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Sunday 9 May 2004
Chester City 4 Chester City All Stars 5
Wayne Brown Testimonial
Attendance: 1,658 Half-Time 1-3

Chester City (from): Wayne Brown, Phil Bolland, Scott Guyett, Andy Harris, Ben Davis, Darryn Stamp, Jamie Heard, Kevin Rapley, Bob Delgado, Tony Durkin, Steve Brodie, Ted Hinnigan.
Chester City All Stars (from): Grenville Millington, Gary Bennett, Ross Davidson, Iain Jenkins, Nick Richardson, Shaun Reid, Nigel Edwards, Joe Hinnigan, Chris Priest, Kevin Ratcliffe, Neil Fisher, John Murphy, James Barrow (Graham’s son, who looked a useful player), and next season’s sponsor Stuart Murphy.

Former City stars turned out in force as Wayne Brown’s testimonial year got off to a successful start with a match that attracted a crowd of over 1,600 to Deva Stadium. The game itself was played in a fun spirit with former hero Bob Delgado lining up in defence for City with Tony Durkin, who bid £400 for his place in the match, also running out for the Whites. For the opposition, Grenville Millington and Nigel Edwards rolled back the years playing in defence alsongside each other once again. Iain Jenkins and Ross Davidson but it was Chris Priest who caught the eye with a great goal from 20 yards to give his side a 3-1 half-time lead.

Substitutes rolled on and off during the second half that saw Steve Brodie reduce the arrears before Wayne himself took the field to a standing ovation for the last 15 minutes or so. Priest couldn’t resist the opportunity to put one past him and did so with another curling long-range effort. Tony Durkin was named man-of-the-match and obliged with goal before Wayne had the last word scoring direct from a free-kick after Jamie Heard had relieved him of his goalkeeping duties.

So all-in-all a memorable day at the Deva with the championship trophy on show to top it.

Kevin Ratcliffe, Gary Bennett and Shaun Reid John Murphy  
Exiles Presentation Gary Bennett, Fish and Nick Richardson  
Wayne Brown and Cleggy Graham Barrow and Joe Hinnigan  

Saturday 24 April 2004
Hereford United 2 Chester City 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 7,240 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Foster, Guyett, Harris, Heard, Twiss.

Hereford United:
Baker, James, Tretton, Smith, Green, Pitman, Purdie, Betts (Williams 69), Rose, Carey-Bertram (Cozic 83), Brown (Beesley 60). Subs not used: MacKenzie, Wells.
Chester City: Turner (Woods 49), Bolland, Harris, Guyett, Heard, Davies, Lane, Carey (Foster 14), Twiss, Rapley (Stamp 80), Elam. Subs not used: Clare.
Referee: K.Stroud (Bournemouth).

CLICK for larger pictureA glorious day full of sunshine marked Chester’s swansong in the Conference. The Herefordshire countryside was in full bloom, making the journey to Edgar Street very enjoyable. City fans were also decked out in an array of summer shirts – first team colours from this season and virtually every other one since 1980 were on display, along with newly minted Champions tee shirts and even the odd centurion.

The atmosphere was pure carnival from start to finish. The chanting never ceased – even when Hereford forged ahead – first via David Brown’s volley and later with Mark Beesley’s wickedly deflected shot – City fans continued to samba. “You’ve scored! And it doesn’t matter at all!” was the gist of one of the more original songs. It was all very provocative for the Hereford fans penned into the adjacent compartment. But in the end even they joined in the celebrations and during the laps of honour after the game both teams were applauded by both sets of supporters.

For the record, a makeshift City side were second best to their hosts who had looked forward to this encounter for weeks hoping it would be the occasion when they could at last overhaul Mark Wright’s blue army. But thanks to City’s win last Saturday this fixture was rendered meaningless. There were some good individual performances – Bolland and Guyett were their usual imperious selves at the back. Lee Elam showed flashes of brilliance. In general it was a very disjointed performance in which City gave away possession too readily, were slow to mark and harry players on the ball but no-one minded very much. Not even an over officious referee could spoil the occasion.

A draw would have been nice and for a while, as the second half began, City penned Hereford back and they began to get jittery. This was when the blues equalised, courtesy of an own goal by James from a corner after Rapley had flicked a header across goal at the near post. James couldn’t get out of the way in time and his header cannoned into the net. But no-one could begrudge Hereford the win they deserved as the celebrations continued after the whistle.

