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Saturday 27 November 1999
Chester City 0 Swansea City 1

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Woods, Spooner, Fisher, Doughty, Nash, Richardson, Reid (Finney 73), Beckett, Cross. Subs not used: Berry, Conkie, Lancaster, Jones.
Swansea City: Freestone, S.Jones. Smith. Bound, Howard (Casey 54), Price (Thomas 77), Cusack, Lacey, Coates, Alsop, Watkin. Subs not ised: J.Jones, Jenkins, Boyd.
Referee: W.Burns (Scarborough).

For the third season running Chester's home game with Swansea proved controversial for one reason or another off the field. Two years ago it was the rearranged fixture on a Wednesday night switched from the Vetch Field with indecent haste because of Mr Guterman's "cash flow" problems. Last season it was billed as possibly City's last ever League match as they faced a winding up order in the High Court the following Monday. This season saw the kick off delayed by ten minutes because of quite chaotic voucher arrangements for the Man City FA Cup tie.

Fans were given a cloak room ticket as they came through the turnstiles which gave them the privilege of buying a programme (strictly limited to one per fan) which would then form a voucher for a ticket for the Man City game. I have never seen such queues to buy a programme. Inevitably they ran out and several supporters missed out. But a bit of creative thinking meant that a crateful of unsold Czechoslovakia v England schoolboy international programmes were wheeled out to act as vouchers as well. These latter did not have to be paid for which led to moans from the people who had forked out �2 and wouldn't normally have bought a programme – or shared one between their family group anyway. Before the kick off it was announced that the vouchers (ie the Czechoslovakia programmes) would be given second priority after season ticket holders and programme holders but at half time it was announced that the voucher holders would have equal priority.

Tickets for the City game are expected to be on sale on Wednesday or could it be Thursday – anyway watch the local press for details. Even Cleggy said it was confusing – but I bet the Evening Leader and Daily Post are happy.

It was all pretty amusing I suppose and certainly gave plenty of opportunity for debate before, during and after a fairly dull match. I was cross about it at the time but, on reflection, season ticket holders who normally buy a programme are no worse off unless they sit in the stand – in which case they will have to pay an extra �2 for the City game. In the club's defence they named the programme as the voucher to prevent the chance of forgeries – but more occasional fans will have been irritated and we can ill afford to drive anyone away at the moment.

The most annoying thing for me is that I can't make the Man City tie anyway now that it's going to be played on a Sunday (I'm sorry but the Guide and Brownie District Carol service was booked months ago). No-one has given me a convincing reason for the game to be moved to a Sunday. Neil Turner in the Pink claims to have got his hands on the "rambling and wordy" three page letter which Terry Smith wrote to the FA, requesting the venue be switched to Maine Road for crowd safety reasons. It was this, Turner claims, that led to the compromise decision of a Sunday game with one o'clock kick off. But I still defy anyone to convince me why this should make it one little bit safer for anyone (I'm biased of course).

And the match with Swansea itself? Well the first five minutes were brilliant as Chester piled on the pressure. A cross from the left eluded Freestone but Beckett on the far post could only direct his angled shot into the side netting. From a corner the ball popped up on the edge of the box for Doughty to lash in a rasping volley with his right foot. Freestone, diving full length, turned it round the post.

After that it got worse, much worse. Swansea, quicker to every ball, closed down supply to our wing backs completely. Reid, Richardson and Nash were then overwhelmed in midfield as Chester's five man defence invited Swansea to come at them. They didn't create many chances it has to be said but they dominated the play and restricted Chester to knocking the ball forward in the air giving Beckett and Cross very little chance of doing anything.

On the one occasion that City did manage to get the ball over the top of the defence, Cross made a terrible hash of his shot.

Swansea took the lead on 54 minutes when Cusack's neat header from a left wing cross stole in at the far post. Brown seemed to see it late, may be he thought it was going wide. Chester's heads went right down and it never really looked like they would get back in the game. Richardson came closest when he slid in at the far post only to see his shot trickle against the opposite upright and out of play. But I'm afraid to say that Swansea were quicker and sharper and more combative all over the pitch. Alsop was a nuisance all game and should have made it two nil towards the end but over hit the ball. It didn't matter as Chester didn't look as if they'd score if they were still playing now. This is no criticism of Luke Beckett, however, who worked hard and deservedly collected another bottle of champagne for his efforts. He just wasn't given the chances because Swansea out ran us where it mattered and closed City players down so effectively.

