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Bishop’s Stortford (A) | Manchester United X1 (H) | King’s Lynn Town (H) | Chorley (H) | Banbury United (A) | Scarborough Athletic (A) | Farsley Celtic (H)
Monday 28 August
Chester 2 Farsley Celtic 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,380 (28 Farsley Celtic) Half Time: 2-0
Booked: Roberts, Stanway.

Chester: Stanway, Coates, Williams, Burke, Heywood, Roberts, Glendon (Maguire 66), Weeks, Whitehouse, Murray, Hall. Subs not used: Goodson, Evans, Earl, Daly.
Farsley Celtic: Leban, Leckie, Robinson, Branson, Misambo, Wilson (Carroll 54), Watson (B.Atkinson 65), C.Atkinson, Donaldson, Stephenson (Blair 78), Silva. Subs not used: Wilson, Sheridan.
Referee: Shaun Taylor.

Farsley arrived this Bank Holiday Monday unbeaten and with a hundred per cent winning away record from their opening fixtures. Chester, at home at least, were also unbeaten and yet to concede. Something had to give.

City made just the one change from the side who were narrowly defeated at Scarborough two days previously with Whitehouse starting instead of Maguire. It was Whitehouse who opened the scoring within the first five minutes as the Blues put the visitors on the back foot. A well-worked free kick on the right created space for Glendon to get behind the defence and square the ball for Whitehouse to sweep home.

Only seven minutes later Chester doubled their lead when Weeks’ teasing cross from the right found Glendon stealing in on the blind-side to nod the ball in. It was an atypical finish for the Blues’ skipper but one that was hugely celebrated by fans and players as it seemed to cap his recovery from long injury.

The game saw the return of the popular Darren Stephenson in opposition colours. He was unable to command game time last season with City as they changed formation at the expense of wingers. Celts also seemed to employ him in a central role alongside player-manager Clayton Donaldson. Both struggled to make a telling impact against the excellent Burke and Williams in the centre of City’s defence. Instead it was Murray and Hall that went closest to adding further for the Blues whilst Stanway – in unusual lilac to avoid a clash with the Celts’ green – was relatively untroubled in Chester’s goal.

Five minutes after the break it appeared that Whitehouse had mirrored his first half goal but the linesman’s flag was raised to indicate offside. On the hour mark Hall, a continuous handful for Farsley defenders, was grappled to the ground on the edge of the box by Conor Branson – who saw a red card as a result. Hall, given the direct free kick he had earned, blazed it over the bar.

City tried to find a third goal – Weeks came closest with a couple of efforts on target. The second, a few minutes from time, was thwarted by a magnificent reflex save by Leban. Murray was more wayward with his shooting. But, with the man advantage, Chester finished the game relatively comfortably, even though Farsley had stabilised after their shell-shock after the opening quarter of an hour.

It was a welcome win for the Blues after an under-par start to the season in terms of results Chester are yet to concede at home after three games – whilst still to score away.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 26 August
Scarborough Athletic 1 Chester 0
National League North
Attendance: 1,815 (233 Chester) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Murray, Heywood.
Sent-off: Burke.

Scarborough Athletic: Cracknell, Weledji, Brown, Maloney, Thornton, Gooda, Purver, Durose (Coulson 73), Mulhern (Charles 86), Tear (Marshall 79), Colville. Subs not used: Qualter, Hutton.
Chester: Stanway, Coates, Williams, Burke, Heywood, Roberts, Weeks, Glendon (Evans 76), Murray (Whitehouse 59), Maguire, Hall. Subs not used: Goodson, Earl, Daly.
Referee: James Bancroft.

Chester are beaten by a last minute goal at Scarborough and have Harrison Burke sent-off.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 19 August
Banbury United 1 Chester 0
National League North
Attendance: 802 (250 Chester) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Burke.

