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AFC Telford United (H) | Guiseley (H) | Bradford (Park Avenue) (A)
Tuesday 19 January
Bradford (Park Avenue) 3 Chester 3
National League North
Attendance: 0 Half Time: 0-2
Booked: Askew, Glendon, Weeks.

Bradford (Park Avenue):
Atkinson, Ross, Windass (Nowakowski 83), Marriott, Havern, Booty, Longbottom (Johnson 38), Hibbs, Dockerty, Knight (Rawson 63), Clee. Subs not used: Sanyang, Hussain.
Chester: Gray, Morgan, Askew, Weeks, K.Roberts, Grand, Johnston (Waring 69), Glendon, Elliott (Goodwin 85), Dudley, Bauress (Marsh-Hughes 85). Subs not used: Clark, Burke.
Referee: Ed Duckworth.

Chester and Bradford (Park Avenue) fought out a six goal thriller in awful wet and windswept conditions at Avenue’s Horsfall Stadium.

With the ball zipping round on the 3G surface it was a quick tempo start that saw the Blues force a corner in the opening minute which was claimed by Dan Atkinson in the home goal. Moments later the action raced to the other end as Louis Gray raced out to deny Isaac Marriott who had been put through one-on-one, with Simon Grand mopping up the clearance.

As the rain lashed down, Gray was in action again to save a weak header from Jake Hibbs following a free-kick on the edge of the City box.

Atkinson was called on to save from Danny Elliott on 15 minutes as the Blues forward met a Jamie Morgan throw. Just three minutes later though Elliott opened the scoring. A run by Morgan into the box saw his evade two players before Luca Havern brought him down. Elliott saw his spot-kick saved by Atkinson, but was quickest to react and scored from the rebound.

Brad Bauress hit a great effort from fully 25 yards that Atkinson did well to tip over for a corner, while top scorer Lewis Knight had a great chance to draw the sides level but fired wide of the far post with just Gray to beat.

A great move saw Chester doubled their lead three minutes before the break. Atkinson did well to block a George Glendon shot and the ball fell to John Johnston out on the right who produced a fine lobbed shot into the far corner past two back peddling defenders on the line.

With the Blues seemingly in control at the break, two goals in four minutes by the hosts soon after it changed things right round.

On 57 minutes Nicky Clee’s corner was flicked onto the back post where Havern turned the ball home high past Gray. and just four minutes later the comeback was complete as Knight beat the Blues rearguard to score his 11th goal of the season. That was the last part he played after he injured himself in the process and had to be replaced.

With the wind in their favour Avenue had the bit between their teeth now forcing successive corners that Chester did well to repel. Clee also saw an effort hit the side netting. At the other end Declan Weeks saw a snap shot sail over after Josh Askew had seen an effort his the crossbar.

Chester brought on George Waring for Johnston, using the strikers height to good effect at holding the ball up. Gray kept the Blues level saving a close range effort from substitute Luke Rawson.

Strikers Craig Goodwin and Lloyd Marsh-Hughes came on with five minutes remaining as Chester pressed for a winner. Anthony Dudley saw two efforts blocked in the box, and Marsh-Hughes blasted over from and Askew corner.

With a minute of normal time remaining Chester’s late pressure paid off as a ball at the edge of the box found Morgan who controlled it with his chest before smashing home a 25 yard volley past Atkinson.

However the home side had the last laugh, as two minutes into added time Clee broke down the left and his cross was turned into his own net at the back post by, it appears, Askew to see the game finish all-square.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Tuesday 5 January
Chester 1 Guiseley 0
National League North
Attendance: 0 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Dudley, Morgan.
Sent-off: Grand (since overturned).

Gray, K.Roberts, Morgan, Weeks, C.Taylor, Grand, Johnston (Waring 79), Glendon, Bauress (Askew 70), Dudley (Elliott 90), Clark. Subs not used: Marsh-Hughes, Goodwin.
Guiseley: Wade, Lufudu, Cantrill, Jones, Bencherif, Parsons (Hey 87), Felix (Haw 87), Butterfield, Mbeka, Wafula (Gillam 78), Newall. Subs not used: Molokwu, Okafor.
Referee: Liam Marshall.

The Blues edged to their second home win in four days in this encounter with Guiseley. It was a relief in the end for City who had to endure the last twenty-three minutes of normal time and almost seven additional minutes with only ten men. Simon Grand had been caught in possession on the half way line and, despite recovering, played a calamitous cross-field ball which was intercepted by Mbeka for the Lions. He tried to thread the ball through to Felix on the right and the Guiseley forward took a tumble outside the penalty area as Chester defenders rushed back. After consulting the linesman, referee Marshall awarded a red card to Grand who was deemed to have tugged Felix back – and denied him a goal-scoring opportunity.

