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MARCH 2001
Hayes (A) | Southport (H) FAT | Southport (A) | Hednesford (H) | Nuneaton (A) | Telford (A) | Canvey Island (A) FAT
Saturday 31 March 2001
Canvey Island 2 Chester City 0
FA Umbro Trophy Semi-Final 1st leg
Attendance: 1,221 Half-time 1-0

Canvey Island: Harrison, Kennedy, Duffy, Chenery, Bodley, Ward, Tilson, Stimson (Tanner 84), Gregory, Jones (Vaughan 71), Parmenter. Subs not used: Clark, Miller, Thompson.
Chester City:
Brown, Fisher, Doughty, Lancaster, Ruffer (Gaunt 24), P.Beesley, Carden, Porter, Woods, M.Beesley (Whitehall 55), Ruscoe (Moss 45). Subs not used: Priestly, Haarhoff.

[Match Programme]Chester have left themselves with a mountain to climb if they are to reach the final of the Tophy next month. They turned in their worst performance of the season here as they were outplayed from the start by their Ryman Premier League opponents. Man of the match Wayne Brown helped keep the tie alive (just) with a series of fine saves and, in all honesty, we could have had no complaints had the score been doubled.

Playing in black and white stripes and on a heavily sanded pitch, City started with striker Steve Whitehall on the bench and Matt Woods in the No.9 shirt and Carl Ruffer returned to the centre of defence following injury.

The game was only a couple of minutes old when their were large appealy dfor a home penalty after Neil Fisher seemed to wrestle Dufy to the ground when clean through on goal.

City's first and only effort of the half came minutes later when Martyn Lancaster's header was tipped over the bar following a Neil Fisher free kick.

It was clear that Ruffer was feeling his injury and was replaced by Craig Gaunt on 24 minutes. Why Woods didn't drop back then allowing the introduction of Whitehall or Haarhoff remains a mystery.

The opening goal came on 28 minutes. A left wing free kick was easily cleared by Lancaster but straight to Dufy. His lobbed through pass fell invitingly for Tilson, in acres of space, who smashed the ball home giving Brown no chance in goal.

We looked to Chester to step things up but they simply weren't able to. It was Canvey who created the better openings as both sides were reduced to playing the ball long in the breezy conditions.

Harrison dived smartly at the feet of Ruscoe in a rare Chester raid but it was the home side who almost doubled the score just before half time when Gregory broke through on the right and shot just past the far post.

Darren Moss came on for Ruscoe at the break and Whitehall replaced Mark Beesley soon after but the striker soon found himself helping out in defence as Canvey pushed forward.

With 20 minutes remaining Canvey scored their deserved second. Wayne Vaughan had only been on the pitch a couple of minutes before picking up a loose ball and firing home low past Wayne Brown from 20 yards.

[FA Trophy]So, somehow or other City are still in the tie! but it's going to take a monumental improvement in almost every department to have any chance next Saturday. And before that, on Tuesday, City face another long trip down to Dover for a Conference match.

�It could have been more than two, it was embarrassing but we have a chance to put it right on Saturday. I don�t know the explanation why we played like we did and I�ve got to do some soul-searching.� said Graham Barrow after the match.
Tuesday 27 March 2001
Telford United 3 Chester City 0
Attendance: 1,363 Half-time 1-2

Telford United: Price, Bentley, Fowler, Moore, Jobling, Sandwith, McGorry, Fitzpatrick, Palmer, Murphy (Huckerby 83), Malkin. Subs not used: Preece, Davies, Edwards, J, Martindale.
Chester City:
Brown, Moss, Woodyatt (Gaunt 30), Woods, Lancaster, P.Beesley, Carden (Haarhoff 65), Fisher, Wright, Whitehall, Ruscoe. Subs not used: Doughty, Priestly, Berry.
G Salisbury (Preston).

