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Monday 30 August 1999
Chester City 0
Rochdale 2

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Davidson, Woods, Cross,Wright, A.Shelton, Richardson, Fisher (Doughty 55), Jones (Berry 51), Beckett. Subs not used: Cutler, Blackburn, Carson.
Rochdale: Edwards; Evans, Hill. Bayliss, Stokes (Jones 84), Ford (Carden 86), Flitcroft, Peake, Atkinson, Platt, Lancashire. Subs not used: Priestly, Morris, Monnington.
Referee: C.Foy (St Helens).

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse! The match as a contest was well and truly over when referee Chris Foy sent Darren Moss off for a second bookable offence. Moss's first booking had been for needlessly tapping the ball away at a throw in, his second offence was to go in too zealously on Keith Hill who proceeded to kick him while he was on the ground. On first sight the tackle didn't appear to merit a booking – so the decision seemed harsh. We all felt Hill had got away lightly with just a yellow card.

Mr Foy had booked four players, all from City, in the first half. All of them technically correct, but all of them might have been let go on another day with another official. As the crowd bayed its displeasure at the ref, I heard the clang of metal on concrete. While I wondered what that could have been, the next thing I saw was Ernie on the pitch and grabbing the referee by the neck. I realised that he must have rushed through the gate (Hence the clang) but just could not believe what I was seeing. I can only imagine that Ernie, who I had been talking to before the game about the Torquay match, just "lost it". It's a crying shame that no-one held him back and saved him from himself, the club from bad publicity and the ref from a sore neck.

As for the match itself – it was literally men against boys. Chester hardly got a look in and Rochdale should have had six or seven. Lancashire, back on the ground where he scored the winner in that pulsating match against Preston in 1993, was guilty of missing at least four clear chances. Brown, to his credit, made a superb save to deny him on one of those occasions. But he could not prevent the inevitable Rochdale goal before half time. Flitcroft crossed for Platt, in acres of space, to nod on to Ford who crossed for Atkinson to score with a bullet header. It seemed that Rochdale could break through our defence at will as we seemed to be chasing shadows all the time.

Platt, on loan from Walsall, put us out of our misery midway through the second half when he was found all on his own by Peake's cross field ball – he went on to score with a deflected shot off the post.

At half time the crowd were introduced to the novelty of a radio mike. Cleggy was able to announce the winning number in the half time draw as soon as Spencer Whelan (Distinguished guest for the day) pulled it out of the hat.

Less welcome was the new idea of playing music while there was a break in the play – namely Matty Woods lying unconscious on the pitch and Fisher receiving attention after a clattering tackle. May be the idea is to play something stirring when Chester score a goal – as other teams do – and as it looked like we were never going to score, well while players were lying comatose seemed a compromise solution. Most of us would put up with this minor irritation as long as we were able to welcome some new signings with the experience to get us off the bottom of the table.

The Roman soldier made a reappearance – this time throwing sweets to the children in the crowd. Someone shouted out that he'd been locked up for doing something similar.

After the game it was back to the social club to reflect on Ernie's moment of madness and the possible repurcussions for the club. There I found at least half a dozen others stoically sipping orange juices and mineral water – the club had not applied to renew it's licence last February and had become the pub with no beer.

Colin Mansley
Saturday 28 August 1999
Torquay United 2 Chester City 2

Torquay United: Southall, Tully, Aggrey, Watson, Russell, Herrera, Brandon, Healy, O'Brien, Bedeau (Simb 83), Williams. Subs not used: Hill, Neil, Platts, Northmore.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Davidson, Woods, Cross, Wright, A.Shelton, Richardson, Fisher, Jones (Berry 63), Beckett. Subs not used: Cutler, Doughty. Blackburn, Carson.
Referee: P.Walton (Northants).

A goal nine minutes from time by Paul Berry brought City's first point of the season after the Blues had lost an early lead at a scorching Plainmoor.

