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30 August 1997
Barnet 2 Chester City 1

Barnet: Harrison, Stockley, Harle, Heald (Goodhind 40), Howarth, Ford (Mustafa 64), Mauuel (Onwere 64), Simpson, Charlery, Devine, Wilson.
Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett, Richardson, McDonald, Flitcroft., Priest (Woods 76), subs; Thomas, Murphy.
Referee: A.G.Wiley (Burntwood)

Two goals in a minute a quarter of an hour from the end brought City's first league defeat of the season. City, who failed to force a single save from the home 'keeper through the entire 90 minutes took the lead through an own goal on the hour, Phil Simpson (later named man of the match) heading in a cross from Ross Davidson.

Barnet equalised from the penalty spot after Spencer Whelan was caught pulling Ken Charlery's shirt, Paul Wilson sending Ronnie Sinclair the wrong way with the spot kick. A minute later, The Bees were ahead. City's kick-off was hopelessly booted straight into touch by Nick Richardson. Charlery broke on the right slipped his man and Sean Devine picked up the loose ball to fire Barnet's winner.

How much City miss Shaun Reid was clear on this performance. One man doesn't make a team, but there appears to be no leadership on the pitch at all – no midfield bite. Summer signing Rod Thomas was axed from the starting line-up, while midfielder Chris Priest played his first game since the play-off defeat at Swansea.
27 August 1997 (Pontins League)
Chester City Reserves 1 Hull City Reserves 3

Chester City: Brown, Warrington, Giles (McKay), Dobson, Woods, Ratcliffe, Milner, Priest (Clench), Murphy, Jones, G.Shelton.

In an attempt to exorcise Saturday's first half and Carlisle I attended tonight's Pontins League fixture v Hull City. It didn't work so I fully expect to be at Scunthorpe next Tuesday (Barnet not posssible otherwise I would be there too).

The really frightening thing about this match was that there were only three players without first team experience and we were soundly beaten. It was also worrying to see Ratcliffe playing a sort of Libero/Centre Back role which I think disrupted any sort of pattern. I can't imagine the thinking behind him playing at all. It must mean that we simply don't have any centre backs at the Club except Whelan and Alsford. Woods may make it, but he really does look too slow and not secure enough in the air to be an effective substitute for Whelan or Alsford.

Anyway, after taking a first half lead from an Andy Milner header – yes, an Andy Milner header!!! Chester faded and fell to three well taken second half goals from Hull, who grew in confidence as the game went on. Chris Priest came through the game ok and John Murphy again looked quite effective without really penetrating.

Difficult to tell anything very much from this scrappy game but I guess this is the standard pattern at this level. I gather that Ryan Dobson is rated – I hope he comes good but he has a disturbing likeness to Brynley Jones which makes me think he will not quite get there!

With about thirty people in attendance I could not help thinking that more could be made of these games. Why charge £1 to get in? Why not let people in free, advertise it properly and perhaps put on some Junior Blues penalty competitions or suchlike – just to get kids used to coming along to the Club?

Wayne Brown 6, Craig Warrington 5, Martin Giles 5, Ryan Dobson 6, Matt Woods 6, Kevin Ratcliffe 5, Andy Milner 6, Chris Priest 5, John Murphy 7, Jon Jones 6, Gary Shelton 5. Subs: Philip Clench 5 (for Priest 57), Matt McKay 5 (for Giles 80)

David Evans
26 August 1997 (Coca Cola Cup 1st Rd 2nd leg)
Carlisle United 3 v Chester City 0 (agg. Carlisle 5 Chester 1)

Overall a dismal display. After a fairly bright start easily having the best of the first 15 minutes and the home crowd starting to get restless City conceded another soft goal. A corner which really should have been Sinclair's was simply nodded in from a yard out. This coming after Alsford had hit the bar with a good header. From then on it was clear it was not to be our night.

The second Carlisle goal killed the game for even the most optimistic City fan and it was just as soft as the first as centre backs Whelan and Alsford both failed to pick up a run through the centre and the ball was slotted past Sinclair.

From then on Carlisle took their foot off the gas as they were clearly through and the game became a formality.

