Saturday 26 September 1998
Chester City 2 Cardiff City
Chester City: Brown,
Davidson, Cross, Reid (Richardson 71), Crosby, Woods,
Flitcroft, Priest, Wright, Thomas, Smith. Subs not
used: Jones, A.Shelton.
Cardiff City: Hallworth, Delaney, Eckhardt (Jarman
52), Mitchell, Young, Carpenter, Bonner (Middleton 68), Brazier,
Thomas (Williams 75), Nugent, O'Sullivan.
Referee: C. Foy (St Helens)
This was a cracking match, tinged
with disappointment for us that Chester did not hang
on for the three points they richly deserved.
Priest came back from suspension
to replace Andy Shelton who had made an impressive
debut on Tuesday night (Predictable, though, that Ratcliffe
would rest him today). Richardson was on the bench
after picking up an injury last week. Murphy was out
with an ankle knock picked up on Tuesday so
Darren Wright joined Rod Thomas to form just about
the most diminutive forward line of all time.
The game began at a cracking pace
and continued in the same vein for the ninety minutes.
It was one of the most competitive matches I have seen
for a season or two. Reid is getting back to his strongest
and best. Tackles were hard but mainly fair in midfield.
Carpenter came in late on Reidy and was booked for
his pains. Despite all the energy being expended in
midfield by both sides the openings were few and far
between. Thomas had the chance to run at the defence
and almost got through, a third defender's tackle just
winning the day. Alex Smith tried his luck and got
past four before Halworth stuck out a leg to divert
his low shot wide of the post. From the corner kick
Crosby's downward header was cleared off the line.
Defensively Crosby and Woods look
as though they are beginning to gell and both had a
The two teams left to a standing
ovation at half time for their efforts. The second
half surpassed the first as gradually Chester began
to get the upper hand. Thomas got more chances with
the ball on the ground. Wright was running intelligently
and speedily to make space and put pressure on defenders.
But it was Cardiff who took the lead.
Their right back fell on the edge
of the area but the referee, who otherwise had a good
match, gave a free kick no doubt the vociferous
support at the away end swayed his decision. The kick
was knocked to to the far post and seemed to be scrambled
over the line. Happily the lead was short lived. The
travelling fans had managed just two quick choruses
of the self deprecating chant, "One-nil to the
sheep shaggers" when Thomas lashed in a cross
from the right and Priest got there first to lash the
ball into the roof of the net.
A few minutes later we took the lead
when Wright pressurised a defender into knocking his
pass too short for the keeper. Thomas got in first
but his shot didn't have the weight to reach the goal.
Hallworth missed his kick and Thomas picked himself
up from the challenge to toe-end the ball in from the
narrowest of angles. His celebration was to play musical
statues in front of the home end until mobbed by his
Chester were now in control of the
game and began to slow the pace. Something which we
all dread as we're never good at doing this and it's
murder on the nerves to watch. Reid the Magnificent
was withdrawn before he dropped from exhaustion, with
fifteen minutes to go, to be replaced by Richardson.
More significantly Cardiff's substitutes,
Williams and Middleton began to worry our defence with
their eagerness. Together they combined to force an
equaliser as Williams fired a waist-high cross into
the box, Brown seemed to dither and definitely missed
it. Although the goal was credited to Brazier, it seemed
to go in off Matty Woods.
Still there was time for Chester
to snatch it. Thomas again caused problems on the right
and pulled the ball back for Priest but his shot was
charged down. Richardson broke through and chipped
to the far post but there was no one there to meet
This was a tremendous all round
performance by Chester against a side that was in top
form (Cardiff had won thier last four matches). We could
really have done with the three points as we go on our
travels but if they continue to play like this they need
fear no one.
Tuesday 22 September 1998 (Worthington
League Cup Round 2, 2nd Leg)
Chester City (0) 0 Sunderland 1 (4)
Chester City: Brown, Davidson,
Cross, Reid, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, A.Shelton, Murphy (Wright
70), Thomas (Jones 70), Smith. Subs not used: Cutler, Moss, Carson
Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Scott, Rae, Melville
(Craddock 45), Butler, Summerbee, Mullin, Dichio, Bridges, Johnston
(Smith 45). Subs not used: Williams, Ball
Referee: Paul Rejer (Tipton).
