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Saturday 31 December
Macclesfield Town 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 2,910 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Curtis, Regan; Sent-off: Lowe.

Macclesfield Town:
Fettis (Deasy 36), Teague, Morley, Sandwith, Harsley, Bullock, Whitaker, McIntyre, Navarro, Wijnhard, Parkin. Subs not used: Miles, Townson, Briscoe, Smart.
Chester City:
Ruddy, Regan, Dimech, Artell, McNiven (Walker 89), Lowe, Curtis, Drummond, Davies, Blundell (Bolland 85), Richardson (El Kholti 72). Subs not used: Vaughan, Dove.
Referee: A.Marriner (W.Midlands).

It would have been good to have ended 2005 as it started – with a Chester victory at Macclesfield. But our Cheshire cousins, who we beat 2-1 on 1 January 2005, didn’t seem keen on helping out our New Year celebrations this season.

And the scorer of the only goal of the game had to be former City hero Kevin McIntyre with a well-taken strike on the edge of the area, which seemed to get a deflection as it headed towards the goal. There was still 30 minutes of the game left to play at that stage and City always looked liked scoring an equaliser, but the 1,030 travelling Blues fans couldnt quite suck it into the net.

Chester had made a lively start to the match, with Gregg Blundell making his long-awaited return from injury. Keith Curle opted to play both Marcus Richardson and Ryan Lowe, giving plenty of attacking options for the Blues.

The first 20 minutes saw City with most of the ball, winning several corners, just about all of which were taken ‘short and not quite getting the result we saw at Leyton Orient. The closest Chester came to scoring in the opening spell was with a Ben Davies strike, which Macclesfield ‘keeper Alan Fettis tipped over the bar. There was also a scrambled shot headed off the Macclesfield line and a couple of goalmouth headers over the bar.

But perhaps Citys best chance of the game fell to Blundell half way through the opening half when he ran onto the ball and was in a one-on-one with Macclesfield ‘keeper, Alan Fettis. But Blundell seemed hesitant and took one touch too many before being tackled by a chasing defender just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Richardson and the travelling Chester fans thought he had made it 1-0 to City when he headed a Davies cross into the net. But he leapt at the same time as Fettis and referee Andre Marriner (a replacement for Matt Messias) blew for a foul on the ‘keeper.

Richardson was at the centre of the action not long after when he ran towards the Macc goal only to collide with the on-rushing Fettis. The goalkeeper came off worse and play was stopped for nearly 10 minutes while he was treated on the pitch. He was later taken to hospital and treated for concussion. Luckily for the Silkmen, they had a substitute ‘keeper, young Tim Deasey, on the bench.

Deasey was a confident replacement for the well-travelled Fettis and was immediately called on to make a save from Lowe. Soon after, the fourth official put up the board indicating an amazing 10 minutes of injury time. Macclesfield then had a couple of good chances, with Chester's defenders being called on to clear the ball away from close range.

The second half started with the Silkmen continuing in determined fashion. Chesters on-loan ‘keeper John Ruddy had to make a good save from Jon Parkin and McIntyre had been in a perfect place to score when he hit the ball high and wide.

However, McIntyre had a second chance when the ball fell to him when he was totally unmarked on the left-hand edge of the area. His well-taken strike was goalbound, but a probable deflection gave Ruddy absolutely no chance at all.

Macclesfields Clyde Wijnhard, who seemed a threat most of the afternoon when he wasnt being pulled up for being offside, then had a chance to make it 2-0 with a shot which went just over.

Richardson was replaced by Abdou El-Kholti on the 72nd minute soon after he failed to make the most of a good opportunity, with a poorly struck shot. Chester still continued to press and Lowe was unlucky to head the ball wide from close range.

Not long after, Lowe seemed to take out his frustration with a late tackle on Andrew Teague in the middle of the park. As Teague lay writing on the ground, Lowe rushed to confront the surrounding Macclesfield players. Marriner showed Lowe a red card and Chester were down to 10 men with 10 minutes still to play.

It went from bad to worse for Chester when Blundell pulled up on the 84th minute with an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by Phil Bolland, who didnt seem like a natural striker. Chester still had the most of the ball for the closing spell, although leaving the defence a little exposed as they pressed forward.

