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FC Halifax Town (FAT 3 A) | Altrincham (A) | Kidderminster Harriers (A) | Warrington Town (CSC2 H) | Tranmere Rovers (H)
Sunday 28 February
Chester 0 Tranmere Rovers 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 3,494 Half Time: 0-0
Alabi, Hannah.

Chester: Thompson, O’Brien (Mahon 57), Heneghan, Sharps (Hunt 10), Astles, Chapell, Rooney, Hughes, Lloyd, Alabi, Hannah (Bell 80). Subs not used: Worsnop, Higgins.
Tranmere Rovers: Davies, Vaughan, Ihiekwe, McNulty, Ridehalgh, Mekki, Jennings, J.Hughes, Kirby (Mackreth 74), Norwood, Higdon (Taylor-Fletcher 81). Subs not used: Turner, Riley, Margetts.
Referee: Ryan Johnson (Bolton).

Tranmere Rovers completed the double over the Blues who put in a disappointing performance for the first home league encounter between the two sides for 25 years. Manager Steve Burr made one change to the side that drew at Kidderminster with James Alibi who scored the equaliser at Aggborough replacing Craig Mahon.

The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges and almost took the lead in the opening minutes as Tony Thompson saved well from James Norwood before John Rooney cleared off the line to prevent Michael Higdon heading the opening goal.

Ian Sharps, playing against his former club, picked up a hamstring injury and had to be replaced on ten minutes by Johnny Hunt. In a rare effort on goal John Rooney forced a save from Scott Davies with a shot from the edge of the box. At the other end Thompson produced a fine save with his legs to deny Lee Vaughan who had beaten Jordan Chapell to the ball to raced clear on goal.

Norwood volleyed high and wide from a James Kirby cross when well placed eight minutes before the break. It was Tranmere who looked to pose the bigger threat after the interval although Davis was called into action tipping an Alibi header around the post.

The only goal of the game came in the 69th minute when Hunt brought down Adam Mekki in the box. Up stepped Norwood to send Thompson the wrong way from the penalty spot. Thomson was forced into a great save to deny Kirby doubling the advantage for the visitors.

All Chester had to show in the final 20 minutes was a mis-hit Ross Hannah free kick. Nyal Bell replaced Hannah with ten minutes remaining but Chester never looked like getting back into the game.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 23 February
Chester 4 Warrington Town 0
Cheshire Senior Cup Round 2
Attendance: 347 Half Time: 1-0

Chester: Thompson, Higgins, Sharps, Astles, Waters, Richards, Hughes, Rooney, Hunt, Bell, Hobson (Chapell 64). Subs not used: Worsnop, Hannah, Alabi, Lloyd.
Warrington Town: Willis, Turner, Lea, Ventre (Beattie 74), McCarten, Robinson, Gaghan (Gillespie 46), Kinsella, Metcalfe, Holt, Dean (Deegan 46). Subs: O’Donnell, Rudge, Beattie.
Referee: Daniel Hitchell.

Chester gave a debut to on-loan Rochdale forward Nyal Bell and the youngster impressed with a brace of goals as Chester moved into the semi-final's of the Cheshire Senior Cup and an away clash at Tranmere Rovers.

Bell opened the scoring ten minutes before the interval giving Karl Willis in the Warrington goal no chance with a powerful shot.

A foul on Bell in the penalty area on the hour mark allowed Matty Waters to double the lead from the resulting spot-kick. Jordan Chapell, on for Craig Hobson, added a third goal 16 minutes from time and Bell accepted a John Rooney pass to score his second goal in the final minute to cap off a fine debut.

Chester now face Tranmere Rovers in the semi-final of the competition on Monday 14 March at Prenton Park.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 20 February
Kidderminster Harriers 2 Chester 2
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,067 Half Time: 2-0

Kidderminster Harriers: Snedker, Hodgkiss, Langmead, Lowe, Kinsella, Maxwell, Fane, Williams, Whitfield, White (Garnett 85), Gnahoua (Patrick 74). Subs not used: Francis-Angol, Jones, Brown.
Chester: Thompson, Heneghan, Sharps, Astles, O’Brien (Richards 85), Hughes, Rooney (Higgins 46), Mahon (Alabi 46), Lloyd, Chapell, Hannah. Subs not used: Worsnop, Hunt.
Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).

