24 March Sutton United
3 Chester 2 Football
Attendance: 2,195 (116 Chester) Half Time: 2-0
Booked: Vose, Roberts, Crawford, Halls, Astles.
Sutton United: Butler, Beckwith, John,
Collins (Thomas A 56), Davis, Eastmond, Thomas T, Wright
(Dundas 62), Bolarinwa, Beautyman (Stearn 22), Harrison.
Subs not used: Cadogan, Walton. Chester: Firth, Hobson, Jones, Astles,
Anderson (Rowe-Turner 46), Halls, Roberts, Crawford (Mahon
77), Akintunde, White, Vose (Archer 77). Subs not used:
Jaaskelainen, Dawson. Referee: Samuel Allison.
was with a heavy heart that I arrived at Gander Green
Lane, with the feeling that Chester’s home counties
‘away days’ would soon be coming to an end.
So it was no shock to me that Chester lost 3-2, but it
was a surprise that an unremarkable Sutton team found
themselves top of the National League at full time.
The first half seemed to follow a
familiar pattern with Chester not having a single shot
on target, while on-loan keeper Andy Firth was busy
at the start of the match with a good save from an early
But Firth couldn’t do much a
few minutes later when a neat Sutton move on their 4G
pitch saw Harry Beautyman find the net to put the home
side ahead. The promotion hopefuls then had the bit
between their teeth and pressed for another, with James
Jones making a good tackle to help prevent another likely
goal. However a Ross Stearn corner near the end of the
half pinged about in the box, with the ball falling
kindly for Byron Harrison to put Sutton two ahead at
Chester, who were shooting towards
the travelling 116 fans in the second half, did make
a better fight of the last 45 minutes. A Gary Roberts’
free kick gave the away supporters some hope when Ryan
Astles headed it to James Akintunde, who hit the target
to put Chester back into the game.
But the three points seemed destined
for Sutton when a fabulous strike from Ross Stearn gave
Firth no chance and put them 3-1 ahead. However, Chester
and their fans rallied, and a foray into the box saw
Akintunde fall down in the area. The sympathetic referee
awarded Chester a penalty, which Harry White calmly
It was an exciting end to the game,
with Chester looking good for a potential point. But
the Blues couldn’t find the net for a third time
and it was a tired team which trudged off at the end,
leaving a disappointed set of supporters behind to reflect
on the realistic end of Chester’s National League
series of fine saves from Andy Firth in the Blues goal
help Chester to a point against promotion chasing Aldershot
Town. Manager Marcus Bignot made three changes to the
starting X1 with James Jones, Ross Hannah and Gary Roberts
returning at the expense of Matty Waters, James Akintunde
and Lucas Dawson.
started strong with Lewis Kinsella shooting wide from
20 yards and Josh McQuoid seeing an effort flash into
the side netting. Firth was alert to palm away a dangerous
Matt McClure cross as the Shots broke through the Blues
offside trap with ease.
At the other end Ryan Astles saw a
glancing header go just wide as he connected with a
Gary Roberts free kick following a foul on Jordan Archer.
Ten minutes before the break Firth
made a great save to deny McClure pushing his point-blank
shot onto the post before the Blues defence cleared
Minutes into the second period Emmanuel
Oyeleke saw a long range effort held by Firth and the
Shots continued to look for the opening goal.
Firth was called into action again
to this time deny Shamir Fenelon from close range. In
a rare Chester effort substitute Harry White saw an
effort from distance palmed away by Jake Cole with Andy
Halls unable to convert the loose ball.
With time running out Firth
made another terrific save to deny Oyoleke as Chester
hung on for a point their battling display deserved.
manager Marcus Bignot suffered a blow before the start
with experienced Gary Roberts having to miss the match
through injury Lucas Dawson was recalled for the midfielder
and up front James Akintunde replaced Harry White from
the X1 that lost to Dover in midweek.
The home side started brightly with both Chris Holroyd
and Scott Quigly seeing efforts blocked after the Chester
defence misplaced passes at the back. Andy Firth was well
placed to save from Paul Rutherford before Chester had
their first effort at the other end as Jordan Archer headed
over from a smart cross from Andy Halls.
It was a scrappy affair with Wrexham having a great chance
to open the scoring ten minutes before the break as Rutherford
was allowed to run through the Blues rearguard into the
box before crossing for Quigley who headed wide from ten
yards. Just before the interval Tom Crawford just failed
to touch an Akintunde cross and a half-chance was missed.
Chester started the second period well and almost too
the lead three minutes in as Dawson's effort from 25-yards
was well saved by Chris Dunn in the home goal. Archer
saw an effort tipped just wide for a corner as Chester
enjoyed their best spell of the game.
The home side fought back and Ryan Astles did well to
clear a Quigley effort off the line before Wrexham broke
the deadlock in the 61st minute as dangerman Quigley turned
on the edge of the box to fire past Firth into the bottom
Eight minutes later it was game over as Holroyd’s
shot was deflected into the path of Nicky Deverdicks who
slotted home the second goal with the Blues defence appealing
6 March Chester 0
Dover Athletic 2 Football
Attendance: 1,182 (17 Dover) Half Time: 0-0
Chester: Firth, Halls , Hobson, Astles,
Anderson (Hannah 68), Waters, Roberts, Crawford, Vose,
White, Archer. Subs not used : Jaaskelainen, Jones, Akintunde. Dover Athletic: Walker, Ilesanmi, Gallifuoco,
Parry, Essam, Brundle, Pinnock (Daniel 67), Bird (Jeffrey
62), Lokko, Bellamy (Passley 73), Azeez. Subs not used:
Okosieme, Nortey. Referee: Joe Hull.
snow deposited by the ‘Beast from the East’
meant that Saturday’s match against Bromley was
postponed. Chester resumed their campaign against play-off
chasing Dover and found that they were facing a team of
beasts from the south east. Four bookings in the first
half showed evidence of the visitors’ physical intent.
Two of the yellows might have been adjudged red by another
referee - Lokko for his flying tackle on Roberts and Bellamy
for another rash challenge in particular.
had worked their way back into the game after a sluggish
start. Crawford and Waters’ energy in midfield
combined with the guile of Roberts and Vose gave City
a presence which began to threaten Dover. Roberts curled
a free kick narrowly over the bar. Walker then saved
Archer’s header and parried White’s shot
just before half time from almost point blank range.
Athletic had few clear cut chances for their early possession
but applied pressure with a succession of corners as
the interval approached.
It was from a corner that the visitors took the lead
just after the hour. City had given the ball away when
pressing down the right and from the corner conceded,
defender Lokko rose to head home in glorious isolation.
Bignot re-arranged the formation as City chased the
game. Anderson was withdrawn for Hannah and the Blues
reverted to a back three. The change backfired when
Azeez burst down the right and centred low and hard
only for Astles to divert the ball at full stretch into
his own net.
It was harsh on Chester who had battled hard throughout.
Earlier Crawford’s deflected effort seemed to
be beating Walker but the Dover ‘keeper managed
to get a glove on the shot and divert it to safety.
White had a shot blocked after promising work by Vose.
But it was all to no avail as Dover ran the clock down
and saw the game out to gain the three points they had
come for. The Blues had matched and even bettered their
opponents for lengthy spells but in the end their experienced
and physical opponents ground them down.
A largely entertaining game was witnessed by one of
the lowest crowds for a league match since reformation.
The Blues could not be faulted for their efforts and
the progress of some of the youth graduates on the pitch
is a source of real hope for the future. Though results
may be going down, some things are heading in the right
direction and Chester need their fan owners to rally
round more than ever at the moment.