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Saturday 29 November 2003
Chester City 3 Margate 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,971 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Brady, Carey, McIntyre.

Chester City: Brown, Collins, Ruffer, Guyett (Bolland 72), Brady (Foster 58), Davies, Varey, Smith, McIntyre, Rapley (Stamp58), Clare. Subs not used: Carden, Harris,.
Smith (Mitten 70), Annon, Edwards, Porter, Murphy, Piper, Leberl, Clarke, O’Connell, Keister (Watson 78), Sigere (Stanhart 75). Subs not used: Zoricicich, PUllman.
Referee: D.Richardson (Halifax).

CLICK for larger pictureFor much of the first half this was a subdued affair. Chester found it hard going as Margate packed the defence, the weather was dull and grey and even the crowd seemed unduly quiet.

City began with Stamp on the bench, Rapley taking his place up front with Clare and Ruffer made a surprisingly quick recovery to step back into defence. Rapley and Clare had their work cut out and found it difficult to make headway against the close-marking visitors. Clare managed to lose his marker on one occasion with a delightful turn but saw his shot beaten away and Rapley flicked a shot against the post early on. Just before half time a close passing movement into the box set up Ben Davies but Smith saved his point blank shot.

After the break City managed to sustain the pressure better. Smith and Carey in particular began to buzz and run with the ball and set up chances for crosses into the box. With half an hour to go City sent Stamp and Foster on to replace Rapley and Brady respectively. As the pressure mounted Guyett went up to meet a cross and both he and the Margate keeper, Smith, received treatment for concussion.

Alex Smith ran with the ball and fed McIntyre on the left, he cut across the area trying to find an opening for his left foot but instead passes to Davies who fired home from the edge of the box. The deadlock had been broken. Shortly after this the Margate keeper, still dazed, had to be replaced and Guyett too gave way to Bolland.

With eight minutes to go Stamp broke free on the left and his cross was met on the volley by Clare at the far post. From one angle the shot seemed to be going wide until it hit the keeper but it certainly ended up in the back of the net. Margate had responded with a brief flurry of attacking after conceding the first goal, now there was no way back.

Smith, who had taken the game by the scruff of the neck to drive City forward, set up McIntyre to overlap on the left, his first time cross was met sweetly by Stamp who steered it just inside the far post and complete a comprehensive win.

Colin Mansley

Brown catches
On the attack
Executive Box Entrance

Tuesday 25 November 2003
Chester City 3 Accrington Stanley 3
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,432 Half Time 3-1
Booked: Harris.

Chester City: Brown, Smith, Harris, Guyett, Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Brady, Clare (Foster 89), Stamp (Rapley 89). Subs not used: Heard, Carden, McCaldon.
Accrington Stanley:
Kennedy, Halford, Smith, Cavanagh, Brannan, Proctor, Mullin, Prendergast, Williams, Cook (Calcutt 64), James. Subs not used: Armstrong, Durnin, Speare, Gouck.
Referee: D.Foster (Newcastle).

CLICK for larger pictureWell this was a change from the usual script. A hard fought game was predicited but not like this. What ever happened to the “Boring Chester” mentioned in the NLP?

Carrying on from the cracker of a match at Aldershot this was a remarkable open game with plenty of incident at both ends. This was partly due to the enforced changes caused by injuries to Bolland and Ruffer. Tonight Harris was drafted into the centre of defence with Guyett and Collins either side. Carden remained on the bench while Carey started. No mention was made of Twiss, presumably injured.

City took the attack to Accrington and, with Smith in exhilarating form, their movements were swift and incisive. Carey almost opened the scoring in the first couple of minutes when Stamp’s pass invited him to shoot. His dipping effort just cleared the bar. At the other end Stanley seemed to have plenty of room when they came forward, especially on the left where Prendergast was the danger. Brady dallied in the box and was robbed of the ball in a dangerous moment but Guyett made a saving tackle and left two enormous divots in the turf.