[Match Programme]What there is of the New Bucks Head looks fine and is well appointed (But admission was £9 and not seven as advertised in the previous Chester programme). Seats are at a bit of a premium, however, apart from the two benches there are only about twenty under a flimsy canvas on the halfway line. At the back of the temporary stand even the local media journalists had to stand. When work is completed on the main stand and hotel complex then it should look quite impressive. Work is expected to begin in the near future.

For the present the Board Room is a portacabin and the players had to get changed in an adjacent one before making their way over the path and down through the terracing on to the pitch. The playing surface was thoroughly saturated. In contrast to Nuneaton's gluepot on Friday there was plenty of grass on the pitch but water was never far away and several times the ball either held up in a puddle or skimmed off the greasy top.

After a bright opening from Chester it was Telford who adapted to the difficult conditions better. From a second corner in succession they took the lead when Malkin rose unopposed to head into the net from the six yard line. It could have been two soon afterwards but Brown blocked Murphy's shot when he was clean through. Although City tried to play some neat stuff in the middle, Telford were more adept at getting the ball forward quickly and their strikers at making runs into space.

Carden was rightly booked for taking retribution on a Telford midfielder who had previously up-ended Moss without punishment. Woodyatt, making what I believe was his senior debut unfortunately had to limp off after half an hour and was replaced by Gaunt. Woods was then thrown up front and Wright retreated into the gap behind the forwards. Woods found a bit of room on the right and crossed dangerously. Whitehall had a couple of stabs at getting a shot in but Telford defended well.

Six minutes before half time came the blow from which City never recovered. Brown came out to claim a ball at the feet of an onrushing forward but only suceeded in knocking it out to the right from where McGorry crossed for Palmer to sidefoot the ball into an empty net. An unfortunately sloppy goal conceded at a bad time.

After the break City commendably brought the game to their hosts and were unlucky not to get at least a goal back. Ruscoe curled a shot against the inside of the post and Telford were fortunate to clear. Price, the keeper, made a hash of trying to clear and Whitehall picked the ball up at a narrow angle and fired a shot which was deflected for a corner. Beesley won a near post header and Whitehall's follow up was tipped over the bar by Price.

The referee booked Bentley for persistent fouling and Fowler for persistent dissent. But he waved away appeals for a penalty when Woods was climbed all over in the box and, from the subsequent break away, Murphy got through one on one and lifted the ball over Brown for another goal.

City played gamely on, Haarhoff came on for the hard-working Carden but it was never going to be the kind of pitch on which he would perform to his best. Cestrians should not be too down hearted at this display in what will turn out to be a fairly meaningless match. And one in particular – a certain Mr Beckett – had the edge taken off the defeat by claiming the half time draw prize.

Colin Mansley

Friday 23 March 2001
Nuneaton Borough 1 Chester City 2
Attendance: 1,363 Half-time 1-2

Nuneaton Borough: Mackenzie, Thackeray, Angus, Simpson, Weaver, Love (J.Williams 61), B.Williams (King 76), Peake, Crowley, Charles, Wray (Sykes 76). Subs not used: Young, Bacon.
Chester City:
Brown, Fisher, Doughty, (Woodyatt 68), Lancaster, Ruffer, P.Beesley, Carden, Fisher, Ruscoe, M.Beesley (Woods 58), Whitehall (Haarhoff 74). Subs not used: Wright, Priestly.
K.Reynolds (East Barnet).

[Match Programme]Despite rumours to the contrary, all three of City's semi-pro internationals turned out at a dank Manor Park as City became the first side to record the double over Nuneaton Borough this season – they did it the hard way though.

For the first time on our travels this season there was no segregation, and City fans were free to walk round the ground during the game to choose their favoured spec after entering through the bizarre spectacle of a candlelit turnstile (sic), whose flames flickered dangerously close to piles of fivers and tenners.

Heavy rain in the early evening had turned the sloping pitch into a mud bath in certain areas, with the top surface slippery.

