fans queued patently along a muddy track to gain access
to the Red Lion Foods Stadium. They did so under the gaze
of hordes of special constables and security guards but
there was never a hint of the crowd trouble that had marred
Chester FC’s first ever fixture as a reformed club
almost three years ago. It was never likely to be repeated,
being the stupidity of just a few over-inebriated hotheads,
but the authorities were taking no chances.
Once inside the stadium City supporters were confronted
with a stonking queue for the burger bar and a view of
the popular side now covered and seated with a new stand
– much changed from our last visit. Manager Neil
Young was also returning to the club he continues to hold
great affection for – having led them to promotion
prior to joining Chester.
But there was no room for sentiment as Chester began battle
with the Seagulls for much needed points. The home side
had no less than five former Chester players in their
ranks – all with points to prove no doubt but, even
more, desperate to avoid the drop. Chester applied the
majority of the pressure in the opening stages, almost
scoring in the first minute. But clear-cut chances were
rare. Jarman struck low and true from the edge of the
box and Sanna almost let it squirm underneath his body
before recovering to save the day. At the other end Ellison
nipped in front of Danby to cause flutters in the visitors’
It was Tony Gray who made the vital breakthrough, springing
the offside trap and racing through the inside left channel.
His first effort was parried by Sanna but only back to
Gray who finished to the delight of the travelling supporters.
After the break Bay pressed City back and forced a number
of corners. There was unease while the lead was still
slender. The tension was relieved a great deal when Matty
McGinn curled a superbly taken free kick from a long way
out into the top corner of Sanna’s net. Soon afterwards
City capitalised further when Gray picked himself up from
a tough challenge to turn and pick his spot for his second
goal and then completed a hat-trick with the faintest
of flick-ons from Lewis Turner’s driven shot.
Neil Young’s composure was rattled first by referee
Bennett’s decision to award Bay a penalty,which
ex-Chorley forward Payne despatched with a shimmy, then
a very harsh booking for substitute Marc Williams. But
all this was set aside when Antoni Sarcevic put a gloss
finish on to proceedings by racing down the left flank
from one end of the pitch to another to score a stunning
Blues supporters made their way home contentedly in the
chilly sunshine to enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend
and anticipating another local derby with Altrincham on
All Fools’ Day.
Chester extended their unbeaten league run to 26 matches
following this victory over Gloucester City. Manager Neil
Young made two changes from the side that defeated Harrogate
Town in their last league outing. Lewis Turner, making
his full debut, and Dave Hankin came in for Dom Collins
and Brendon Daniels.
In-form striker Tony Gray gave the hosts a perfect start
as he opened the scoring in the eighth minute, with his
third goal in four games. He met a Matty McGinn cross
to head past ‘keeper Mike Green and then turning
the ball home from a narrow angle.
Gloucester's only effort of note in
the opening period came ten minutes after the goal as
Darren Edwards tested John Danby with a good header
that produced an equally good save.
Nathan Jarman sent a snap-shot into
the side netting before referee Andy Hendley
had to step in to calm things on the bench as words
were exchanged between coach Gary Powell and Gloucester
manager David Mehew.
Two minutes before the break Chester doubled their lead.
Jarman fed McGinn who raced to the byline before crossing
for Gray at the far post, however Gloucester defender
Tom Hamblin turned the ball into his own net.
hankin almost added a third in first half stoppage time
but saw his effort blocked by Danny Andrew.
Chester continued to create efforts
after the break with both Jarman and Gray both failing
to trouble Green from good goal scoring positions. manager
Young introduced Lee Trundle for Jarman and he was unlucky
to see a lob beat Green but hit the post before being
McGinn saw a long range effort fly
just over the bar and saw another lobbed attempt caught
by Green as Chester turned the screw. Gray forced a
fine save from‘keeper Green and Ashley Williams,
on for Hankin, hit the bar following neat build up play
involving Trundle and George Horan.
The last chance of the game saw Antoni
Sarcevic force the overworked Green into another save
deep into stoppage time. The victory leaves Chester
16 points clear of second placed Guiseley, who have
two games in hand on the Blues.
After a scrappy first half this semi-final of the Cheshire
Cup developed into a hard-fought and ultimately entertaining
encounter which led to City reaching the final of a trophy
they have not won in over eighty years.
In the light of City’s early knockouts from both
the FA Trophy and the FA Cup, involvement in the County
competition has assumed greater importance, giving Neil
Young the opportunity to rotate his squad for them to
accrue match fitness. Once again several changes were
made to the team for tonight; there was no Sarcevic, Scott
Brown starting instead. There was also a debut for Lewis
Turner, Nathan’s brother, at right back –
but as they are identical twins we only really had the
announcer’s word to take for it.
Turner certainly caught the eye, in the first half especially,
as he flew down the wing and combined well with Dave Hankin.
Lee Trundle had a couple of early opportunities to score
but on both occasions his efforts were parried by Cooper
in the Witton goal. Albion, urged on by a noisy following
in the far end of the main stand – where we were
all located – pressed City quite high up the field
trying to squeeze Chester into hitting long passes. In
this they largely succeeded - making things difficult
for the Blues.
At half time Cleggy gave scores from around the country
and made the announcement “For those of you who
are Roman Catholics” that a new Pope had been chosen
and that he was from Argentina. This made me cast my mind
back to other occasions when a Chester match has co-incided
with momentous world news. I could only think of the occasion
when we played away at Peterborough (16th Feb 1983 –
we won with a goal from Clive Wilson) and the announcer
raised the biggest cheer of the evening when he told everyone
that Coronation Street’s Ken and Deidre Barlow had
got back together again.