Chester took the lead at the end of a sweeping move. Ben Davies found Brady in space on the right and was there in the box to meet his first time cross and head home. A minute later Stamp had a golden opportunity to double the lead when McIntyre found him on the edge of the area but the big striker blazed over the bar.

Accrington were level following the award of a free kick for an innocuous challenge by Collins. The ball was knocked out to Cook whose deflected shot from twenty five yards sailed into the net beyond Brown’s dive.

Back came City though and they regained the lead when Accrington failed to clear the ball – McIntyre sent it back into the box and Clare glanced a goal into the far corner. Earlier Clare had been denied a penalty when he was clean through but stumbled to a scything challenge. Clare popped up again on the stoke of half time when Guyett, of all people, crossed from the right for him to nod his second goal. Kennedy parried the ball on to the bar but could not stop it crossing the line.

City were now so far ahead – surely the second half would just be a case of improving their goal difference wouldn’t it? Unfortunately not. Chester had their lead wrested from them by the combination of a lively Accrington fightback and some careless defending.

Prendergast got free from a throw in down the left and sent over a looping cross to the far post. James dashed in to fire the goal in off Brown. City huffed and puffed but their attack carried less conviction than in the first half as several players faded from the game. Hearts sank when Prendergast headed the equaliser while the defenders were guilty of ball watching with just ten minutes or so to go. It seemed unlikely that Chester could raise their game to find another goal – by now their momentum had gone.

A tremendous fightback by Accrington rescued their lost cause while City faded badly. They remain top of the table but the burden of expectation is so great among City supporters these days that they all went home rueing the fact that they didn’t extend their lead to three points.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 22 November 2003
Aldershot Town 1 Chester City 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 3,610 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Smith, Clare, McIntyre.

Aldershot Town: Bull, Rees, Warburton, Chewins, Hooper, Charles, Shields, Miller, Challinor, McLean (D’Sane 74), Sills. Subs not used: Taylor, Nutter, Sterling, Barnard.
Chester City
: Brown, Smith (Carden 62), Ruffer (Heard 67), Guyett, Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Brady (Foster 86), Clare, Stamp. Subs not used: Rapley, Harris.
Referee: G.Chapman (Gloucestershire).

CLICK for larger pictureThe heavy rain couldn’t dampen the all-round enthusiasm at The Recreation Ground as Chester and Aldershot battled it out in one of the fastest-paced football games I've ever seen.

Spurred on by a 350-strong away support packed together like sardines in the touchline South Stand, the Blues were soon threatening the Aldershot goal when Jon Brady had a shot on target within the first two minutes.

Brady continued to threaten for most of the first half, with a number of teasing crosses that never quite led to goal-bound attempts. But it was Ben Davies who had Chester’s first serious scoring chance when he shot just wide of the post after a perfect pass from Daryl Clare.

Aldershot had also had a couple of goal-scoring opportunities by that stage – clearly showing why they are the Conference’s leading scorers. Lee Charles shone out as their real dangerman. He proved to be both playmaker and striker as he passed the ball around and had a couple of shots for goal.

The most threatening moment of the first half came when a Shots attacker ran through, looking like he was dead cert for a one-on-one with ‘keeper Wayne Brown. But Shaun Carey raced back and made a telling tackle in the box. Aldershot’s only other close attempt in the first half came when a well-hit strike flashed over the bar.

Chester had a couple of corners before the break, with a Danny Collins header being cleared off the line. But it was honours even when the teams went in for a well-earned half-time breather.

Although the torrential ran got even worse, both sides were still on fire when they came out for the second half. Chester soon won yet another corner (there were 12 in all for the Blues) after Stamp’s fine shot on the turn had been pushed round the post, and when the ball came across from Kevin McIntyre it somehow avoided all the Aldershot players in the crowded box, finding Darryn Stamp in the right place for a tap-in.

But the attack-minded Shots were far from beaten, with Charles continuing to harry the Chester defenders – even wrong-footing Danny Collins. Around 15 minutes after Stamp’s goal, an Aldershot cross into the box was headed firmly into the top corner by Jon Challinor.