The talk in the excellent 'Boots and Laces' pub before the match was all about City's Worthington Cup draw which pares them with Aston Villa and should guarantee a bumper pay-out day. But before City can look forward to a visit from their Premiership opponents there is the more serious business of picking up League points.

Without Shaun Reid, who is expected to be out for up to three months following his broken jaw, City moved Neil Fisher into midfield with Ross Davidson reverting back to full back. They also took the field sporting a garish mix of home shirt and away shorts/socks with Wayne Brown draped in a spare red Torquay goalkeepers journey.

Indeed it was Fisher who had City' first chance on six minutes when he was put clean through only to shoot straight at home keeper Southall.

However it wasn't long before a fine Darren Wright through ball caught the home defence square again allowing the lively Luke Beckett to sneak through and shoot home despite the outstretched hand of Southall deflecting the ball into the far corner.

Beckett and Jon Jones were causing problems for the Gulls defence in the first half, though City rarely tested Southall again.

The half-time break proved more beneficial for the home side as with a minute of the restart they were level. Right back Steve Tully swung over a cross for Tony Bedeaux to head home unmarked from eight yards out at the near post.

Torquay took control of the game for the next 20 minutes and had several chances to take the lead though it was City who were guilty of the worst miss. After running through the home defence again Luke Beckett swung over a great right wing cross evading Southall and falling right on the head of Nick Richardson who powered his header wide of the open target from 12 yards.

The Gulls took the lead on 69 minutes through Eifion Williams. He was put through by Russell and as he bared down on goal the advancing Wayne Brown lost his footing – embarrassingly slipping over. He regained his composure but was well beaten by Williams' drive.

However City fought back well, with sub Paul Berry forcing a couple of corners which caused scrambles in the home goalmouth.

It was man-of-the-match Beckett who set up City's equaliser. He raced through the home defence forcing Southall wide of his goal. Beckett rounded the keeper before crossing the ball to the far post. A home defender got a touch to the ball but could only deflect it into the path of Berry who couldn't miss from six yards out at the far post.

There was still time for the Gulls to miss a golden opportunity to wrap up the points, with Brown saving well from Williams in the dying minutes.
Tuesday 24 August 1999, Worthington Cup 1st Round 2nd Leg.
Port Vale 4 Chester City 4 (City through 6-5 on aggregate)

Port Vale: Musselwhite; Walsh, Tankard, Brammer, Gardner, Smith, Griffiths, Minton, Widdrington, Naylor, Foyle, Rougier (Perm eleven from twelve – I'm not sure who came on as sub), Eyre definitely came on as sub in the second half.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Cross, Davidson, Woods, Reid (Jones 37), Richardson, Shelton, Fisher, Beckett, Wright. Booked: Cross; Moss.
Referee: JP Robinson (Hull).

What a sensational match this was. Even on a par with that 2-2 draw at Wrexham. One of the most incredible games I have ever seen.

City (In new all amber away kit) came out at Port Vale like a bull at a gate. Their passing was crisp and decisive and the team seemed really up for this. On five minutes, Beckett won a header to put Wright through. Tankard hauled him to the ground – penalty. Beckett put it in the bottom corner just like in the home leg. The sizeable contingent of City fans went delerious. Even better was to follow eight minutes later when Tankard again made a mistake and Beckett broke into the box to curl an unstoppable shot past Musselwhite. 2-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate but there was still plenty of time left for Vale to make a game of it.

Gradually the Valiants penned City back in their own half but the defence, with Davidson at the heart of things, seemed to be holding up very well. Vale did make a breakthrough about ten minutes before half time when a corner to the far post was knocked back into the middle for Naylor to convert.

A few minutes later disaster struck when Shaun Reid was stretchered off after a collision with a Vale player. I thought it was a head injury though Neil Turner on Merseyside feared it might be his knee. Jon Jones came on to replace him with Shelton moving into the middle and Wright dropping back to right wing/midfield.

