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Saturday 25 March
Blyth Spartans 0 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 863 Half Time: 0-1
Booked: -.

Blyth Spartans: Mitchell, Evans (Richardson 83), Hickey, O’Donnell, Round (Spellman 65), McGowan, Eldson, Deverdics, Main, Chiabi, Cousin-Dawson. Subs not used: Liddle, Dopson.
Chester: Tyrer, Coates, Williams, Kenyon, Heywood, Earl, Weeks, Murray (Lynch 70), Whitehouse, Caton (Thomas 83), Willoughby (Dudley 90+2). Subs not used: Brown, Edwards.
Referee: B.Tomlinson.

Goals either side of half-time from Declan Weeks and a first for the club from Ollie Heywood brought Chester a deserved victory at Blyth on Non League Day. The win set a new club record of 17 away games unbeaten on the run, a record that was previously set back in 1930/31.

Chester, who gave a debut to Elliott Whitehouse, dominated early proceedings forcing several corners in the opening minutes. The first real effort fell to Kurt Willoughby midway through the half but his powerful effort was beaten away by Alex Mitchell in the Spartans goal.

Charlie Caton saw an effort cleared off the line and Mitchell produced another fine save to deny Matty Williams from breaking the deadlock.

Mitchell produced another stunning save to deny Caton before he was finally beaten as Chester found the net just before half-time. Caton picked the ball up and went on a surging run down the left, worked his way into the box before being fouled, the loose ball fell to Weeks who calmly slipped it past Mitchell.

Chester continued to control the game after the break but found Mitchell in inspire form saving a great effort from Lewis Ear, before Alex Kenyon saw another effort cleared off the line.

The Blues doubled their lead on 56 minutes as Iwan Murray found Heywood in space and the defender blasted an unstoppable effort home. Chester made three changes and saw out the remainder of the game without any real danger, Harry Tyrer making just one save to keep out Mitchell Spellman in the dying minutes.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs |
Saturday 18 March
Chester 2 Scarborough Athletic 2
National League North
Attendance: 2,900 (191 Scarborough) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Tyrer, Brown, Weeks, Kenyon, Willoughby, Dudley (Stephenson 81), Thomas (Murray 69), Williams, Coates, Earl, Caton. Subs not used: Morgan, Lynch, Nmai.
Scarborough Athletic: Cracknell, Weledji, Jackson, Maloney, Thornton, Gooda (Greenfield 67), Coulson, Watson (Heslop 74), Corville (Charles 46), Qualter, Wiles. Subs not used: Bancroft, Burton.
Referee: Dale Baines.

Charlie Caton looked to have won this entertaining encounter with play-off rivals Scarborough but the visitors hit Chester with a sucker punch in stoppage time to return home with a share of the spoils.

Seadogs captain Michael Coulson had five games on loan with Chester City in 2009 and used local knowledge to switch the teams around on winning the toss. But it also handed the Blues the initiative to sweep forward towards the Harry Mac. They found space to exploit down the flanks and soon they were ahead as Willoughby met a near-post corner from the right and smashed it in off the crossbar. The large contingent of Norwegian Blues from Kristiansund were seated in Block A and were given a grandstand view.

Caton finished another sweeping move from the right but could not get his header on target. Dudley then won possession and bore down to shoot but a last ditch blocking tackle foiled him. Blues dominated but needed a second goal to capitalise. As the half unfolded Scarborough got a toehold in the game and began to threaten from set pieces. Their aerial threat was growing and Earl and then Kenyon had to be alert to clear Chester’s lines.

Thornton thought he had equalised shortly after the break when he let fly from the edge of the area. He was thwarted by a magnificent save from Tyrer who somehow managed to flick it round the post at full stretch. The Seadogs did eventually draw level with a quarter of an hour to go. Though Murray seemed to be tripped in the build-up, the referee waved play on and Weledji found space on the right to cut in and shoot left footed into the far corner. In between, Thomas and Caton both went close for City.

The introduction of Darren Stephenson in the final ten minutes seemed to have made the decisive difference. He attacked down the left and put the ball on a plate for Caton to score emphatically. But in added time Scarborough won a succession of throw-ins down the right – not before Willoughby had been bundled into touch by Jackson, much to the fury of the Chester Bench. No free kick resulted however and the Seadogs launched the ball into the box. A flicked header caused mayhem and in the scramble a clearance ricocheted off a Chester player and into the net.