Towards the end Fisher was thrown up into midfield as City reverted to 4-4-2 but to no avail. A very dispiriting performance. Dave Fogg was scathing about them when interviewed on the radio– I wouldn't like to be in the players' boots on Monday. To be fair to them, the team on this showing needs a swift injection of pace, experience, and ability if we are to climb away from the bottom.

Colin Mansley

Tuesday 24 November 1999
Chester City 0 Southend United 0

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Spooner, Fisher, Woods, Doughty, Richardson, Reid (Berry 88), Nash (Finney 82), Beckett, Cross. Subs not used: Conkie, Lancaster, Jones.
Southend United: Prudhoe, Roget, Coleman, Booty, Connelly, Beard, Tinkler (Morley 45), Jones, Houghton, Carruthers (Fitzpatrick 82), Tolson. Subs not used: Capelton, Cross, Clarke.
Referee: P.Walton (Long Buckley).

After the way Southend began this match I thought that we would do well to get a draw. They looked very fast and fit going forward. Carruthers and Houghton, two ex-Posh players who starred in that really good 0-0 draw a couple of seasons ago shone again. Like that game this was a very positive and entertaining encounter. By the end, it was a huge disappointment that City weren't able to nick the one goal which would have given them the three points.

City fought tigerishly to get into the game against a useful looking Southend side. It helped a lot having Reid back in midfield. He was on good form before his injury at Port Vale and he brings leadership and considerable energy to the midfield. Largely thanks to him City were not overrun in that area. Doughty again had another outstanding game.

A sweeping move down the right led to the ball being knocked out to Doughty who let fly with a superb dipping volley - Prudhoe just got an arm to it to knock it over the bar. Reid went close with a near post header that was scrambled away for a corner. Moss had a shot which took a deflection and flashed past the far post for another corner.

At our end Chester had survived penalty appeals when Beard went down after a challenge by Doughty. The Shrimper's theatricals after a tackle a couple of minutes earlier didn't do him any favours. The ref pointed for a goal kick but for a couple of moments it looked like the penalty spot. Later on Brown did well to get back on his line to turn Tinkler's speculative shot over the bar.

It had been end to end stuff and City fans gave the Blue Boys a standing ovation at the interval. Southend's veteran keeper Prudhoe took up his place in goal in front of us and his Norman Wisdom impression had us laughing. After that we wept tears of frustration as he pulled off the save of the match to keep out Jonathon Cross' goal bound shot. Trigger (Who had been booked for dissent in the first half) also had a sighter just over the bar a few minutes earlier. City piled on the pressure and won umpteen corners but could not apply the finishing touch. Richardson came closest when Doughty crossed from the left but his shot from the six yard line trickled just the wrong side of the post.

Southend continued to look dangerous on the break and Scott Houghton threatened a couple of times with darting runs on the left. Brown pulled off a classy save to deny one of his spearing shots. Earlier Tolson put a free header just over the bar and from another Carruthers slid in to pop the ball against the upright.

Towards the end Nash was replaced by Finney and Reid by Berry (The latter switch weakened City alarmingly). Right at the end Doughty went on a surging run towards goal and looked to be ready to shoot when the ball was just touched away from him by a defender and Beckett couldn't quite latch on to the rebound.

It was an excellent and entertaining game - but how we could have done with the three points.

Colin Mansley 

Saturday 20 November 1999
Stalybridge Celtic 1 Chester City 2

Stalybridge Celtic: Ingham, Ward, Scott, Ogley, Johnston, Bauress, Pickford, Parr, Steele, Jones, Williamson. Subs not used: Philson, Mason, Marginson, Sullivan, Stratford.
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty, Reid, Milosavijevic, Spooner, Richardson, Nash, Cross, Beckett, Fisher. Subs not used: Conkie, Shelton, Lancaster, Jones, Woods.
Referee: M.Ryan (Preston).