On what we thought was the stroke of half time (But actually Mr Robinson played eight minutes stoppage time), Vale equalised from the penalty spot. For the second match running it was an incredibly harsh decision against City. I am convinced that the referee was not going to give it but the linesman flagged to award the kick. The ball bounced high right on the edge of the area and Woods with nobody anywhere near him seemed to control it with his chest. Brown got a touch to Minton's penalty but couldn't prevent the goal.

2-2 on the night, City still had their noses in front on aggregate but we feared a battering in the second half now that Port Vale had some momentum behind them and we would surely miss Reidy. During the interval City fans had the chance to socialise with a couple of Dutch players who were over training with the club today.

The break seemed to do City good and they were playing with conviction again when Port Vale scored from a breakaway. A long ball forward was half cleared by Woods but Naylor pounced, turned and his shot took a slight deflection to loop over Brown. A few minutes before, Brown had denied Naylor with a fine save from a close range volley after good work by Smith.

Now the aggregate scores were level and it seemed that Chester would be unlikely to prevent the home side getting another goal to finish them off. But City continued to take the play to Vale and after a good move, Fisher found himself in the box bearing down on goal. Minton brought him down and City had their second penalty on the night. Beckett put the ball low to Musselwhite's right and he parried it – only for Shelton to follow up and knock the rebound in. Shelts was obviously delighted and did a Ravanelli (Shirt over head) for three quarters of the length of the pitch before anyone caught him.

Unbelievably Chester went in front again when following a corner, Richardson drove a shot in which deflected up in the air, and as it dropped Jones volleyed it past a helpless Musselwhite. It was bedlam now in the Chester end as Vale needed to score twice to take the game into extra time. The support had been loud all night – now it was non-stop. None of us could believe this was happening.

Back came Vale again with wave after wave of attack. From a dangerous cross from the right, Davidson inadvertently glanced a header across goal and it was heading for the top corner until Moss knocked it away for a corner.

A long ball was hoisted into a crowded penalty area and Griffiths scored with an overhead kick into the top corner giving Brown no chance. Could City hold out for the last eight minutes or so?

Their goal had an incredible escape after the referee awarded a kick on the edge of the box (A poor decision – Moss won the ball but Minton went down and ref. saw it as a foul). The free kick was blasted towards goal but hit Tony Naylor, from the rebound another fierce shot cannoned off a Vale player. Another shot resulted which hit the post and set up another clear opportunity – surely this was it – but no – the shot grazed the post and went wide.

I have never seen anything like it.

This was a superb performance. The character shown by every single player was absolutely brilliant. Wow! I need to sit down in a darkened room for a bit.

Colin Mansley
Port Vale 4 Chester City 4 (City through 6-5 on aggregate)

As I picked up the local Stoke-on-Trent newpaper and saw that Vale were charging full price for a League Cup 1st round tie against division 3 opposition, I couldn't believe my eyes.

However, boy did I get my moneys worth! This was one hell of a match but for me it was also a depressing sight. Vale's defence was an absolute nightmare. Fresh from a 4 goal battering at the hands of Birmigham I expected vale to win 2-0 or 3-0 to try and forget all about it. However, we decided to concede 2 penalties (1 harsh, 1 correct) and give Chester 2 more goals in the process.

The first penalty was very harsh. The attacker on the ball was going nowhere and a 50-50 challnge resulted in him lying on the floor and the ref blew for a penalty. Becket stepped up and it was 1-0. The second goal was a superb effort by Becket but again Vales defence was very slow to react as he burst into the box to make it 2-0.

I was so p'ed off by this stage I almost went home but fortunately Vale had started to string a few passes together and on the half hour they struck back. This was a lucky goal scrambled in by Naylor. A few minutes later a blatent handball by a defender who was under no pressure at all gave Jeff Minton the chance to level from the spot. He did so. So at half time it was Vale 2-2 Chester and a 10% full Vale park was in shock.

