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Saturday 25 October 2003
Blyth Spartans 0 Chester City 1
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,105 Half Time 0-1
Booked: Ruffer.

Blyth Spartans: Turns, Morton (Graham), Atkinson, Laws, Forster, Leeson, Williams (Bell), Richardson, Joyce, Woodhouse, Phillips (Dixon). Subs not used: Crutwell, Walker.
Chester City: McCaldon, Collins, Bolland, Davies, Foster (Brady 76), Carey, Twiss, Ruffer (Guyett 76), Clare (Rapley 86), Stamp, Heard. Subs not used: Brown, Harris.
Referee: D.Richardson.

CLICK for larger pictureDaryl Clare’s first goal of the season was enough to book City a place in the First Round of the FA Cup, but they made hard work of it against stern and testing opposition. 

Mark Wright opted for a more attack-minded side after a run of poor scoring games, with a three-pronged frontline of Daryl Clare, Ian Foster and Darryn Stamp. Michael Twiss came in for the suspended McIntyre on the left wing, and Jamie Heard remained on the right hand side.

Shaun Carey was named captain, replacing Paul Carden in the centre of the midfield, and lined up alongside Ben Davies. Meanwhile, Ian McCaldon kept his place between the sticks following his magnificent display against Hereford the previous week, with the usual backline of Carl Ruffer, Phil Bolland and Danny Collins playing just ahead of him.

A cold, but dry, afternoon saw Mark Wright’s men battle hard to edge out a close encounter against their famous FA Cup giant killing hosts, who were without the services of former Blackburn, Leicester and Aston Villa striker Graham Fenton.

The game got underway slightly earlier than the scheduled three o’clock kick-off time, and it was the home side who set out to attack from the beginning.

Blyth had been camped inside the Blues’ half for the opening ten minutes before McCaldon had to be alert to force a save from Williams’ low effort from the edge of the box. The Scot was then on hand to punch out a corner, with Danny Collins charging down the rebounded effort.

City’s first opening came moments later when an underhit backpass allowed Ian Foster to round former Sunderland stopper Craig Turns in the Blyth goal, but the diminutive striker could only find the side-netting with his low strike. When Ben Davies saw his shot blocked by Turns shortly later, it looked as if Blyth’s early attacking forays had tired them out.

But after a ten minute midfield battle, led by visiting skipper Shaun Carey, the home side saw another couple of chances go begging.

Phil Bolland, part of an incredibly uncharacteristic City defence, made a last-gasp challenge to dispose of another Blyth attack, before McCaldon pulled off a top class save to pluck the ball from inside the post from Ian Joyce’s header on the half hour mark.

Just as it was looking as if the home side were going to score, Daryl Clare pounced to fire the Blues’ into a 43rd minute lead. The striker latched on to Darryn Stamp’s header on the left hand side to shoot across the goal and in to the bottom far corner, much to the delight of the 200 or so travelling support, most of which were camped inside the terrace running alongside the pitch.

It was a relief for the City fans to see the former Boston front-man net his first of the season, particularly just before the end of a first half in which the opposition constantly posed a threat.

The second half was much the same, with Blyth attacking in search of an equaliser. Andy Woodhouse saw his solid drive in the 50th minute saved by McCaldon, who is fast becoming a cult hero at the Deva Stadium for his match-winning displays.

Mark Wright seemed happy for his side to sit back on their slender advantage and allow Blyth to attack for the remainder of the game, something that City have been pretty used to during the former Liverpool defender’s reign as boss.

Shaun Carey did have a go at breaking the home net once more, mid-way through the half, but saw his powerful long range effort clear the bar. Then with just ten minutes left on the clock, Stamp had the opportunity to finish the match off.

Jon Brady, who was part of a double substitution involving Scott Guyett to replace Foster and Ruffer in the 76th minute, crossed for the big striker to head just over the top.

After four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle arrived to the relief of the travelling fans as City took with them a place in the First Round, and a home tie with Conference opposition in the shape of either Exeter or Gravesend.

But it was a slender win for the Blues, who were very relieved, and perhaps lucky, to keep a clean sheet.

Nathan Auty  
Saturday 18 October 2003
Chester City 0 Hereford United 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 4,418 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Carden, Heard. Sent-off: Heard.