Captain Scott McNiven was replaced by Justin Walker with three minutes to play, but even if thered been another 10 minutes injury time, it didnt look like City were ever going to score and Macc deserved their three points. Happy New Year to them lets hope they're still around to visit later on in 2006.

Sue Choularton

Monday 25 December
Cheltenham Town 1 Chester City 0
League Two
Attendance: 3,819 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Artel, Regan, Lowe.

Cheltenham Town:
Higgs, Gill, Caines, Duff, Armstrong, Melligan (Bird 78), Finnigan, McCann, Wilson, Odejayi, Guinan (Spencer 78). Subs not used: Brown, Townsend, Gillespie.
Chester City:
Ruddy, McNiven, Bolland, Artell, Regan, El Kholti (Rutherford 76), Drummond, Vaughan (Curtis 76), Davies, Richardson, Lowe. Subs not used: Dimech, Dove, Curle.
Referee: P.Armstrong (Berkshire).

There was to be no Christmas cheer at Whaddon Road as the Blues slipped to a third successive defeat at Cheltenham Town. Brian Wilson scored the only goal of the game for the Robins just after the break, and, despite plenty of second half possession City couldn’t break down a well marshaled home rearguard.

City welcomed back Ryan Lowe, David Artell, Carl Regan and Scott McNiven from suspension and there was a place in the pre-match warm up (though not the bench) for Gregg Blundell.

John Ruddy, signed on an extra seven day contract from Everton on Friday, was soon in the action comfortably catching a John Melligan cross in front of the 233 travelling supporters housed in the new stand behind the goal. The Blues had an early chance though Ryan Lowe shot tamely at Shane Higgs in the home goal after ten minutes.

Once again Ruddy was called into action saving well from the lively Kayode Odejayi who managed to get in a snap-shot after dispossessing Regan on the edge of the box. Odejayi again showed his worth glancing a headed skidding just wide of the far post following a looping cross from a long-throw routine.

Grant McCann missed a good opportunity to open the scoring on the half hour but he screwed his shot wide after the City defence had failed to clear.

City forced a corner though Ben Davies’ poor flag-kick failed to trouble the home defence who cleared at the near post with ease. City’s best chances were coming from breakaways and they had two efforts as the half drew to a close. Firstly Lowe shot straight at Higgs from just inside the box, and minutes Stewart Drummond was set free by the hard working Marcus Richardson but couldn't squeeze his shot home.

Two minutes before the break the Blues were awarded a free kick just outside the box following a push on Lowe. Lowe took the kick himself only to see a disappointing effort go straight into the wall, the ball rebounded to Davies who arrowed in a low shot that was heading just inside the near post before Higgs saved smartly.

The home started the better after the break. Wilson sent a glancing header agonisingly wide of the back post but minutes later the midfielder was in the right place to open the scoring. Odejayi swung in a right wing cross the the edge of the six yard box, Ruddy elected to punch clear through a ruck of players only to see his effort go straight to Wilson who shot home from 18 yards.

Just after the hour City almost worked an equaliser as Lowe’s determined mazy run set up Davies who shot just inches wide from 12 yards out. Paul Rutherford replaced Abdel El Kholti and Tom Curtis replaced Stephen vaughan as City pressed for an equaliser. Higgs denied Davies twice again from close range.

At the other end City had Ruddy to thanks for keeping the score to one as he rushed out to save a one-on-one with his legs from substitute Damian Spencer.

The last effort of the game fell to Lowe in the dying minutes, he had his head in his hands after shooting straight at Higgs from just ten yards and City’s chance of a point had gone.

Saturday 10 December
Chester City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2
League Two
Attendance: 2,265 Half Time 1-1
Booked: Dimech, El Kholti.

Chester City:
Ruddy, Curtis, Dimech, Bolland, El Kholti, Dove (Curle 68), Vaughan, Drummond, Davies, Richardson, Rutherford. Subs not used: Walker, Brookfield, Branch, Blundell.
Rushden & Diamonds:
Young, Gier, Gulliver, Dempster, Hawkins, Bell, Savage, Mills, Kelly, Broughton, O’Grady. Subs not used: Pearson, Burgess, McCafferty, Okuonghae, Tomlin.
Referee: A.Penn.

