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Saturday 29 March
Welling United 2 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 706 (206 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Hobson, Bond, Rooney.

Welling United: Butcher, Fazakerley, Hudson, Taylor, Williams, Beautyman (Wakefield 63), Gallagher, Karagiannis (Ajala 58) , Clarke (Healy 63), Sho-Silva, Lafayette. Subs not used: Turner, Day.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Kay, Linwood, Heath, Rooney, Jarrett (N.Turner 70), Bond, Mahon, Hobson (Menagh 63), Seddon (Carlton 60). Subs not used: Danby, Ashworth.
Referee: Daniel Cook (Portsmouth).

This was just like the good old days of the late Chester City. A short trip for us Southern Exiles meeting up with familiar fellow supporters in chosen real ale haunts and a dire ninety minutes of football which interrupted the social occasion!

Chester are in real relegation fight after this latest defeat to a ten man average Welling side, who quite frankly where there for the taking being on a bad run themselves. After a quiet start, the game changed with the harsh sending off Welling’s Gallagher on the half hour for a late challenge on Jarrett. Welling reverted to one up front and were content to hit Chester on the break.

It worked to a treat. Chester were clueless in how to break the opposition down hoofing aimless balls forward which were gobbled up Welling’s giant centre backs. Apart from a Linwood header and two Seddon efforts, the Welling keeper remained untroubled and Chester’s second half performance was woeful, dreadful and quite frankly tactically inept. There was an air of inevitability about Welling’s opener from Karagiannis who finished well after latching on to a long goal kick.

The game was settled a minute from time when Lafayette scored his first goal since er, the first Chester Welling encounter! However the game was technically over by then as Chester wouldn’t have scored if they had played until midnight and the frustration grew on and off the pitch. The lack of acknowledgement to the travelling support at the final whistle said it all. These supporters deserve better.

Alan Parry-Jones

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 25 March
Chester 2 Tamworth 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,731 Half Time 0-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Kay, Linwood (Carlton 52), Heath, Bond, Jarrett, Rooney, Mahon (N.Turner 79), Menagh (Lindfield 90), Hobson. Subs not used: Danby, Blake.
Tamworth: Belford, Evans, Richards-Everton, Kerry, Richards, Thornton, Caprice, Barnes-Homer (Batis-Cande 76), Mahon (Haworth 82), Keane, Baker (Peniket 68). Subs not used: Woolery, Hoban.
Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Bramton).

This match began as a tentative ‘six-pointer’ with neither side wanting to make a real impression. In fact, it’s hard to remember anything memorable from the first half.

If I struggle to think, I can recall a few chances each for the two relegation strugglers in the first 45 minutes. Chester ‘keeper Aaron Chapman had no trouble turning a couple of Tamworth shots round the post, while Cameron Belford used his legs to keep out a Jamie Menagh strike at the other end.

The start of the second half immediately woke up the 1,731-strong crowd. A Tamworth header looked goalbound, but Chapman made an instinctive save to keep the score level.

Soon after, Tamworth’s Lloyd Kerry had another chance to put the visitors ahead. But his shot went well wide and Chester could live again.

It was as if that spurred the Blues into action, and a well-timed John Rooney pass to Lewis Turner resulted in an own goal when Turner fizzed the ball across the box. If Tamworth’s Ben Richards-Everton had not put his foot in the way, it would have found another Chester player anyway. There was a real sense of relief from the home supporters when the ball found the net for an own goal.

Soon after, it was 2-0 to Chester when a Rooney free kick found Craig Hobson and he managed to get the ball past Belford.

Chester fans know that a two-goal lead by no means leads to a certain victory – not with 25 minutes left to play. So it was good to see the home side continuing to press for a third goal. Rooney had a couple of chances of his own, including hitting the cross bar from a free kick.

Thankfully Tamworth looked well-beaten as the clock ran down. They bought on a couple of substitutes, but neither could make any impression on the Chester defence. It’s now time for the victorious home side to keep firing on all cylinders as the season enters its final phase.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 22 March
Luton Town 3 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 8,475 (229 Chester) Half Time 0-0
Booked: Heath, Kay, Rooney, Bond, Menagh.

