evening ended in bitter disappointment for Chester as
they dropped two more points in their quest for promotion.
Twice they worked really hard to forge ahead against strong
and well-drilled opponents only to be pegged back each
time due to lack of concentration.
The pattern of scoring in each half mirrored the other
with Chester taking the lead fifteen minutes after kick
off and Curzon equalising five minutes before the end
each time. City competed well in a tight midfield battle
and forced their opponents onto the back foot. They took
the lead through a bit of opportunism by Michael Wilde
who was first to react to the knock down from a looping
cross and flicked the ball towards goal. A wrong-footed
Carnell could only help it into the net.
If the Ashton keeper was caught out for that one he made
amends a few minutes later as he clawed Wilde’s
glancing header away at full stretch. Robbie Booth went
on a mazy run and took the ball past three or four opponents
before firing a shot straight at Carnell.
City’s combative display was epitomised by a stupendous
tackle by Ashley Williams. He tracked his man like an
exocet missile and his timing was perfect as he won the
ball whilst demolishing his victim. The Exacta was buzzing
for ages afterwards.
The competitive nature threatened to boil over though
when the referee had to lecture Horan and Evans for jostling
for position too fiercely at a free kick. Both were lucky
to escape without a yellow card. Perhaps distracted by
this though, when Birch floated in the free kick it evaded
all the onrushing forwards and crept in at the far post
for a soft equaliser. Minutes later Judge tipped a rasping
drive over the bar.
Kick off was delayed for the second half whilst a replacement
official was sought. Despite all kinds of spurious offers
from those on the Harry McNally Terrace, a genuine, registered
referee was found and and the game could continue.
City continued to press. Wilde broke free on the right
and centred for Simm but Carnell just palmed the ball
away. Then Simm won a free kick on the right as a defender
handled the ball. Howard whipped the ball in, debutant
Powell flicked on and Wilde tucked the ball into the back
of the net for his and Chester's second.
Neil Young, almost immediately changed the shape of the
team. Off came the industrious Simm for young loanee Mackreth
from Tranmere Rovers. Howard was then moved into midfield
to provide some cover in an area where Curzon were threatening
to dominate. Mackreth it was who came closest to extending
City’s lead when he met Wilde’s header and
knocked it towards goal only for Carnell to beat it away.
Booth then picked up the loose ball on the edge of the
area and shot low – this time Carnell stretched
out a leg and keep the ball out again.
With hindsight, this double save proved crucial as Curzon
Ashton stole another equaliser in the dying minutes. Stones
and Judge combined to concede an unnecessary corner. The
first kick was knocked out to the right again and from
the resultant cross, substitute Moore glanced a looping
header into the far corner giving Judge no chance. It
was a cruel outcome for City who had all worked really
hard to achieve the right result and Curzon Ashton were
no mean side – but it felt like two points lost
rather than one gained.
as Chester were playing Harrogate Railway Athletic, a
team founded by locomotive workers, it seemed appropriate
for me to make a rare pilgrimage by train for this early
I must admit, I spent a fair proportion of the match wondering
if my crack of dawn start had been worthwhile as Chester
made heavy weather of this home win.
The opening spell was like several Chester matches I’ve
attended, with the Blues having most of the ball and waiting
for an opening to appear through the heavyweight Harrogate
However, it was the Yorkshiremen who took the lead when
one of those big defenders, much-tattoed Chris Harrett,
found space for a goal-bound volley from about 30 yards
out. His goal was a cracker and the handful of Harrogate
fans who made the trip, including several in fancy dress,
were deservedly delirious.
Chester responded immediately and both Iain Howard and
Michael Wilde had half-chances, before the Blues finally
equalised. It was a strange goal, which came after the
Harrogate goalkeeper lost the ball in the middle of a
melee of players in the box. As he flapped at the ball
it hit George’s Horan’s back and rebounded
into the back of the net.
There was a split second before the Harry Mac Stand celebrated
as it wasn’t clear there’d been a goal until
the Chester players starting running back towards the
half-way line for the re-start.
Not long after, Chester had the ball in the back of the
net again, thanks to Wilde. But the linesman flagged for
off-side to rule it out.
At half-time, you’d have thought the odds were definitely
in Chester’s favour. But that all changed just five
minutes into the half when a header from Harrogate’s
Steve Palfrey went past Richard Whiteside and into the
top corner to give the away side the lead again.
There was then a very nervy spell when I was decidedly
regretting my early start as each Chester foray forward
was stopped by the resolute Harrogate defence. Harrogate’s
number 3 looked like he had the turning circle of a number
93 bus, but he couldn’t quite be beaten.
The match started getting a little ill-tempered and Harrogate’s
manager was sent to the stands from the dugout. His side
started getting wound up, and goalscorer Harrett was red-carded
for his second bookable offence.