The award seemed harsh but the video stream was not conclusive and, in any case, Chester had no choice but to accept the decision. The Blues brought Askew on to go left back and Roberts filled in at the centre. Despite the man advantage, Guiseley were unable to capitalise on their long-throws or set plays to carve out any decent goal-scoring opportunities. George Waring also came on to replace John Johnston and did a sterling job holding possession and winning free kicks of his own to break up play. One defensive header from a Guiseley corner even had backspin on it and rolled along the touchline to tantalise the opposition – much to the amusement of Callum McIntyre on the commentary team. Instead Chester managed to negotiate the remaining minutes well and retained their slender lead until the end.

It was a lead they had held since the fifth minute when Kevin Roberts had timed his run to perfection as he met Brad Bauress’s in-swinging corner and headed the ball in the goal. Prior to this Connor Taylor, making his full debut after an encouraging cameo on Saturday, just failed to convert Weeks’ cross in the first minute for what would have been a sensational start.

Chester continued to dominate play and create the clearer openings. The best of all fell to Dudley whose header was fumbled by Wade but the Lions’ keeper recovered to complete the save. Guiseley moved the ball around well too, especially in midfield but didn’t threaten the goal unduly. Lively full back Lufudu went closest when his shot hit the angle of post and bar and Felix also had half a chance when the ball fell to him from a long-throw but his misdirected shot was cleared by Taylor. The young loanee from Stoke looked a classy deputy for the injured Danny Livesey – comfortable in possession and unafraid to run forward with the ball and launch City on the counter attack.

Chester moved up to second in the table following the game – although the discrepancy between teams in games played gives the whole a rather patchwork feel at the moment. Nevertheless, forward momentum is being created by this increasingly impressive group of players – let’s hope, despite the uncertainty of entering another nationwide lockdown, they see some reward for their efforts – much appreciated by their fans as they watch on from a distance.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 2 January
Chester 3 AFC Telford United 0
National League North
Attendance: 0 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Askew, Livesey, Weeks.

Gray, Morgan, Askew (Elliott 58), K.Roberts, Livesey (C.Taylor 46), Grand (Waring 58), Weeks, Glendon, Clark, Dudley, Johnston. Subs not used: Bauress, Goodwin.
AFC Telford United: Griffiths, Vaughan, Jones, Byrne (Hardy 71), Walker, Bond, Streete, Meppen-Walter, Davies, Williams (Oswell 65), McHale (Daniels 65). Subs not used: Lilly, White.
Referee: Daniel Locker.

New Year began for City with a comprehensive win against Shropshire neighbours Telford. Team selection caused eyebrows to be raised among City supporters as it looked like four fullbacks had been picked along with two centre backs. Clark and Askew, who had replaced Elliott and Bauress, took up positions in midfield.

The Bucks were still smarting from their Boxing Day loss to City and tried to play with a higher line and press. These tactics, however, unravelled on eight minutes when Weeks’ through ball exposed the visitors to Askew’s dash forward. As the snow fell increasingly heavily, he outpaced Meppen-Walter to tuck the ball past the on-rushing Griffiths to give the Blues the lead. Askew’s first goal for Chester came just a minute after his first booking for an overenthusiastic challenge in the Telford area. Sandwiched in between Jones had a good opportunity to put Telford ahead when McHale’s ball found him in space on the left but his shot only troubled the side netting.

Telford were enjoying the lions’ share of possession but failed to test Gray to any great extent. The nearest efforts came from Davies who saw his lobbed shot tipped over and a later one soar over the bar. Chester had a great chance to double the lead when a counter-attack found them outnumbering the visitors’ defence by four to two – but Glendon’s pass pushed Johnston out too wide and the opportunity evaporated.

As with the previous game against Chorley, the decisive moment of the match came in first half stoppage time. This time, however, it went in City’s favour. The experienced Lee Vaughan went into a challenge with Clark over-aggressively and was deemed worthy of a red card by referee Daniel Locker. Livesey and Byrne were booked in token of their contributions to the scrimmage which followed the incident – it looked like there were plenty of other candidates.

With the man advantage Chester – with Weeks and Glendon excelling once again in the middle – passed their way to a convincing victory. Two superbly executed goals from Weeks and then Dudley capped glowing moves. Dudley, Roberts and Johnston were all involved in the approach for the second goal which began and concluded with Weeks as he swept Johnston’s precise cross into the net. For the third, Glendon found Elliott (on as a sub for Askew) whose clipped pass out wide was retrieved by Johnston. The winger found Weeks on the edge of the box who exchanged passes with Dudley before the latter fired home his fifth goal in consecutive matches to clinch the result for City.

By the end of the contest the Bucks were down to nine men as Brendan Daniels, on as a sub from the 68th minute had to retire injured and could not be replaced. Telford had looked a handy side – with arguably more of the ball in the first half but could not respond once City had the numerical advantage. So Chester completed a festive double over Telford and begin to turn their attention to another home match, re-arranged after the Covid-break, on Tuesday with Guiseley.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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