The second half started evenly with both sides having equal posssesion until Naylor struck a fine goal (very similar to Chester's 2nd). After this goal the Chester fans really got behind their team (sing your heart's out for the lads was the chant at this stage, I think the Chester fans thought they were down and out) and they were rewarded when a penalty was awarded. This was a certain penalty as Minton lunged in stupidly.

Fortunately for Vale Musselwhite pulled off a good save from the penalty but the defence was nowhere and the rebound made it 3-3. Soon it was 4-3 Chester when the Vale defence stood static from a dangerous corner and the ball nearly ripped the net out. Soon after though Vale struck through Griffiths with an excellent overhead. By this time Vale were looking like they could walk straight through the Chester defence but time quickly ran out before Vale were given one final chance.

A free kick from 20 yards was fired into the box and a goalmouth scramble saw the ball hit the post twice! This was an end to an unbelievable match. Could you imagine if it had gone in! The score on the night would have probably finished Port Vale 6-4 Chester (AET) ! ! Vale's defence was dire but Chester played really well. I can't believe they are bottom of the league. Anyway, I hope you get a good draw in the next round! I'm sure you wouldnt mind a trip to Pride Park or somewhere like that!

Port Vale 4 Chester City 4 (City through 6-5 on aggregate)

Cor lummy Charlie.....that was something, wasn't it?

Incredible, no other word for it, I have never witnessed such an emotional rollercoaster of a game in all of my life. Truly, truly incredible. The boys (or guys!!!) showed such passion and determination for the cause, even when 2-3 down, they did the club proud. The support of the faithful was superb too.....this is why I am a Chester fan, this game makes things all worthwhile.

The goals flowed we were two up before we could draw breath, and I still thought we would get beaten!! Luke cooly despatched a penalty, then scored an excellent second. Vale battled back and were level by half time, and 3-2 up in the second half. Reidy had to be carried off, and the team had better shape following this. Andy Shelton had an excellent time of it in the second half, and capped it off with an opportunist strike following Luke's penalty being saved..3-3.

I could not believe my eyes when we went 4-3 ahead through the tireless Jon Jones, a good strike too, let's hope he goes on from this, it must do his confidence the world of good. Vale again came back, striking the post and Tony Naylor clearing two away from his own players strike!!! Vale did score an equaliser, 4-4, good goal too from Carl Griffiths (I am glad he did not start in either leg, he always looks sharp, Brian Horton does not know his arse from his elbow to keep him on the bench and play Martin Foyle...hurrah for us!) The spirit tonight was tremendous, let us not forget we are bottom of the league, with no goals scored.

To go to a first division side and get a result, under very difficult circumstances is a tremendous effort. One which I will not forget in a hurry. Thank God I just one more favour Man Utd, Newcastle, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Spurs or Villa, in the next round. (With the home leg first.AMEN!)
Chester City 0 Northampton Town 2

Just wanted to congratulate your contributors on their original and amusing match reports. As a Cobblers supporter even though we got the points, I still felt the need to be cheered up, and your reports have helped. Good luck for the rest of the season, a lot of us in Northampton really admire the way Chester fans are working to help keep the club going...we've been there too, and know how grim it can get.
Very best wishes,

Marina Pearce
Wednesday 19 August 1999
Chester City 0 Northampton Town 2

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Reid, Lancaster, Woods, Shelton, Richardson, Jones (Wright), Beckett, Fisher. Subs not used; Cutler, Doughty, Berry, Moss.
Northampton Town: Welch, Hendon, Frain, Sampson, Howey, Gibb (Parrish), Savage, Hunt, Howard, Byfield (Corrazin), Spedding. Subs TBA.
Referee: Mr S. Pike (Barrow).