I finally felt the tide was turning towards the Blues
and Chris Simm was rewarded for his tireless effort. He
had been seen all over the pitch – making himself
a real handful for Harrogate. His 63rd minute goal came
from a header after a cross from Chester man-of-the-match
And it was Simm who sealed the 3-2 win for Chester. His
second goal followed a corner, when a pass from Bradley
Barnes left him room to fire into the net through a crowd
Simm actually had the chance for a hat-trick not long
after, when he greedily had a shot on goal rather than
cross the ball across the box.
But Harrogate, who by now were featuring a substitute
who made number 3 look trim, were a beaten side by then.
They did win a free kick towards the end, which set Chester
nerves on edge again. But it missed the target and soon
after another Chester win was chalked up. There was now
the little matter of the Wales v England sideshow to watch
before I could look forward to my rail journey back home.
After a draw and a defeat in their last two games, Chester
were anxious to get back to winning ways in this, the
first of three home games.
first and foremost there was a minute’s silence
before the game kicked off in memory of Trevor Storton
– an inspirational centre-back in City’s
highest achieving side in the seventies – who
Woodley took the game to Chester at the kick off and
eyes were on Nathan Neequaye who has been in phenomenal
scoring form since signing from Mossley in January.
City’s nerves were soon settled though when Woodley
‘keeper Higginbotham took his eye off a long punt
from Aspin and dropped the ball kindly for Booth to
sidefoot home from the edge of the area.
The visitors responded strongly and as Booth stumbled,
and their number eleven stole past him. As Booth tried
to get up the winger went down in the penalty area –
only to be booked for diving. Much of the first half
was littered with offside flags, and the occasional
injury and the game had a stop -start pattern. Referee
Copeland produced more yellow cards for the visitors,
first for Bockarie who strayed back onto the pitch after
receiving treatment – he seemed to have been clamouring
to come on for ages – and Woodley’s number
six for hacking down Simm in full flow. Bockarie and
Wilde were having a continuous tussle for the ball and
the match developed a niggling quality. A Woodley defender
went down on the goal line but the referee, after consulting
his assistant took no action.
Half time arrived then with City just edging a nervy
affair. After the break the Blues came out determined
to increase their advantage. Barnes and Williams redoubled
their efforts in midfield and got the engine room going
at full throttle as City pressed Woodley back.
Chester got the goal they craved soon after as Wilde
capped a superb flowing move down the right with a diving
header into the near corner of the goal. The celebrations
after what must be one of the goals of the season were
long and loud. Aspin, who had one of his best matches
in a Chester shirt started the move, Simm flicked the
ball out to Booth and his sensational cross was impeccably
converted by Wilde.
As Simm broke down the left onto Howard’s through
ball, Bockarie came across and clumsily checked his
run. It was a second yellow card for the Woodley centre
half and, just to rub salt into Woodley’s wounds,
City scored a third from the resultant free kick. The
ball was cleared to Howard who chipped a cross for Horan
to nod back across goal and Wilde notched another headed
The game was now over as a contest and City fans could
breath more easily. New signing Barlow was given a run
out and showed promise as he got behind the defence
a couple of times. Woodley were a tough nut to crack
but Chester's determination to stay ahead won the day
in the end.
long unbeaten away league record came to an end on Saturday
when they were beaten 2-1 by Lancaster City. It was the
second defeat of the season at the Giant Axe following
the extra-time President’s Cup defeat last month.
Manager Neil Young
welcomed back Michael Wilde, Iain Howard and Ashley
Williams all from injury for the match which again attracted
another large 500+ following of Blues supporters.
It was the home side that opened the
scoring with their first attempt on goal after just
six minutes as Billy McKenna headed home after goalkeeper
Adam Judge has blocked his first effort on goal.
Chester struggled to find any rhythm
in the opening period but still created chances to level
as the half wore on. Wilde saw a goal bound header cleared
off the line by Sam Nightingale and later good work
by Robbie Booth set up Wilde whose shot was well saved
by Martin Fearon in the Lancaster goal.
The Blues finished the half the strongest
and carried that threat into the second period. Skipper
George Horan went close as Chester forced a series of
corners and Chester deserved to get on level terms when
Michael Taylor, playing instead of Carl Ruffer, headed
his first goal for the club in the 53rd minute.
It looked liked Chester would step
up a gear and push on for a win but a mistake three
minutes later gifted the hosts what proved to be the
winning goal. Judge receiving a back pass drilled the
ball straight at the onrushing Danny Hattersley who
controlled the loose ball before slotting it into the
Young made changes bringing
on strikers Chris Simm and Kyle Wilson but they couldn’t
force the breakthrough needed as Chester suffered a
first league defeat for the first time in 15 matches.