“Ciampiones!” rang out again and again – what a great feeling. In true Italian Seria A scudetto fashion, Bolland stripped his shorts off and threw them into the crowd. His shinpads were flung to the back of the terracing – their new owner offered to allow people to sniff them for a pound. Daryl Clare flung his golden boot but just failed to reach the crowd – a steward helped it over the fence into the hands of the adoring fans. The chairman and several of the City wounded players had joined the fans on the terraces for what was one big happy family. Much of the hurting of the last four years has begun to be healed. There’s nothing like winning something to draw everyone together and City have been nothing like winning something as significant as this for a very long time. Here’s to a long hot enjoyable summer with little to fret about until the Football League (Doesn’t that sound good) fixtures are published.

Colin Mansley

Steve Vaughan Danny Collins and Paul Carden  
Fancy Dress Stand fans  

Saturday 17 April 2004
Chester City 1 Scarborough 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 5,987 Half Time 1-0
Booked: None.

Chester City: Turner, Bolland, Guyett, Heard, Carden, Davies, McIntyre, Collins (Elam 57), Clare (Rapley 71), Stamp, Twiss (Harris 45). Subs not used: Lane, Woods.
Walker, Hotte, Nicholson, Lyth, Downey, Kelly, Gilroy, Kerr, Gill (Senior 84), Hackworth, Rose (Marcelle 75). Subs not used: Sollitt, Quayle, Capper.
Referee: G.Turner (Derbyshire).

A goal in the first half by Darryn Stamp, his 20th of the season, secured the three points against Scarborough that gave City the Nationwide Championship after a pulsating battle with Hereford united for the title.

Deva Stadium was packed to the rafters for the historic occasion, fans were locked out before kick-off as the carnival atmosphere built up from early in the afternoon. The usual end-of-season awards were, for the second year running, postponed. Nothing was going to distract the management and players from the importance of the occasion.

Prior to the kick-off a good luck message from ex-manager Iain Atkins was read out. Atkins was manager when City lost their league status four years ago, after almost pulling off a miracle escape in the closing weeks.

Around 150 fans from Scarborough made the trip across the Pennines and found themselves tucked in the corner of the west stand as Blues fans packed both terraces.

The game was to prove a scrappy tense affair played in a tricky wind that swirled around the stadium. Seadogs ‘keeper Leigh Walker was first in the action saving a close range effort by Daryl Clare as City looked for an early goal to ease their nerves. The nerves were beginning to show however and some slack defending almost cost the Blues an early goal as Iain Turner was forced to clear a Tony Hackworth shot at full stretch on the ground. Danny Collins had to be alert to clear a Kevin Nicholson cross as the visitors made their intentions clear – they weren’t just here to make up the numbers.

Scarborough missed another chance as a shot through a ruck of players fizzed wide before the Blues broke the deadlock on 19 minutes. Good work by Clare down the right resulted in a near post cross, Stamp nipped in to beat Glen Downey to the ball and turned to send a shot into the opposite corner from a narrow angle and the crowd erupted.

Six minutes later and they were almost silenced as Wayne Gill burst through only to shoot wide when well placed. The visitors forced a couple of corners, Phil Bolland clearing well from one, and a few heart-stopping moments before half-time brought 15 minutes respite.

Manager Mark Wright was forces to make changes as Michael Twiss was replaced by Andy Harris after suffering a head injury and Danny Collins was forced to limp off after 57 minutes after suffering a foot injury later diagnosed as a broken bone. Lee Elam deputised for the England defender.

A foul by ex-City player Jimmy Kelly on Ben Davies gave City a chance with a free-kick but McIntyre sent his wind assisted shot over the bar. Indeed City’s nearest efforts were coming from set pieces, Walker tipping one effort from Davies over the bar.

Striker Daryl Clare received an emotional ovation as he was replaced by Kevin Rapley. With ten minutes remaining the visitors were awarded a free-kick just outside the box as Harris was penalised for a foul on Gill. Kelly stepped up but saw his shot fly wide of the left hand post to the relief of the vast majority of the crowd. Ben davies almost sealed things three minutes from time. Lee Elam went on a jinking run down the left before passing to the midfielder who forces his way to the edge of the box before unleashing a drive that flew inches wide.

City negotiated three anxious minutes of added time before referee Turner blew the final whistle to signal a pitch invasion by hoards of delighted City fans to swamp their heroes.

More pictures here.

Tuesday 13 April 2004
Shrewsbury Town 0 Chester City 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 5,827 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Davies, Guyett.