A Roman soldier, in full military uniform, trudged slowly round the pitch before the match and during the first half. Was this an attempt to forge a new identity as a mascot? If so, he cut rather a forlorn figure as he plodded around, to be greeted with derision by the Cobblers fans ("Are you Atkins in disguise?") and bemusement by the Cestrians. He looked a bit lost, as though his centurion had sent him to the Deva for a bit of solitary confinement – the Roman equivalent of a school detention. He was clearly there in some sort of official capacity because he made his way to the centre circle with the referee for the tossing of the denarius, but generally he looked as though he didn't really want to be there. Was he modelling the new away kit – armour plated after the mauling received at Rotherham – we wondered? Poor bloke – he has probably had a stultifyingly boring day pacing around the City walls, having his photo taken with Japanese tourists and been given cheek by kids only to be humiliated further by doing sentry duty at the Deva.

Having said all this, I would like to see him there again. But next time please could he be issued with a spear or a chariot or loaned a lion on a long lead from the zoo. A trident with a net could also be issued so that he could help the stewards with crowd control.

Each member of the 1,904 crowd were issued with a complimentary programme – a scaled down effort in two colours with some readable content but, shamefully, no information about the visitors except a team photo.

With a bedraggled Roman soldier and a budget programme things didn't augur well for the match. But, actually it was a fairly decent game and City were unfortunate to lose it.

I travelled to the match with a Cobblers supporting friend, who was convinced that we would win as I was equally convinced otherwise. Bored by Atkins negative tactics – playing five at the back even at home and insisting that all eleven players retreat to the penalty box for corners – the Cobblers were calling for their manager's head before the match. The only regrets for them about their first win at the Deva was that Atkins has more breathing space as a result.

Northampton started the stronger and threatened down the wings. Up front they had the speedy Darren Byfield on loan from Aston Villa. But City clawed their way back into contention. Reid went closest when his shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide for a corner. At the other end Brown had a couple of scares, missing one cross completely.

After half time Chester began to get on top, though they did have a let off when a Cobblers' goal was disallowed for offside. Reid and Richardson worked their socks off in midfield and began to make openings for Shelton and Davidson on the right.

But just after the hour disaster struck. Richardson was judged by the referee to have handled the ball in the penalty area. It looked harsh to say the least and City players surrounded the official in disbelief. He was never going to change his mind and his decision turned the game. Hendon scored from the spot having first wrested the ball away from Steven (Donkey) Howard who was eager to break his scoring duck for the Cobblers.

City swept forward swiftly with Shelton putting in a dangerous cross, Davidson could not make proper contact with his header and the ball glanced just wide. Five minutes later the game was efectively over as Northampton made it 2-0. Byfield went through, though Lancaster matched him for pace and seemed to have done just enough as the Northampton forward pushed the ball too far and Brown came to collect. Unfortunately Brown allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp and Byfield stepped up to tap it into an empty net.

To their eternal credit City kept up the fight and tried desperately to salvage a point. Woods hit the bar with a header, Wright on as sub for the hard working Jones, just failed to make contact with a cross at the far post. Umpteen corners were won and Northampton had a couple of lucky escapes after the pinball episodes which followed.

Not one of the City players could be faulted for effort. My Cobbler's friend apologised to me afterwards – City did not deserve this. But the reality is that experience was probably the difference between the two sides on the night. We need a back bone through the team pretty urgently before we get stuck at the bottom of the league with confidence ebbing away and too much ground to make up.

Colin Mansley
Chester City 0 Northampton Town 2

I caught last night's game returning home from Glasgow for a couple of days break.

It was a game we could have won, not a bad first half performance which seemed to have set the stage for the sort of second half I like, kicking towards the home fans with the floodlights on.

It never quite took off though. Despite Matt Woods header off the bar I never felt that we were going to score. What struck me most of all was the poor quality from Cross and Fisher, we really had nothing down that side all game. The only real bright points were Beckett who worked hard and the obvious commitment in the side.

That said some of the passing was woeful, Shaun Reid's left foot does not create things of beauty. The other thing I noted was a reluctance to try to slide the ball through the opposition back four, midfielders running at their back four seemed to hold on to things for too long.

Hope that things look better by Christmas, my fear is that this season has 92/93 or 94/95 written all over it.

Nick Hopkins
Chester City 0 Northampton Town 2

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! That was bleak wasn't it?