City, playing in all white, started well and could have taken the lead in the second minute. Scott Ruscoe was sent away down the left and perhaps should have done better with his shot which was clawed away from under the crossbar by Mackenzie in the Borough goal.

Two minutes later and the ball was in the net, but at the other end. A long punt forward over the City defence left Martyn Lancaster appealing vainly for offside. Shaun Wray was having none of it and beat Brown from 12 yards.

Minutes later and the busy Paul Carden was almost through on goal but his first touch let him down and the ball ran through to the keeper.

Another superb through ball by Carden sent Whitehall through on the left, his shot was only parried by Mackenzie and Mark Beesley was perfectly placed six yards out to flick the ball home through the mud.

The play was end-to-end as both teams contributed to a good game considering the conditions. Both Carden and Ruscoe were playing some nice one touch football and several half-chances were created from both Mark Beesley and Whitehall.

Darren Moss, who had a good game throughout, set up Whitehall again but he failed to convert the chance. Minutes later though the experienced striker gave City the lead following a fine flowing move. Ruscoe played the final ball through to Whitehall who chipped a shot over Mackenzie from 10 yards out, 2-1 to City.

Just minutes before half time Nuneaton had a glorious chance to equalise. A right wing corner was swung over by Jason Peake and Paul Beesley inexplicable thrust out an arm to handle the ball. Beesley complained he was pushed and picked up his now customary booking.

Peake, the former Plymouth player, took the spot kick but Wayne Brown dived brilliantly to save the kick and preserve City's lead. Seconds later and it was Carl Ruffer's turn to clear off the line in a more unorthodox manor – with his knee!.

As is often the case it was a different City after the break. They defended deeply, sitting on their lead, and invited Nuneaton to attack, and attack they did.

Wayne Brown was called into action on numerous occasions but the City defence did restrict the home side to mainly long-range efforts. Once again City cleared off the line during one moment of danger, but Wayne Brown again showed why he's been chosen as England's No.1 keeper with a fine full length save to keep out Alex Sykes� superb overhead kick in the last minute.
Saturday 17 March 2001
Chester City 0 Hednesford Town 1
Attendance: 1,451 Half-time 0-0

Chester City: Brown, Fisher, Doughty, Ruffer, P.Beesley, Lancaster, Carden, Porter (Wright 79), Ruscoe (Haarhoff 50), Whitehall (Woods 75), M.Beesley. Subs not used: Moss, Woodyatt.
Hednesford Town:
Gayle, Evans, Colkin, Bradley, Lake, Haran, Robinson, Sedgemore, Norbury, Leadbeater (Davis 90), Bagshaw. Subs not used: Goodwin, Craven, Airdrie, Brown.
G. Chapman (Stroud).

[Match Programme]It doesn't get much poorer than this. After last Saturday's splendid FA Trophy victory, City came down to earth with a bump with an inept and inexcusably poor performance against the bottom side that had not won since mid October.

With Paul Beesley, Steve Whitehall and Andy Porter all starting, it was a game that on paper we should have strolled. But on a cold and featureless grey day in March, matches such as these do not often go with form and so it was today.

Despite a scrappy start, there was enough to suggest early goals for City. In the second minute Whitehall sent Mark Beesley through a static Hednesford defence. He took the ball down well but his barely connected powder- puff shot sent groans of derision throughout the sparsely pockets of huddles supporters.

Chester had the better of the first half dominating possession and it was encouraging to see both Porter and Carden made good use of the freedom that the visitor's rather disorganised midfield allowed. Ruscoe looked as though he would be have his best game for quite some time making many interceptions and making some purposeful moves. Matt Doughty fed by Paul Beesley made his customary bursts down the left and Ruffer and Lancaster seemed to have the game well in control.