Chester City: McCaldon, Collins, Bolland, Ruffer, Heard, Davies, Carden, McIntyre, Twiss (Rapley 77), Stamp, Clare (Foster 66). Subs not used: Brown, Carey, Guyett.
Hereford United: Barker, Green, Mkandawire, James, Rose, Williams, Pitman, Smith, Parry, Guinan, Brown (Carey-Bertram 69). Subs not used: Scott, Teesdale, King, Craven.
Referee: R.Lewis (Shrewsbury).

CLICK for larger picture I suppose if you pit the most prolific attack in the Conference against the meanest defence you could almost guarantee a stalemate, but, despite the 0-0 scoreline this was an entertaining top of the table clash at Deva Stadium. City manager Mark Wright made one change from the previous Conference fixture against Woking bringing in goalkeeper Ian McCaldon to replace Wayne Brown who found himself on the bench.

Several weeks ago the club changed their minds regarding the organisation of this match. Originally, following turnstile chaos and a resulting delayed kick-off for the Shrewsbury game, it was decided to make this match an all-ticket affair, days later this decision was reversed. On Saturday, with the main stand queue 50 deep 45 minutes before kick-off, and the social club still full of fans invited to arrive early to watch the rugby on TV another late kick-off seemed on the cards. The sight of City fans streaming out of the already full main stand 20 minutes prior to kick-off and being marched round to fill up the vacant seats in the almost empty east stand (reserved on the day for traveling fans) didn’t look good either.

Fortunately everything progressed orderly, everyone seemed to find a seat and the game started on time, but why with so much warning, was there still such apparent disorganisation on the day for a crowd 25% short of capacity?

Both sides, with hindsight, may have been happy with a draw but in a game of few chances City missed a golden opportunity in the dying minutes to reach the top. The first chance of the game fell to Darryn Stamp whose left side header was caught by Mathew Baker in the Hereford goal. The visitors, with ex-City players Mike Rose and David Brown in their starting line-up, soon bounced back and Paul Parry could have done better when he placed a header wide after being unchallenged in the box.

City responded and forced a couple of corners but McIntyre’s poor kicks were both cleared with ease. Minutes later Jamie Heard was harshly pulled up for a foul on Daniel Williams but was yellow carded after retaliating by kicking the ball at referee Lewis.

Just after the half hour McCaldon was in the right place to make a great point-blank save from Steve Guinan as the prolific striker looked certain to score after a free kick had found its way through to him on the right six yards out.

City had their moments though and came close to opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time. Great interplay between Daryl Clare and Darryn Stamp almost set up Ben Davies who just failed to reach a tantalising cross.

It was the visitors who came out after the break the brightest. McCaldon was forced into three saves early on. First he diverted a Guinan shot round for a corner before tipping over the bar a Williams drive. City retaliated with a couple of corners and Ben Davies saw a rasping shot blocked, while Carl Ruffer, having a good game at the back, saw a header fly wide following a McIntyre corner. His best save came following a quick free-kick, scrambling from one post to the other to just fingertip a shot round the post.

Mark Wright replaced Clare with Ian Foster and brought on striker Kevin Rapley for Michael Twiss with 13 minutes remaining. United were pressing at the time but Rapley was soon in the action shooting tamely at Baker who saved comfortably low down.

City continued to press, and with four minutes remaining and the game seemingly heading for a draw, Tamika Mkandawire tangled with Ben Davies in the box. The referee, yards behind at the time, saw his assistant flagging an offence and awarded a spot kick. After what at the time seemed an unnecessarily long delay Foster stepped up to take the kick but saw his shot saved by Baker in the United goal.

Four minutes of additional time were ordered mostly played out in the Hereford goalmouth. Danny Collins headed wide from six yards following a Davies corner and minutes later the game was to end in disappointment for the sponsors Man of the Match Jamie Heard who was sent off following a second yellow card.

So, honours even and positions remain as you were at the top. City continue their unbeaten run which now stretches to eleven matches and in doing so prevent Hereford from scoring for the first time this season.

Pre match
Foster misses pen

Tuesday 14 October 2003
Chester City 0 Doncaster Rovers 1
LDV Vans Trophy Round 1 Northern
Attendance: 1,141 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Twiss, Rapley, Buckley. Sent-off: Dogun.