Plucky City can take great heart from this performance
which saw them narrowly lose 1-0 against their more illustrious
opponents. Never in the 180 minutes of this tie have the Blues
lied down and surrendered and once again the supporters did their
best to raise the team, what a pity that no more than 2,000 turned
City made four changes from the first leg with
goalkeeper Wayne Brown and defender Andy Crosby returning from
suspension and Andy Shelton making his full debut in midfield replacing
the suspended Chris Priest. Winger Rod Thomas also started, replacing
the injured Nick Richardson.
It was Sunderland who started the more urgent,
intent on scoring the opening goal that would effectively kill
the tie. Michael bridges missed two good chances and Andy Crosby
cleared a Johnston effort off the line before the striker opened
the scoring on 12 minutes. His precise 25-yarder curled into the
corner giving Wayne Brown no chance.
City searched for an equaliser and Andy Shelton,
playing wide on the right, brought a fine save from Sorrensen on
16 minutes. A minute later Bridges almost added a second but his
wayward shot followed some fine approach play.
After the break Rod Thomas had a low shot cleared,
and Thomas again went close, volleying wide after being set up
by Alex Smith. At the other end Brown made a superb save to deny
Dichio. Jon Jones and Darren Wright were introduced to the attack
as City searched for the goal their efforts merited. Smith had
the final word for City smashing a volley over the bar.
After the game manager Kevin Ratcliffe singled
out Andy Shelton and Shaun Reid for their superb performances. "Players
like Andy Shelton have come in and done well. He did everything I
asked and had a better game that I expected. And you wouldn't have
thought Shaun Reid had been out for 14 months. He was excellent and
it makes my job as manager very hard when players who come in play
so well". On the tie he added: "We did really well
over the two games. They're the best team we've played since I've
been here skill wise they're better than Everton, Middlesbrough
and Tottenham. What's pleasing is that we've given them good games
with what I wouldn't call our best eleven."
Saturday 19 September 1998
Carlisle United 1 Chester City 1
Carlisle United: Caig, Barr,
Searle, Whitehead, Brightwell, Prokas, Anthony, McAlindon (Dobie
56), Stevens, Scott, Thorpe (Finney 72), Sub not used, Paterson.
Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Reid,
Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Thomas, Smith. Subs
not used: Wright, Jones, A.Shelton
Referee: M.Cowburn (Blackpool).
This was a case of two points dropped for City
who's quick neat approach work caused all kinds of problems for
the home defence. And it was ex-united player Rod Thomas who
caused all the problems having his best game for City and earning
praise from Carlisle chairman Michael Knighton. "He was
the best player on the pitch. I would have kept Rod Thomas but
the previous manager (Mervyn Day) said he couldn't play. I think
we should go and get him back".
It was Thomas' close control that brought about
City's opener on 53 minutes. He exchanged passes on his way to
the byeline before crossing the perfect ball for Dave Flitcroft
to drill the ball home unmarked at the back post from 15 yards.
Carlisle were also guilty of missing chances,
most notably Ian Stevens who shot straight at Wayne Brown in
a three on one break for the home side.
Chester had a great chance to double their
lead with 15 minutes remaining. Once again Thomas was the provider
but Alex Smith sliced his shot wide from the edge of the box. The
miss was to prove costly as loan signing Rob Scott, in his last
match before returning to Fulham, scored an unstoppable equaliser
with a spectacular waist-high volley from the edge of the City
box following a free-kick move.
Tuesday 15 September 1998 (Worthington
League Cup Round 2, 1st Leg)
Sunderland 3 Chester City 0
Makin, Scott, Rae, Craddock, Williams (Butler), Wainwright,
Mullin, Dichio, Phillips, Smith Subs not used: Bridges, Johnston,
Chester City: Cutler, Richardson, Cross,
Reid, Davidson, Woods, Flitcroft, Priest, Murphy, Wright
(Thomas), Smith Subs not used: Conkie, Whelan, Jones, A.Shelton
Referee: J.Robinson (Hull).
Stadium of Light was not a popular name
for Sunderlands new ground when it was first unveiled.
At least not with the fans who gathered to hear it announced
in the clip shown in Premier Passions. But they seem to like
the ground itself and rightly so its a magnificent
sight. Stadium of White was how it looked from
afar, approaching from the east in the car and then from
the south across the bridge over the river Wear. In the distance
the white steelwork of the superstructure makes the whole
stadium look surreal plonked on the site of the Monkwearmouth
Colliery, high up above a bend in the river. The brilliant
thing about it is that it is still within easy walking distance
of the town centre, and densely packed terrace housing but
it also looks spectacular.
