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Wednesday 26 February 2003
Chester City Reserves 1 Farsley Celtic Reserves 3
Lancashire League Division One

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Lee Woodyatt, Paul Jones (Ian Lathom), John Davies, Carl Ruffer, Adam Kelly, Phil Hadland, Chris Blackburn (Peter Dogun), Mick Brown (Dean Buckley), Mark Beesley, Danny Byrne.

Chirs Blackburn made his first appearance since recovering from injury as the Blues went down to lowly Farsley Celtic, Mark Beesley scoring City’s consolation goal.

Saturday 22 February 2003
Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Chester City 0

Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,870 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Bolland.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Heffer, Terry, Matthews, Mustafa (Cole 70), Shipp, McDougald (Janney 52), Vickers, McGrath, Stein, Watts (West 85). Subs not used: Gothard, Hill.
Chester City:
W.Brown, Bolland, Hatswell, Guyett, McIntyre, Kelly, Carden, Davies (Brady 17), Collins, Clare (Sugden 87), Quayle (Twiss 73). Subs not used: Carey, Ruffer.
Referee: M.Russell (St Albans).

Match programmeThe locals dubbed it “the battle of the soap cities” – EastEnders v Hollyoaks. When we arrived at our pre-match hostelry (the excellent Coborn Arms off Mile End Road) the barman looked at our shirts and announced: “Here come the Hollyoaks mob!”

In 15 years of following Chester, I’ve never been greeted like that before. And, as we enjoyed the pub’s hospitality we pondered how the lastest instalment in the roller-coaster Chester City soap opera would unfold.

In truth the only villains of Saturday’s drama were Daryl Clare and new-signing Mark Quayle, back together as a strike pairing for the first time since their days at Grimsby Town. Both were guilty of missing chances you would normally expect players of such quality to slot away with ease.

Clare failed to live up to his ‘Deadly Daryl’ nickname on no less than three occasions. The first two chances came on the 20-minute mark when Daggers’ keeper Tony Roberts parried Clare’s initial shot straight back to him. But the striker missed the target from just a few yards out. Just a few minutes later, an excellent Kevin McIntyre cross was also poked wide by Clare.

Another chance for Chester to take the lead came when a McIntyre corner was scrambled out of the box, only to find its way to edge-of-the area predator, Scott Guyett. But his firm volley struck the Daggers’ bar.

Just as the first half was coming to an end, the 150-strong Chester end had reasons to be optimistic. Dagenham had made very few advances into the Chester half – and it seemed inevitable that the Blues’ strike duo would have better luck after their half-time cuppa. The worst moment of the half at that stage had been when Ben Davies was stretched off with a gashed knee, to be replaced by Jon Brady.

But then the sucker punch came. The Chester defenders failed to meet a Daggers’ cross and Steve Watts, on loan from Leyton Orient, headed the ball home. The ref blew for half-time just a minute or so later.

All was not lost, however. Chester had been playing, as ever, with a better purpose than at home. Dagenham had few chances in the second half. The best came when a Mark Stein shot lofted over Wayne Brown and hit the post.

Then Quayle (who bears a remarkable similarity to Clare) was free on the ball on the edge of the area. All he seemed to have to do was hit it towards the target. But he somehow lobbed it high – cue yet another round of the Daggers’ fans singing: “How high/wide do you want the goal?”

The Dagenham supporters had a point. There was really was no excuse for strikers like Quayle and Clare to fail to beat a seemingly partially-fit goalkeeper. Tony Roberts was incapable of taking any goal-kicks throughout the game – but was more than a match for the Chester strikers.

With just five minues or so left, Clare was replaced by Ryan Sugden. But it was too little too late, and he made no impact on the game. We had to resign ourselves to our second away defeat of the season.

As the dejected players walked off the pitch, only Phil Bolland stayed behind to applaud the Blues’ fans. He hit out at criticism from the terrace – but he’d barely put a foot wrong all afternoon and the team have put in worse performances this season. However, the 2002/3 chapter in the Chester City soap opera is looking increasingly in danger of having a disappointing ending.