City’s patched-up side couldn’t prevent the Blues from slipping to their second successive League Two defeat against Rushden & Diamonds on Saturday in front of the Deva’s lowest league gate of the season.

With the squad decimated by suspensions and injuries manager Keith Curle was forced to play the 12 remaining available players. Four injured players, none of whom could have taken part, were named on the substitutes bench to prevent the club receiving a fine.

John Ruddy started in goal after finalising his seven day emergency-loan deal on Friday, and after making seven previous appearances from the bench Abdel El Kholti made his City league debut. Paul Rutherford also started.

After an even opening it was Chester who carved the first opening with former Diamonds player Craig Dove sending in a shot that was half saved by Young in the visitors goal, the ball fell to Ben Davies whose effort was also blocked.

However it was Diamonds who took an early lead after just 11 minutes. Phil Bolland appeared to have pulled down Drewe Broughton in the area and the striker duly despatched the resultant spot-kick to give the visitors the lead.

A well timed interception robbed Marcus Richardson after the striker had been put through by Davies. Richardson was at the heart of the action again just failing to connect to a Rutherford cross after some neat approach play by the youngster.

At the other end Ruddy, who had a four match loan spell at Rushden until last week, was having a pretty quiet debut, called on to save from a 25-yard free-kick from David Bell.

Davies swung over a couple of corners and Richardson was pulled up for a foul on Young before City drew level, like Diamonds from the spot. Richardson was adjudged to have been held by Gulliver and Ben Davies confidently sent Young the wrong was from the penalty spot to level the score at the break.

The visitors started the second period by far the brighter and regained their lead with a bizarre goal after 55 minutes. Phil Bolland was holding off a challenge from O’Grady on the edge of the six yard box, with Ruddy advancing Bolland stuck out a leg and lobbed the ball over him into the empty net to the disbelief of the home fans behind the goal.

Curtis cleared a Bell cross, and Ruddy caught a Chris O’Grady centre as the visitors pushed for a third. City’s best chances again fell to lone striker Richardson who saw an effort from 12 yards blocked in front of goal. Curle made the only change he could bringing on his son Tom Curle for Dove.

With the Blues pushing forward in search of an equaliser Broughton missed a great change to kill the game shooting way over the bar when well placed and City’s defence stretched.

The Blues’ late final efforts were reduced to half-chances. Curle saw a lob-shot easily claimed by Young while Davies and Richardson also saw efforts saved before the final whistle brought the game to an end.

Picture � Evening Leader
Saturday 10 December
Lincoln City 3 Chester City 1
League Two
Attendance: 3,563 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Richardson, Walker, McNiven, Regan.

Lincoln City:
Marriott, McAuley, McCombe, Morgan, Mayo, Kerr, Brown, Keates, Asamoah, Birch (Robinson 64), Logan Subs not used: Cryan, Ryan, Frecklington, Hughes.
Chester City:
MacKenzie (Brookfield 48), McNiven, Bolland, Artell, Regan, Lowe, Walker (El Kholti 64), Drummond, Curtis, Davies, Richardson. Subs not used: Vaughan, Dimech, Dove.
Referee: G.Hegley (Hertfordshire).

City fell to their first defeat in seven games as they lost out to a Lincoln side that was reduced to ten men for the last half-hour. To make matters worse, the Blues lost goalkeeper Chris MacKenzie with a broken thumb, had manager Keith Curle ordered from the dug-out and saw Scott McNiven and Carl Regan pick up their fifth yellow cards, and a one match ban in the process.

Curle opted to stick to the same starting X1 that had valiantly picked up three points at Orient in the midweek.

It was the home team who were first out of the blocks, Scott Kerr shooting well over from long-range in the opening five minutes and a few minutes later Asamoah shot just wide when well placed.

Logan beat the City offside trap to race clear, pulled the ball back to Birch but MacKenzie was quickly out to push the ball out for a corner after ten minutes.

Marcus Richardson, back on one of his old stamping grounds, was booked for a foul on Paul Mayo.

After 20 minutes Ben Davies earned a free-kick in a dangerous position outside the box after being fouled by Gary Birch. Ryan Lowe took the kick that was deflected for a corner that came to nothing.

