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Saturday 25 October
Stockport County 2 Chester 4
FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round
Attendance: 4,621 (1,282 Chester) Half Time 0-2
Booked: McConville, Charnock. Sent-off: Kay.

Stockport County: Hurst, Todd (Belezika 10), Lees, Gregson, Fagbola, O’Halloran, Baker (Woolfe 46), Millingan, Churchman, Dennis, Spencer. Subs not used: Moses, Ormson, Lofthouse, Lazenbury, Hanock.
Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Charnock, G.Roberts, Mahon, Rooney, James, McConville (Brown 86), Hughes (Menagh 80), Hobson. Subs not used: C.Roberts, Winn, Touray, Harrison, J.Hall.
Referee: Ross Joyce (Cleveland).

The City and County set served up a proper cup-tie at Edgeley Park. Chester calmly forged ahead in the first half then found all their good work undone in a whirlwind beginning to the second, only to find their composure again and book their place in the next round.

Stockport provided traditional opposition for Chester but their path has not crossed ours too often recently. The programme made similar references to the two clubs’ familiarity with each other – including memories of how this fixture became a local derby when City were tenants at Macclesfield just down the road. Then County became Chester’s first ever opponents at the Deva Stadium as they were drawn against each other in the first round of the League Cup.

Both clubs have hit hard times since those good old days. Chester’s cycle still has upward momentum while Stockport’s – enduring their second season Conference North – will undoubtedly come. The Cheadle End, opened in 1995 holds almost as much as a full Deva Stadium. While the County fans drifted in, the Railway End opposite became full to overflowing. And whilst County roars reverberated around the roof of their stand, Blues’ songs disappeared into the ether as dark clouds lowered above and a steady stream of low flying aircraft trundled overhead.

The gulf in class between Conference North and Conference Premier became apparent in the opening half as City moved the ball around quickly and to good effect. Hobson got on the end of a flowing move and directed a header on target. Then he followed the ball into the net when Gregson’s touch had deceived the keeper. But the flag had been surprisingly raised for offside.

City, playing in a smart third kit of yellow and black were not to be denied the lead, however. Mahon fed the ball to McConville and he won the fifty-fifty challenge with a defender to drive the ball home. He was no doubt spurred on to succeed by the unfriendly welcome he received from the home fans for previous misdemeanours. His goal celebrations in front of the Cheadle End tasted sweet for him but earned him a yellow card.

A second goal arrived on the half hour, also from the left wing, as Roberts and Hughes combined with the latter cutting in to the box, beating a couple of defenders and rifling in past Hurst. Chester had been lifted when Hughes had been given permission to pay by Fleetwood and the skill and balance he brought to the attack helped them gain control of the tie. Stockport in contrast were restricted to a couple of efforts from outside the penalty area.

Visiting supporters speculated over half time on who they would like to play in the First Round Proper – although the more faint hearted refused to be so complacent. The latter’s fears were justified a few minutes after the break when Stockport stormed back with a couple of goals in as many minutes to rock City back to square one. First Mahon was dispossessed by Lees and then Wolfe lofted a ball over the top. Dennis had stolen a march on Chester’s ball-watching defenders and ran through to prod the ball past Worsnop. While this goal stirred the Cheadle End back into life, Spencer’s goal a moment later sent them apoplectic. From a throw in on the right the County forward turned and the ball sat up for him to launch a dipping half volley from the corner of the area into the far side of the goal.

The Hatters had City on the back foot and Worsnop did well to tip Dennis’s shot onto the bar. But City began to regain their composure with James and Rooney getting their passing game going again.

James found Mahon on the right and he produced the champagne moment in a cracking game when he turned Fagbola three or four times until the defender fell over. Mahon then scurried past, drove in a pass and McConville arrived to finish, quick as a flash. This time his celebrations were in front of a much more receptive audience. City began to assert their authority again and McConville turned provider as his right wing corner was nodded in by Heneghan for Chester’s fourth and final goal.