On eighteen minutes a cross from the left saw Whitehall rose and deliver a header which drifted inches past the post. Hednesford looked vulnerable for long periods as Chester retained possession for long periods. But as the half went on, the chances grew fewer and Hednesford managed to hang on for the last fifteen minutes with few real problems. Whilst the visitors rarely threatened, their was enough about their tall and lively striker Richard Leadbeater to sound a warning to City's defence after he created a half chance for himself following some neat foot work to get ahead of Paul Beesley.

If we thought Chester were saving the best for the second half, we were mistaken. Ruscoe surprisingly made way early for Haarhoff. Although his openings moments were quiet, there was an air of expectancy whenever he received the ball. Unfortunately opportunities to exploit his tricky skills were few. Too often the ball was delivered straight to his feet rather than in front and as he slowed down to collect the ball so the initiative was lost.

Although Chester continued to move forward, there was a void of creative thought. Mark Beesley ran well but rarely the right way and too many times Doughty's final cross fell disappointingly behind the goal. What few chances were left fell to Lancaster who must have sensed that if anyone was going to score it was more likely to be him. Twice he sent some decent snap shots in from just inside the box but they were never going to be enough to score.

Graham Barrow sensing problems sent on Woods for Whitehall and Wright for the tiring Porter. Wright drove narrowly wide but by this time, what little confidence there was on the pitch had visibly drained away. Without Ruscoe and Whitehall, City's main source of any creative play, our attacking options were greatly reduced. It was one of those days that you felt City would never score and to be truthful we never came that close.

To add some balance to the picture, Hednesford had their chances. Doughty headed off the line and Brown made an excellent point blank save in a rare period of Hednesford pressure as City's defence showed it could play just as badly as its attack. Just when you thought it couldn't happen, of course it did. Hednesford broke up field. Chester organised themselves effectively and appeared have the measure of their attack. But as their player ran across the box, Ruffer, anonymous for much of the second half stuck out a foot and brought him down. His protests suggested innocence but given his colleagues were close in support, it was a chance he need not have taken.

We all hoped that Wayne might pull us out of this one but this was not to be. Jake Sedgemore's penalty was well taken and his sense of delight was shared with the small band of vocal supporters behind the bare away end. It was red faces all round to add to the red noses of the night before.

All in all it was a miserable performance. Without wishing to sound uncharitable, Hednesford were a poor side. They looked like a team near the bottom of the division and it is hard to see them bouncing back from relegation first time next season if that is the way their fortune goes.

But Chester were equally poor and it is equally hard to see them as promotion contenders next season unless greater attacking instinct is developed. Far too often Chester relied on tired unimaginative runs that were badly supported and finished off with a weak final ball. It is a case of back to basics for many of the players who were mostly woeful on the day.

In a week when Sky TV have announced they are going to screen live a minimum of ten Conference games next season, let us hope that when they come to the Deva we will be offered better stuff than this.

Tim Savidge

Tuesday 13 March 2001
Southport 1 Chester City 0

Attendance: 1,279 Half-time 1-0

Southport: Dickinson, Clark, Guyett, Bolland, Lane, Grayston, Marsh, Gouk, Elam (Whittaker 61), Arnold (Teale 76), Parke. Subs not used: Furlong, O'Brien, Maamria.
Chester City:
Brown, Ruffer, Gaunt (Porter 64), Woods, Lancaster, Doughty (Moss 64), Carden, Ruscoe, Fisher, M.Beesley, Whitehall (Haarhoff 64). Subs not used: Woodyatt, Priestly.
G.Simpson (Westhill).

A case of after the Lord Mayor's show for City, who, three days after knocking Southport out of the FA Trophy turned in a poor performance in losing at Haig Avenue as Southport completed the Conference double over Chester. City played with Matt Woods, Steve Whitehall and Mark Beesley up front, but, once again left livewire Jimmy Haarhoff on the bench.

The Sandgrounders had in fact hit the woodwork twice in the opening stages with both Parke and Gouk going close to opening the scoring, and City also had Craig Gaunt to thank for clearing another Bolland effort off the line with Wayne Brown rooted to the spot.