The Imps went close again with Jamie McCombe heading wide following an inswinging corner as the home side looked to press home the advantage their possession was bringing them.

City's best chance of the half came late on as Richardson headed straight at the home keeper Marriott after a good cross from Carl Regan.

Phil Bolland did well to clear a Dean Keates cross with Logan looking to pounce and in the last action of the half MacKenzie was called into the action again this time having to save from Asamoah.

Just after the break MacKenzie was forced to save from the onrushing striker again but injured his hand in the process. The injury, later diagnosed as a broken thumb, may keep the shot-stopper out for up to six weeks. Fortunately City had reserve‘keeper Ryan Brookfield on the bench and he was called on to make his League debut.

Minutes later City took the lead. Stewart Drummond sent Richardson through and he drove a great shot across Marriott to score against his former club much to his, and the 211 travelling fans, delight.

Things were looking better for the Blues when, on 58 minutes, Lincoln were reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Dean Keates who seemed to strike out at Ryan Lowe.

However, ten minutes later the home side were level. Brookfield could do little about the goal as Logan smashed the ball home. Nat Brown headed on a Kerr free-kick and with the ball bouncing around before Logan pounced.

Two minutes later and the ten men were in front. Curtis was adjudged to have fouled Mayo in the box and referee Hedgley pointed to the spot. Mayo converted the penalty to give the Imps the lead.

Minutes later City thought they’d earned a spot-kick themselves as McAuley appeared to handle a Lowe shot in the area. Hedgley waved away City’s appeals, and Keith Curle was ordered from the dug-out, as words were exchanged with the officials.

With time running out, and City pushing forward for the equaliser, Lincoln added a third goal in added-on time as Asamoah raced clear of David Artell, rounded Brookfield and slipped the ball into the empty net.

Picture � Evening Leader

Tuesday 6 December
Leyton Orient 0 Chester City 1
FA Cup Round Two
Attendance: 3,463 Half Time 0-1
Booked: McNiven, Drummond, Curtis, Regan, Artell, Lowe, Davies.

Leyton Orient:
Garner, Barnard (Carlisle 72), Zakuani, Lockwood, Simpson, Easton, Saah, Keith (McMahon 79), Tudor, Ibehre (Steele 65), Alexander. Subs not used: Abbey, Hanson.
Chester City:
MacKenzie, Regan, Bolland, Artell, McNiven, Walker (El Kholti 45), Davies, Curtis, Drummond, Lowe (Dove 89), Richardson (Dimech 68). Subs not used: Vaughan, Brookfield.
Referee: J Singh (Middlesex).

This was a determined, dogged performance from City who came away from Leyton Orient with all three points to close the gap on their London promotion rivals to a single point, and move up to fourth spot in the process.

Still without the services of strikers Michael Branch and Gregg Blundell, Marcus Richardson shook-off a hamstring injury to partner Ryan Lowe up front. Meanwhile Phil Bolland replaced Luke Dimech at the centre of the defence, the Maltese international taking a place on the bench.

Set in a stadium undergoing some impressive looking redevelopment, it was Richardson who spurned the first chance of the night inside the opening five minutes, his shot being turned round the post for a corner by Garner. Ben Davies’ flag-kick was cleared for another corner that was eventually dealt with comfortably by the home defence.

However the home side, playing on the back of a 12 match unbeaten run, soon got into their stride using both their wingers and overlapping full-backs, Shane Tudor and Joe Keith, to great effect stretching City’s defence to the limit.

MacKenzie was called into action on numerous occasions, the best early efforts coming from Alexandra, who should really have done better after pouncing on a mistake from skipper Scott McNiven and an overhead kick attempt from Barnard that was blocked by a City defender.

The Blues were forced on the back for for almost the entire first half, anything they could muster up front came in the form of a break away and as much as Richardson and Lowe ran their socks off the home defence seemed to cope comfortably with any threat.

MacKenzie, playing against one of his former clubs, saved from Ibehre, Easton shot over and at least two goal-bound efforts were blocked as City socked up continual pressure.

With half-time approaching the all-important breakthrough came against the run of play. Ben Davies took a short corner routine, the ball came back to him from Justin Walker and he whipped in a near post cross that was glanced home by Drummond who’d lost his marker in the six yard box.