Shrewsbury Town:
Howie, Moss, Tinson, Ridler, Aiston, Edwards, Street, Tolley, Challis, Darby, Rodgers. Subs not used: Cramb, Lowe, Sedgemore, Hart, Lawrence.
Chester City: Turner, Bolland, Guyett. Heard, McIntyre, Collins, Carey (Davies 14), Twiss, Stamp, Rapley, Carden. Subs not used: Lane, Harris, Elam, Woods.
Referee: D.Richardson (Halifax).

CLICK for larger pictureThe Blues battled for a crucial point at Gay Meadow in a game neither side probably deserved to, or could afford to, lose. City manager Mark Wright was forced to make one change from Saturday’s side with top scorer Daryl Clare having to miss the game following illness to his newly born son, Kevin Rapley deputising for the striker.

The match, played in front of up to 2,000 City fans was a nervous scrappy affair of few chances. Iain Turner was first in the action saving a Luke Rodgers shot after just three minutes and repeating the feat a few minutes later.

On 13 minutes City were forced into a change bringing on for Ben Davies for Shaun Carey, with Davies in the action immediately testing Howie in the home goal from 25 yards. Duane Darby has the next chance for the Shrews shooting over from the edge of the box before City forced the first corner of the night on 26 minutes, however McIntyre’s inswinging delivery was cleared by Howie.

Minutes later Darby worked a great chance for the Shrews, turning a City defender on the edge of the box his shot screwed wide of the right hand post, much to City’s relief.

Just before the break it was the Blues ruing a miss as Rapley shot across goal and wide from six yards as defender Tinson failed to clear.

Five minutes after the break Ben Davies found himself in the referee’s notebook following a challenge on Tolley. From the resulting free-kick Turner made the first of two crucial saves on the night this time catching a piledriver of a free-kick by Luke Rodgers. Minutes later Rogers shot wide as the home side pressed for the opening goal.

City had their half chances too with Michael Twiss turning in the box and shooting wide from 12 yards and Jamie Heard having two crosses dealt with by Howie before Darryn Stamp could get on the end of them in front of the City fans.

Turner was on hand again to make another save at full stretch to deny Kevin Street’s long-range effort.

At the other end as the game drew to a conclusion, Davies sent a dipping shot over the bar following a knock-down from a corner and Scott Guyett planted a header straight at Howie following a McIntyre cross for a quick short corner.

The closing minutes were played out in and around the City goalmouth as the Shrews pressed for the winner, but City’s defence, with Danny Collins outstanding all night held firm for a point that leaves them one win away from a return to the Football League.


Saturday 10 April 2004
Chester City 3 Exeter City 2
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 4,046 Half Time 0-0
Booked: None.

Chester City: Turner, Bolland, Guyett. Heard, McIntyre, Collins, Carey (Davies 90), Twiss, Clare (Elam 84), Carden, Stamp (Rapley 90). Subs not used: Lane, Woods.
Exeter City: Bittner, Hiley, Todd, Jeannin, Gaia (Moxey 75), Cronin, Sheldon, Ampadu (Afful 79), Devine, Flack (Canham 68), Coppinger. Subs not used: Rice, Thomas.
Referee: A.Green (Leicester).

CLICK for larger pictureJust as Michael Twiss’s wonder goal against Woking was being judged for the best Conference goal seen on Sky TV this season, then he proved it wasn’t a one-off with a brace of top quality goals to help earn Chester three vital points.

Twiss was rightly voted man-of-the-match, but everyone in blue at the Deva Stadium – including banner-waving fans on every side of the ground, played their part in taking Chester within striking distance of the Conference championship.

The Blues made a nervy start to the televised game, allowing Exeter’s Gareth Sheldon to have a strike on goal within the first few minutes. But Chester soon found their feet – exuding confidence at almost every turn.

Twiss, now favoured for every starting XI by manager Mark Wright, was soon making his presence felt with his trademark runs at the Grecian defenders.

Striker Daryl Clare was tightly-marked in the first half and although he made his presence felt around the box, he didn’t come close to scoring. But Twiss and Darryn Stamp both had attempts on target saved by Exeter ‘keeper James Bittner.

At the other end, pint-sized Jamie Coppinger had Exeter's best chance to score in the first half when he found himself clear on goal. However his shot went wide of the target.

The game fizzed into life in the second half, as both teams set about proving themselves – Chester as champions elect and Exeter as play-off candidates.

It was Chester who had the first opportunity to stake their claim when Darryn Stamp had a one-on-one chance against Bittner in the 52nd minute. But instead of slotting it home he shot straight at the ‘keeper.

Just seven minutes later, and it was the Grecians who had the upper hand when defender Danny Collins made a rare blunder. His headed clearance went straight to Exeter’s Sean Devine and his daisy-cutting strike hit the post and then the back of the net.