A draw then semed like a fair result, but neither side was willing to settle for it and a well-taken shot by Clare looked in danger of slipping out of the hands of Aldershot ‘keeper Nikki Bull, with Brady ready to pounce. But Bull did well to hang onto the slippy ball.

At the other end, Brown won the applause of his opposite number when he made a top-class save from a 25-yard Adam Miller free-kick. Brown was also called into action to save a strike from lively Aldershot sub Roscoe D’Sane.

Mark Wright made three changes for Chester – Jamie Heard was an enforced swap for injured Carl Ruffer; Paul Carden replaced the quiet Alex Smith; and Ian Foster replaced Jon Brady in a last-ditch bid for victory on the 86th minute.

But victory never came for either team, with Chester appearing the shade happier to settle for a draw. It was heartening to see the Blues coming across to salute their supporters despite the driving rain. If only Conference football was always like this – with the added bonus of Chester scoring a 90th minute winner!

Sue Choularton

First half
Full time

Saturday 15 November 2003
Chester City 1 Barnet 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,638 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Carey, Davies.

Chester City: Brown, Collins, Guyett, Ruffer, McIntyre, Davies, Carey, Smith (Twiss 89), Brady, Clare (Harris 89), Stamp. Subs not used: Rapley, Foster, Heard.
: Gore, Hendon, Maddix, Plummer, King, Strevens, Gamble, Yakubu, Beadle (Roach 74), Grazioli, Hatch (Williams 51). Subs not used: Millard, Rooney, Hogg.
Referee: R.Shoebridge (Ripley).

CLICK for larger pictureIt took a single goal of real quality deep into first half stoppage time by Alex Smith to eventually separate the two sides though City will be wondering how they hadn’t capitalised more in a first half that they dominated for long periods throughout.

The Blues started brightly, Carl Ruffer was made captain on the day and had a superb game keeping hot-shot Giuliano Grazioli quiet, the Conferences’ leading scorer hardly got a sniff of the ball in the opening period.

Smith, making his first home appearance since re-signigng for the Blues earlier in the week was at the centre of many of City’s best moves. Confidentially assured on the ball, he sent Jon Brady and Kevin McIntyre free on several occasions. Darryn Stamp, Daryl Clare and Ben Davies all saw efforts saved by the overworked Shane Gore in the visitors goal while Ruffer hit the side netting after climbing for a far post header following a teasing Ben Davies corner.

Stamp failed to make a clean contact following a McIntyre corner forcing Maddix to clear from close range, and the striker almost go to the end of a McIntyre free-kick with Gore punching the ball away just in time. As an attacking force in the first half Barnet were almost non-existent, Yakubu’s header was their only real effort on target, though it hardly troubled the recalled Wayne Brown in City’s goal. Five minutes before the break though Shaun Carey was pulled up for a booking after a strong challenge saw him connect with the ball, and also Simon King. After a long delay Ian Hendon’s free-kick as charged down.

An earlier head injury to Carl Ruffer saw the fourth official signal four minutes of injury time. In the fourth minute of this City took their deserved lead. Scott Guyett, Ben Davies and Jon Brady played some nice approach play on the right, the ball was fed back to Guyett who squared to Smith 30 yards from goal. The midfielder took one touch to control the ball then unleashed a 30 yarder that swerved right to left giving Gore no chance, a Goal of the Season contender if ever there was one.

Following the break the Bees came more into the game but could have been buried on 57 minutes by Stamp who headed straight at the keeper from close range following another City corner.

On 70 minutes Peter Beadle put the ball in the net for the visitors though the referee had already blown for an infringement following’s Yakubu’s push on Danny Collins. Barnet picked up their game and introduced Lee Roach with 15 minutes remaining. As City were starting to get pinned back he almost scored with his first touch heading just wide from Williams’ cross. Smith and Clare were replaced in the last minute as City anxiously counted down the clock, forcing two corners in the last minute without putting a player in the box to contest them!