Luton Town: Tyler, Henry, Franks, McNulty, Griffiths, Ruddock (L Rooney 82), Howells (Cullen 62), Lawless, Parry (Robinson 67), Gray, Benson. Subs not used: Shaw, Justham.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Kay, Linwood, Heath, N.Turner, Bond, Jarrett, Rooney, Menagh, Hobson. Subs not used: Danby, Lindfield, Peers, Carlton, Blake.
Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).

Chester will reflect that the final scoreline doesn’t do justice to the battling effort they made in holding off league leaders Luton Town for a large part of this match. The Blues gave as good as they got in the opening period despite picking up five yellow cards from referee Rob Whittin.

Both Craig Mahon and matty Brown missed the game through injury while striker Gareth Seddon also missed out after falling ill on the coach journey down.

In front of a crowd of nearly 8,500 it was Nathan Turner who had the first sniff of goals only to pull a shot wide while Andy Bond also sent an effort over the bar on ten minutes following good approach play by Jamie Menagh.

John Rooney saw a free-kick headed away for a corner by Steve McNulty and from the resulting kick Jason Jarrett failed to control the loose ball and a chance was missed.

Goalkeeper Aaron Chapman pulled off a fine save to deny Hatters captain Ronnie Henry and Chapman was also well positioned to save from Paul Benson as Luton came more into the match. benson was causing problems for the Chester defence and Michael Kay cleared a goalbound header to keep the scores level.

Good work from Craig Hobson and Nathan Turner set up Rooney whose shot appeared to be handled by McNulty but Whitton turned away the penalty appeals. Rooney sent a half-volley just wide of Mark Tyler’s goal and at the other end henry fired over when well placed before the half came to an end.

Champan wade an early save from Scott Griffiths after the restart before the Blues won three successive corners and saw captain Paul Linwood’s header tipped over the bar by Tyler.

Andre Gray saw an effort blocked by Chapman as the home side applied the pressure and the opening goal came out of the blue on 70 minutes as substitute Matt Robinson’s left wing cross sailed over everyone and into the far corner of the net.

Chester hit back and Rooney forced a fine save from Tyler following the midfieder’s free kick and Craig Hobson sent a header over following Joe Heath’s cross.

Chapman denied Gray again following a one-on-one before the Luton striker added a second moments later firing home from 18 yards. The Hatters wrapped up the points in injury time as Benson charged down a Linwood clearance to add the third goal.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 18 March
Chester 2 Southport 2
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,274 (274 Southport) Half Time 1-0
Booked: Seddon, Brown, Bond.

Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Linwood (Kay 22), Brown (N.Turner 60), Bridge, Rooney, Bond, Jarrett, Mahon, Seddon, Hobson (Carlton 75). Subs not used: Fearon, Menagh.
Southport: Hurst, Brown, Nsiala, Walker, Ledsham, Hattersley, George, Fitzpatrick, Osawe, O’Sullivan, Daly. Subs not used: Mukendi, Challoner, Rutherford, Joyce, Brodie.
Referee: Simon Bennett (Stoke).

Chester fought out a fiercely competitive relegation scrap with near neighbours Southport and had to count the cost in terms of injuries by the end of the night. Both sides had to be content with a single point in the end but the result could have easily gone either way.

Right from the word go this was an end to end game – almost the complete opposite of the Alfreton game on Saturday. Chester struck first as Rooney went close in the first couple of minutes at the near post, almost immediately the Sandgrounders attacked at the other end and went close and so it continued. Linwood crashed a shot against the bar following a corner but soon had to be replaced as he was carrying an injury, Kay coming on to take his place at centre back.

City took the lead after 34 minutes when good work by Craig Mahon set up Seddon for a shot on the left. His shot was parried by Hurst but Hobson was on hand to score his first goal for the Blues. Seddon nearly added another but was foiled when George got his head in the way of his close range shot. Ledsham nearly headed into his own goal from a left wing cross. The visitors went closest with a direct free kick from distance but City held on to the lead until half time.