But Chester, watched by 4,046 at a buzzing Deva Stadium, continued to play with confidence. Shaun Carey seemed determined to win every ball in midfield and Phil Bolland confirmed he was back to his old form.

Clare also came alive in the second half – dropping back into midfield to pick up any loose ball and doing his best to tempt Exeter’s defenders to foul him in the penalty box.

Indeed, it was Clare’s determination that helped Chester level the game on the 63rd minute. He turned an Exeter defender and fed an excellent ball to Twiss. He then beat his marker and scored the equaliser.

Chester, spurred on by the Deva faithful, were soon on top of the game – thanks to another Twiss and Clare combination. First Twiss was fouled as he ran towards the goal, earning the Blues a free kick on the edge of the area. Then Clare stepped up to take it. He made no mistake and his superb shot went straight in the net.

Clare’s TV goal celebration involved three press-ups. But most of the ecstatic Chester fans were too busy jumping for joy to notice: “Are you watching Hereford?” they sung to Sky’s microphones as the match re-started. It was soon Twiss’s opportunity to turn on the style for the TV cameras. Lee Elam, an 84th minute substitute, passed to him and he twisted around two Exeter defenders before curling the ball into the goal. It was a strike to match his wonder goal at Woking and it left Chester well and truly in the driving seat.

Just three minutes later Exeter earned themselves a consolation goal when Chester’s defence fell asleep and Sean Canham scored the Grecians’ second. It left Chester facing a nerve-jangling last few minutes as Exeter pressed for an equaliser. They were awarded a corner, but the ball was thwacked clear and the Blues were soon celebrating another classic three points.

As the 2003/4 Conference season draws to a conclusion, Chester have just seen off Exeter and now face Shrewsbury, Scarborough and Hereford. The closing fixtures have a familiar Division Three ring to them and it’s looking increasingly likely that Chester will be back there in 2004/5.

Sue Choularton

Man of the Match  

Wednesday 7 April 2004
Chester City Reserves 0 Accrington Stanley Reserves 0
Lancashire League Division One

Chester City: Ryan Brookfield, Darren Jones, Ian Lathom, Matty Cook, Peter Owens, Danny Ventre, Adam Hunter, James Salkeld, Tommy Leonard, Darren Byers, Matt Phillips (Kenny Rollinson).

Tuesday 6 April 2004
Chester City 4 Aldershot Town 2
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 3,432 Half Time 2-1
Booked: Bolland, Guyett. Sent-off: McIntyre (Violent conduct).

Chester City: Turner, Bolland, Guyett, Heard (Elam 90), McIntyre, Collins, Carey (Lane 90), Twiss, Clare, Carden, Stamp (Davies 90). Subs: Rapley, Woods.
Aldershot Town: Bull, Warburton, Hooper, Sterling, Antwi, Downer (Chewins 69), Miller, Challinor (Charles 71), Gosling, D’Sane, Sills. Subs: Nutter, McLean, Barnard.
Referee: R.Booth (Nottingham).

CLICK for larger pictureA blistering start by City saw them take a two goal lead against fellow promotion contenders Aldershot Town and set them on their way to securing three more precious points.

Unsurprisingly, Manager Mark Wright elected to field the same starting X1 that won at Accrington on Saturday against a Shots side still smarting from an FA Trophy semi-final exit on Saturday.

There was hardly time to take your seat before the Blues opened the scoring as Phil Bolland rose to head home a Jamie Heard cross following a short corner routine that also paid dividends on Saturday. Minutes later City almost doubled their lead as Shots keeper Nikki Bull made his first of many good saves on the night to keep out a powerful header from Michael Twiss after he’d been set-up by Daryl Clare.

The Blues were causing the visitors defence all kinds of problems with some quality crossed raining into the box, and after nine minutes the second goal that City’s early pressure had promised duly arrived. This time it was leading scorer Daryl Clare’s turn to find the net with a quality finish after good work by strike partner Darryn Stamp for his 21st goal in 15 games, a remarkable achievement.

The action was end to end as Bolland was in just the right place to clear a Warburton effort off his line and at the other end Twiss his the post and Shaun Carey saw a superb shot well saved by the overworked Bull.

Against the run of play Adam Miller, who had been the visitors best player, scored direct from a corner on 37 minutes, the ball going in waist-high at the near post.

The Shots started the second half brightly kicking towards their 150 supporters. Dangerman Roscoe D’Sane twice having shots saved and Warburton headed a Miller cross over before City restored their two goal lead on 58 minutes. Once again defender Phil Bolland found himself in the right place as he shot from 15 yards after Stamp’s shot had rebounded to him from the post.