Blues fans didn’t have to wait long for that final whistle though that was greeted with relief all round. Another hard won three point’s to add to those from Morecambe on Tuesday night and City now proudly stand two points clear at the top of the table from Hereford United and extend their unbeaten Conference run to 14 matches.

Stamp heads for goal
Carey booked
Shop closed all day

Tuesday 11 November 2003
Morecambe 0 Chester City 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,959 Half Time 0-0
Booked: McIntyre.

Morecambe: Mawson, Garnett, Bentley, Perkins, Collins, Swan (Hunter 74), Walmsley, Stringfellow, Thompson, Curtis (Rogan 75), Carlton (Murphy 88). Subs not used: Howell, Sugden.
Chester City
: McCaldon (Brown 46), Ruffer, Bolland, Smith (Guyett 90), Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Brady, Clare (Foster 79), Carden, Stamp. Subs not used: Rapley, Twiss.
Referee: S.Brand (Wirral).

ProgrammeA goal 14 minutes from time by Daryl Clare was enough to take City to the top of the Nationwide Conference for the first time this season and was just the tonic the fans and management needed after Saturday’s cup exit to Gravesend. City inflicted Morecambe’s first home defeat since Yeovil Town won at Christie Park nearly 16 months ago, a good omen perhaps?

Manager Mark Wright made a couple of changes from Saturday’s side bringing in Alex Smith and Ian Foster for Jamie Heard and Jon Brady. The first half was generally a scrappy affair as both sides tried to get control in midfield.

In a half devoid of real chances Wayne Curtis went closest for the Shrimps hitting to base of McCaldon’s post with the keeper well beaten. However the City number one was in action soon later saving well from Danny Carlton. At the other end, Ben Davies and Daryl Clare both saw shots saved and the woodwork also came to the home sides rescue as Ben Davies almost gave City in the lead on the stroke of half-time as his thumping 25-yard volley crashed against the crossbar.

City were forced into a change at half-time with Wayne Brown replacing the injured Ian McCaldon. The game continued to be a battle in midfield until Daryl Clare popped up scramble home the winning goal. Jon Brady’s right wing cross was knocked down by Darryn Stamp for Clare to scramble the ball home form close range in front of the traveling City fans.

Morecambe pushed for the equaliser and their best chance fell to Jim Bentley whose header was well saved by Brown with Carl Ruffer ideally placed to clear away the rebound and preserve City’s priceless three points.
Saturday 8 November 2003
Chester City 0 Gravesend & Northfleet 1
FA Cup Round 1
Attendance: 2,252 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Heard, Carden, Davies.

Chester City: McCaldon, Heard (Brady 71), Ruffer, Bolland, Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Foster (Twiss 65), Clare (Rapley 80), Stamp, Carden. Subs not used: Guyett, Carey.
Gravesend & Northfleet: Wilkerson, Skinner, Lee, Moore, Owen, Perkins, Pinnock, McKimm, Duku, Walshe (Drury 40), Haworth. Subs not used: Strouts, Gradley, Abbey, O’Reilly.
Referee: G.Sutton.

CLICK for larger pictureCity stumbled their way out of the FA Cup in extremely disappointing fashion as they foundered on the rock of a redoubtable rearguard action from Gravesend and Northfleet. Not for the first time City were frustrated in their attempts to breakdown a hardworking side who got men behind the ball and gave little room for manouvre.

The Blues had begun brightly enough and showed signs of being able to get behind the visitors’ defence. Ben Davies’ cross just eluded Foster and then Foster himself crossed weakly when he had done well to retrieve the ball at the by-line. If Darryl Clare had put away a golden chance when released by Ruffer’s astute through ball then it might have been a different story. Nine times out of ten you would have expected the former golden boot winner to have scored but this time his shot hit the goalkeeper's legs and was scrambled away.

Instead it was Gravesend who took the lead after a clumsy foul by McCaldon in the penalty area. Attempting to punch the ball clear, City’s keeper only connected with the back of Perkins’ head. Skinner scored with confidence and then his team dug in to defend their advantage tooth and nail.