Chester City: Brown, Heard, Harris, Guyett, McIntyre, Collins, Carey (Dogun 82), Brady, Twiss (Buckley 79), Foster (Beesley 68), Rapley. Subs not used: Bolland, McCaldon.
Doncaster Rovers: Richardson, Beech, Albrighton, Morley (Maloney 49), Price, McIndoe, Ravenhill, Doolan, Barnes, Tierney, Gill (Fortune-West 87). Subs not used: Paterson, McGrath, Warrington.
Referee: A.Marriner (West Midlands).

CLICK for larger pictureThe game had something of the air of a pre-season friendly about it with both managers taking the opportunity to rotate their squads. With an important league game coming up at the weekend most City fans would not argue with Wright’s decision to rest several first teamers. Nor would they have shed many tears at the end of a narrow defeat. For clubs with their eye on promotion this is probably a cup too far – espcially in the early stages.

The crowd of 1,141 was not a bad turn out considering the chilly breeze and the low key nature of the cup tie. Arguably the club could have dropped the admission prices for the game but would the crowd have been much larger? Probably not much. Though with three home games in eight days a concession for loyalty would have been welcome.

Doncaster began the slicker and more fluent side. It took twenty minutes for City to get anything like a grip on the game, and get acquainted with one another. By then Rovers could easily have been three goals ahead. All the chances fell to McIndoe as the City defence was cut to ribbons down the right. Twice in a couple of minutes the former Yeovil star burst through only to fluff a lobbed shot straight at Brown and screw a second opportunity wide of the goal. Earlier a deflected shot from a narrow angle flashed across.

Gradually Carey and Harris won more possession in midfield and City settled into a coherent shape. Brady came back to give cover to the beleaguered Heard and Twiss began to dazzle down the left wing. As the half came to a close Chester forced a flurry of corners and had the visitors on the back foot.

The second half was quite even, the deadlock being broken when Collins failed to find touch with his clearance and Tierney picked up the loose ball. He ran in from the right and emerged from a tackle with McIntyre to curl the ball into the far corner of the net. It turned out to be the only goal of the game. Chester came closest to equalising when Guyett powered a header just wide from Brady’s corner. Incidentally it was a refreshing change of tactic to see Brady take a right wing corner and curl the ball away from the keeper rather than the usual constant supply of inswingers.

Rapley could have taken the game into extra time when he latched on to a long clearance but shot disappointingly wide. Perhaps he was under orders as neither manager could have wanted this – even with the prospect of a silver goal. By then Wright had blooded two youngsters – Buckley and Dogun instead of Carey and Twiss. Dogun marred his debut by being sent off for a tackle which made Mr Marriner see red. Buckley was booked shortly after for a foul which seemed to be about revenge for his young teamate's misfortune. A pointless melee ensued.

A fairly entertaining evening which saw some of City’s fringe players given a competetive airing. What would the watching Mr Turner have learned from tonight to prepare for Saturday’s top of the table bonaza? Not a great deal I would suggest.

Colin Mansley
Saturday 11 October 2003
Chester City 2 Woking 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 2,085 Half Time 1-0
Booked: Carden, Clare, McIntyre.

Chester City: McCaldon, Ruffer (Guyett 48), Collins, Bolland, Heard, Davies, McIntyre, Carden, Clare (Rapley 83), Stamp (Foster 89), Twiss. Subs not used: Carey, Harris.
Woking: Bayes, Boardman, Sharp, Townsend, MacDonald, Canham (Cockerill 63), Selley, Pitcher, Smith (Nade 63), Ferguson, Haule. Subs not used: Sharpling, Northmore, Clark.
Referee: M.Matadar (Blackburn).

CLICK for larger pictureAnother bogey laid to rest as City notched their first win against Woking. It looked as though Chester were going to run riot and run up a rugby score, the way they tore into the visitors and created a hatful of chances. But by the end City had faded badly and home supporters were left biting their nails.

City had an exciting forward line of Stamp, Clare – back from injury – and Twiss. They all seemed to combine well as they carved openings in a jittery Woking defence. Twiss in particular was having a field day. He and Stamp linked to tee the ball up for Davies’ shot from the edge of the box. It was sweetly hit and was destined for the top corner of the net as soon as it left his boot.