What really concerns me is that Northampton, were a very poor side. For those that didn't go we were very average in the first half, and got steadily worse throughout the second. The Cobblers scored from what seemed like a harsh penalty decision, then Browny dropped one (or was it kicked out of his hands? – Wayne was not the one complaining though) and their striker couldn't miss.

Their number 9 would have tried though, even his own fans were singing "What a waste of money" at him. The most upsetting thing about the display was the lack of leadership shown by the more senior players. In such sad times playing kids is an unfortunate necessity, however the likes of Shaun Reid and Nick Richardson just did not seem to care tonight. Reidy does the greatest impression of "nearly" tackles I have ever seen, and is distribution is woeful.

I swear he does not not know he is allowed to kick it with his left foot. Times are tough at the Deva, woebetide us when we play a decent team. The strikers worked hard tonight, fetching and carrying due to the paucity of service from the midfield. The defence lacks a leader, oh for a Jacko to help the raw talent of Martyn Lancaster, and the keenness of Matty.

I hate to state the obvious but if we do not sign several key players, who can go straight into the first team, we have had it. A last note, whoever was shouting Judas at Flitty should be ashamed of themselves and ask what they would have done if they were him, out of contract, no owner at the club he loved and an offer elsewhere. Would you have stayed?

Saturday 14 August 1999
Rotherham United 4 Chester City 0

Rotherham United: Pollitt, Varty, Wilsterman, Dillon, Beech, Scott (Thompson 82), Garner, Watson, Turner (Berry 78), Fortune-West, Martindale (Warn 58). Subs not used: Pettinger, Warner.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Lancaster, Woods, Cross, A.Shelton (Doughty 71), Richardson, Reid (Blackburn 74), Fisher, Beckett, Jones (Berry 79), Subs not used: Cutler, Wright.
Referee: M.Ryan (Preston).

The Millers defeated Chester City 4-0 at Millmoor in what was an action packed match full of controversial incidents.

The game started slowly with little action in the first half, other than a poor miss by Rotherham's Martindale when he headed wide of an open goal following a good cross by Leo Fortune-West. Towards the end of the half the Millers gained greater control as Chester found it difficult to move the ball up to their front two.

After half time the Millers started well and after several attacks had a penalty refused when Martindale appeared to be pulled back by the Chester defender. Rotherham didn't have long to wait however as they won a penalty when Leo Fortune-West was brought down in the area by Lancaster. After a short period of confusion the referee sent Lancaster to the dressing room. Martindale converted the spot-kick to put Rotherham ahead.

Before Chester could re-organise themselves a second spot-kick was given away when keeper Wayne Brown brought down Gary Martindale in the box and was also booked. In comparison with the Lancaster sending off Brown can consider himself lucky not to follow him as the feet first lunge by the Chester keeper was much more blatant and dangerous than the clumsy foul that led to Lancaster leaving the field.

After some treatment to the shoulder injury he received with his clash with Brown. Martindale converted his second penalty of the day. Martindale was then forced to come off the field with an injured shoulder, with Paul Warne replacing him. Warne was only on the field for 10 minutes before he was sent off for an off the ball incident.

The game then went through a scrappy period as both teams battled to adjust to playing with 10 men. Gradually the Millers regained the upper hand in midfield and there were a number of Rotherham near misses before Leo Fortune-West scored the third following a neat over the shoulder flick from Rob Scott.

The third goal led to a number of heads dropping in the Chester side and it was only a matter of time before Rotherham added to the score. The final goal arose when keeper Brown mis-kicked a clearance straight to the feet of the Rotherham midfield man Watson.

The Rotherham player immediately struck the ball back towards the Chester goal from his position in the centre circle with the ball easily passing over the Chester goal line despite the despairing lunge of Brown, who was still trying to regain his ground.

The game quickly faded out from this stage with both sides unwilling to risk any overconfident moves.