A Southport goal seemed inevitable and it came on 28 minutes when Simon Parke headed home from close ranger after another Mike Marsh corner had rebounded off the crossbar causing all sorts of trouble.

Mark Beesley had City's only effort on goal in the opening minutes with Dickinson saving easily after good play from Whitehall and Woods.

Carl Ruffer had a golden chance to equalise ten minutes before the break but his volley, following a Scott Ruscoe free kick, from just six yards out was saved by Dickinson.

Dickinson saved superbly again after the break, Martyn Lancaster's pinpoint cross was met by Matt Woods looping header that seemed destined for the top corner.

In an effort to shake things up Graham Barrow made a treble substitution on 64 minutes but it was the home side who had much the better of the game.

Arnold and Lane were both given too much space and allowed shots on goal, and, at the other end Mark Beesley screwed a sot wide after being put through by Paul Carden.

City manager Graham Barrow, a former Southport player, wasn't a happy man after the game: "We didn't play particularly well on Saturday and we were really struggling tonight. I thought the players would be up for it but particularly now that we are in the semi-finals of the F.A. Trophy, but our overall performance was disappointing."

Saturday 10 March 2001
Chester City 1 Southport 0
FA Umbro Trophy Quarter Final
Attendance: 3,204 Half-time 0-0

Chester City: Brown, Moss (J.Haarhoff 49 (Porter 88)), Doughty, Woods, Ruffer, Gaunt, Carden, Fisher, M.Beesley, Whitehall (Wright 90), Ruscoe. Subs not used: Able, Woodyatt.
Dickinson, Lane, O'Brien (Grayston 55), Clark, Guyett, Bolland, Marsh, Gouk, Arnold, Parke (Maamria 84), Elam (Furlong 84). Subs not used: Teale, Morgan.
R.Pollock (Maghull).

[FA Trophy]Southport are still the only team to have won at the Deva this season and, just like their League match here, they played well and frustrated Chester for large parts of the game. With impeccable timing, however, Matt Woods stole the tie from the jaws of a replay with one of the more dramatic winners Chester have enjoyed for a long while.

Gaunt, Ruffer and Woods played in the centre of the defence with Moss and Doughty in the wing back role. Haarhoff was, surprisingly, left on the bench by Barrow – holding him in reserve for later. It was clearly going to be a tight game with little time to dwell on the ball. Ruscoe worked tirelessly in a packed midfield and even eclipsed the experienced Mike Marsh. Southport weaved intricate patterns in their forward play and the busy Arnold threatened danger with his neat approach play.

Whitehall curved a free kick round the defensive wall but also comfortably wide of the post. At the other end Parke went through on the inside left channel. With a despairing lunge Matty Woods missed the ball and made slight contact with Parke inside the area. But, though the big forward went down, the ref saw fit not to award a penalty. I have seen them given! We were grateful for the benefit of the doubt.

There was an even bigger let off later when Moss made a superb last ditch tackle on the six yard line when Marsh looked certain to score. This was after Parke had proved a nuisance at the near post and Brown had been drawn into trouble.

Ruscoe had City's most promising opening after he carried the ball through himself. Dickinson saved his shot comfortably.

[Match Programme]Ruffer was rightly booked when, after dribbling the ball out of danger, he lost it and followed through with a wild tackle. Soon after he was joined in the book by a flurry of Southport names. First Bolland was cautioned for clattering into the back of Whitehall for the third time. Then, in a book-one-get-one-free deal, Lane and O'Brien were both booked for attempting to scythe down Matt Doughty. Marsh then joined them after a scandalously OTT tackle on the same player.

Soon after half time, Barrow unleashed Jimmy Haarhoff on the visitors. Moss was the unlucky one to give way. Southport knew all about Jimmy's threat, having been run ragged by him in the Nationwide Varieties match. Soon Grayston was brought on to do a man-to-man job on him. Jimmy was given little room by his shadow but still caused problems for the visitors. Beesley found more room on the flanks and turned in some forceful wing play. A couple of times his cross into the box let him down. But one beautiful low centre was just glanced off Whitehall's toe by a defender and came out to Fisher – who ballooned it over the stand.