Sue Choularton

Huddle Lineswoman Roberts saves  

Saturday 22 February 2003
Notts County Youth 4 Chester City Youth 0
Youth Merit League Division Two North

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Tom Coulson, Matt Cook, John Davies, Ian Lathom, Adam Kelly, Mike Simpson, Peter Dugun, Tony McGaughlin, Tom Leonard, Dean Buckley.

Due to injury and suspensions a depleted youth team started their North Merit Division 2 fixtures with a 4-0 defeat away to Notts County, conceding three in the first half.

Saturday 15 February 2003
Morecambe 1 Chester City
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,012 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Kelly, Carden.

Morecambe: Mawson, McKearney, Bentley, Swan, Perkins, Rigoglioso, Drummond, Stringfellow, Elam (Curtis 80), Talbot (Murphy 66), Thompson. Subs not used: Morgan, Black, Rogan.
Chester City:
W.Brown, Collins, Bolland, Hatswell, Guyett, McIntyre, Kelly, Carden, Davies, Sugden (Twiss 58), Clare. Subs not used: Carey, Beesley, Griffin, Ruffer.
Referee: A.Marriner (Birmingham).

Match ProgrammeWe knew it would be a tough afternoon when officious stewards banned supporters from entering the ground if armed with chips. “You are not allowed to take your own food inside,” barked the dayglo glad crusaders on patrol outside the turnstiles. They obviously knew more than we did about the quality of cuisine at the local chippy. It gave us a chance to admire Morecambe’s crumbling masonry as we downed the fries in the nick of time before kick-off. Not that that completely explained the indigestion that set in as a 1-0 lead turned into a loss of two points in the 90th minute.

City, it has to be said, could hardly complain about the result – but when you’re so close to victory it still leaves a taste of, well, vinegar springs to mind.

Mark Wright sprang a selection surprise by naming Danny Collins on the left of a trio of attackers. Carey was left out in a 3-4-3 formation. The game seldom rose to any great heights and Morecambe had the better chances in the first half – Talbot flashed a header horribly close to Wayne’s right-hand upright. Then Thompson tried to place a pinpoint header onto a colleague's head instead of aiming for goal. City’s chances were few and far between.

In the second half we looked brighter attacking the end where the 500 Chester fans were based, even though Collins made a crucial clearance in the golamouth to deny a Morecambe breakthrough. There was still little concerted pressure on Mawson’s goal and Wright pepped things up by ending on Twiss in place of Sugden. Soon afterwards came the breakthrough – City attacked down the right, the ball was swung into the area, and as defenders clustered round Clare the striker flicked the ball on to Twiss. Mawson hared off his line but Twiss swivelled smoothly to despatch a low drive into the net.

City immediately changed strategy, switching Collins into a defensive role and playing 4-4-2. The points could have been sewn up but a scrambled effort by Ben Davies was blocked on the line with the keeper nowhere. Even so it looked like three precious points but in the 90th minute Rigoglioso was in the right place to convert after a shot rebounded off the right-hand upright.

Wednesday 12 February 2003
Chester City Reserves 3 Burscough Reserves 0
Lancashire League Division One

Chester City:
Jon Worsnop, Lee Woodyatt, Ian Lathom, Paul Connolly, John Davies, Steve Brodie, Adam Griffin, Michael Brown (Matty Cook), Danny Collins (Danny Byrne), Mark Beesley, Michael Twiss (Lee Reece).

Goals from Danny Collins, Adam Griffin and Danny Byrne brought City victory. 

Saturday 8 February 2003
Chester City 0 Forest Green Rovers
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,245 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Bolland.

Chester City: W.Brown, Bolland, Hatswell, Ruffer, McIntyre, Carey, Kelly (Twiss 59), Carden, Davies (M.Brown 72), Sugden (Beesley 59), Clare. Subs not used: Griffin, Collins.
Forest Green Rovers: Perrin, Jenkins, Langan, Richardson, Russell, Foster, Owers, Cleverley, Grayson (Tweedle 56), Meechan, Odejayi. Subs not used: Adams, Cook, Cowe, Giannangelo.
Referee: G.Simpson (Knaresborough).

Match PtrogrammeClose followers of non-league football will have been wise to had a flutter on Forest Green as the visitors stole three points against a City side that never quite got going.

