from 12 yards after Lathaniel
Rowe-Turner had been beaten to the ball on the right
wing. Lynch made a great save to deny Daniel’s,
but with eight minutes remaining he was unable to prevent
Brundle sliding in the fourth goal after initially saving
from Tobi Sho-Silva, the loose ball not being cleared
by the Blues rearguard.
manager Tom Shaw made one change from the side that drew
with Ebbsfleet as Craig Mahon replaced Nyal Bell, who
was unable to play due to the agreement of his loan from
Gateshead. Mahon, making his 160th appearance for the
club overcame George Horan’s previously held record.
In the driving rain Chester
had the first opportunity of the match as Lathaniel
Rowe-Turner’s through ball found Paul Turnbull
but the midfielder shot over from 25 yards out.
Ross Hannah saw a volley on target
blocked by Neill Byrne and then a header on goal saved
as the Blues pressed for the opening period. The home
side began to get into the game as Richard Peniket just
missed connecting with a far post cross and Conor Mitchell
saved well from Peniket.
Chester were forced to replace
the injured Turnbull with Lucas Dawson on 28 minutes
but continued to press. Hannah headed over and Kingsley
james almost set Dawson through on goal before the home
side took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Andy
Halls headed into his own net under pressure from a
corner for ex-Chester player Theo Vassell.
A minute into the second period Chester conceded a second.
MIstakes by Mahon and Halls allowed Danny Johnson through
on goal, he squared the ball for peniket who scored
from six yards out.
Shaw brought on Harry White
for James Akintunde as Chester looked to claw their
way back into the game andd they were handed a lifeline
on 73 minutes as White’s right wing cross was
pushed out by ‘keeper Dan Hanford to Hannah who
slotted the loose ball home.
As the game entered stoppage
time substitute Matty Waters, on for Wade Joyce, played
a smart one-two with White before hammering the ball
home for the qqualiser.
But Chester joy turned to heartache
moments later as the Heed grabbed a late winner as Mitchell
turned the ball into his own net following a corner.
did not find that elusive first home win of 2017 as they
drew with newly promoted Ebbsfleet but in a sense it did
not matter so much as the Blues rallied well to end the
match strongly. It was desperately sad to see Blues boss
Jon McCarthy who, as many testified, put heart and soul
into his job, sacked on Wednesday. The players, perhaps
knowing that there was now nothing more to do to save
his job played with that burden lifted from their shoulders.
Tom Shaw, in temporary charge along with Dave Felgate
and Callum McIntyre, chose a more adventurous 4-3-3 formation
with Hannah, Akintunde and Bell all starting. Astles was
still out injured so Halls resumed at centre back with
Matthew Sheron, on loan from Fleetwood, making his home
debut at right back.
The visitors found plenty of space on the flanks as their
wing backs pushed forward but Chester gradually grew in
to the game and Turnbull had a chance when the ball fell
to him at the edge of the area but he pulled his effort
wide. McQueen had ‘Fleet’s only effort of
note on target as he shot from distance straight at Mitchell.
Powell broke the deadlock for the visitors after the break
when he was allowed to run with the ball and shot from
distance in to the top corner. It was a setback for the
Blues who were competing well but the introduction of
first Mahon and then Dawson gave them added impetus and
they drove forward for an equaliser.
Bell went close with a couple of headers, both on target
but blocked by Ashmore’s huge frame. Halls and McCombe,
lingering upfield following a corner combined to set the
former up for a rasping shot which Ashmore again parried.
But it was the two substitutes who set up a deserved equaliser
for City as Mahon latched on to Dawson’s delightful
ball over the top and laid it off for Akintunde to stroke
it into the far corner.
In the final ten minutes Chester pressed forward as they
scented a second. Dawson shot narrowly over and then Bell
went extremely close with a fierce shot across goal, missing
by a whisker. In the end they had to settle for a draw
but the mood was a lot more upbeat after this improved
performance from the Blues.
went into this match with a desperate need for a good
performance and ideally a win against the League's basement
side. In the event, it was a dismal showing against a
team down to 10-men for the last 20 minutes and it was
no surprise manager Jon McCarthy was dismissed the following
downpour about 90 minutes from kick-off could actually
have been a sign of what was to happen as Chester’s
showing throughout much of the game was almost as dismal
as that shocking spell of weather.