For all their dominance City were just one up at half time and Woking had looked threatening when they counter attacked. McCaldon was called upon to make a great save, diving courageously at the feet of Pitcher when he seemed certain to score. The on the stroke of half time, Ferguson just edged past Collins and then tripped up in the penalty area as Collins stumbled and caught him. Cestrian hearts were in mouths as Mr Matadar looked long and hard at his linesman to see if he would give a penalty but – to our relief he waved play on. To be fair I don’t think Collins meant to bring Ferguson down but it's the ref's interpretation that counts.

Woking’s Smith and Ferguson had entertained spectators on the North Terrace with a string of misunderstandings which led to several over hit passes and the ball going harmlessly by for a goal kick. It was pure comedy of errors and the two of them continued to argue with each other as they walked off for the half time cuppa.

City went strangely lethargic after the interval and Woking pressed forward. Ruffer was soon substituted because of injury and Scott Guyett came on for the first time this season. Against the run of play City doubled their lead. A long kick from the back was nodded on by the admirable Stamp, Daryl Clare dribbled it across goal and teed up Twiss to nutmeg Ashley Bayes in the Woking goal with a pile driver of a shot.

McIntyre and Clare were booked for petty offences (As was Carden in the first half). Daryl had netted spectacularly from thirty yards but as the whistle had gone for offside the ref saw it as kicking the ball away.

City struggled, defending too deeply and seeming to be tired from Wednesday nights exertions. Substitute Raphael Nade with fresh legs took advantage and he lashed an unstoppable shot past McCaldon as City’s defenders back peddled too far. In the end though, the Blues held out for three more points to close the gap on Hereford at the top.

Colin Mansley

Wednesday 8 October 2003
Burton Albion 1 Chester City 1
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,711 Half Time 0-0
Booked: McIntyre, Heard, Stamp.

Burton Albion: Duke, Wassall, Williams, Henshaw, Chettle, Stride, Twigg, Webster, Moore, Howard (Clough 85), Talbot (Kirkwood 58). Subs not used: Ducros, Robinson, Sinton.
Chester City: McCaldon, Collins, Bolland, Ruffer, McIntyre, Carden, Davies, Heard, Rapley (Clare 71), Foster (Twiss 71), Stamp. Subs not used: Harris, Brady, Guyett.
Referee: G.Lewis (Cambridge).

CLICK for larger pictureCity paid a high price for not killing off this game. By the end they were well on top but a penalty conceded in the third minute of added time cost them two points.

It was cruel luck on Chester who had played some good attacking football and taken the game to the Brewers. Wright threw Heard into the frame instead of Twiss and had a three man attack of Stamp, Rapley and Foster. City seemed more fluid as a result and played with purpose. Burton were quick and tigerish in midfield, playing their part in a hard fought contest.

In the first half the two sides tended to cancel each other out – there was much endeavour but few chances. McCaldon made a couple of saves from Williams and Talbot but as the half wore on Chester began to press forward more. Foster had a great chance from Stamp’s knock down but blazed his shot way over the bar. McIntyre was much closer with a free kick just before half time which clipped the top of the crossbar.

After the break Chester were much more dominant and began to work the ball around sweetly looking for the opening goal. Heard ended a good move by cutting inside and clipping the post with a shot from the edge of the box. After 71 minutes on came Twiss and Clare for Rapley and Foster. Not long later City were ahead. Heard’s cross was flicked on by Stamp. McIntyre robbed Stride on the edge of the area, shimmied past him and struck a venomous shot which Duke couldn’t hold. Stamp just beat Clare in the race to knock the rebound in to the back of the net.

City didn’t sit back but kept pressing. Clare cut in from the left and saw his shot scrambled round the post for a corner. Twiss was cut down when clean through. But they couldn't find the second goal which would have made the Brewers wilt.

So it was, deep into added time, that the keeper launched a free kick into the area and as the ball came down Stamp tangled with a Burton player and the referee pointed to the spot. Webster made no mistake and there was barely time to re-start the match.

Back in the Football Tavern the replays on Sky showed Stamp with a hand on the player’s shoulder but knocked off balance by him first. Stamp fell and pulled the Burton player with him. Harsh but you see them given. On the bright side – it’s the first time we have come back from Burton without having lost and I won’t have to eat again for two days having sampled a generous helping of faggots and chips at the famous hot food snack bar.

