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Banbury United (H) | Peterborough Sports (A) | Scarborough Athletic (H) | Farsley Celtic (A) | Hereford (A) | Spennymoor Town (H)
Saturday 24 February
Chester 1 Spennymoor Town 1
National League North
Attendance: 2,312 Half Time: 1-1
Booked: Thomas.

Chester: Stanway, Burke, Williams, Roberts, Woodthorpe, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Murray (Taylor 72), Peers (Caton 68), Norton (Thomas 83). Subs not used: Coates, Edwards.
Spennymoor Town: James, Lufudu, Staunton, Mbeka, Ramshaw, Pollock, Greenfield, McKeown (Chimalilo 90), Dolan, Ndjoli (Harris 32), Shrimpton. Subs not used: Fielding, Shanks, Ledger.
Referee: Melissa Burgin.

Despite taking the lead through Christian Norton, Chester had to be content with a point after being held at home by Spennymoor Town.

Chester started brightly, seeing plenty of possession, without really troubling Brad James in the Moors goal. When he was called into action it was to make a great save to deny George Glendon’s volley from just inside the penalty area.

The Blues finally broke the deadlock on 28 minutes. Iwan Murray crossed from the right for Glendon, his effort was blocked by a defender but Norton was well placed to score from close range.

Chester looked to have doubled their lead 15 minutes later after Tom Peers found the net after James had spilled a Norton shot, only to be flagged offside.
As the game entered first half stoppage time, and against the run of play, Moors drew level as on-loan Finley Shrimpton was allowed space to smash the ball past Wyll Stanway following a Matty Dolan corner.

The second half proved to be a frustrating anti-climax, with neither team creating much of note. The nearest Chester came to grabbing a winner was in the closing minutes as Nathan Woodthorpe saw a looping header land on the roof of the net, and midfielder Declan Weeks saw an effort to straight into James’ hands from the edge of the box.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Tuesday 20 February
Hereford 1 Chester 1
National League North
Attendance: 2,270 (207 Chester) Half Time: 0-1
Booked: Stanway, Burke, Williams, Roberts, Whitehouse, Glendon, Peers.
Sent-off: Weeks.

Hereford: Pond, Skinner, Hudson, Teixeira (Lyden 69), Downing, Babos, Cowley, Williams, Mendes, Cameron, Howkins. Subs not used: Kouhyar, Southern, Rooney, Phillips.
Stanway, Burke, Williams, Roberts, Woodthorpe, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Murray (Heywood 61), Tollitt, Peers. Subs not used: Norton, Hall, Okeke, Edwards.
Referee: Liam Corbett.

Chester’s trips to Hereford’s Edgar Street ground always seem to take place on freezing cold Tuesday nights, but they are still an away outing to relish with memories of both clubs playing each other at a higher level.

It's also generally an encounter to remember, with this 1-1 draw proving to be no exception as the referee booked seven Chester players during the game and rubbed salt into the wounds by sending off Declan Weeks for his protests after the final whistle.

The match itself wasn’t as feisty as the card count made it seem, and it was good to hear Chester being cheered on by a boisterous following of 207 Blues’ fans. Within 15 minutes they were celebrating after a mistake by Bulls’ goalkeeper Curtis Pond saw the ball go through his arms after a Ben Tollitt corner, giving Elliot Whitehouse an easy tap-in to find the net.

Chester had the best of the first half, with Iwan Murray proving to be his usual handful. He was involved in a counter-attack move soon after the goal which would have doubled his side’s lead. A good Murray run led to a pass to Tollitt, but his shot was stopped by Hereford defender Lassana Mendes.

Just before half-time, Hereford thought they had equalised when an Alex Babos free kick found Jason Cowley. His volley went into the net, but the linesman raised his flag for offside.

The home side started the second half in more determined fashion, with Chester ‘keeper Wyll Stanway making two great saves in quick succession. First he made a point-blank stop from an Andy Williams’ header, then he tipped a shot by Mendes over the bar.

Chester replaced Murray with Ollie Heywood on the 61st minute, but couldn’t seem to find a way into the second half. Stanway was under pressure again, making another excellent stop from a Williams’ header following a corner.

And it was another Hereford corner that led to the hosts putting the match back on level terms. Elliot Whitehouse was adjudged to have pushed Cowley in the box as the players jostled when the corner was taken.

Whitehouse was booked for the foul, and although Stanway was almost the hero again for saving the penalty, his trailing leg couldn't stop the ball and Hereford were back on level terms. The celebratory chant of the hosts, who sang "Canvt Take My Eyes Off You" - sung by popular crooner Andy Williams - seemed an appropriate one.

The final 15 minutes saw neither side have any serious chances to find a winner and at the final whistle, a handful of Chester players complained to the referee about his fussy card decisions during the game. Weeks was handed a second yellow card for his protests to finish his game with a red card.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 17 February
Farsley Celtic 1 Chester 2
National League North
Attendance: 959 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Woodthorpe, Weeks.