One point of interest was the substitution made by Ratcliffe after 60 minutes: Richardson, Thomas and Bennett off for Woods, Milner and Murphy.

Clutching at straws Murphy did at least win some balls in the air and gave a tantalising hint that he might prove to be a useful foil for Bennett or McDonald. But overall very disappointing and yet again the midfield failed to tick. How we need Priest and Reid.

Sinclair 6, Davidson 5, Jenkins 5, Whelan 5, Alsford 6, Fisher 6, Flitcroft 6, Richardson 5, Bennett 6, Thomas 6, McDonald 6, Subs: Milner 6, Woods 6, Murphy 7

David Evans
23 August 1997
Chester City 1 Cambridge United 1

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett, Richardson (Woods 73), Milner (McDonald 65), Flitcroft, Thomas, sub Murphy.
Cambridge United: Barrett, Chenery, Wilson, Marc Joseph, Foster, Campbell, Wanless (Taylor 71), Rees, Kyd, Butler, Preece, subs Williamson, Matthew Joseph
Referee: S.J.Baines (Chesterfield)

A classic 'game of two halves'. In the first City could do nothing right, it was the worst 45 minutes they've put together in a long time. They fell behind to a smart goal from Michael Kyd who turned Julian Alsford in the box and shot home after seven minutes. City had two chances to equalise both falling to Gary Bennett. The first he headed over the bar from a Neil Fisher corner, and then he was put through by Iain Jenkins on 13 minutes but shot tamely at keeper Scott Barrett. Too many City players were having a torrid first 45. Both full backs Jenkins and Davidson could do nothing right and the midfield was non-existent. Only Julian Alsford with some sterling work at the back and keeper Ronnie Sinclair looked confident.

However the introduction of Rod McDonald for the ineffective Andy Milner on 65 minutes changed things for City. He'd only been on the pitch a couple of minutes when his superb pin-point right wing cross was headed home at the far post by Gary Bennett. A few minutes earlier City had claims for a penalty turned down when Bennett was held in the box by Paul Wilson. City pressed forward for the winner and Rod McDonald came closest when he hit the angle of post and crossbar with a fine curling left foot shot. However City had keeper Sinclair to thank for the point with a tremendous save from Ben Chenery with about 15 minutes left.

All in all a good second half fight back which earned a point, though after a dreadful first half City deserved no more against a well organised Cambridge team. Man of the match went to Gary Bennett whose tireless running up front especially in the second half helped create City's best openings.

Chester have only beaten Cambridge United once. That win came back in 1970 the first time the two teams met when Chester won 2-1 at Sealand Road.
12 August 1997 (Coca Cola Cup 1st Rd 1st leg)
Chester City 1 Carlisle United 2

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett, Richardson, Rimmer, Flitcroft (Milner 84), Thomas (Woods 67), sub Murphy.
Carlisle United: Caig, Delap, Archdeacon, Walling, Varty, Thorpe, Barr, Proaks, Smart (Dobie 72), Aspinall, Jansen, subs McAlindon, Milligan
Referee: Eddie Lomas (Eccles)

Looking on the bright side I think this was a useful test for the team. Carlisle were infinitely better than Lincoln and on this performance I would expect them to perform well this season. We were punished by two clinical finishes and of course missed a penalty.

Rimmer was rightly named man of the match as he battled all night and provided nice touches – not least winning the penalty. The main reason we were defeated however was a very poor performance from the entire midfield. You cannot expect to win when all four midfielders are below par. Fisher was anonymous, Richardson invisible, Flitcroft off the pace and Thomas very ineffective. There seemed to be little shape to the midfield with Thomas drifting around the pitch rather than stretching Carlisle on the left. Strangely when he clearly has control and ability he seems unwilling to take players on.

The forwards and defence worked hard but without support they were unable to do more than hold Carlisle. Woods came on for Thomas (a strange substitution but just as it worked on Saturday it worked again) and scored a fine volley inevitably from some good work on the right from Rimmer.

The ineffective Flitcroft was substituted with three minutes to go by Milner. A move that should have happened twenty minutes before (mind you, I thought the same on Saturday and he scored one and made one!!!)