It was difficult to believe there weren’t more goals to come in the second half and so it proved. Chester forged further ahead through a brilliant goal by Mahon, running at the defence and then firing low into the corner.

As a waning gibbous moon, golden in colour rose behind the main stand so Chester seemed to fade and Southport fought doggedly to get back into the game. All of a sudden City seemed to be overwhelmed in midfield and the Sandgrounders came sweeping forward. Ledsham halved the arrears on 57 minutes when he nodded in unmarked past Chapman.

Shortly afterwards Matty Brown was badly injured, leaving the field with a brokennose and Chester had to rearrange their defence once again. This time Jarrett dropped back while Nathan Turner came on to play in midfield.

The visitors increased the pressure as they searched desperately for an equaliser. Hattersley got in Chapman’s way at the left hand edge of the box and threw himself to the ground. The linesman flagged for a free kick but the referee deemed it to be inside the area and pointed to the spot. The decision seemed a travesty but justice – in the eyes of a seething Harry Mac Stand – was seen to be done when Ledsham crashed the penalty against the bar and over.

Chester were struggling now and the visitors made more chances. Chapman tipped Hattersley’s diving header over the bar and clawed away Osawe’s shot just inside the post. Then he saved with his legs from Hattersley’s shot on the turn. Ledsham was then booked for a crude challenge on Mahon which left him with a suspected broken collar-bone.

Just as the Blues seemed to have weathered the storm, the dangerous Osawe gotbehind the defence on the right and sent in a low cross which went right through,was returned by O’Sullivan on the left and Ledsham slotted the equalising goal. This was in the 89th minute but there were still seven minutes of added time to go. The last chance of all fell to Hattersley who scythed his shot well wide of the goal.

Southport will have been happiest with the point but City can take pride from theway they played and coped with several unfortunate injuries. How many fully fit players are available after this bruising match will be a headache for Steve Burr.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 15 March
Chester 0 Alfreton Town 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,042 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Mahon, Chapman, Daniels.

Chester: Chapman, Killock (Hobson 19), Brown, Linwood, Heath, L.Turner, Bond, N.Turner (Menagh 72), Mahon, Rooney, Seddon (Daniels 75). Subs not used: Danby, Bridge.
Alfreton Town: Worsnop, Law, Wylde (Kempson 45), Fenton, Wood, Jones (Meadows 56), Bradley, Poku, Shaw, Harrad, Akinde (Clayton 75). Subs not used: McFadzean, Andrews.
Referee: Darren England (Barnsley).

City lost this tight encounter with Alfreton as the visitors gained revenge for the Blues’ unlikely win at their home earlier in the season. The game was dour and hard fought and had nil-nil written all over it until Town were awarded a penalty on the hour mark. Chapman was judged by referee England to have brought down hulking forward Akinde and Harrad tucked the spot kick away. Steve Burr was unhappy with the penalty award – as were many Blues fans - but was honest enough to admit that City didn’t offer enough to deserve to win the game.

City began fairly brightly although they had to change their plans after fifteen minutes when Killock, playing in the unfamiliar position of right back pulled up with a hamstring strain. “There’s only one Ross Killock” chanted the sympathetic home support as the Leeds loanee limped off in front of them. The visiting fans responded with an echo of the same words but with a hint of irony (Ross had been on loan with them last season). New signing Hobson came on to play on the right wing while Lewis Turner fell back to fill Killock’s void.

Rooney had City’s best and almost only effort of note on target in the first half ashe shot low and true from Nathan Turner’s pass. Jon Worsnop – who made one appearance for Chester City – parried at full stretch. Matty Brown also went closeat the far post from a corner. To be fair Chapman was rarely troubled either but Alfreton were quick to close City down and allowed little time on the ball – especially to the danger of Mahon – a marked man throughout.

After the break City had their best spell as they took the game to the visitors but lacked that final cutting edge. Seddon snatched at a half chance and screwed it horribly wide. Mahon’s inviting cross sailed across the goal untroubled. Chester were still sorely missing the recalled (By Forest Green Rovers) Matty Taylor. Not only was he in a rich vein of scoring form, he linked the play up brilliantly with Rooney and Seddon. City’s play was stuttering as a result. Hobson was game and did well but is not the same type of player by any means.