The only fly in the ointment this afternoon was the sly punch that Dennis dug at McConville at a Chester corner and was sent off. Kay also followed the Stockport man into the dressing room for putting his hand on the back of the culprit’s neck. Although this happened right in front of the referee he took no immediate action until he seemed to be persuaded into producing a red card by County defender Belezika.

There was no way back for the home side but both teams had contributed hugely to a very enjoyable Cup-tie. City fans were then kettled by the police into an adjoining side street before train travellers were escorted back to the station and they and fellow Cestrians went off to savour the sweet taste of a fine victory.

Colin Mansley

Match highlights (YouTube)

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Saturday 18 October
Chester 2 Alfreton Town 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 2,084 Half Time 1-1
Booked: James, G.Roberts.

Chester: Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Charnock, G.Roberts, Mahon, Rooney, James, McConville, Hughes, Hobson (Menagh 75). Subs not used: C.Roberts, Harrison, Touray, Winn.
Alfreton Town:
Dawson, Wood, Davies, Graham, Rowe-Turner, Shaw, Courtney, Howell, Mellor (Bradley 49), Hawley (Keane 79), Ironside (McDonald 63). Subs not used: Sheridan.
Referee: Ian Hussin (Liverpool).

It is an old cliché to say that history is written from the winners’ perspective and it’s also true to say that a stoppage time goal can change completely the way in which a football match is viewed. You watch a match for ninety minutes plus a few added on and it seems certain to finish a certain way. You psyche yourself up for how that will make you feel for the evening ahead and then someone scores a goal and all of that goes out of the window.

Craig Mahon’s amazing finish from the most acute of angles settled an absorbing match in City’s favour. Jamie Menagh’s raking cross from the right bounced on the six yard line. Mahon, challenged by a defender on the left clipped it with the outside of his right foot and managed to loft it over the tall figure of Dawson in the Alfreton goal and saw it nestle in the far corner of the net.

Chester fans and players alike were jubilant. It was another case of persisting right until the end as they had done in the Wrexham match and as Welling did to them a couple of weeks ago.

City began the game on the front foot attacking the Harry Mac end. The Blues moved the ball sweetly from defence to attack and found most joy down the left. Here Hughes and Roberts combined well to set up a couple of glorious crossing opportunities, only for the final ball to be lacking. As an attack on the right broke down, however, the visitors hit City on the counter. Ironside broke forward and twisted and turned before his deft pass gave Shaw a chance to score with a reverse shot past Worsnop. It was neat football but against the run of play as far as Chester were concerned.

The Blues retaliated. Rooney had a couple of over-ambitious efforts from distance. McConville had a promising attempt block by a defender who threw his body in the way. But the quick and intricate footwork of Hughes opened up a shooting opportunity which he took as he cut in from the left to equalise. It seemed strange that he was playing on the wing rather than alongside Hobson in the middle but the tactic worked too good effect in the first half.

The pattern of play continued after the break with City trying to resume their passing game and build from the back while Alfreton pressed and denied space where possible. Hobson had a great chance as he was put through but his shot beat the keeper it went the wrong side of the post. Dawson somehow managed to save from Hobson when a rebound fell kindly for him in the box. City dominated but couldn’t find the telling finish. Kingsley James – pivotal to play all afternoon – ran with the ball a long way into the box but was then booked as he lunged to retrieve it.

With fifteen minutes to go the tiring Hobson was replaced by Menagh and he nearly crowned his cameo appearance with a rasping shot just over the bar. Alfreton continued to prove resilient and threatened to steal the points themselves until Menagh and Mahon combined to provide a thrilling finish.

Chester looked down from the top of the bottom half of the table – seven points above the relegation zone and seven away from the play offs the other way. If they can maintain this kind of form and position most Cestrians would be happy with that. After Mahons’s brilliant goal it was more glass half full than half empty this weekend.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 11 October
Dover Athletic 2 Chester 0
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,009 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Touray, Hughes, Hobson.