After the break Abdou El Kholti was brought on for Justin Walker but it was referee Jarnail Singh who was at the centre of the action producing three yellow cards for Drummond, Tom Curtis and Carl Regan in as many minutes after the restart.

MacKenzie was once again called in to save from Easton before City had a great chance to double their lead, Ryan Lowe beat the offside trap to break down the left, one-on-one with Garner he saw his first effort saved from close range before taking the rebound wide and shooting into the side-netting.

Tudor forced another save from MacKenzie and in one nervy ten second spell Easton hit a post, the ball rebounded out for MacKenzie to make a great goal line save and then push the second follow-up effort round the post to safety.

The home side brought on three subs including ex-Shrewsbury Lee Steele as they continued to batter at City’s defence. The Blues brought on an extra defender in Dimech (for Richardson) and ended the match with no strikers as Craig Dove replaced the hard working Lowe.

McMahon. Steele and Alexandra all saw efforts cleared in one way or another and despite Referee Singh added six minutes of added time the Blues defence, cheered on all night by their 184 followers, held firm for three priceless points.

Sue Choularton

Saturday 3 December
Chester City 3 Nottingham Forest 0
FA Cup Round Two
Attendance: 4,732 Half Time 1-0
Booked: None.

Chester City:
MacKenzie, Regan, Artell, Dimech, McNiven, Curtis, Drummond, Walker (Vaughan 75), Davies (Dove 81), Lowe, Richardson (El Kholti 70). Subs not used: Bolland, Brookfield.
Nottingham Forest:
Gerrard, Thompson, Cullip (Pittman 17 (Gardner 67)), Morgan, Curtis, Southall, Perch, Holt, Bopp (Bastians 52), Johnson, Taylor. Subs not used: Eaden, Pedersen.
Referee: L.Mason (Lancashire).

City progressed through to a third round tie at either Cheltenham Town or Oxford United after a comfortable win over their League One opponents at Deva Stadium.

With the pitch taking rain for several days, groundsman Gary Kent did a tremendous job in getting the heavy pitch into a playable condition for the match that attracted a near 5,000 crowd.

Marcus Richardson recovered from his hamstring injury in time to lead the line with Ryan Lowe, while Tom Curtis replaced injured skipper Michael Branch.

City had the better of the limited chances in the first period. Richardson scuffed a shot across goal and Scott McNiven blazed over as he capitalised on a poor clearance.

The visitors were forced into an early change with Danny Cullip, who appeared to injure himself stretching for a ball, being replaced by Jon-Paul Pittman. It was Pittman who was to have the only chance for the visitors in the opening period, when his close range header on 32 minutes went straight to Chris MacKenzie.

Five minutes later break City broke the deadlock.

A neat back-flick from Carl Regan to prevent the ball from going out for a Forest throw set-up Stewart Drummond who launched the ball down the right for Richardson. The big striker outpaced his marker to drag a cross back for the onrushing Lowe whose snap-shot hit the post and rebounded back into his path. Before he could slot the ball home, he was clattered to the ground by Gary Holt who received a red card for his troubles. Lowe sent Gerrard the wrong way from the spot and City took a one-goal lead into half-time.

Five minutes after the break the Blues doubled their lead. With the Forest defence pushing up for offside, Curtis flicked an inch perfect through ball over the top. For once the linesman’s flag stayed down as Lowe rushed through on the left, he took a couple of touches to control the ball before firing past Gerrard at the near post.

On 55 minutes City put the result beyond doubt. Ben Davies set up Richardson whose mis-hit shot across goal sneaked its way past Gerrard at the far post to signal a mass exit of hundreds of disgruntled away fans behind the goal, as the City players celebrated in a mass pile at the corner flag. Richardson emerged with the top of his head covered in the while line marking paint to the chants of “Cisse Cisse” from the home fans!

The Blues made three changes during the remaining period as they killed the game off Stephen Vaughan, Craig Dove and Abdel El Kholti all joined the action replacing Marcus Richardson, Ben Davies and Justin Walker all of whom received a generous ovation from the travelling contingent that had remained.

MacKenzie, called into action a couple of times, did well to hold a swirling cross under the crossbar and was on hand twice to punch corners away as Forest looked for a consolation but this was to be City’s day who for the second season running move into round three.

















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