Sinclair 7, Davidson 6, Jenkins 6, Alsford 7, Whelan 7, Fisher 5, Richardson 5, Thomas 5, Flitcroft 5, Rimmer 8, Bennett 6

Let's hope that Chris Priest is fit and in form – we need him at his best. And the lack of cover at the back is still a major concern. I would have thought it unlikely that many if any teams in the third will prove to be as strong as Carlisle and at 1-2 there is always the faintest of chances that they will have an off night and we could sneak it!

David Evans

9 August 1997
Chester City 2 Lincoln City 0

Chester City: Sinclair, Davidson, Jenkins, Fisher, Whelan, Alsford, Bennett (Murphy 90), Richardson, Rimmer, Flitcroft, Thomas (Woods 65). Sub not used: Milner.
Lincoln City: Vaughan, Barnett, Whitney, Hone, Holmes, Austin, Ainsworth, Miller, Stant, Thoroe, Fleming. Subs not used: Brown, Stones, Robertson.
Referee: Andy Hall (Birmingham).

It was good to see a reasonable crowd for the game, especically when it is holiday time. Ok it was still the second lowest in the division, but there were moments when the atmosphere was good.

The game itself was hugely encouraging. Difficult to tell too much from it as we might well find Lincoln 20 points adrift at the bottom by Christmas (there was little of merit in their display). But they did manage to bring out what I would wager was the best save in the League from Ronnie Sinclair – it was positively 'Banksian' as he dived low to his left to stop a powerful point blank header.

After a bright start Lincoln did manage to break up Chester's play and the first half fizzled out. It must be depressing to support Lincoln as their only tactic seemed to be to hoof the ball into the air. Chester deserve credit in keeping patience (despite some in the crowd who seemed to want them to adopt Lincoln tactics) with playing football. It did not always come off, but there was enough exciting potential between Thomas, Bennett, Richardson and occasionally Flitcroft, to think that once they develop their understanding they could be very effective.

The sponsors Man of the Match was Alsford. I personally didn't think he had more than a steady game and my M.O.M. would have been Bennett. He had four very clear chances before scoring and was a constant menace. His sheer energy and obvious commitment was an inspiration and he was 'over the moon' to score.

My Highly subjective marks: Sinclair 8, Davidson 6, Jenkins 6, Alsford 7, Whelan 8, Flitcroft 6, Fisher 6, Rimmer 6, Bennett 9, Thomas 7

David Evans
The crowds filed away from the Deva Stadium on Saturday happy in the knowledge that justice had prevailed – not only had Chester had won (which is usually justice enough for me), they had deserved to win.Chester created plenty of goal scoring opportunities, but as the game wore on without a goal there was more sweating in the crowd than on the field.

Lincoln's chances were, in the main, presented to them by sloppy defending, with the entire back four of Alsford, Whelan, Davidson and Jenkins all guilty of lapses in concentration.

Unlike David Evans, I agreed (for once) with the sponsors Man of the Match award going to Julian Alsford.

Alsford, in my humble opinion, is one of the best defenders in the 3rd Division – in addition to solid tackling, reasonable pace and aerial ability, his distribution of the ball is superb.

If the defence did look a little shaky at times on Saturday, it wasn't helped by Spencer Whelan's attempts to emulate the passing abilities of his colleagues. Spencer has strength and commitment, but when he has the ball at his feet with time on his hands, my heart is in my mouth and stomach is on the floor. If he could only play to his strengths and just look for the simple ball every time I may live a little longer !!!

However, in a funny sort of way we should be thankful for the failings of some Chester players – if Flitcroft was half a yard faster and half a stone lighter, he probably wouldn't be playing for Chester.

The return of Gary Bennett has added another dimension to the Chester attack, his overall contribution on Saturday was excellent. It was noticeable that the back four looked to play the ball up directly to him, rather than play endless balls across the pitch – in the knowledge that unlike Andy Milner he will attempt to win the ball in the air. But rather than degenerating into a relentless long ball tactic, this was merely providing another option.

Rod Thomas provided us with some blinding pieces of skill, although he did spurn the chance of running with the ball and attacking the Lincoln defence on a number of occasions and laid it off instead – which may be down to his lack of match fitness.

However, all credit to the lads who on an extremely hot day, plugged away and got the result that they deserved.

Paul Robertson

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