Dover Athletic: Rafferty, Essam, Orlu, Bonner, Stone, Kinnear, Deverdics, Wynter, Nanetti (Bellamy 74), Miller (Elder 92), Murphy (Raggett 83). Subs not used: Payne, Reid.
Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Charnock, G.Roberts (Hobson 55), Mahon, Rooney, James, Winn (Touray 46), Hughes, McConville (Menagh 76). Subs not used: Harrison. C.Roberts.
Referee: Christopher Powell (Dorset).

Steve Burr named an unchanged side for the long trip to Dover after the Blues had made it 13 points out of 18 with the midweek defeat of Aldershot Town.

Chester started well with Gareth Roberts having a shot blocked early on and John Rooney seeing a free-kick curl past the post before the home side came more into the game with Nick Deverdics having a shot cleared off the line by Roberts.

Deverdics had another effort blocked by Sean McConville and Chester cleared off the line again as Michael Kay denied Chris Kinnear as the Whites looked the more likely side to break the deadlock.

Ricky Miller saw a lob clear Jon Worsnop but drop just over the bar as the hosts continued to press but Chester created the last chance of the half as Matty Hughes raced through onto Rooney’s through ball only to see his low effort saved by Andrew Rafferty in the home goal.

Two minutes after the break the Whites took the lead as Tom Murphy’s low shot was deflected past Worsnop by Ben Heneghan.

Burr brought on Craig Hobson for Roberts and Chester looked to get back on level terms. Craig Mahon forced a save from Rafferty who turned his shot round for a corner. The resulting flag-kick saw Kieran Charnock flick the ball on but McConville wasn’t able to convert the loose ball.

Dover doubled the lead on 64 minutes as Connor Essam headed home a Murphy cross giving Worsnop no chance. A minute later Murphy almost made it three as his shot came back off the post after Worsnop had dropped Chris Nanetti’s shot.

Chester created several chances as they looked to get something from the match that was slipping away. Kingsley James set up Hughes who sliced his shot wide and both McConville and Hobson headed wide from corners.

Ten minutes from time James saw a goal ruled out for offside and Rooney saw a long range effort fly wide in stoppage time before referee Powell blew for full time.

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Tuesday 7 October
Chester 1 Aldershot Town 0
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,776 Half Time 0-0
Booked: Mahon, Hennighan, Hughes.

Chester: Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Charnock, G.Roberts, Mahon (Menagh 90), Rooney, James, Winn (Touray 73), McConville (Harrison 90), Hughes. Subs not used: Brown, C.Roberts.
Aldershot Town:
Smith, Oastler, Wilson, Phillips, Gibbs, Forbe, Roberts, Hatton, Lathrope (Fitchett 82), Williams (Scott 76), Derry (Plummer 69). Subs not used: Barker, Thomas.
Referee: Ryan Johnson.

A superb turn and finish put the gloss on a great debut by City’s new golden boy Matty Hughes. Blues banished the disappointment of last Saturday when victory was snatched from their grasp at the last gasp by Welling with a late winner against Aldershot Town this evening.

Signed on a month’s loan from Fleetwood in the morning Hughes went straight into the starting line-up. In the absence of both Iwelumo (Unwell) and Hobson (Hamstring injury) he was joined in a seemingly lightweight forward line by Sean McConville - like Hughes a former Skelmersdale player. What they lacked in height and stature, however, the two forwards more than made up in mobility and good footwork as City began the game with pace and energy and moved the ball around neatly.

Mahon tried to repeat his good luck with a similar strike to the one he got off the mark with on Saturday but Smith was not to be beaten. Winn was back in the side on the opposite wing and saw a good effort fizz over the bar. Aldershot were pegged back but looked dangerous at set pieces. The chief scare came when Phillips made poor contact with Hattons’ free kick when well placed to head home and the chance went begging. Brett Williams also lurked with a menacing presence and when Mahon lost the ball he was put through dangerously but shot over the bar. As half time approached Mahon beat a defender to the ball to knock it into the net – only to see the linesman’s flag raised for offside.