Colin Mansley

Saturday 4 October 2003
Dagenham & Redbridge 0 Chester City 0
Nationwide Conference
Attendance: 1,497 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Brady.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Pullen, Vickers, Beckwith, Kimble, Janney, C.Piper, Bentley, L.Piper, Bruce, Meechan, Shipp. Subs not used: Goodwin, Hill, Braithwaite, Mustafa, Lampton.
Chester City:
Brown, Collins, Bolland, Ruffer, Davies, Twiss (Rapley 64), Carden, McIntyre, Brady, Foster (Clare 64), Stamp. Subs not used: Harris, Carey, Guyett.
Referee: S.Tomlinson (Farnham).

CLICK for larger pictureThere may have been plenty of fireworks overhead as Dagenham’s neighbours held an early Guy Fawkes party, but there were none on the pitch as Chester failed to find the spark needed to help them claim three points from the battling East Londoners.

Mark Wright clearly approached the game in an attacking frame of mind, with Michael Twiss making the starting line-up, in place of Andy Harris. Darryn Stamp and Ian Foster were the chosen strike partnership, with Daryl Clare sitting on the bench. The only sign of caution was the total absence of Steve Brodie, despite being freshly recalled from his loan spell at Forest Green Rovers.

But there was soon another reason to be nervous, when goalkeeper Wayne Brown injured his right leg in the warm-up. With no replacement keeper available, it meant defenders taking goal-kicks all afternoon and left Brown looking vulnerable to Daggers’ attackers.

Indeed, it was Dagenham who looked the most likely to score in the first half. They’d clearly done their homework on Jon Brady – doing a man-marking job which kept him quiet all afternoon. Chester certainly missed his penetrating crosses as he was pushed back in defence most of the game.

The first chances of the afternoon fell to Dagenham when they came close with a couple of corners. Darryn Stamp was perfectly placed to head the ball off the line after the most dangerous of the ten corners they won during the course of the match.

Michael Twiss and Ben Davies both had half chances for the Blues, but both put the ball on the wrong side of the netting. Chester’s best chance of the game came when Stamp collected a well-timed pass and looked to have rounded Dagenham’s on-loan keeper, James Pullen. But Dean Beckwith got between the ball and the goal, and Pullen ended up claiming the ball.

The best scoring opportunity of the match fell to Dagenham striker Danny Shipp. He collected the ball on the edge of the area, with only Brown to beat. But his powerful shot was directed almost straight at the on-rushing Chester keeper, who made an impressive dive to put the ball behind for another corner.

The neighbour’s fireworks party continued into the second half, despite the showery weather, but Chester still couldn’t muster any sparkle in midfield, leaving the strikers with almost no real goal opportunities. Danny Collins didn't put a foot wrong in defence all game – helping make sure Dagenham didn’t have too many realistic chances of scoring themselves.

Brady was clearly frustrated by the close attention he was getting and ended up being booked for tugging on one of the Dagenham players. There were two bookings for the Daggers – Mark Bentley and Ashley Vickers.

The 150 or so Chester supporters never gave up on the chance of a goal – after all, the team seem to have got into the habit of scoring last-minute winners. The appearance of quality substitutes Daryl Clare and Ian Rapley, who replaced Twiss and Foster in the 64th minute, made a 1-0 scoreline for the Blues seem a distinct possibility.

Both Clare and Rapley looked lively, but couldn’t quite interchange their passes. When Chester won a free kick on the edge of the box it looked like they might earn themselves victory in style, but Brady’s shot went straight at the Dagenham wall – giving them the opportunity to race upfield again.

There were a couple of nervous moments towards the end of the game when Dagenham won two corners – excellently taken all afternoon by Lenny Piper. But they came to nothing and when the linesman put up two minutes on the board, it looked like both sides were happy with a draw.

So it’s been two 0-0 scorelines in a row for Chester. With the pull of the Sky TV cameras at Burton on Wednesday, perhaps the team will finally produce some much-needed fireworks on the field and rocket up the table with three vital points.

Sue Choularton

Under pressure
Collins' goal kick
Brady eyes up a free kick
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