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Tuesday 28 December 1999
Chester City 1
Leyton Orient 5

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Spooner, Fisher, Woods, Doughty, Richardson (Reid 28), Nash, Eve, Beckett, Laird (Wright 28). Subs not used: Conkie, Berry, Lancaster.
Leyton Orient: Barrett, Joseph, Clark, Smith, Donner, Ampadu, Walshaerts, Brkovic, Lockwood, Griffiths (Christie 65), Watts (Rowbotham 77). Subs not used: Bayes, Beall, Martin.
T.Leake (Darwen).

Where do you start!

Quite possibly City's worst performance ever at the Deva. Chester were totally outplayed by the one team below them in the Football League. They simply failed to compete in key areas on the pitch. Orient striker Carl Griffiths did the damage with a hat-trick which included two penalties.

It took just seven minutes for the O's to take the lead. Matthew Lockwood cut through on the left and squared the ball for Steve Watts who had the simplest of task to side foot the ball home inside the right hand post.

A double substitution mid way through the half, Reid and Wright coming on for Richardson and Laird was a sign from the bench that things weren't right. Reid was soon in the action, volleying wide, moments earlier Angus Eve failed to meet a Martin Nash cross.

However it was Orient who created the better chances for the remainder of the half. Clark hit the post following a corner and Griffiths should have done better than lob wide when put clean through on goal.

The lead was doubled on 37 minutes when Darren Moss brought down Watts in the box and Griffiths sent Brown the wrong way from the spot kick.

Following the break a second penalty effectively killed-off the game. Again Moss was the culprit as he brought down Ampadu, Griffiths once again sent Brown the wrong way. 0-3.

The fourth goal soon followed as Griffiths had the simple task of side-footing home after Berkovic had beaten the offside trap (and Brown's awful knee high challenge) to set up the chance.

Darren Wright pulled a goal back on 66 minutes side-footing home from six yards after his close range header had been saved by 'keeper Barrett.

Four minutes later Christie headed home a Lockwood corner to complete the rout.

The result was the final straw for owner Terry Smith who announced immediately after the game that he would be appointing a manager within the next few days.

Sunday 26 December 1999
Mansfield Town 2
Chester City 1

Mansfield Town: Bowling, Williams, Tallon (Roscoe 73), Richardson, Andrews (Asher 89), Bromby, Sisson, Blake, Clarke, Lormor, Greenacre (Boulding 59), Subs not used: Gibson, Kerr.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Cross (Doughty 48), Spooner (Laird 64), Fisher, Woods, Richardson, Nash (Wright 81), Milosavijevic, Eve, Beckett. Subs not used: Conkie, Lancaster.
Referee: S.Tomlin (Lewes).

Two change for Chester from the side that beat Halifax Town with Matt Woods replacing Doughty (who�d had flu over Christmas) and Jon Cross replacing Kamu Laird.

Despite a first-ever league goal from Matt Doughty, and what a goal it was, City slumped to a disappointing Boxing Day defeat at Field Mill.

City fell behind through an own goal through Nick Richardson on 11 minutes, the skipper heading, unchallenged, into his own net past a helpless Wayne Brown following a Stags' corner and a Lee Bromby follow-on header.

Despite this Chester created the better chances in the first period. The best effort fell to Matt Woods who headed just over after being given a free header following a near post corner from Martin Nash.

Nash himself then had a golden opportunity to bring City level but his goal-bound header was superbly saved by Bowling at the foot of the left-hand post. Richardson was then denied by a timely tackle from Michael Sisson after being set up by Angus Eve.

Following the break Richardson again had an opportunity to make up for his earlier error but blazed his shot over the bar from 20 yards. The equaliser came on 68 minutes with a stunning 25-yard volley from Matt Doughty whose exuberant celebrations earned him a booking!