Back in September, Chester took three easy away points in a match that was Nigel Spink’s last in charge. Since then, under the clever guidance of Colin Addison, Forest Green have risen steadily up the table taking some notable scalps along the way; ask Yeovil for a start. And then there’s Chester – fantastic away but frustratingly mediocre at home. Hindsight is wonderful but should we really have expected much different? Well yes we should, because on paper this was still a game we should have won but when the final whistle blew there was little to commend this performance to the faithful home supporters who watch for the most part teeth gritted and head shaking until a grey sky.

The early exchanges were promising. Clare twice had chances first shooting straight at the goalkeeper following a corner. Minutes later he failed to connect to a Hatswell cross when a yard of extra pace would have made it look easier. McIntyre played his usual game making strong runs up the left, Davis, Carey and Carden all worked well in midfield and while it wasn’t pulsating, there was enough to suggest goals would come. Forest Green, flattering in their black and white strip and a mimic of team of greater stature, were well organised but while coping well did nothing to suggest they might score.

It was a surprise then when they did. Meechan, on sixteen minutes, and the pick of the visitor’s attackers, received a well-targeted pass from deep within his half and ran clear and unchecked to lob the ball into the net passed an unprotected Brown. It was a goal that’s simplicity made it embarrassing.

City responded with predictable effort but little penetration. Kelly, not really the same player since his return from injury, spooned high and wide when unmarked at the edge of the box. Sugden likewise ought to have done better than hit the side netting from a neat ball driven in from the right. But it was Clare who on thirty-six minutes ought to have done better that shoot straight at the goalkeeper when the ball fell into his path following pressure inside the box.

As the final minutes ticked away City can count themselves lucky that they did not concede a second goal after Bolland and Carden contrived to make a muck of some simple defending.

In the second half, City came out with greater fire power and looked for the first ten minutes a team with greater purpose. Sugden seemed to be more involved and can count himself unlucky when held back having been set free with a decent run at goal. It was fortunate the referee only gave a yellow card, an act of leniency that spoilt an otherwise good performance.

City continued to hustle and a goal-lined clearance robbed the home fans of a deserved equaliser. Beesley and Twiss replaced Sugden and Kelly and while fresh legs gave half chances, Chester never quite did enough against a team who although without any really good individual players compensated by good team work and strong running.

After Beesley and Clare fought with each other for the same ball inside the box, Chester’s last clear cut chance was gone. Brown replaced Davis but by then City had run out of ideas and as the game ran deep into injury time, many fans were already leaving preferring the chance of a quick get away over the prospect of a late equaliser.

While City did not deserve to lose, they must surely do better than this if they have aspirations of playing at a higher level than this next season.

On different note, those approaching the ground via the main entrance will be impressed by the set of grand iron gates evidence of the ambition and investment coming into the club. Although the result was a bad one many of us should believe the club remains heading in the right direction.

City Fan

Tuesday 4 February 2003
Shrewsbury Town Youth 2 Chester City Youth 3
Youth Alliance North Central Conference

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Adam Hunter, Ian Lathom, Matty Cook, Danny Ventre, Mike Simpson, Adam Kelly, Peter Dogun, David Pennell (Sion Griffiths), Dean Buckley, Danny L Ventre (Paul Edwards).

Chester’s victory at Shrewsbury Town, courtesy of a Dean Buckley hat-trick, meant that the youngsters qualified for Division Two of the Merit League North with nine games to be played over the next two months. The weather over the last few weeks meant that many games in the North Central Conference remained unplayed, including Chester’s encounter with Chesterfield.  

Saturday 1 February 2003
Chester City Youth 0 Port Vale Youth 1
Youth Alliance North Central Conference

Chester City:
Louie Macken, Matt Cook, John Davies, Ian Lathom, Adam Hunter, Adam Kelly, Mike Simpson, Danny Ventre, Lee Reece (Danny L Ventre), John Moore, Dean Buckley.

The youth team lost at home 1-0 to Port Vale on Saturday. Despite having their fair share of possession and several good chances the scores remained level at half time. The second half saw Port Vale take more control creating some good chances one of which brought an excellent ‘one handed’ save from goalkeeper Louie Macken. With the game heading towards a draw a straight ball down the middle saw a Port Vale striker race clear to score with ten minutes remaining.
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