Slack defending gifted Stalybridge the opening goal on eight minutes as Andy Scott jinked through the City defence unchallenged before lobbing Wayne Brown in the City goal. It was 40 minutes before Chester joined the game in earnest. After several close shaves they equalised on he stroke of half time through Jon Cross who headed home Matt Doughty's cross, though the ball took a deflection off defender Parr.

City's winner came from Luke Beckett on 69 minutes, the unmarked striker heading home Doughty's pinpoint left-wing cross.

Saturday 13 November 1999
Hartlepool United 1 Chester City 0

Hartlepool United: Hollund, Barron, Lee, Westwood, Knowles, Fitzpatrick (Clark 89), Miller, Stephenson, Shilton, Jones, Freestone (Henderson 75). Subs not used: Provett, Vindheim, Boyd.
Chester City: Brown, Nash, Spooner, Milosavijevic (Finney 60), Fisher, Doughty, Wright, Richardson (Berry 28), Shelton, Cross, Beckett. Subs not used: Conkie, Jones, Malone.
Referee: G.Laws (Whitley Bay).

Another trip to Hartlepool, another defeat.

Chester were always facing an uphill struggle once midfielder Nick Richardson limped off after 28 minutes. Until then City were in the game and only minutes later had the best chance to open the scoring. Jon Cross' through header paved the way for Luke Beckett. Beckett raced through on goal but blasted his shot straight at 'Pool keeper Martin Hollund.

The home side them swept upfield and took the lead through Tommy Miller's 20-yarder.

City were under the cosh for most of the second period and cleared three efforts off the line. Gary Jones also hit the bar as the 1-0 scoreline flattered City who were second best to everything all afternoon.
Tuesday 9 November 1999 - FA Cup Round 1 Replay
Chester City 3 Whyteleafe 1

Chester City: Brown, Moss (Nash 46), Doughty, Fisher, Milosavijevic, Malone (Lancaster 16), Wright, Richardson, Cross, Beckett, Shelton. Subs not used: Conkie, Berry, Jones.
Whyteleafe: Rose, Algar, Howland, Golley, Arkwright, McKay (Elliot 59), Ahmet (George 74), Fisher, Scoitt (Milton 36), Lunn, Thornton. Subs not used: George, Hopkins.
Referee: P.Taylor (Cheshunt).

It was like a scene from the Hound of the Baskervilles at the Deva tonight....fog rolling on freezing breezes from the Dee...Was there the howl of a werewolf and a death knelling tolling for our beloved Blues?

After eight minutes we could here alarm bells ringing....Whyteleafe scored after we failed to clear...I could not see who made the mistake, but the amount Malone made in the next five minutes, and his unceremonious hauling off after fifteen, suggested it may have been him.

Again it begs the question, who on earth signed him? He looked absolutely dreadful, even allowing for nerves, no speed, no touch, no heading ability...Was it Finney in disguise?

We battled back with Doughty rampant throughout the night...he linked well with Goran and centred for Jon Cross to equalise. We were all over them from then on. They were reduced to ten men when Andy Shelton was punched/slapped...I could here the connection from where I was sat. It is the only time I have ever seen a player booked for receiving a punch!! Never mind Andy.

We started off the second half in tremendous style...Matt Doughty put over two pinpoint crosses to set up Luke for the second goal and Crossy for his brace. To be fair it died a bit after that, as we basked in the glory of a two goal cushion against a non-league side down to ten men.

The only thing that was going to beat us was the fog....mercifully it just about stayed playable. Was I the only one hoping for fog when Malone was playing like an alehouse centre half, and we were losing 1-0?

Plenty of good performances tonight, with Luke and Crossy linking well, Fisher again looking accomplished and Nicky Richardson tireless. However Matt Doughty was incredible, what a sweet left foot the lad has got...I have asked before, but received no re-assurance, is he on a long term contract? Well done blue boys!

Saturday 6 November 1999
Chester City 0 Plymouth Argyle 1

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Spooner, Fisher, Milosavijevic, Doughty, Shelton, Richardson, Wright (Nash 45), Finney (Cross 57), Beckett. Subs not used: Berry, Conkie, Malone.
Plymouth Argyle: Sheffield, O'Sullivan, Taylor, Barratt, Beswetherick, McGregir, Leadbitter, McCall, Hargreaves, McCarthy (Heathcote 83), Stonebridge (Belgrave 69). Subs not used: Veysey, Bastow, Phillips.
Referee: D.Gallagher (Banbury).