Whitehall saw his header hit the foot of the post after a good cross by Fisher. At the other end, Southport, urged on by their travelling army also had a couple of near misses. Both fell to Parke who shot wide. When Parke returned to do some defensive duty he seemed to body check Gaunt as he came in to meet a cross but the ref waved away screams for a penalty.

At last Jimmy won a free kick on the right after some rough treatment. From the resulting corner, Woods picked up the loose ball in the box and fired it in through a forest of legs, brushing Whitehall's shin on its way onto the post and in.

One of the longest and most ecstatic celebrations I have ever known at the Deva followed. Everyone knew the goal was decisive.

Barrow came on the pitch to celebrate with the players and heard the crowd chant his name. He was clearly delighted. Mark Wright, on the other hand, was beside himself with fury at the referee for all the bookings. Southport earned seven which will cost them a fine. But, in truth, there was very little he could complain about.

Our celebrations were also tinged with the strong speculation that Terry Smith is on his way out of the Deva for the last time. His increasingly bizzarre programme notes contained heavy hints of a valediction and a parting of the ways. An announcement is expected soon that the club has been sold to an anonymous Liverpool businessman.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 3 March 2001
Hayes 1 Chester City 3
Attendance: 784 Half-time 0-1

Hayes: Gothard, Molesley, Watts (Coppard 85), Sterling, Goodliffe, (Telemarque 83), Nyamah, Moore, Mckimm, Preston, Quinn, B.Hodson (M.Hodson 63). Subs not used: Gallen, Bezhadi.
Chester City:
Priestley, Moss, Lancaster, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Doughty, Carden, Fisher (Woodyatt 90), Ruscoe (Whitehall 81), Woods, M.Beesley (Haarhoff 75). Subs not used: Berry Wright.
D.Spicer (Totten).

[Match programme]Chester improved their rather previous unimpressive away record on Saturday with a convincing away win at lowly Hayes.

At first glance the small Church Road ground is a shock to the system as the reality of being in the Conference hits home, add a biting cold wind and threatening snow showers and you have a true test of the supporters loyalty and eagerness!!

In truth this was a poor game with Chester not really having to move through the gears to win the game, as Hayes looked a relegation threatened side. Graham Barrow rested a couple of players by leaving them on the bench, choosing to pack the midfield and again using Mattie Woods as the target man.

Playing with a strong wind Chester dominated the first half, with Paul Beesley and Scott Ruscoe going close with headers. The best chance though fell to Mattie Woods who headed straight at Gothard when clean through. It came as no surprise when City took the lead on 38 minutes through Mark Beesley following a cross by the impressive Darren Moss.

But Chester being Chester, they sat back at the start of the second half and let the opposition back into the game. However it still came as some sort of surprise when Hayes equalised through the veteran striker Jimmmy Quinn. and the signs were ominous. However not to worry,as Hayes committed suicide at the back as keeper Gothard got himself in a tangle over a simple back pass and wrestled young Mark Beesley to the ground, as he was about to score. Gothard was sent off, and Beesley scored from the spot passed the stand in keeper Hodson.

Incredibly, Hodson then conceded another penalty by bringing down Woods as he tried to round him. Hodson was booked (the correct decision) and Woods continued his fine scoring record (!) as he made it 3-1. Barrow then threw on Whitehall and Haarhoff, who presumably had been rested with the Trophy game in mind next week and as the part timers of Hayes visibly tired playing with 10 men Chester created a few half chances.

In conclusion, a good confidence boosting result for City, with the now more relevant cup competitions in mind. Barrow has rotated the players very well in the last few games.

PS. We have scored five penalties in the Conference this season, all from different players. Is this some sort of record?

Alan Parry-Jones
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