It is quite painful to watch Chester when they are closed down like this. They seem to lack that something extra in the locker, the finesse, the quality to turn territorial advantage into goals. Too often their approach is ponderous and predictable. The ball gets passed around a lot but no-one seems to have the confidence to carry it forward and run at the opposition. Carden tried this on one occasion and very nearly scored towards the end of the first half. His shot flashed just past the post. Shortly after this Wilkerson pulled off the save of the match to tip Stamp’s header round the post.

As the game wore on Wright changed all three forwards to little general effect, though Twiss looked dangerous when he began to take the ball past defenders and cause panic. Most of the time, however, City were reduced to either passing the ball to someone under pressure who was then crowded out or knocking the long ball over the top which was meat and drink to opposition defenders. You couldn't fault their effort but imagination was sadly lacking.

City’s season is in danger of becoming mediocre unless they can find the key to unlock some stubborn defences soon.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 1 November 2003
Scarborough 2 Chester City 2
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,441 Half Time 0-2
Booked: Ruffer, Carey, Carden, Clare. Sent-off: Carden.

Scarborough: Walker, Redmile, Baker, Cryan, Sestanovich, Capper, Marcelle (Senior 88), Kerr, Kelly, Quayle, Rose. Subs not used: Lyth, Sollitt, Graydon, Gill.
Chester City: McCaldon, Ruffer, Bolland, Davies, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Brady, Clare (Twiss 78), Carden, Stamp (Guyett 63). Subs not used: Rapley, Brown, Foster.
Referee: A.Woolmer (Northampton).

CLICK for larger picturePaul Carden’s red card soon after the break was almost certainly the turning point of a game that at half-time City looked to be coasting to a win and three more valuable points.

Kevin McIntyre, Paul Carden and Jon Brady replaced Ian Foster, Michael Twiss and Jamie Heard from last Saturday’s starting line-up that unconvincingly won 1-0 at Blyth Spartans.

Referee Woolmer was in action from the start with two cautions in the opening four minutes. First in the book was Carl Ruffer after 90 seconds for a foul on Karl Rose to be followed two minutes by ex-City midfielder Jimmy Kelly who was cautioned for a foul on Daryl Clare. Minutes later and home keeper Walker was the first to be tested as he punched clear a Danny Collins free-kick. The opening period was cagy with both sides forcing corners, and City doubling their yellow card count as Shaun Carey was booked for a foul on Clint Marcelle.

On 34 minutes the Blues opened the scoring. Clare picked up the ball and turned just outside the box, his low shot was parried by Walker but only to the poaching Darryn Stamp who knocked in the rebound, against his former club, inside the six yard box. Three minutes (and another booking later), Rose was adjudged to have fouled Stamp in the area and Clare placed his penalty just wide of Walker to double City’s lead.

There was time before the half-time break for three more bookings (including Clare and Carden) and for Walker to make a great fingertiip save from Clare. While at the other end Quayle missed a good chance to reduce the defecit heading straight at McCaldon when well placed.

It wasn’t long afterthe break though before Quayle was on the scoreset. The striker, who spent some time at the Deva last season, was pushed by Phil Bolland in the box and he gave McCaldon no chance from the resulting penalty kick.

Two minutes later and City were reduced to ten men. Referee Woolmer decried that Carden’s tackle on Scott Kerr merited a yellow card and the midfielder saw red after entering the referee’s notebook in the first half.

On 63 minutes Scarborough were awarded a corner. Before it could be taken City replaced striker Darryn Stamp with Scott Guyett. The defender had hardly taken his position when Boro were level as Marcelle bundled the ball over the line from close range following the corner.

The Blues responded and Clare produced another quality 25-yard curling shot that Walker saved smartly, minutes later the striker was replaced by Michael Twiss. However, it was the Seadogs who finished the stronger. McCaldon saved from Quayle, and the keeper responded well to save from on-loan Sestanovich, having an impressive debut, as the home side looked for the winner; but City held firm and had to be content with point though it should have been more.
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