Talk about hard luck!

We were pretty poor in the first half, with Darren Wright having the proverbial nightmare. I feel sorry for Wrighty, wholehearted, committed and pretty quick too. However he is not a midfield player, as illustrated by his woeful defensive header that presented Steve McCall with a half chance that he volleyed brilliantly past Wayne Brown.

Oh I wish we had a player of McCall's ability. He ran midfield, probing passes, hard tackles and general all round awareness. Qualities which we sadly lack in our inexperienced side. Back to Wrighty, how anybody can waste him in midfield when the likes of Steve Finney can get a game is beyond me. I know he is lacking in match fitness but he was an absolute disgrace....overweight, slow, unable to jump...he should never be asked to put on the blue and white shirt again.

At the start of the second half Nash was introduced and played very well too. Jon Cross was introduced for the inept Finney and the side was transformed. Shelton, Moss and Doughty were rampant on overlaps and only a string of stunning saves kept us out.

Debutant Spooner was solid at the back, and Neil Fisher superb at sweeper. Plymouth were a fair side too, we more than matched them and certainly deserved better. There was a composure to the team that bodes well. If we start with the side that finished against Whiteleafe I predict a trouncing. Remember you heard it here first!!!

Tuesday 2 November 1999
Shrewsbury Town 0 Chester City 1

Shrewsbury Town: Edwards, Seabury, Hanmer, Wilding, Winstanley; Brown, Jobling (Berkley), Rigby, Kerrigan (Spink 73), Steele
Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty (Nash), Woods (Berry), Milosavijevic, Fisher; Wright, Richardson, Shelton (Finney 89); Beckett, Agogo.
Referee: M J Brandwood.

Chester came out in disguise tonight. Both their home and away kit clashed with Shrewsbury's blue and amber stripes. So City borrowed their hosts' away kit from last season – a rather fetching pale blue and white outfit with white shorts and socks. In appearance they resembled Argentina. "Come on you Pumas!" yelled David Wright the Onion Bag Sales executive.

Yet another change of formation - or at least personnel – it was five at the back again but this time Fisher was the sweeper with Milosavijevic and Woods the centre halves. There were as many errors on the pitch as there were fallen leaves, blown down from the rank of poplars behind the terrace. Shrewsbury had slightly the better of things but City held out till half time.

After the break City gradually began to put the home team under more and more pressure. Richardson, Wright and Shelton all did well and there was some execellent passing and movement in their approach play. With eighteen minutes to go Darren Wright was brought down on the edge of the box. Woods stood ten yards to the right of the free kick. I felt sure the ball would be knocked to him to launch one of his piledrivers. Instead Richardson curled the ball towards the top corner. As Edwards dived despairingly to his left the ball hit the underside of the bar and crashed into the back of the net. It was a strike that Beckham couldn't have bettered.

The Shrews brought Spink (returning on loan from the Welsh club who themselves were being hammered 5-0 at Turf Moor, I'm delighted to say) on straight away. An injury to Woods seemed sure to disrupt City. He was replaced by Berry (bizarrely) and at the same time Doughty was beign withdrawn in favour of Nash. Richardson tried to stop Doughty going off the pitch as Woods was lying injured and argued with Smith and Fogg in the confusion. Brown made a wonderul save under pressure. Despite a couple of corners and two near misses, City held out. They could have added to their lead when Agogo broke clear but was thwarted by a last ditch tackle from Winstanley. The spirit at the end was typified by Beckett who threw himself into tackles to put pressure on Shrewsbury defenders. Fisher had a very tidy game at the back where his ability to anticipate the game is put to good use.

When the final whistle came after four minutes of stoppage time, the roar was tremendous from the City following. Our first ever League win at Gay Meadow in fifteen attempts. It couldn't have come at a more welcome time. We applauded till our arms ached. And as we did so the City heroes stripped off the light blue and white to reveal shirts of pure gold underneath. "We're not bottom any more " echoed around the platforms on Shrewsbury station.

I tootled back along the A458, stopping off at Enville where the ale is brewed with honey. It tasted like nectar to me. A sweet win indeed.

Colin Mansley

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