To the hordes of Chester fans it seemed
reminiscent of the Riverside Stadium at Middlesbrough, perhaps
not surprising, as the same design consultants were involved
at both grounds. The Stadium of Light though is bigger and
the corners of the ground are filled to give a completely
enclosed arena. We hoped comparisons with the trip to Middlesborough,
two years ago, would not include the scoreline.
Ratcliffe covered for the suspended Crosby
by moving Davidson to centre back and Richardson to right
back. Shaun Reid led the team out as captain as he entered
his brothers domain. Up front, Darren Wright deputised
for the injured Bennett alongside Murphy. City began really
strongly responding to the big occasion and the superb backing
of the travelling support (In excess of a thousand strong).
Flitcroft had a good shooting chance cutting in from the
right but fired narrowly wide. Reids diving header
shortly afterwards also went past the post. Murphy was winning
headers and playing like a man possessed.
After this initial opening Sunderland began
to apply the pressure, closing down City very quickly and
forcing the Blues to give the ball away in possession and
panic generally. Richardson was caught out a couple of times
but generally had a good match in an unfamiliar position.
Woods too looked steady and we were relieved to see him resume
his place after he had to leave the field for treatment for
a knock. We were just starting to hope that City were weathering
the storm having passed the twenty-five minute mark at which
point the deluge of goals at Boro had begun when they
fell behind. Priest gave away a free kick on the edge of
the box and Scott fired a low shot in to the corner. Either
the wall was wrongly positioned or the ball went through
it. Cutler had little chance.
Seven minutes later we were two down. Although
it was difficult to tell behind the goal City seemed hard
done by over this one. Both Dichio and Phillips seemed to
be offside when the ball was knocked back towards them. The
linesman seemed well behind and play went on. City defenders
couldnt catch Phillips who finished in classic fashion.
After the break Smith had Citys golden
chance of the evening when he jinked through the offside
trap. He delayed shooting for one more touch and in that
nanosecond was caught in the tackle. Shame he put
in a great performance and a goal would have sent us into
raptures. After a clattering tackle. Phillips was taken off
to be wrapped in cotton wool and his replacement made no
mistake when given a one on one opportunity to score Sunderlands
I have to say that much of my enjoyment
of the match in the second half was eclipsed by the bullying
and heavy handed actions of the stewards who made a right
mess of crowd control. Chester fans were boisterous but never
malicious but stewards and police did their best to provoke
trouble. One bloke two rows in front of me was singled out
by two chief stewards, even though he was sitting down and
did not seem to be causing any offence. When he was pushed
and jostled by the stewards he began to resist and then four
policemen moved in, hoiked him over the fence and frog-marched
him off. It seemed totally unnecessary, OTT, vindictive and
Sunderland fans were sympathetic afterwards
suggesting that the police had been drafted in from Newcastle.
But the chief culprits in my opinion were the two chief stewards
in blazers and club ties who singled people out for attack.
Citys players came over at the end
to exchange standing ovations. They had certainly not let
us down in terms of effort and commitment and they had been
ably and enthusiastically supported throughout the ninety
minutes. The best away support of the season by miles said
some Mackems afterwards. It was also the lowest attendance
at the Stadium of Light but still a healthy 20,618.
The long journey back began.
Saturday 12 September 1998
Chester City 2 Torquay United
Chester City: Brown,
Davidson, Cross, Richardson, Crosby, Woods, Flitcroft,
Priest, Bennett (Thomas), Wright (Murphy), Smith
Sub not used: Reid
Torquay United: Gregg, Gurney,
Leadbeitter, Robinson, Thomas, Tully (Badeau
79), Clayton, Hapgood (Donaldson 53), McFarlane,
Paryridge, Hill. Sub not used Jermyn.
Referee: Graham Laws (Whitley Bay).
At the fourth attempt City
recorded their first home victory of the season
over The Gulls from Torquay. Ross Davidson and
Rod Thomas returned from suspension though the
latter was once again relegated to the substitutes
bench. Heavy traffic on the motorway resulted
in the visiting team reaching the Deva just 30
minutes before the scheduled kick-off time. A
rather scrappy first half was dominated by both
sets of defences with Wayne Brown not tested
in the City goal.
The deadlock was broken on
37 minutes with a free kick from Nick Richardson
that took a deflection of the Torquay wall and
completely sending the keeper the wrong way.