So an anti-climax in the end as Chester rued the inability to make the most of their dominance in the first half but both sets of fans knew they had watched a highly enjoyable and open game. The Blues have a couple of trips to the North East on subsequent Saturdays now before hosting Chorley on Good Friday.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table |
Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]
Tuesday 14 March
Chester 0 Peterborough Sports 1
National League North
Attendance: 2,203 (8 Peterborough) Half Time: 0-1
Booked: Coates, Weeks.

Chester: Tyrer, Brown, Weeks, Burke (Kenyon 45+3), Willoughby, Thomas, Williams, Coates, Earl (Dudley 69), Murray (Stephenson 83), Hughes. Subs not used: Morgan, Lynch.
Peterborough Sports: Crook, Bazeley, Fryatt, Johnson, Fox, Alban-Jones (Lawlor 74), Kennedy, McCammon (Jarvis 83), Crawford, Gash, Gyamfi. Subs not used: Jones, Nicholson, Sani.
Referee: Liam Corbett.

A horrible evening for Chester centred around the award of a penalty to the visitors in first half stoppage time. As Johnson Gyamfi broke towards the home penalty area Harrison Burke pulled up and fell to the ground in clear agony. The attack continued with a ball into the box which presented little difficulty to Declan Weeks who chested it down and booted it in to touch so that Burke could receive treatment. To the incredulity of almost everyone in the stadium the referee pointed to the spot adjudging that Weeks had handled the ball.

Belatedly the trainer was waved on and Burke had to be helped off the pitch. McCammon scored the penalty and, with his team mates, goaded the already riled fans on the Harry Mac terrace. The referee left the field at half time to a thundering chorus of boos, pausing only to show a yellow card to Declan Weeks. He then asked Cleggy to announce at the interval that he had done so – though there was no communication on the controversial award of the penalty.

Blues had begun the evening fairly brightly, though injuries to Caton and Roberts had meant a change in personnel – Earl made his full home debut and Hughes was the other replacement. They got in to some good areas but crosses struggled to find their man and when Coates did pick out Willoughby, the centre forward couldn’t direct his header on target. Then the game slipped into a familiar pattern of the visitors sitting back while Chester kept possession but found it difficult to break through. The Turbines looked to exploit dead ball positions when they countered.

After the interval the heavens opened and players had to contend with horrendous conditions as a severe hail shower rained down. Early on, Murray found space on the left and crossed. Willoughby, under close attention, saw the sting taken out of his shot with a defender’s block. Chester continued to press but began to look increasingly leggy as the toll of the intense recent schedule of matches seemed to catch up with them.

Hughes ran forward and was body-checked on the edge of the area. Willoughby’s free kick could not beat the wall. Brown found space but not a Blues forward as his cross was gathered by Crook. Hughes’ corner was parried by Crook and Weeks almost found a way through the massed ranks of defenders to the goal. Willoughby then shot from the angle but centre forward and player manager Gash stuck a boot out to block it. Dudley and Stephenson were brought on to rejuvenate the attack with the excellent Thomas shifting to a more central position. On several occasions Thomas got crosses in from the wing when he had no right to but none fell to a forward. Brown found Willoughby on the edge of the area but the number nine slipped as he shot and Crook was able to get across to smother it.

City ran out of steam in what proved to be a game too far. Arguably they perhaps did not do enough to win against a dogged and disciplined opposition but they hardly deserved to lose either. The Turbines were the last team to beat Chester away from home and now had completed the double. Blues have little time to recover before facing a big challenge from play-off rivals Scarborough on Saturday.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 11 March
Leamington 0 Chester 0
National League North
Attendance: 966 (347 Chester) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Weeks, Roberts, Coates.

Leamington: Cann, Meredth, Hall, Perry, English, Lane, Cross (Edwards 71), Walker, Hulbert (Mooney 83), Kelly-Evans, Turner (Usher-Shipway 80). Subs not used: Clarke, Moore.
Chester: Tyrer, Coates, Burke, Williams, Heywood (Brown 46), Roberts, Weeks, Murray (Hughes 77), Caton, Dudley (Thomas 60), Willoughby. Subs not used: Stephenson, Earl.
Referee: Harry Jones.