Harrad’s penalty got Alfreton’s noses in front and they defended their lead resolutely, breaking up the flow and grinding out the result they needed. The wintook them up to second in the League but then, at 6pm, three points were taken away from them as a result of failing to register Worsnop in time for a match against Kidderminster earlier in the season. The fax they sent turned out blank at Conference HQ. So ended a frustrating afternoon for both teams.

Chester’s lack of threat up front is a concern and has seen them slip back into the relegation scrap. It heightens the pressure on Tuesday’s encounter with reviving strugglers Southport who leaped over City after their convincing defeat of Macclesfield.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Tuesday 11 March
Aldershot Town 2 Chester 0
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,545 (143 Chester) Half Time 2-0
Booked: Mahon, Rooney.

Aldershot Town: Martin, Oastler (Scott 80), Webster, Barker, Tonkin, Mekki (Gibbs 68), Rowlands, Stanley, Butler (Roberts 76), Bubb, Williams. Subs not used: Morris, Taiwo.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Killock, Linwood, Heath, Rooney, Bond, N.Turner (Menagh 58), Mahon, Lindfield (Daniels 58), Seddon. Subs not used: Danby, Blake, Mainwaring.
Referee: Lee Swabey (Devon).

This was a disappointing performance from a Chester team who never looked likely to scramble even a point at fellow relegation rivals, Aldershot.

The absence of Matty Taylor, who was recalled to home club Forest Green Rovers, made for rather a large void in the Chester attack line. His place was taken by Craig Lindfield, but he couldn't make up for Taylor's departure.

The home side were on the front foot from the off, and Chester – backed by 143 travelling supporters - didn’t have a shot on target before they went behind.

Aldershot’s first goal came from the result of yet another set-piece. Aaron Chapman failed to deal with a corner and the ball fell to the Shot’s leading scorer, Brett Williams. He made no mistake to put them ahead.

It was hard to think of any impact that yellow-clad Chester had in the first half. So it was hardly surprising to see Lindfield replaced by Jamie Megagh on the 58th minute. The double substitution also saw Brendon Daniels come on for Nathan Turner.

The arrival of lively Menagh did see Aldershot’s defence opened up slightly. He kept finding enough space to give Chester at least a hint of a chance. Craig Mahon did have a chance on the hour-mark, but his shot was well-saved by Aldershot’s Alan Martin.

The action soon switched to the other end when a long ball found Aldershot’s Jaydon Gibbs. Chapman came out to meet him, but he was rounded to leave a gaping open net. However Gibbs somehow blazed the ball way over the bar.

Both John Rooney and Mahon then had chances at the other end, in Chester’s best spell of the match. But they failed to make an impression and it was soon game over for the visitors.

Williams found himself in space again in the Chester box and had no trouble scoring on the 83rd minute. There was no way Chester were going to score two goals in the closing minutes, and the game petered out into a dismal defeat for Steve Burr's men. It was no more than they deserved, and they’ll need to show more spirit and determination as the season comes to a head.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Friday 7 March
Dartford 0 Chester 1
Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,610 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Killock.

Dartford: Julian, Burns, Mitchel-King, McAuley, Sterling, Woodyard (Noble 63), Stevenson (Collier 82), Cornhill (Suarez 74), Bradbrook, Wall, Harris. Subs not used: Clark, Ibrahim.
Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Killock, Linwood, Heath, Rooney, Bond, N.Turner, Mahon (Lindfield 90), Taylor (Daniels 90), Seddon. Subs not used: Danby, Bridge, Menagh.
Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset).

Chester recorded their second win in a month in front of the TV cameras as a stunning second half strike from Gareth Seddon was one of the only talking points in the entire 90 minutes. The first half was an instantly forgettable event with both sides canceling each other out for the opening 20 minutes and nether registering a shot on target for the opening half.

Chester upped the tempo straight after the break with John Rooney feeding Matty Taylor but home ‘keeper Alan Julian rushed out to deny the Blues striker. Moments later a fine run down the right by Lewis Turner saw the fullback cross into the danger area, the ball was flicked on to gareth Seddon four yards out but he could only head over the unguarded net.