The second half followed a similar pattern City
having most of the play without troubling to
goalkeeper. While the crowd were calling for
the return of Shaun Reid, the introduction of
Rod Thomas from the bench livened things up up
front and it was his curling left-wing cross
in injury time that provided the opportunity
for City's other sub John Murphy to finish in
emphatic style and wrap up the points for the
Next up is Sunderland on
Tuesday night. City will be forced to make two
changes as keeper Wayne Brown and defender Andy
Crosby are both suspended.
Tuesday 8 September 1998
Peterborough United 3 Chester City 0
Peterborough United: Griemink,
Hopper, McMenamin, Gill, Bodley, Edwards, Davies, Payne (Farrell
77), Grazioli (Rowe77), Quinn, Houghton (Etherington 70).
Chester City: Brown, Richardson, Woods,
Crosby, Cross, Flitcroft, Reid, Priest, Wright, Jones (Bennett
62), Smith. Subs not used: Lancaster, A.Shelton.
Referee: Philip Dowd (Stoke on Trent)
How do you sum a match like this up? At
times City were outclassed by a rampant Posh side still in
top gear after their thrashing of Barnet. Even so City showed
plenty of fighting spirit and their heads never went down.
Richardson had filled in at right back
for the suspended Davidson, making room for Shaun Reid to
return in the middle of the park. Otherwise this was the
same team that won comfortably at Exeter. Darren Wright and
Jonathan Jones resumed their partnership up front.
Before the first goal there had not seemed
a lot of difference between the sides. But in the space of
a couple of minutes a huge gap opened up. First, the lively
Houghton on the left skipped past a challenge by Woods and
crossed into the danger area. Brown made a wonderful save
from the resulting header. Chester only partially cleared
the ball and it was knocked in again for Grazzioli to side
foot in. He seemed to be five yards offside but the linesman
(A certain Mr P McGirl, who also officiated against us in
the same fixture last season) on the far side wasnt
interested and we were a goal down. Very frustrating. Two
minutes later the deficit was doubled thanks to a spectacular
strike by Houghton from the edge of the box which flashed
across Brown into the far corner. Poshs confidence
was now sky high and it showed in the quality of their crisp
passing movements they looked far too good for this
league and much tougher opposition than Port Vale, for instance.
City kept battling and got a lot of the
ball, Priest harrying, Smith ferreting but they couldnt
hold on to it for too long as the match was played at a frenetic
pace. Reid was clearly not back to full match fitness and
much of the action passed him by. Wright and Jones worked
hard and moved cleverly but inexperience showed in their
inability to hold the play up or win many aerial challenges.
If we could have held it to two nil at
half time we might have had a chance. It was not to be as
Simon Davies exploited the lack of pace at the heart of the
City defence and sped through, drew Brown and dinked the
ball over him for Poshs third. Half time post mortems
between fellow Cestrians had to be conducted across the corner
flag because jobsworth stewards refused to let us transfer
City have to take some credit for their
second half performance. They came out with pride and tenacity
and continued to take the game to the home side. When Bennett
came on for Jones with twenty minutes to go they began to
look much more threatening. Twice Benno got his head on to
dangerous crosses and stretched Poshs keeper to the
limit. Woods saw his free kick tipped over the bar. Wright
looked certain to score but smacked the ball against the
upright. Flitcroft spurned another chance to score from a
penalty kick.(Somewhat harshly awarded for handball against
a prone Peterborough defender), Griemink saving in similar
fashion to Brown last Saturday. Woods looked to have bagged
a consolation in the last minute but his cracking shot beat
the post as well as the keeper.
A goal or two would have been richly deserved
but City players had to be content with the knowledge that
they were not disgraced and did not let their fans down.
It was good that at the end both players and supporters gave
time to applaud each other. That kind of spirit has not been
there in past seasons.
Saturday 5 September 1998
Exeter City 0 Chester City
Exeter City: Bayes,
Gale, Power, Fry, Richardson, Gittens, Rowbotham
(Crowe 73), Rees, Flack (Blake 85), McDonnell
(Wilkinson 60), Bresian.
Chester City: Brown, Davidson,
Woods, Crosby, Cross, Flitcroft, Richardson,
Priest (Reid 61), Wright, Jones (A Shelton
79), Smith. Sub not used: Carson
Referee: Clive Wilkes (Gloucester).
A superbly taken goal by Nick
Richardson ten minutes into the second half won
the points for Chester.
As with the Hull match there
was also a tale of two missed penalties, one
for either side, in this story of two cities.
First Ross Davidson blazed wildly over the bar
from a spot kick on fifteen minutes. A promising
break into the area by Smith seemed to end with
a prone Exeter defender handling the ball. Referee
Clive Wilkes gave the penalty but Chester's right
back spurned the opportunity (Kevin Noteman's
miss against Middlesbrough two years ago was
arguably closer it was that bad).