Chester’s run of away form continued at Leamington, with the goalless draw meaning they equalled a club record for successive away wins or draws dating back to 1932. However the travelling 347 Blues’ fans would have been disappointed not to leave the New Windmill Ground with three points.

One record they were hoping to beat in the freezing conditions was to be finally celebrating a goal at Leamington. But in four visits to this isolated part of Warwickshire, Chester have somehow never found the net.

Almost from the off it looked like the dismal scoring record was going to be beaten when Kurt Willoughby made the most of a poorly headed Leamington backpass. But the volley from Chester’s top scorer went just wide of the post.

Willoughby had another good chance about 15 minutes later, but after a good pass from Iwan Murray, his shot hit a Leamington player and went just wide.

The home side started coming into the game, on the usual bobbly pitch that we had expecting to be in a much worse condition. A band of Leamington volunteers had ensured the match could take place after covers were placed on the pitch the day before to protect it from overnight frost.

The Brakes missed a chance after a corner, then Harry Tyrer made the only save of the first half after a scramble in the box. So it was honours even at half-time as the crowd of 966 enjoyed the renditions of a brass band standing in the home end.

The second half saw Alex Brown replacing Ollie Heywood and started with Chester looking the brighter, although the game was getting a little bad-tempered. All the yellow cards (three for Chester and two for Leamington) issued by fussy referee Harry Jones were dished out in the second half.

Declan Weeks had a couple of chances in the opening spell of the re-start, but one went well wide and the other was easily held by Leamington’s West Brom loanee goalkeeper Ted Cann. He was called on again to make a save from a Murray strike and then another from a Charlie Caton shot.

Adam Thomas came on for Anthony Dudley on the hour-mark and Rhys Hughes later replaced Murray. But neither made an effective impression on the match.

With ten minutes to go, a foul on Weeks led to Chester fans having visions of Willoughby repeating his excellent free kick against Banbury at home a week before. But lightning didn't strike twice and Cann easily held on to Willoughby’s tame effort.

The game played out with Chester continuing to press - a trademark of their performances this season - but this mostly unforgettable game ended without a serious effort on target in the final spell.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Tuesday 7 March
Chester 2 Kidderminster Harriers 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,196 (106 Kidderminster) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Tyrer, Weeks, Burke, Willoughby, Thomas (Dudley 68), Roberts, Williams, Coates, Murray (Earl 84), Heywood, Caton. Subs not used: Brown, Stephenson, Hughes.
Kidderminster Harriers: Palmer, Penny (McNally 46), Richards, Knight-Percival, Owen-Evans (Morgan-Smith 77), Hemmings, Foulkes, Morrison, Freemantle (Bearne 77), Lissimore, Byrne. Subs not used: Brown, Martin.
Referee: Richard Holmes.

As the relentless fixture schedule continued Calum McIntyre made some changes to the team for this latest match. The enforced absence of Edwards caused by Saturday’s injury allowed Burke to deputise once again and Murray came in for Hughes whilst Heywood returned instead of Brown at left back. City faced a Harriers team struggling for form but still with a decent away record and one of the pre-season favourites for promotion.

The first half, whilst absorbingly disciplined by both sides, produced little in the way of scoring chances. Weeks and Murray went close for the Blues whilst Harriers attacked down the flanks without creating clear opportunities but looking dangerous. McIntyre was pleased with City’s defensive shape without the ball but wanted to see the Blues work Palmer in the Kidderminster goal a bit more.

The Blues came out after the break under a full moon with greater intensity and Weeks found Thomas who linked well with Coates on the right. The latter’s cross was parried by Palmer but Weeks picked up the pieces and threaded the ball back to Thomas who provided an excellent finish to break the deadlock. Minutes earlier he had fired wide from the edge of the area but now revelled in the adulation of the Harry Mac as his rich vein of scoring form continued.

As Harriers looked to respond they won a corner which was headed clear but in the aftermath, referee Holmes kept his eye on a tangle between Knight-Percival and Harry Tyrer. The Harrier’s defender - just back from suspension following a red card - was given another one here. It was the only card of either colour to be issued all evening.

Reduced to ten-men Kidderminster nevertheless enjoyed their best spell of the game and put some teasing crosses into Chester’s box. Hemmings found Richards down the left and his ball to the far post was met by Lissimore at the far post but a combination of Murray and Heywood scrambled it clear for a corner. Next, Hemmings’ header from another left wing cross was superbly saved by Tyrer and, as the ball was recycled back across goal, Burke managed to head off the line.