12 March Chester
0 Witton Albion 0
Evo-Stik Division One North
Attendance: 2,716 Half Time 0-0
Judge, Aspin (Jones 78), Horan, Ruffer, Stones,
Beck (Wilson 78), Barnes, Field (C.Williams 63), Booth,
Gritton, Simm. Subs not used: St Juste, Taylor. Witton Albion: Cooper, Gardner, Pritchard,
Kearney, Doughty, Hancock (Wood 88), Bennion, MacPherson,
Botham, Foulkes, Harrison (Kinsey 82). Subs not used:
Ablett, Tomkinson, Smith. Referee: A.Scregg.
When we look back at the
end of the season, I’m sure this will be one match
most of us will want to forget as Chester were lucky
to scrape a point from this Cheshire derby.
Play-off chasing Witton Albion looked most likely to
score throughout the game and their backline, marshalled
by hefty player-coach Brian Pritchard (veteran of 704
appearances), remained resolute to any Chester attack.
The first Chester attempt fell to Bradley Barnes after
a pass from Chris Simm. However Barnes’s strike
just touched the crossbar. The next serious opportunity
fell to Simm himself, when he was gifted a clear strike
on goal in the box. But a Witton defender got back just
in time and blocked the shot on the line.
There was little else to remember from the first half,
as Witton seemed to pack midfield and any potential
Chester advances seemed to be snuffed out in that area.
You could certainly tell Iain Howard and Ashley Williams
were missing and Chester were guilty of several mis-placed
The half-time spectator chat seemed to centre around
not worrying about the first half performance as we’d
‘come good’ in the final 45 minutes. But
I'm afraid those predictions didn't come true.
The second half had barely begun when Witton had one
of those opportunities that seemed harder to miss than
score. The ball pinged about in the box between about
three Witton players, with Chester not getting in to
stop them, when Calum Botham finally pounced and somehow
missed the target.
Not long after, the Chester defence were caught napping
again and it led to another “how did he miss that?...”
moment when Ben Harrison put the ball over from around
three yards out.
Chris Williams came on for Tom Field on the 63rd minute,
but he didn’t make any serious impression. Chester
did have another chance, through Simm, but his half-volley
was well saved by Witton’s Matt Cooper.
Michael Aspin was replaced by Stuart Jones on the 78th
minute after a fulsome challenge left Aspin injured.
Kyle Wilson also came on, in place of Steven Beck, but
he didn't make any significant difference.
It was Richard Foulkes, a Chester player on-loan at
Witton, who actually came closest to getting on the
scoresheet. He had a great strike, which was well stopped
on the line by Stuart Jones.
When the full-time whistle went it gave Witton the honour
of being the first team to keep a cleansheet against
Chester. I can’t deny that they deserved their
hard-won point and it’s certainly not impossible
we could be playing each other again next season.
An entertaining game with ample chances at both ends
eventually unfolded as another win for the Blues on
their quest for the championship. Both sides made creditable
efforts to play the ball on the ground as the blustery
and unpredictable wind made playing conditions difficult.
City – though one hesitates to call them this
with Salford’s small but enthusiastic band of
followers chanting “You’re not City anymore”
proving that there is still room for irony in football
– attacked the Harry Mac end. Robbie Booth was
the first to try his luck with a shot from the edge
of the area – it was a taste of things to come
as he put in a star performance as man of the match.
His goal and Chester’s third after an hour gave
the home side some breathing space and capped a great
display. Booth cut in from the left and let fly with
a right foot shot from outside the area. It went in
off the inside of the left hand post. Even then Chester’s
win was not completely secure as Salford had proved
dangerous opponents, creating several clear cut chances
in a more open game than Chester would have liked.
The first opportunity for the Ammies fell to Foster
who capitalised on some dithering between defence and
midfield and burst through on goal. Judge did well to
save. Later Morning cut in from the right and shot against
the right hand post in a mirror image of Booth’s
later goal. Unfortunately for Morning, the ball span
across the goal but not into it. By this time the score
was 2-1, Chester taking the lead with Beck’s superb
finish out of nothing on the edge of the box. His left
foot shot was perfectly placed low inside the post.
Giggs equalised when his free kick just beat the defensive
wall and “yorked” Judge’s dive. But
Chester’s lead was restored shortly afterwards
when Bradley Barnes, fresh from replacing the injured
Ashley Williams, skewered Salford’s defence with
a superb pass that had Simm skipping clear and holding
his nerve to finish crisply past the advancing keeper.