It looked like Chester would
pay the price for the miss when Wilkes gave a
penalty at the other end for what seemed to me
like a blatant and late dive by centre forward
Steve Flack. Later City fan Alan (no relation
honest) Wilkes thought there had been some shirt
pulling before this which the linesman had seen
but no doubt Crosby agreed with my interpretation
and gave Flack stick later. Up stepped Rowbotham
to score his customary goal against us except
that Brown dived to his right to make a superb
On the half hour mark Brown
made another super stop, this time from Flack
as he finished off a sweeping move. But Chester
were otherwise dominating the first half despite
being restricted mostly to long range shots from
Jones and Flitcroft.
Ten minutes after the break
Jones and Smith combined well down the left giving
Jones the chance to whip in a low cross, Wright
stepped over the ball and Richardson came in
on the blind side to hammer the ball in to the
net. A beauty!
Although there was the inevitable
nail biting, Chester never looked in danger of
losing their lead and held on for a second successive
Chester took to the field in
snazzy blue shorts to go with their striped tops another
variation this season all of which have looked
There was a welcome return
to the action for Shaun Reid who replaced Priest
for the last quarter of an hour or so. Priesty
had been very unlucky to be booked and was in
danger of collecting another one. Also unlucky
to be yellow carded were Crosby (fouled by Rowbotham)
and Davidson who did well to avoid being sliced
in two by their left back and was booked for
And Shelton also came on to
replace Jones who had given his all with Wright
Tuesday 1 September 1998
Chester City 0 Cambridge United 3
Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Richardson,
Crosby, Woods, Bennett (Wright), Priest, Murphy, Flitcroft,
Smith. Subs not used: Jones, A.Shelton
Cambridge United: Van Heusden, Chenery, Ashbee, Duncan, Joseph, Campbell,
Wanless, Youngs, Butler (Benjamin 81), Preece, Russell. Subs not used:
Referee: F.Stretton (Nottingham).
Booked: Priest, Davidson Sent off: Crosby, Brown
There were ominous signs straight from
the kick off as the whole Chester team seemed somehow worn
out and devoid of energy and ideas. But Cambridge looked
nothing other than tidy and physically large. Indeed, throughout
the game Cambridge did little to impress as a side. This
is to take nothing away from them as they easily deserved
to win this game as Chester were so much worse. The curious
nature of the game was summed up by the way that Wayne Brown
actually had a quiet game, but we conceded three goals and
it could have been more as Cambridge hit post and bar and
brought two good saves from Brown.
A dull game with neither side looking able
to penetrate was brought to life towards the end of the first
half when a Cambridge attack appeared to have been beaten
off with Crosby coming away with the ball. But the linesman
flagged and signalled that he thought Crosby had pulled back
the Cambridge forward as he had won the tussle for the ball.
The referee had seen nothing wrong with the play, but chose
to send Crosby off on the strength of the linesman's report.
Cambridge scored direct from the free kick just outside the
box with Brown rooted to the spot.
Chester reorganised with Richardson moving
to right back, Davidson into the middle and Flitcroft playing
a more central role in midfield. Chester did improve after
the sending off, and pressed Cambridge until half time. The
referee was soundly booed as he walked off hand in hand with
To give credit Chester did continue to
press Cambridge after half time without ever really looking
like scoring. Indeed, Cambridge provided the perfect display
of how to play against 10 men as they always seemed to have
more than a one man advantage.
The game was ended as a contest when the
ball came out to their number 7 who drilled it into the top
right hand corner from about thirty yards. He probably wont
score another like than in his career let alone again this
The game was rounded off in predictable
fashion as in the last minute Brown brought down the Cambridge
sub when he was clean through. He was sent off (had already
been booked but probably would have been sent off anyway),
Flitcroft went in goal and the penalty was effectively dispatched.
The referee took a lot of stick but was
almost certainly correct in technical terms with the sending
offs. Also, if you wanted to clutch at straws you could say
that Cambridge were fortunate to score two goals from outside
the box and a third when the game was effectively over. But
the main message of the match must be concern for the Chester
performance. It was quite simple you cannot win games
when too many players just did not perform (see below)!
Brown 5, Davidson 5, Cross 5, Crosby 5,
Woods 6, Flitcroft 6, Richardson 5, Priest 5, Smith 5, Bennett
6 (Wright 5), Murphy 6