Farsley Celtic: Leban, Assenso, Smith (Rowe 79), Evans (Adewoju 79), Atkinson, Allan, Turner, Atkinson, Donaldson, Coulson, Leverett. Subs not used: Watson, Wilson, Silva.
Stanway, Okeke (Heywood 82), Burke, Roberts, Woodthorpe, Whitehouse, Murray, Glendon, Weeks, Tollitt (Norton 75), Peers. Subs not used: Taylor, Hall, Edwards.
Referee: G.Thomas.

Goals from Ben Tollitt and Elliott Whitehouse complete a second half comeback at The Citadel.

The Blues engineered the first effort of the afternoon after just a minute with Tom Peers forcing a save from Zan-Luk Leban in the home goal, before The Celts took the lead just two minutes into the game as Michael Coulson’s cross into the box for Sam Leverett to turn it past Wyll Stanway.

Minutes later Leverett whipped over a dangerous free kick that evaded everyone in the box. Chester gradually came into the game, Ben Tollitt cut inside from the left and saw an effort go just over the bar.
Only a superb save by Leban denied Harrison Burke an equaliser as Chester tried to turn their possession into goals towards the end of the half.

Seven minutes into the second period Chester drew level in style. The Blues were awards a free-kick 27 yards out and Tollitt sent a curling shot over the wall into the top corner giving Leban no chance.

Chester took the lead on 72 minutes, a good run by Tollitt saw him pull the ball back for fellow striker Peers, his shot on goal was deemed to have struck the arm of Tom Allan who received a red card as referee Thomas pointed to the penalty spot. Whitehouse stepped up to convert his third spot kick in as many matches.

Stout defending saw Chester navigate the final 15 minutes to send their supporters, who numbered about half of the crowd, home happy having seen the double over Farsley completed.

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Saturday 10 February
Chester 3 Scarborough Athletic 0
National League North
Attendance: 2,158 (195 Scarborough) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Murray.

Chester: Stanway, Woodthorpe, Roberts, Williams, Burke, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Murray (Tollitt 61), Norton (Caton 54), Peers. Subs not used: Taylor, Hall, Okeke.
Scarborough Athletic:
Whitley, Weledji, Maloney, Thornton, Gooda, McHale (Tear 78), Purver (Mulhern 61), Green (Rutledge 61), Colville, Wiles, Brown. Subs not used: Cracknell, Sukar.
Referee: Darren Rogers.

After three consecutive draws the Blues needed to get back to winning ways. They duly obliged against play-off rivals Scarborough, leapfrogging them into third place in the table.

New loan signing Ben Tollitt lined up on the bench while Norton partnered Peers up front. Kev Roberts made a welcome return after injury to the back line. Chester began on the front foot and pushed the visitors back for the first dozen minutes at the end of which they had taken the lead. Elliott Whitehouse scored his second penalty in as many matches following his late goal at Peterborough on Tuesday to rescue a point. This one was awarded when Roberts’ half-volley from a corner was fended away by a defender’s elbow.

Blues continued to dominate and showed some lovely approach play but not too many clear cut chances as a result. Norton’s pace and movement off the ball and Murray’s quickness of touch added to Chester’s attacking élan. Purver was booked for bringing down the latter from behind. Another attacking flurry culminated in Weeks’ spectacular shot arcing narrowly wide of the right hand upright.

Gradually, the Seadogs got a foothold in the game and the first half finished with the visitors dominating and knocking at the door of Chester’s defence. They forced a succession of corners as they pinned City back and as the ball was recirculated from one of them Weledji headed Maloney’s cross goal-wards but Stanway tipped it over the bar.

Ten minutes or so after the break Chester introduced more firepower into the attack as first Caton came on to replace Norton – who’d seen a half-volley dip wide of the post – shortly followed by Tollitt who came on for Murray. The Oldham loanee made an almost instant impact as he helped the ball through to Peers. It seemed like Gooda was shepherding the ball out but Peers picked his pocket and crossed into the danger area. Keeper Whitley palmed it away but only as far as Glendon who dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

The second goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Scarborough and give City a second wind. Tollitt fired a couple of venomous strikes in at goal as he hit the ground running. Defender Thornton was shown a second yellow card after he nudged Caton into the sidelines to prevent a counter attack. Burke had the ball in the net following up from one of Tollitt’s half-saved efforts but was ruled offside. Then in stoppage time Tollitt’s pass found Glendon whose teasing cross was walked in to the net by Peers at the far post.

It was a pleasing win which promises much but Calum McIntyre refused to get carried away with it afterwards neither calling attention to the league table nor getting drawn into fist-pumping by the Harry Mac. He knows that only building on the result in the remaining fixtures will be enough to secure a play-off place.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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Tuesday 6 February
Peterborough Sports 1 Chester 1
National League North
Attendance: 213 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Heywood, Glendon, Peers.