The Millers were the better side on the day against one of the worst Chester teams ever to visit Millmoor, it appeared at times that Chester had relegation written all over them.

Report by Rotherham fan Mike North
Tuesday 10 August 1999, Worthington Cup 1st Round 1st Leg
Chester City 2 Port Vale 1

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Cross, Reid, Lancaster, Woods, A.Shelton, Richardson, Jones (Moss 81), Beckett, Fisher. Subs not used: Cutler, Doughty, Wright, Berry
Port Vale: Pilkington, Walsh, Brammer, Gardner, Smith, Bent, Minton, Naylor (Griffiths 62), Rougier, Carragher, Barker (Eyre 62). Subs not used: Musselwhite, Burns, Snidjer.
Referee: T.Jones

Well, from the ridiculous to the sublime, unbelievable, astonishing, unforgettable.

I went to the ground with fear and trepidation, and returned believing there is a God! Vale fresh from an excellent 0-0 at mighty Blackburn, Chester fresh from a hard working but lack lustre 2-0 reverse at home to the Bees. There could only be one winner...couldn't there?

We started with fire, with great movement and no little skill. Great touches from the superb Beckett and the hard working Cross, and an early goal. What a goal too! The ball broke to Nicky Richardson at the edge of the box ( or was he 35 yards out?...time will make it further!) and he lashed it home past the helpless and equally useless Pilkington, under a strong challenge from a Vale defender. The Deva erupted...WHAT A GOAL.

The die-hards were astonished, we had come expecting the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, we couldn't win the game, could we? The game was set alight, Brown made an astonishing save touching the ball onto the bar ( the first of many fine stops).

From the resulting break Luke went on a stupendous run and curled one from miles out, only a whisker over the bar. We were in seventh heaven....but then Vale equalised...decent header from 8 yards out, poor marking, here we go again. But no, the lads dug in, they battled and scrapped as the game ebbed and flowed.

The second half began and Luke seemed to score...did he? No said the ref and lines man, I was 70 yards away and it looked in by feet!!! Still Chester attacked, Jon Jones chased a lost cause, booted two Vale players out of the way and somehow won a penalty, HURRAH! Luke calmly slotted it home, and was mobbed by his team mates. I love Luke, fabulous player who plays with all his heart..and he did what I have NEVER seen any Chester player do in 25 years, he kissed the crest on his shirt (it will probably mean he moves in a matter of days).

The game continued at frantic pace, Bent was sent off for kicking Ross in the head and Martyn Lancaster soon followed for a professional foul after playing himself into trouble. The save Wayne Brown from Alex Sith from the resulting free kick was top draw, as was his save in the last seconds to preserve Chester's lead.

The full time whistle went to a standing ovation from the faithful. What a game, dreadful attendance though, Vale brought at least 400 in a gate of 2,100!. However let us not remember the people who did not turn up, let us savour the sweet taste of victory and Luke Beckett kissing his beloved shirt. He MUST stay, please!

Chester City 2 Port Vale 1

Well, two games gone and my optimism has returned... Chester 2 – Port Vale 1

They must be sick of us, ok I know that its only the first leg but remember last season? We knocked them out then and we can do it again! Let's hope they don't maim Beckett again though.

Speaking of whom....... The big Fella surely deserved the Man of the Match award, he looks head and shoulders better than any other City player with his touch, composure and ability to hold the ball up – he has GOT TO STAY!

On to the match, Chester started well, matching Vale in most areas and capped off early pressure with a fine Nick Richardson 20 yarder that sneaked into the bottom corner of the Vale net – slowly though as the half wore on Vale came back into the game and a Tony Rougier header (marking anyone?) deservedly levelled the scores - here we go again.... or not! Chester refused to buckle and held on with some excellent stops from Wayne Brown and lots of desperate lungs by the defence - outstanding exept for the "not good enough for my pub team" Matty Woods.