However City�s concentration lasted four minutes as the home side restored their advantage as Boulding headed home (off the bar) at the far post from Darrell Clarke�s right wing cross.
Saturday 18 December 1999
Chester City 2 Halifax Town 1

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty, Eve, Spooner, Milosavijevic (Woods 60), Nash, Richardson, Beckett, Laird (Wright 45), Fisher. Subs not used: Conkie, Cross, Lancaster.
Halifax Town: L.Butler, Wilder, Jules, Mitchell, Stoneman (Stansfield 70), Potter, Cullen, P.Butler, Reilly, Caughan (Painter 69), Clarke (Bradshaw 45). Subs not used Parks, Lucas.
Referee: P.Joslin (Newark).

Two goals by debutants Angus Eve and fellow Trinidad & Tobago player Kamu Laird secured City's second home win of the season and lifted them off the bottom of the table for Christmas.

City's first goal on 26 minutes came as Town keeper Butler couldn't hold an Angus Eve shot which appeared to be heading for goal, Laird was on hand though to bundle the ball home from a couple of yards out. Four minutes later it was 2-0 as Eve shot home from the edge of the box.

Woods replaced Milosavijevic, who appeared to be still struggling with his hamstring injury, and the defender was involved in a mix-up which led to Halifax pulling a goal back through Lee Potter with 12 minutes remaining. A superb save by Wayne Brown and a fine last-ditch takle by Darren Moss preserved City's lead and the three vital points.

Wednesday 16 December 1999
Darlington 3 Chester City 1

Darlington: Samways, Liddle, Heckingbottom, Aspin, Brumwell (Hjorth 71), Atkinson, Gray, Oliver, Heaney, Gabbiadini, Duffield. Subs not used: Nogan, Leah, Reed, Finch.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty, Reid, Milosavijevic, (Lancaster 51), Woods, Nash (Jones 87), Richardson (Wright 73), Cross, Beckett, Fisher. Subs not used: Conkie, Berry.
Referee: A.Kaye (Wakefield).

Goran Milosavijevic returned to the Chester side following a hamstring injury.

Striker Luke Beckett missed two great chances to open the scoring following good work from Jon Cross and NIck Richardson headed wide from 10 yards as City spurned a golden opportunity to take the lead at Feethams.

The Blues were punished for these misses as Quakers striker Peter Duffield scored twice from close range in five minutes. The first goal came when full back Darren Moss was beaten to a cross by Oliver's header; Wayne Brown saved superbly only to see his block rebound off the post into the path of Duffield to score the rebound.

Striker Marco Gabbiadini set up the second goal minutes later. He outbattled Woods to the ball, cut inside and unleashed a fierce shot. Once again Brown saved well but the ball fell loose and Duffield was first on hand to poach the second.

After the break Duffield missed a hatful of chances to increase the lead and Gabbiadini also hit the City bar before the Blues pulled a goal back in bizarre fashion. Darren Wright's cross took a deflection into the Darlo box and following a melee was gathered by home keeper Samways, however the linesman flagged and a goal was given with the referee claiming that the ball had crossed the line. Samways appeared to be standing behind the goal line when he gathered the ball. Gabbiadini earned himself a booking in the resulting protests.

City however never looked like getting an equaliser and it came as no surprise when Jesper Hijorth added a third in the dying minutes from 12 yards.

Sunday 12 December 1999 - FA Cup Round Three
Chester City 1 Manchester City 4

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty, Reid, Spooner, Woods, Nash (Berry 87), Richardson, Wright (Cross 80), Beckett, Fisher. Subs not used: Conkie, Lancaster, Milosavijevic.
Manchester City: Weaver, Edghill, Wievens, Horlock, Bishop, Goater, Pollock, Peacock, Jobson, Kennedy, Granville (Whitley 45) Subs not used: Cooke, Allsopp, Tiatto, Wright Booked: Horlock.
Referee: T.Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).

Forget the travesty of a scoreline, this was a game that Chester could really have got something from. Their performance belied their status as the League's bottom club and a draw would have been the least they deserved. It was their wasteful finishing that once again let them down though some poor defending once again gifted goals to the opposition.

Chester's midfield battled well with Shaun Reid making his presence felt with some crunching tackles, earning him a booking for his troubles later in the game. Doughty and Nash were linking up well down the left and it was the home side that had the better of the opening period.