Witton continued to stubbornly resist City’s probings
until, after a quick exchange of passes, Marc Williams
unlocked an opportunity and curled a precise finish just
inside the post. A few minutes later Williams returned
the compliment to Trundle who scored with a sublime chip
over the keeper’s head. The contest was all over
when Williams again ran through and, despite the attentions
of a trailing defender, shrugged off his challenge to
score a third.
Competitive it had certainly been – boiling over
at times. Andrews, the Chester born winger,was booked
for a hot headed challenge and then tangled with Horan
minutes later which resulted in City’s skipper being
booked. Horan continued to chunter at the decision and
when the referee called him across for another long lecture
moments later, many of us feared the worst, but he remained
on the field. In the closing stages Jarman was also shown
the yellow card for protesting at another seemingly inconsistent
It meant that many people left the game moaning about
the referee, which was a shame as it masked the achievement
of City reaching the cup final. A final is a final after
all and to be celebrated at an, as yet, uncertain date
and venue. Are we still enjoying this season? –
Is the Pope an Argentinean?
9 March Harrogate
Town 1 Chester 3
Attendance: 815 Half Time 0-1
Harrogate Town: MacGillivray, Samuels,
Bloomer, Killock, Merris, Platt, Dean (Elam 64), Bolland,
Knowles, Nowakowski (Hardy 75), Chilaka. Subs ot used:
White, Youhill, da Veiga. Chester: Danby, Collins, Horan, Linwood,
McGinn, D.Williams, Daniels (Hankin 58), N.Turner, Sarcevic,
Gray, Jarman (A.Williams 90). Subs not used: Trundle,
Howard, M.Williams. Referee: Adrian Holmes (Castleford).
Chester chalked off another three points in their quest
for Conference Premier football with this well deserved
victory at play-off chasing Harrogate Town. The referee
Adrian Holmes conducted two pitch inspections before the
teams took to the pitch that had surface water in places.
the Blues struggling to find their feet early on the
slippery surface, Dominic Knowles saw a shot slide just
wide of the post as the hosts looked to press home an
early advantage with Chib Chilaka also being denied
by the Chester defence as the striker pressed.
Matty McGinn saw a trademark long-range
effort just clear the bar as Chester responded to the
early Town pressure. Craig MacGillivray was forced to
save an Antoni Sarcevic effort and Tony Gray steered
a nathan Jarman cross just wide as Chester looked to
capitalise on a decent spell of pressure.
Eight minutes before the break Chester
scored the opening goal. A McGinn free kick into the
box fell to Jarman at the far post and his overhead
kick was too hot to handle for MacGillivray as he let
the ball slip through his hands and cross the line.
Gray should have added the second
minutes after the break as MacGillivray’s save
from a George Horan header fell to the striker but he
steered his shot over the bar from close range. Minutes
later though Gray did get his name on the score sheet
as a delightful left wing chipped cross from McGinn
was met by the striker to send a looping header over
MacGillivray and into the far corner of the net.
McGinn saw a superb free-kick bounce
off the bar onto the goal line and back into play as
Chester began to turn the screw and on 72 minutes they
added a third goal as Dave Hankin’s teasing right
sided cross was chested home by the in rushing McGinn
at the far post for a well deserved goal for the defender.
Three minutes later harrogate scored
a quality goal of their own as Dominic Knowles’
free-kick beat John Danby and found the back of the
net via the left post. Danby was in action again soon
after denying Chilaka as Town looked for a second but
Chester held firm to record another priceless victory
on their quest for a third successive championship.
A goal from captain George Horan, ten minutes into extra-time,
steered Chester through to a home Cheshire Senior Cup
semi-final clash with Witton Albion after the Blues defeat
Tranmere Rovers by that single goal.
visitors, who had switched the venue from Prenton Park
to Chester, fielded a side containing six players who
had tasted first team football for the League One promotion
chasing side this season. In charge was Shaun Garnett,
who had a loan-spell at Chester back in 1992.
The Blues were in control for much
of the opening period, good work from Tony Gray forced
a save from Jason Mooney, a giant at 6’ 9”
in the Rovers goal, the ball fell to fellow striker
Marc Williams who forced Mooney to save again.
Williams saw another effort blocked
by Chris Lynskey before he sent Antoni Sarcevic through
on goal but the midfielder pulled his shot wide with
just Mooney to beat as the sides finished the first
Matty McGinn had a great chance to
open the scoring minutes after the restart but the defender
planted a header wide of Mooney and the goal after meeting
a cross from full-back Dave Hankin.
Martin Fearon in the Chester goal
was called into his first meaningful action midway through
the second half collecting a long ranger effort from
striker Cole Stockton – a player who has interested
Blues manager Neil Young in the past. A spell of possession
saw Rovers come more into the match and Wes Baynes made
a last-ditch clearance to deny James Joyce giving the
visitors the lead.
Marc Williams flashed an effort just
wide following good approach play by Danny Williams
and the final effort of the 90 minutes fell to substitute
Iain Howard who almost scored seconds after coming on
Ten minutes into extra-time the deadlock
was finally broken as Howard’s cross into the
box following a cleared corner was controlled by Horan
who turned to shoot home with the ball taking a deflection
on its was past Mooney into the net.
Dom Collins has a great chance
to make the game safe but the substitute blazed over
when a goal seemed certain and the hard working Gray
was unlucky to see a shot bounce free off the bar with
two minutes remaining but the Blues held on to book
a semi-final date with Witton Albion.