Two minutes later and City wrapped up the points. Jamie Heard was fouled in the box by Jon Challinor and Clare stepped up to send Bull the wrong way from the spot scoring with his third penalty in as many games, this time high to the ‘keeper’s left.

Lee Charles pulls a goal back for the visitors after being set up by Miller before both sides were reduced to ten men on 78 minutes. Kevin McIntyre was fouled by Dean Hooper who received a second yellow card and was sent off. McIntyre was adjudged to have put his head in the face of the Aldershot defender and received a straight red card.

The Blues held on comfortably in the closing minutes for their ninth win in ten games, and there was even time, just, for a debut by Lee Elam.
Saturday 3 April 2004
Accrington Stanley 0 Chester City 2
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,561 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Twiss.

Accrington Stanley:
Kennedy, Fitzgerald (Durnin 86), Kempson, Hollis (Calcutt 38), Brannan, Proctor, Mullin, Williams, Cook (S.Flitcroft 76), James, Cavanagh. Subs not used: Speare, Smith.
Chester City: Turner, Bolland, Guyett, Heard, McIntyre, Collins, Carey, Twiss, Clare, Carden, Stamp (Lane 63). Subs not used: Rapley, Davies, Woods, Elam.
Referee: C.Oliver (Northumberland).

Click for larger pictureFor the second time in a week over 1,500 City fans traveled away to support the team and they weren’t disappointed with another hard working 2-0 victory against an Accrington side looking to reach the play-off’s at their first attempt. City manager Mark Wright recalled Iain Turner in goal and gave a start to Michael Twiss for the injured Alex Smith.

City started the brighter of the two sides with wingers Twiss and Jamie Heard in particular seeing plenty of the ball in the early stages. Twiss’ trickery was causing all sorts of trouble down the left and one particular run resulted in a corner on 13 minutes. Heard, who appears to be growing in confidence with every match, played a short one-two with Clare from the corner and his accurate far post cross was met by Scott Guyett who headed powerfully home from close range.

The Blues pushed forward looking for a second, Kevin McIntyre sent in a dangerous cross after good build-up work but there was no-one in the middle to convert the effort while Heard also delivered some telling balls into the box for Darryn Stamp and Daryl Clare to create half-chances.

Stanley made a tactical change bringing on Dean Calcutt for Steve Hollis who had been on the receiving end of Twiss’ first-half runs. A minute after coming on Calcutt created Accrington’s best chance of the half when he slipped a defender on the edge of the box and sent a curling 20-yarder then was heading for just inside the post before Turner dived full length to his left to save, indeed catch, the ball at waist height.

City began the second half in bullish style creating a chance just after the break that saw Shaun Carey chest the ball down inside the box following a corner only to shoot tamely at ‘keeper Kennedy. At the other end both Danny Collins and Phil Bolland got themselves in the way of shots as Stanley, and Lutel James in particular, looked lively at times.

Top scorer Clare was guilty of missing to great chances to extend City’s lead in as many minutes. A fine one-touch move that began in their own half set Heard away on the right his pinpoint cross was chested down by Clare who swiveled to turn the last defender and blazed the ball over from 12 yards, minutes later another Heard cross was headed wide by City’s top scorer from a similar position.

Wright brought on Chris Lane at right back at the expense of Darryn Stamp. The Blues missed an easier chance soon after as Kennedy dropped McIntyre’s inswinging left-wing corner under pressure, the ball fell to Guyett four yards out who lifted his shot over the bar into the City crowd when it seemed impossible to miss the target.

Michael Twiss though he’d added City’s second burst through on the right and saw his low shot beat Kennedy, hit the foot of the right hand post, and spin across the line and out past the other post to be cleared. The striker was booked minutes later after being adjudged to have dived in the box by referee Oliver. You couldn't help but feel that City were going to pay for these wasted chances and they almost did as Brannan shot over the bar after meeting Calcutt’s corner at the far post.

At the other end Twiss had two more chances. First he was sent through one-on-one on goal, as Kennedy came out to narrow the angle Twiss lobbed the ball over the keeper and the bar. Minutes later McIntyre made a surging run down the left, cut inside and pulled the ball back from the byline only to see Twiss’ low shot from six yards well saved by Kennedy at the near post.

Nerves were settled in the final minute with the award of a penalty after Clare was fouled by Robbie Williams, who, to add insult to injury was dismissed for his efforts. Clare stepped up to send Kennedy the wrong way from the spot and seal three more vital points for Chester’s quest for a return to the Football League.

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