Pick your cliché to sum up Chester’s visit to Aggborough – it was a ‘game of two halves’ and also a ‘deja-vu’ experience as the Blues came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in a repeat of last season's unforgettable encounter.

It was definitely my best game of the season, as long as I can forget the first half that saw Chester start with the same three-at-the-back formation which saw them overwhelm Altrincham earlier in the week. This time it wasn't so effective with the likes of Sam Hughes barely touching the ball in the first 45 minutes.

In fact the failure of any Chester player to get a tackle in led to the first Kidderminster goal when their new signing Arthur Gnahoua was allowed to make a largely unchallenged strike on goal. It wasnt the best of shots either, but it went under Chester goalkeeper Tony Thompson and into the net.

The 432 away fans were soon venting their spleen at referee Rob Whitton for awarding a penalty to Kidderminster when the ball bounced off Ryan Lloyd's thigh and onto his arm. Granted it wasnt a great clearance, but his intent on handball had to be questionable. The result was that Kiddie were 2-0 up with just 26 minutes on the clock,

The first half petered out with the Chester fans shouting ‘handball at any opportunity in the hope that the referee would even things out. And later on their wish would come true. But first there was a second half change when the formation was altered to 4-4-2 and James Alabi and Ryan Higgins replaced John Rooney and Craig Mahon.

Not long after the re-start, Alabi proved to be a handful for the Kidderminster defenders and almost won himself a penalty. But a similar move by Ross Hannah on the 66th minute did earn his team a spot-kick. Hannah stepped up to take it and made no mistake in front of the travelling fans.

There was still business to be done so Hannah grabbed the ball from the net and dashed back to the centre spot with barely any hint of celebrating his 16th goal of the season. It was a different story for Chester’s second goal when Alabi a continuous threat to the relegation-threatened home side found the net after he shrugged off a defender, turned and thwacked the ball into the top corner to get the game back on level pegging with 14 minutes left to play. This time celebrations were definitely in order and everyone at the away end made the most of it!

Both sides had their chances in the closing spell to earn a victory. Hannah saw a great opportunity just go wide while, at the other end, Thompson kept Chester in it with a great save. So at full-time it was again honours even at Aggborough.

As we reflected on the match in the excellent Weaver’s Ale House, both sets of fans seemed to think it was a fair result. However, most of the Kidderminster fans seemed resigned to relegation and after two enjoyable visits in consecutive seasons I will definitely miss them if were not in the same league next year.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 16 February
Altrincham 0 Chester 3
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,442 Half Time: 0-2
Hanah, Sharps.

Altrincham: Deasy, Leather, Holness, Heathcote, Griffin, Crowther (Reeves 63), Richman (O’Keefe 31), Moult, Ginnelly, Rankine, Margetts (Lawrie 80). Subs not used: Cain, Williams.
Thompson, O’Brien (Higgins 85), Astles, Heneghan, Sharps, Lloyd, Rooney, Hughes, Mahon (Richards 90), Chapell, Hannah (Alabi 90). Subs not used: Worsnop, Hunt.
Referee: Stephen Ross (Boston).

Congestion on the motorway made me arrive on the last minute for the M56 derby but I was there in time to hear Steve Burr’s unusual team selection. Debuts were given to Tony Thompson in goal and Danny O’Brien on loan from Wigan. Sam Hughes started a league match for the first time. Full-backs Higgins and Hunt were dispensed with and City lined up with a three man defence of centre backs Heneghan, Sharps and Astles.

It was a formation which gave Chester plenty of the ball in midfield. Rooney and Hughes in particular were able to break play up and launch the yellows in attack. Chapell, Hannah and Lloyd linked up well as did Mahon and O’Brien as City became free flowing going forward. A clever ball from Hughes set Chapell off and he ran at the defence, weaving his way to the edge of the penalty area. His shot took a slight deflection and trickled against the upright with Deasy frozen to the spot but the Robins were able to scramble the ball away.

Lloyd then cut in from the left at the end of another good move but his cross eluded everyone. Better followed when, after a good run from Mahon, Chapell picked up the loose ball and threaded it to Lloyd again whose cross this time found O’Brien at the far post. He coolly controlled and then rifled the ball into the back of the net to give Chester the lead.