Banbury United: Harding, Tomkins, Davies, Maye, Henderson (Hall 61), Fleming, Obadefi, D’Ath (Barlow 67), Charles, Hewitt, Elliott-Wheeler (Scott 82). Subs not used: Farah, Hamilton.
Chester: Stanway, Coates, Edwards (Williams 68), Burke, Heywood, Earl, Whitehouse (Maguire 38), Weeks, Murray, Goodson (Burton 65), Hall. Subs not used: Glendon, Thomas.
Referee: H.Warner.

Chester fell to a second successive away defeat as they were beaten 1-0 at Banbury United. New loan signing Frankie Maguire took his place on the bench as manager Calum McIntyre made a couple of changes with Lewis Earl and Ollie Heywood starting at the expense of Reece Daly and Joel Taylor.

It took The Puritans just three minutes to open the scoring as Tope Obadeyi controlled a left wing cross before turning to shoot past Wyll Stanway from the edge of the box to give the home side the best possible start.

The Blues created very little but should have drawl level midway through the half as Iwan Murray, sent through one-on-one with home ‘keeper Jack Harding could only shoot straight at him.

Maguire came on for the injured Elliott Whitehouse with the loanee showing some nice touches on his debut. The only real chance of note came late on as Zak Goodson sw a low effort saved by Harding and Kole Hall saw a header crash off the crossbar ten minutes from time.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Tuesday 15 August
Chester 0 Chorley 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,308 (135 Chorley) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Stanway, Coates, Burke, Edwards, Taylor (Heywood 56), Whitehouse, Weeks (Glendon 64), Daly, Murray, Goodson, Hall. Subs not used: Williams, Earl, Burton.
Chorley: Urwin, Henley, Ellis, Smith, Whitehouse, Calveley, Sampson (Britton 79), Tomlinson (Nolan 64), Moore, Ubaezuonu, Johnson (Hazlehurst 69). Subs not used: Shenton, Scarborough.
Referee: Declan Brown.

Blues followed up their first win of the season with their first draw as they played out an entertaining encounter with Chorley. Although scoreless there were plenty of attempts on goal – most came from the home side.

City’s play in the first half in particular had the Magpies on the back foot. Coates found space to get behind the defence a number of times on the right but the Blues couldn’t fashion a clear cut opportunity to score. Goodson and Hall both went close with shots narrowly over the bar and Murray’s shot from Coates’ excellent cross was wide. The visitors had a couple of good opportunities too – Elliott Whitehouse almost sliced a cross from his namesake Billy into his own net whilst Burke cleared Ubaezuonu’s goal-bound shot away. Kay threatened down the left but – in a fascinating tussle – Coates matched him defensively.

Weeks found Goodson but his shot was wayward. Coates fired another low cross through the Chorley box in a move that saw Taylor injured in the build-up. Just before half time Coates found space on the right again to cross for Hall but the tall forward could only direct his header straight at Urwin in the Chorley goal.

Shortly after the break Hall went closer still when his header from Murray’s corner hit the angle of post and bar. But as the half wore on a resilient Chorley pinned Chester back as the home side flagged a little. Stanway claimed a cross but lost it as he landed – Edwards was in the right place to deflect Ubaezuonu’s follow-up shot wide. Taylor limped off to be replaced by Heywood and Glendon came on for Weeks.

In the final quarter of an hour Chester rallied and finished the stronger. Chorley struggled to contain them and suffered a string of bookings. Goodson created a chance for himself and curled a shot from distance narrowly over. Daly was fouled on the edge of the box and Whitehouse’s direct free kick was a whisker wide. The indefatigable Hall found the energy to shimmy past two defenders and fire at goal but Urwin managed to parry it. The final effort came from the equally energetic and inventive Murray who fired narrowly wide from the edge of the area.

Calum McIntyre and the squad have been working hard to counter the defensive strategies that many visitors posed last season. City’s attacking play today was excellent and on another day might have produced another win. Nevertheless Calum was pleased with the performance, if not the result, and Blues were warmly applauded by their fans at the end.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 12 August
Chester 3 King’s Lynn Town 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,137 (62 King’s Lynn Town) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Taylor, Goodson, Daly.