An awful mix-up between Matt Woods and Wayne Brown (not the first) gifted the opening goal to the visitors. Horlock's cross was left by the City pair and Shaun Goater stepped in to score from close range. Chester responded superbly though and were level nine minutes later through captain Nick Richardson. Darren Wright fed Richardson from the left and he lashed the ball home from 12 yards off the underside of the bar.

Wright and Nash almost set up Beckett, and the striker went close with a 20-yarder just before the break.

The Blues had a glorious chance to take the lead just after the interval as Richardson burst through following a one-two with Beckett but the skipper curled his shot over the bar.

The visitors also had chances with the lively Bishop at the heart of most of the moves. Brown did well to save at the feet of Goater and was also called into action to save Whitley's shot.

At the other end Wright spurned another chance to grab the lead as did Beckett who was clean through on goal before shooting straight at Weaver.

Bishop then restored the visitors' lead on 79 minutes heading powerfully home Richard Edghill's cross. City battled well but two late goals, a glancing Goater header and a Matt Doughty own goal sealed victory and City must ensure that they take heart from this performance into their forthcoming vital league games.

Saturday 4 December 1999
Barnet 2 Chester City 0

Barnet: Harrison, Heald, Hackett, Arber, Doolan, Davidson, Brown, Sawyers (Toms 89), Currie, Charlerey (McGleish 77), King. Subs not used: Searle, Naisbitt, Basham.
Chester City: Brown, Doughty, Reid, Woods, Richardson, Fisher, Wright, Spooner, Nash, Beckett, Finney. Subs not used: Lancaster, Jones, Carson, Conkie.
Referee: M.Fletcher (Warley).

As a subsection of the burgeoning Birmingham branch of Chester City supporters, my sister Carol and I travelled down on the 9.15 from New Street. Seats were at a premium as there was also a large contingent of Brummies (all clad in black leather, Burberry and baseball caps) on their way to see Blues take on the Harrods' works team at Craven Cottage.

Once at Underhill we decided to take a leisurely stroll around to survey the Football League's most endangered ground – a very real threat to Barnet's continued status. We met the chair and secretary of The Exiles scurrying past in the opposite direction and, like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, disappearing down the alley behind the East Terrace, muttering something about trying to find the players' entrance. They were late for a very important date with Terry Smith who had belatedly agreed to set up a meeting with the Exiles membership.

Terry was late too along with the most of the rest of the team – snarled up in traffic on the M1.

City's first half performance seemed to be a hangover from their late arrival – whether it is an excuse I don't know, but it looked like we would be overrun. Darren Currie caused us lots of problems. By staying out wide on the right he stretched even our five man defence. We were soon behind to his direct free kick, curled over the defensive wall. Brown got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out. It later became obvious that Brown was carrying a hamstring injury – was this because of lack of warm up time?

Bees then proceeded to buzz. Charlery and Heald both misdirected headers when well placed to score while Danny Brown hammered a shot against the inside of the post – a lucky escape. At our end City's one and only effort on target was Woods' header from a corner which Harrison did well to tip round the post. We encouraged Ross Davidson to turn one in for us but he wouldn't oblige.

The second half saw a different pattern. City responded to their uphill task and took the game to the League leaders. We completely dominated but couldn't turn it into goals. Doughty had one of the best efforts when his surging run and shot was saved by Harrison. Then after a great move Luke Beckett seemed to take the ball round the keeper before beiing brought down. The ref appeared to have given a penalty but then only proceeded to book Luke – one of the most honest players you are likely to find – for diving. it looked a travesty – though it was up the other end.

We were finished off when McGleish got through to score a chance he could not miss. Wayne had earlier pulled off a stunning save from Charlery but had no hope this time. Personally I blame the Brighton fans (Their match at Field Mill had been called off late), who had joined us, for goading McGleish so much that he scored just to spite them.

There we are. Still stuck at the bottom – but City had actually played quite well. But for the lack of a target man or a forward of Agogo's pace we might have taken a point.

Barnet surged ahead at the top but does their albatross of a ground (Quaint and loveable though it is) mean that their continued League status is even less assured than Chester's?

Hang on in there you Blue Boys.

Colin Mansley

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