Altrincham were restricted to a long range effort from Moult. City chased back and covered very effectively. The home fans became restive when, in the light of relentless rain, stewards let City fans into a covered side section of the ground. The Alty fans booed and chanted “We’re supposed to be at home” – inhospitable lot. The Reds did briefly have something to cheer when Rankine fed the ball through to Crowther who scored with an angled shot, only to see the linesman’s flag raised for offside.

Almost immediately Chester surged back to the other end and doubled their advantage. First Mahon was scythed down on the left and Rooney directed the resulting free kick just under the bar but Deasy tipped it over. From the corner Heneghan headed down and Astles was on hand to tap the ball over the line for his first goal for the Blues. It was no less than City’s dominance deserved.

The home side came out strongly after the break but Chester hit them on the counter attack and Chapell was clipped as he rounded the keeper. Hannah took the penalty but blazed it over the bar. Would the momentum now swing to Alty? Chester responded to the disappointment well and continued to carry the game to the home team. Every time they came forward they looked dangerous – Mahon, Chapell and O’Brien causing all sorts of problems for the Robins. After O’Brien won another corner his kick caused confusion in the box and Hannah scored at the third or fourth attempt in the resulting scramble. Now that Hannah had atoned for his miss, the game seemed safe for City.

Altrincham did rally towards the end but Chester’s clean sheet remained intact thanks especially to a spectacular save from Thompson who managed to scoop the ball over the bar from ground level on as Lawrie’s shot skimmed towards goal.

It was a welcome and tactically astute victory for Blues who have been struggling on their travels. Would the same bold formation work against different opposition we wondered. But first it was time to celebrate a first league win of 2016 with a Peerless ale to match City’s peerless performance.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Wednesday 10 February
FC Halifax Town 1 Chester 0
FA Trophy Round 3
Attendance: 878 (157 Chester) Half Time: 1-0

FC Halifax Town: Johnson, Roberts, Brown, Bencherif (Hibbs 27), McManus, James, Wroe, Walker, MacDonald (Hughes 63), Burrow, Peniket (Fairhurst 71). Subs not used: Porter, Miller.
Worsnop, Higgins, Heneghan (Hughes 51), Sharps, Hunt, George (Lloyd 14), Rooney, Shaw, Chapell, Mahon (Richards 71), Hannah. Subs not used: Thompson, Hobson.
Referee: Michael Salisbury (Preston).

A Jordan Burrow goal on the stroke of half time ended Chester’s Wembley dream for another year as they were knocked out of the FA Trophy at the Third Round stage at The Shay.

Manager Steve Burr was forced into two changes with both Ryan Astles and James Alabi ineligible having played for other sides in previous rounds. Back into the line-up came Tom Shaw and Ian Sharps.

Chester enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening period with Jordan Chapell crossing for top scorer Ross hannah who saw his effort deflected wide for a corner that came to nothing. Former Chester player Kingsley James crossed for Burrow who headed wide when well placed. The Blues were forced into a substitution after Luke George picked up a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by Ryan Lloyd on 15 minutes.

Burrow saw another header flash wide of Jon Worsnops goal as the home side pressed on a difficult pitch. Chester still created chances themselves with John Rooney forcing a smart save from Sam Johnson in the home goal who also kept out a Craig Mahon effort following good build up play with Lloyd.

Chester continued to probe with Mahon forcing another save from Johnson but it was the Shaymen who went closest to breaking the deadlock with Richard Peniket stabbing a shot just wide.

With half-time looming the hosts took the lead as the Blues’ defence failed to deal with a long throw-in into the area, James hooked the ball over for Burrow to shoot past Worsnop.

Ben Heneghan limped off early in the second period to be replaced by youngster Sam Hughes. Hannah saw an effort go wide as Chester looked to get back on level terms. Peniket should have doubled the lead for Halifax when he was put clean through the Blues defence but Worsnop made a fine save with his legs to deny him.

The Blues made their final change introducing kane Richards for Mahon with 19 minutes remaining. James had the ball in the net for Halifax only to see the effort ruled out. Chester continued to press in the closing minutes with Richards shooting wide following a corner and Rooney forcing another save from Johnson before referee Michael Salisbury blew for time.

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