Chester: Stanway, Coates, Edwards, Burke, Taylor, Earl (Weeks 59), Whitehouse, Daly, Murray (Bott 90+5), Goodson (Glendon 71), Hall. Subs not used: Williams, Heywood.
King’s Lynn Town: Sandford, Ronan, Crowther, McFadden, Coulson (Bartley 76), Clifford, Hargreaves, Hughes (Smith 64), Stephens, Ponticelli, Barrett (Spence 57). Subs not used: Oke, Fatadjo.
Referee: Oliver Mackey.

Chester overcame a lengthening injury list to claim their first win of the season as they entertained last season’s runners up King’s Lynn. Calum McIntyre was forced to leave Weeks, Williams and the rehabilitating George Glendon on the bench but was adamant that his charges were capable of winning the game. The Linnets had injury problems of their own and fielded Ronnie Sandford in goal – brought in on loan the previous day from Milton Keynes.

On a bright and breezy afternoon the home crowd in the Deva – newly rebranded the Leap 76 Stadium - was soon jumping in the air as Chester took an early lead. Murray’s searching corner from the right was met by Burke’s header. It leapt off the turf and Sandford knocked it down, only for Zak Goodson to poach a debut goal by prodding it over the line.

The Linnets, in pink and gold looked to respond and worked the ball around methodically as they dominated possession for a spell. City were content to contain them – Whitehouse and Earl providing a defensive shield in front of the back four and Kole Hall leading the line to good effect. With the wind behind them the visitors over-hit a number of passes but also managed to cause some problems as they came forward. A cross from the right was headed wide at the far post by Clifford. He also saw his direct free kick saved at the foot of the post by Stanway. And Stephens forced another save from the City keeper after Chester lost possession in midfield.

Coates was booked as the referee interpreted his touch as kicking the ball away after the whistle had gone. Then Daly was harshly adjudged to have gone down too easily rather than being fouled. Exasperation grew on the Chester bench. Goodson, though, raised the spirits with some clever play before whipping in a shot towards goal.

At the break the game was in the balance and King’s Lynn came out determined to press the Blues back aggressively. But after going close at the other end, they were undone when Earl’s threaded pass found Coates down the right and Sandford rushing recklessly out of his area. Coates lobbed the ball into the box and two retreating Linnets defenders only succeeded in teeing up Hall to crash a shot into the unguarded net.

Still King’s Lynn strove forward and another right wing driven cross eluded everyone as it flew through the Chester six yard box. Weeks came on to replace Earl for the last half an hour and then, with twenty minutes to go Glendon made a welcome return to the pitch after his season long lay-off through injury. Weeks, touchingly, passed the skipper’s armband – which he’d received from Whitehouse – on to club captain Glendon. There were signs that the midfield maestros were re-establishing their former telepathic understanding as they exchanged passes to glide past the opposition.

Weeks’ tenacity in the tackle wrested control down the left and he found a through pass for Murray. He took it in his stride, beat the onrushing defender and carved out space for a shot in the same movement. He found the back of the net to exhilarate the home crowd and cap an emphatic first win of the season. No doubt Chorley, who visit on Tuesday will provide a different and maybe tougher challenge but, given the number of injuries affecting City, this was a much better outcome than many had feared at the start of the day.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Monday 7 August
Chester 0 Manchester United X1 4
Attendance: 2,659 Half Time: 0-2
Booked: Heywood.

Chester: Stanway (Beswick 83), Thomas (Davies 76), Forde, Earl, Heywood, Bott, Daly, Murray (Glendon 37), Rosenblatt, Goodson, Clarke (Butler 63).
Manchester United: Mee, Mengi, Jurado, Kambwala, Aljofree, Collyer, Mejia, Shoretire, McNeill, Hannibal, Emeran. Subs: Nolan, Mastny, Ogunneye, Williams, Mather, Oyedele.
Referee: Aaron Jackson.

Chester fielded an inexperienced eleven dotted with one or two first teamers against a Manchester United Under-21 side who contained some with EFL loan spells from last season under their belt. Ewan Murray was captain of the Blues on the day until replaced by club captain George Glendon – returning to the pitch after 399 days out after an ACL injury. City’s new home strip featured names and numbers now – albeit they didn’t always match the person wearing them today – and blue shorts.