As the temperature dropped further and frost increased its grip across the pitch, City began to make their extra man tell and Caton went close. Latching on to Murray’s through ball he could only find the side netting. Then substitute Lewis Earl set Caton off again chasing like a greyhound out of the traps down the left. Palmer saved brilliantly as Caton’s cross was met by a defender and was looping in until Harriers’ keeper tipped it over the bar. But the Shrews loanee was not to be denied when Dudley and Weeks combined to set him through more centrally and he tucked the ball past the advancing Palmer for the winner.

With the last kick of the match, Dudley might have added a third but shot straight at Palmer. It was another exhilarating evening for City as they made it four wins in a row. Calum McIntyre told Chester fans to “Believe” after the second of those wins at Hereford. That belief is beginning to grow.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]

Saturday 4 March
Chester 4 Banbury United 2
National League North
Attendance: 2,491 (106 Banbury) Half Time: 3-0
Booked: Roberts.

Chester: Tyrer, Coates, Williams, Edwards (Burke 45), Brown, Roberts, Weeks, Hughes (Murray 73), Thomas (Stephenson 90+1), Caton, Willoughby. Subs not used: Dudley, Earl.
Banbury United: Taylor, Brown, Langmead, Rasulo, Stevens (Gordon 73), Acquaye, Hickman, Johnson, Radcliffe, Spasov (Williams 23), Babos. Subs not used: Talbot, Roberts, Hewitt.
Referee: Richard Aspinall.

After a dearth of first half goals for Chester at the Deva this season, the home fans were treated to three coming along at once – doubling the amount scored in the previous sixteen matches. In truth the goals weren’t exactly one after another. Rhys Hughes’ first in the second minute was separated from Thomas notching the third by a further fifty. This was due to a worrying delay whilst Liam Edwards was treated following an accidental clash with a Banbury forward.

The Blues’ defender was stretchered off and replaced by Harrison Burke. There was welcome news later that – despite lying prone for about ten minutes whilst the medical staff attended to him he was later recovering and in good spirits.

The Puritans, with games in hand over many of the teams above them, still have an eye on the play offs and came looking for a positive result. Perhaps the early goal drew them out more than they planned but City found a freedom of space and movement going forward to create several chances after Hughes’ opener. Willoughby found room to turn and saw his shot well saved. Caton headed over a couple of times, and then returned the compliment for Thomas as he delivered the perfect left wing cross for the Blues right winger to head majestically home after twenty five minutes. In celebration Thomas turned and ran to the away fans, ears cupped to see if they still had the stomach to verbally taunt him further.

Although the visitors threatened going forward, Tyrer in the City goal was relatively untroubled. Only a couple of shots from distance by Puritans’ skipper Rasulo had him scrambling along his line. Banbury continued to build diligently from the back but both Roberts and Weeks were tireless in their harrying to break up play. Then after Edwards’ injury the Blues scored a third in first half stoppage time. Hughes returned a clearance into the area for Thomas to turn and tuck it past Taylor in the Banbury goal.

Blues left the field to a rousing half time ovation but after the break found themselves on the back foot. Substitute Williams seemed to have bundled a header over the line but, after consulting with the linesman, the referee awarded a free kick for a foul on Tyrer. City quickly regained their forward momentum as first Burke and then Williams saw efforts crash against the crossbar as the Blues applied further pressure.

In a few moments, however, Banbury were back in the game with a vengeance. First the dangerous Acquaye’s cross was diverted into his own net by Burke and five minutes later veteran defender Kelvin Langmead glanced a header into the bottom corner to narrow the deficit further. It went a little more subdued around the Deva – apart from the away end – as the Puritans found an extra spring in their step and a game which City seemed to be running away with was suddenly in the balance.

City rallied as the game approached the end. Caton’s deflected, dipping effort was tipped over the bar by Taylor. Then Tyrer had to be off his line smartly to save at the feet of Acquaye as Banbury countered. Shredded nerves were finally allayed in the last minute when Willoughby struck a sublime free kick into the top corner.

A third consecutive win for the Blues sees them hanging on to the coat tails of Kings Lynn and Fylde in the top two positions and eagerly anticipating the visit of one of the pre-season favourites in Kidderminster next Tuesday.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League Table | Match photographs | Match highlights [YouTube]























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