But when kick-off approached the skies
had cleared and there was no chance of this fixture
being cancelled for a second time. McCarthy gave a debut
to 19-year-old defender Nathan Sheron, a loan signing
from Fleetwood Town. Midfielder Paul Turnbull was also
back in action after a family bereavement saw him miss
the Torquay game.
Both sides failed to make much impression
until the 16th minute when Solihull, who were also without
a home win so far this season, went ahead with a good
strike from Oladapo Afolayan.
Chester did fight back, but were pulled
up for offside on a number of occasions. By the time
half time came, the Blues had not had a shot on target
and it looked like they’d have to make a Aldershot-style
Manager McCarthy was back out of the
dressing room much earlier than the Chester players
and cast a lonely figure under the near full moon at
Damson Parkway before the team ran out for the second
Chester undoubtedly improved when
Craig Mahon came on for Lucas Dawson on the 56th minute.
They also came close to scoring when a Turnbull free-kick
just missed the target.
It suddenly seemed there might be
all to play for when Solihull’s Zain Westbrooke
was dismissed for a wild challenge on Wade Joyce on
the 74th minute. But it was hard to tell they were only
playing with 10 men, and Chester failed to take advantage
of the sending-off.
In fact, just three minutes after
the red card, Solihull went 2-0 ahead with another goal
from Afolayan. He’d found himself in plenty of
space after Chester made a poor attempt at a clearance.
There were only 13 minutes of normal
play left at this stage and it looked like Chester would
never find the net in that length of time. Meanwhile
many of the 261 travelling fans were making their feelings
known towards McCarthy, and it was not a happy atmosphere
amongst the away supporters when the full-time whistle
Chester needed the finishing prowess of Ross Hannah to
escape from the English Riviera with a valuable point
after this National League basement clash at Plainmoor.
Both sides were without key players,
but it was Torquay’s loan signing, 18-year-old
George Dowling, who made the first impression on the
match. He seized on a Chester clearance, finding himself
in plenty of space to put the Gulls ahead with a great
strike inside just 12 minutes.
Chester, kicking towards their 151
travelling fans in the first half, were unlucky not
to get an equaliser in front of their faithful followers.
The best chance fell to John McCombe, whose header hit
the post and somehow spinned out of the goal instead
of into the net.
The Blues fans had their heads in
their hands again when a good move saw Craig Mahon pass
to Kingsley James in the box. He tried to find the goal
by almost passing the ball into the net, but it just
went wide and the chance went begging. James had another
opportunity soon after when a Torquay clearance hit
his back and the ball landed well for him to have another
strike - but he hit the crossbar.
The match’s main talking point
came in the second half when the Chester fans saw McCombe
clearly take the full force of a Torquay boot in his
face. The captain went down clutching his head, but
play continued and Torquay put the ball in the back
of the net. There was a huge outcry from both Chester
fans and players, who were relieved to see referee Sam
Purkiss taking his time to talk to his assistant about
the incident. As McCombe’s bloodied shirt was
being changed, the goal was rightly chalked off, although
there was no booking for the offender.
Towards the end of the game, Ryan
Astles was clearly struggling with a leg injury, and
James Akintunde was looking tired. It was time for a
76th minute double substitution for the Blues, when
Jordan Chapell and Hannah came on to replace Akintunde
and Mahon. Astles manfully carried on to help keep the
Chester defence rock steady as the end of the game approached.
Meanwhile Hannah looked a threat to
the Torquay defence as soon as he ran onto the field,
and it was no surprise when he scored the equalising
goal after a well-placed header from Assistant Manager
Tom Shaw. He doesn’t need many chances to find
the net and Chester will must hope he remains fit for
the rest of the season.