The pace and close control of Chester’s youthful opponents was in evidence straight from the kick off as the visitors attacked the Harry Mac (Newly sponsored by Mars Jones) End. City pretty much held their own for the first twenty minutes until conceding an untidy goal. Shoretire stabbed home the loose ball as it squirmed through Stanway’s grasp. Then just before half time Charlie McNeil whipped in a second as he capitalised on Chester’s inability to clear the ball from the area. Then Glendon made his substitute appearance to a warmly appreciative standing ovation.

After the break United’s tempo intensified as Chester were pinned back in their own half for long periods. When they did venture forward and lost the ball United countered with a clinical break to make it three-nil, McNeil adding his second. The visitors’ play was cultured and possession-based. No long shots as they continually tried to work an opening. Noam Emeran completed another such move and the scoring as he slid in at the far post.

Stanway kept the score down as he saved a point blank header from Mengi. City’s keeper then gave way to allow Beswick a few minutes in goal. The game provided a useful workout as they say and no doubt increased revenue for Chester. Many young United fans waited behind at the end to greet their rising stars.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 5 August
Bishop’s Stortford 2 Chester 0
National League North
Attendance: 740 (303 Chester) Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Whitehouse, Burke, Hall, Caton, Weeks.

Bishop’s Stortford: Giddens, Morrell, Thomas, Henshaw, Foxley, Olufemi, Sykes, Charles (Jones 90), Walker (Ogunwamide 68), Peters (Howard 89), Shogbeni. Subs not used: Cracknell, Haines.
Stanway, Coates, Edwards, Williams (Earl 63), Taylor, Burke (Heywood 82), Weeks, Murray (Burton 69), Whitehouse, Hall, Caton. Subs not used: Goodson, Daly.
Referee: Robert Claussen.

Chester made almost the worst possible start to the 2023-4 season with a 2-0 defeat and a disappointing performance at newly-promoted Bishop’s Stortford.

The dismal start to the campaign not only marked the end of an unbeaten away league run dating back to August 2022, but saw Matty Williams limp off injured on the 63rd minute, followed by Harrison Burke near the end of the 90 minutes.

It was a match that initially seemed typical of any season’s first game, with Woodside Park offering a lush playing surface. Both sides were slow to ‘get going’, but Chester made the best of the opening spell. One of few opportunities for the travelling Blues came with a Iwan Murray corner, which Harrison Burke headed for home only for Bishop’s Stortford captain Ryan Henshaw to head off the line.

Chester, cheered on by 303 travelling fans in a segregated crowd of 740, were the dominant team in the lacklustre first half. They had another great chance from a Murray corner, with a Caton strike being cleared off the line. Burke seized on the rebound with a header which was also stopped on the line.

Bishop’s Stortford made a more determined start to the second half, with Aldershot loanee Zain Walker shooting wide from a corner not long after the re-start.

By this stage, the fussy referee had shown four yellow cards. But by the end of the match – which included nine additional minutes – he’d shown ten cards and helped impede any real chance of a flowing game of football.

Bishop’s Stortford continued to dominate the second half, with Will Stanway’s legs stopping a goalbound strike from 68th minute substitute Ola Ogunwamide. By now Chester’s defence was looking more vulnerable after Williams had gone off with an injury, to be replaced by Lewis Earl.

The home side won a free kick on the 79th minute, which Stanway came forward to punch clear. However Ryan Charles had the better timing, and headed the ball over the Chester ‘keeper into the open net.

Soon after the goal, Burke went off injured and was replaced by Ollie Heywood. Bishop’s Stortford were now looking even more threatening and Charles notched up his second when he took hold of an excellent cross, with his strike leaving no chance for Stanway.

Despite the nine additional minutes, Chester never looked like getting back into the game and it was no surprise when there was a huge celebration from Bishop’s Stortford when the final whistle came.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews

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