We went in at half time at 1-1 and I thought "This'll do...." second half we really played well, agian Beckett impressed - he really needs a partner though – and Jonny Jones won (somehow) a penalty - Beckett rammed it in – FANTASTIC!!! 2-1 and Vale made two changes bringing of Naylor (thank god for that) and some other nobody for Carl Griffiths and AN Other....... but we hung on – as usual the game wasn't over yet – two sendings off followed.Marcus Bent (bet he was glad they introduced names on shirts!) ordered off for trying to kill Ross, and Martin Lancaster shown the red card for a vital professionnal hack with about 10 minutes to go – if I was Ratcliffe I'd have bollocked him if he hadn't got sent off!

Still, the day was ours and suddenly the season doesn't look so bad anymore.... Bring on Rotherham!

Phil Stokoe – Blue boy
Chester City 2 Port Vale 1

Well, What can I say? An excellent result for Chester but simply not good enough for Vale who once again showed up their inconsistency which dogged them throughout last season. There isn't many sides who would go and get a draw in front of 20,000 at Blackburn and then follow it up with a defeat at a financially troubled 3rd division club.

Vale didn't play too badly and they created any number of chances but just didn't have the finishing touch. Half the reason for this was the excellent work of 'keeper Brown. Chester played pretty well and looked dangerous throughout and Luke Becket up front looked a good player (time to get the cheque book out?). I stood on the terrace amongst the Vale fans thinking we were going to get a 2-0 or 3-1 victory but it wasn't to be.

Unfortunately for Chester, I think that their defensive frailty will be punished at Vale park in two weeks time but they did win there last season so who knows? Stranger things have happened!

Saturday 7 August 1999
Chester City 0 Barnet 2

Chester City: Brown, Davidson, Lancaster, Woods, Cross, Shelton (Moss 75), Reid, Richardson, Fisher (Doughty 82), Beckett, Wright. Subs not used: Cutler, Blackburn, Kilgannon.
Barnet: Harrison, Stockley, Heald, Arber, Hackett, Currie (Sawyers 63), Searle (Wilson 63), Doolan, Toms, Charlery, McGleish. Subs not used: Naisbitt, Stevens, Brown.
Referee: P.Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent).

Well, one match into the new season and its "bubbles burst" time again – despite a poor result against Barnet today, I thought we could take some positives out of the match..... firstly Beckett looked sharp, some nice touches I thought, I was also encouraged by the performance of Martin Lancaster at centre half (how on earth Matty Woods got the man of the match is beyond me though!) and I thought Darren Wright showed alot of running and linked up well ish with Becks...

Now the negative stuff - firstly our midfield was poor, Andy Shelton looked lightweight on the right, not backed up well by the erratic Ross Davison at right back, and Neil Fisher fully justified his desription in a recent Four Four Two as the worst City player ever. Reidy looked slow in the middle and I can't even remember who filled the last midfield berth...... the negatives outweigh the positives so far.

Despite all this we didn't disgrace ourselves – bearing in mind the money problems and off the field turbulence the performance by a team of free transfers, youngsters and geriatrics did not do as badly as the scoreline suggests – we started the second half well and had the better of the match in general but were let down by a moment of magic by Ken Charlery and a hideous defensive blunder....

On a negative note I thought the reaction of some of the fans was diabolical – barely 50 minutes into a new season and they were on the teams back, when we really needed to be fully behind the team – we are bloody lucky to have a club at all - the comments of a few individuals directed at Terry Smith were uncalled for too.

I'm a long distance Chester Fan and I still think we can do ok this season, especially as I rate Ratcliffe as gaffer, but we need to do several things.

Sign a couple of new midfielders if possible, encourage the fans to actually support the team, particularly when we are struggling (likely to be often early this season) – the chant "sing when you're winning" is very appropriate for many City fans, and we need to get the numbers in – bearing in mind we are lucky to be in existence a crowd of just 2,300 is pathetic.

Anyway, these are my humble comments – but what do i know If you have any views on my views I can be emailed by clicking my link below.

Phil Stokoe, 22, Chester born and bred

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