Peterborough Sports: Crook, Ahui, Fryatt, Fowkes, McCammon, Jarvis (Nicholson 79), Alban-Jones, Fox, Felix, Gash, McAuley. Subs not used: Miles, Pereira, Tootle, Johnson.
Stanway, Heywood (Murray 79), Burke, Williams, Woodthorpe, Taylor, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Caton, Peers. Subs not used: Windsor, Norton, Hall, Okeke.
Referee: Alex Sawden.

A last minute Elliott Whitehouse penalty earned a point at Peterborough Sports after the home side had themselves taken a late lead.

The extremely wet weather conditions, and a heavy pitch, made it difficult for both teams for the entire 90 minutes. Chester started well and Ollie Heywood found himself in pace after just two minutes, with Peter Crook in the home goal alert to palm away the defenders effort.

A quick breakaway from the Turbines saw Wyll Stanway called into action to stop an effort from Josh McCammon and concede a corner. The home side almost broke the deadlock as player-manager Michael Gash met a Dan Jarvis corner to head against the post.

Five minutes before the break Sports broke quickly again as Jarvis saw an effort saved by Stanway, the ball fell to Ben Fowkes whose follow-up was cleared off the line by Joel Taylor.

Stanway was busy again soon after the restart saving well from both Jarvis and Hugh Alban-Jones.

The home side broke the deadlock on 73 minutes as a Jarvis pass found the unmarked Josh McCammon who beat Stanway from just inside 20 yards.

With the game entering the final minute Chester were handed a lifeline. A short corner was crossed by Declan Weeks for Harrison Burke to meet it with a header, his effort hit the post and rebounded to Tom Peers was was subsequently fouled in the box.

Whitehouse stepped up to send Crook the wrong way to convert the spot-kick and earn a valuable point.

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Saturday 3 February
Chester 1 Banbury United 1
National League North
Attendance: 2,208 (32 Banbury) Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Whitehouse.

Chester: Stanway, Okeke, Burke, Williams, Woodthorpe, Taylor, Whitehouse, Glendon, Weeks, Caton (Hall 82), Peers. Subs not used: Windsor, Norton, Daly, Heywood.
Banbury United:
Harding, Davies, Maye, Waller, Fleming, Elliott-Wheeler (Giles 50), D’Ath, Hewitt (Fitzhugh 46), Wilson, Johnson, Maja. Subs not used: Scott, Othman, Whyman.
Referee: Charles Martland.

The 1-1 result of this entertaining match was hugely frustrating one for Chester in which they didn’t reap the rewards their creative attacking merited.

On a gloomy overcast St Werburgh’s Day, City dominated the Puritans and carved out several attempts on goal. Peers had the first shot in anger as he turned Charlie Waller and fired a shot towards the corner. Veteran keeper Jack Harding stuck out an instinctive arm to deflect it over the bar. Blues did make the breakthrough their lively start deserved when, after working the ball across from the left, Burke feinted and created space to put Glendon through on the right of the area. Chester’s captain found the far corner of the net with a clinical finish.

It seemed that this goal might be the harbinger of many more. One, Waller header on target aside, City totally dominated play for the duration of the half and went close to adding to their lead. Peers went just the wrong side of the near post cross and then from a corner. Whitehouse appeared to be wiped out in the penalty area by Waller’s challenge but only a corner ensued. Then as half time approached the Puritans’ goal survived a triple scare. Okeke crossed for Caton’s header to be cleared off the line, the rebound was again blocked before Weeks hit a screaming half volley goal-wards only to be denied by the flailing arm of Harding.

Harding, the only Banbury player who played in this fixture last season, smiled as the Harry Mac greeted him (Not very charitably) for the second half. Hewitt was replaced by FitzHugh for the visitors as they sought to tighten up after the break. They succeeded in restricting City’s shooting opportunities and ability to get behind their defence to a greater extent. And as they hung on in the game they grew in belief. The lively FitzHugh (Recently released by Leicester City) it was who won for them a game-changing penalty kick on the break. Burke seemed to have won the ball with his tackle but the compounding collision with Stanway persuaded the referee to award a spot kick. Emmanuel Maja’s stuttering run sent Stanway the wrong way and he slotted home the equaliser.

There was still time for City to respond. Burke headed Okeke’s cross narrowly wide. Then from a short corner routine, Taylor’s clever turn gave him the chance to shoot. The wing back was unlucky to see his effort cannon down off the crossbar and across the goal to safety.

The final dramatic twist of the afternoon took place deep into stoppage time as the Blues were awarded a penalty when Weeks went down under a challenge from Fleming. But Glendon’s kick was parried by Harding and scrambled clear – leaving the home following crushingly disappointed. Calum McIntyre reflected his and his team’s frustration at the two points that slipped away. It increases the pressure in what is becoming a tightly congested queue for play-off places this season.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

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