Seddon made up for his miss a minute later with a strike that was fitting to win any game. Andy Bond’s through ball was missed by Tyrone Sterling, it fell nicely for Seddon who turned to blast a dipping volley past Julian into the far corner to the delight of the 150 travelling supporters behind the goal in the smart Princes Park Stadium.

Dartford made a couple of substitutions and responded well as Aaron Chapman, a spectator in the first half, was called on to make a couple of smart saves to deny Lee Noble and Alex Wall.

There were loud appeals for a penalty as Ross Killock tackled Danny Harris on the edge of the box but referee Kevin Johnson waved away the home protests.

Four minutes from time Chapman produced the save of the match diving at full stretch to deny Noble whose shot from the edge of the area found its way through a sea of legs and was heading for the bottom corner before being turned round for a corner.

Chester survived five minutes of added time to record a precious three points that keeps them above the relegation zone for another week.

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 1 March
Chester 3 Nuneaton Town 3
Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,214 (129 Nuneaton) Half Time 2-2
Booked: N.Turner, Sent-off: Jarrett

Chester: Chapman, L.Turner, Killock, Bond, Jarrett, Bridge (N.Turner 70), Rooney, Mahon, Seddon, Taylor, Linwood. Subs not used: Danby, Menagh, Lindfield, Daniels.
Nuneaton Town: Belshaw, Gordon (Hibbert 73), Streete, Cowan, Dean, Walker, Sleath, Armson, Moult, Brown, York. Subs not used: Delfouneso, Trainer, Taylor, Adams.
Referee: Ben Toner (Darwen).

Confidence was high in the Chester camp after a thrilling midweek victory against Tamworth. Blues fans turned up anticipating their side giving high flying Nuneaton a run for their money. Their hopes were soon deflated however when Jason Jarrett was shown the red card by referee Ben Toner after only eight minutes. My initial reaction was that it was Nuneaton’s Walker who had gone into the tackle with two feet but the referee adjudged Jarrett the culprit rather than the victim and City were left, as they say, with a mountain to climb.

Nevertheless the controversy seemed to galvanise them and they set about their task like mountain gazelles. The Blues attacked at high tempo and incredibly took the lead when Rooney stroked the ball in off the post from the edge of the area following a crisp one-two between Lewis Turner and Craig Mahon. Playing some of the best attacking football of the season, City continued to dominate the play-off hopefuls. Rooney’s free kick deflected off the defensive wall to land just on top of the net as City continued to press. But the visitors took the wind out of their sails with an equaliser on the half hour mark.

Debutant Bridge, having stepped up three levels from Newcastle Town to join Chester, was caught out of position at left back and allowed his man to cross to the far post where Moult headed home unchallenged. Undaunted City swept forward again. Mahon’s left footed cross from the right bamboozled Belshaw in the Nuneaton goal and Taylor pounced to thrash it high into the net once it had rebounded off the post.

But then they were deflated once more on the stroke of half time as York again crossed from the right and this time Brown nodded in from an identical position to his side’s first goal. The lack of defensive cover was disappointing.

In the second half Town began to make their extra-man advantage tell and put pressure on the Blues’ goal with a succession of corners. City, at times, defended desperately but held on and then retaliated with pressure of their own. Joyously, Killock hooked Rooney’s partially cleared corner through a crowded penalty area to give the Blues the lead for the third time this afternoon.

Nuneaton launched frantic efforts for an equaliser and with four minutes remaining City cracked. Chapman, so confident against Halifax, was tentative at a corner and Brown lashed the loose ball low into the net. “You’re going down with the Tamworth” sang the erstwhile silent visiting fans.

City slipped a place in the league as a consequence while Southport were beating Dartford. It was frustrating for the Blues and who can tell what the score might have been if they had not had to play without Jarrett for over eighty minutes? Despite feelings of disappointment City fans stayed to give their team a standing ovation for their superb efforts to win the match. It made for one of the most entertaining games of the season. Let’s hope it’s a Conference fixture we can look forward to next season despite the sentiments of the away support.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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