Salford impressed with their relentless work rate and
skilful forward play but couldn’t add to their
player-manager’s solitary goal. Morning shot wide
having carved open another chance in the first half
and Foster looked likely to score when picked out by
Giggs’ tantalising pass after half-time but Judge
– pushing Booth close for man of the match –
Despite signs of weariness in some aspects of their
play, Chester can be pleased with this result, hard
fought as it was. The game was so absorbing that even
the referee did not notice Salford sneaking on a fourth
substitute – aptly named Tinker – in stoppage
was a terrific result for Chester who completed the
double over promotion rivals Skelmersdale United with
captain George Horan heading the winner in the second
half to the delight of another large away following
in the 1,171 crowd, a record attendance for the ground.
Blues manager Neil Young once again
adopted an attacking 4-3-3 formation that brought its
midweek rewards at Clitheroe, making one change in the
process as Bradley Barnes replaced Tom Field who took
his place on the bench.
With the division’s top two free-scoring sides
meeting at Stormy Corner, is was perhaps inevitable,
that it was a cagey opening period with both sides eyeing
each other up, chances were few and far between. Chris
Almond had a run at goal snuffed out by Horan who timed
his tackle on the edge of the box well.
Skem came close to opening the scoring on 26 minutes
when Matty McGinn hit the post with an angled cross
shot that beat Adam Judge before the Chester defence
cleared their lines.
Ten minutes later Chester saw their
best chance of the half as Horan rose to meet a Stones
corner but saw his header cleared off the line by Paul
Referee Stott waved away Chester’s
loud appeals for a penalty in the 43rd minute as Chris
Simm fell under a Dave Roberts challenge in the box.
Moments later Simm was in the action again when he saw
a close range volley brilliantly saved by Tom Broadhurst
in the home goal.
Skem started the second period well
and once again Horan was on hand to break up a move
involving Ryan Wade. It was the home fans that were
appealing for a penalty on 52 minutes when Carl Ruffer
clashed with Gareth Peet but play continued with Judge
saving well from Almond.
Top scorer Michael Wilde saw an effort
ruled out for offside, and the striker also saw another
effort cleared by Roberts as the game began to open
up a bit. Bradley Barnes was well placed to clear a
Steve Akrigg effort off the line.
There was controversy in the 61st
minute when Horan pulled back Wade as he moved in on
goal at the edge of the area. Many referee’s would
have shown the Blues skipper a red card by Stott administered
Horan took advantage of his good fortune
ten minutes later when he scored the all-important goal.
Stones swung in a right wing corner and as Wilde’s
clever run to the near post took two defenders with
him it left Horan free to power a header over Brocklehurst
and in just under the bar.
The Blues defence stood firm
for the final fifteen minutes, Judge saved an Akrigg
effort at the second attempt as Almond lurked for the
from Steven Beck, Carl Ruffer, Chris Simm, Martin Gritton
and Ashley Williams seal an impressive away performance
from the Blues who inflicted another 5-0 scoreline over
play-off chasing Clitheroe just two-and-a-half weeks
after a similar result at home.
Manager Neil Young gave a full debut
to Martin Gritton up front and his experience told as
he scored one and set up three of the five goals. Gritton,
along with Michael Wilde and Chris Simm formed a formidable
front line and they got after their hosts right from
the off with Simm lobbing over the bar after being set-up
by Michael Aspin.
The Blues (in white) were soon on the scoresheet though
as Gritton crossed for Beck who made no mistake from
close range in the seventh minute.
The Blues continued to press and the
second goal came just five minutes later as Carl Ruffer
converted from six yards following good work from Gritton
and George Horan following a Tom Field corner. It was
the defender’s second goal in as many games.
Adam Judge was called into action
soon after collecting a Phil Eastwood effort at the
second attempt as the hosts looked to get quickly back
into the match.
There were shouts for a Chester penalty
of the half hour but referee Price waved away the appeals
following a push on Simm in the area. Michael Wilde
almost added a third when he headed just wide following
a quick break down the right involving Aspin and Simm.
Four minutes before the interval Chester
added a third. Again Gritton played his part sending
a defence splitting pass through to Beck, he was prevented
from getting a shot in through a well timed tackle but
the ball fell to Simm who slotted the ball home from
the edge of the box.
Aspin forced a great save from Zach
Hibbert before, at the other end, Judge maintained the
Blues advantage at the interval when he denied Tom Williams
with a great save following a rare defensive mix-up.
The home side started the second period
well with Judge putting in another impressive performance,
to denying both Rob Turner and Williams with fine saves.
On 55 minutes Gritton opened his Chester
account scoring with a low close range shot following
a fine right wing cross from Wilde. On the hour mark
Chester added a fifth as Ashley Williams also scored
his first goal for the club firing home from 15 yards
after build-up play involving Greg Stones and Simm.
With the game over as a contest and
another trick match on Saturday, Young made a series
of substitutions bringing on Michael Taylor, Bradley
Barnes and Robbie Booth for Field, Williams and Gritton.
The remaining chances were created
by the home side but again Judge was on hand to keep
another clean sheet and deny Clitheroe and consolation.