As the second half began Mahon had a shooting opportunity from almost the same spot as Williams before - Rooney’s pass found him in space on the right. His low effort was saved by Smith and with McConville and Hughes looking for a rebound – the ball stuck to the keeper. City began to rattle the visitors’ defence as they persisted with their passing game. Worsnop resisted kicking the ball long as the Blues tried to build from the back. At times they won applause for the way they kept the ball – at times they gave it away too cheaply but always fought hard to win it back again. Gradually they gained the upper hand but it was a tight game and as the clock wound down we got the feeling whoever scored first would win it.

McConville went close after a good run and raking shot. Roberts was booked for the Shots for a foul on Heneghan – retaliation for the right back’s reckless tackle on him previously. Oastler followed him into the book shortly after as City began to press forward. Touray replaced Peter Winn.

Rooney ran into too many defenders as he tried to engineer a way through. McConville went down under a challenge on the edge of the box but the referee waved away claims for a penalty. But then with ten minutes remaining Hughes – who had run indefatigably all evening – produced a brilliant turn and shot with his left foot into the far corner of the net. The frustration was lifted and Hughes mobbed by ecstatic team mates and fans alike but emerged from the huddle to see the ref’s yellow card.

Anxiety levels increased amongst the home fans as Aldershot pressed for an equaliser. A free kick on the left seemed to have produced a goal when it was met at the far post, nodded down and somehow scrambled off the line. Worsnop also pulled off a great save moments earlier. Just like Saturday four minutes stoppage time was awarded and the tension was almost unbearable. But the Blues hung on to the three points on this occasion and moved above the visitors in the table to the lofty heights of fourteenth place.

Matty Hughes basked in the glory of a fine debut performance and goal in the glow of an almost full moon. The road shone white in the moonlight. It was a long way back to Aldershot for the Town and their 101 supporters. City fans were elated to win this hard fought contest – one that gives us real hope that progress is being made this season.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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Saturday 4 October
Chester 1 Welling United 1
Football Conference Premier
Attendance: 1,997 Half Time 1-0
Booked: -.

Chester: Worsnop, Heneghan, Kay, Charnock, G.Roberts, Mahon (Harrison 81), James, Rooney, Touray, McConville, Iwelumo (Winn 81). Subs not used: C.Roberts, Brown, Hobson.
Welling United:
Henly, Fazakerly, Bush, Fyfield, Jefford, Gallagher, Beautyman, Gallagher, Day, Healy, Nouble (Hudson 61), Marsh. Subs not used: Turner, Williams, Corne, Fagan.
Referee: Jason Whitley (Leeds).

The second game in a row at Chester turned on a last-minute goal – this time it was for the opposition, and gave Welling a deserved point to take back to London.

In a lacklustre game, Chester went ahead on 10 minutes when a Craig Mahon shot was fumbled by Welling goalkeeper Jonathan Henly and to everyone’s amazement ended up in the back of the net.

I'm struggling to think of another attempt on goal in the first half in a match which was largely devoid of goalmouth action. I even think there were only two corners in the game and one of them resulted in the Welling equaliser.

Chester started with Chris Iwelumo for the first time since August, after Craig Hobson picked up a knock in the Grimsby match. Hobson, the club's top scorer this season, still made the bench.

Iwelumo didn’t really make an impression again, and seemed to be most effective when he was called into defensive duty during a couple of occasions in the first half. He actually missed the best goal chance of the match on the 53rd minute when a good cross from Gareth Roberts found him in space right in front of the net. But he headed the ball way wide later blaming the sun for him missing such a great opportunity.

It was one of those days when everyone in the main stand had to shield their eyes to follow the action in the second half a real sign that the clocks are about to change and winter will soon be on the way.

As the game wore on, Chester seemed to be hoping a more defensive approach would allow them to keep their slender advantage. Kingsley James, who went on to be man-of-the-match sat further back in the second half to steady the defence.

It was Mahon who’d actually caught my eye as a potential man-of-the-match. He played with a bit of adventure and never seemed to stop working. It was no wonder he got a rousing round of applause when he was replaced by Danny Harrison on the 81st minute. Iwelumo was replaced by Peter Winn at the same time.

It’s actually hard to believe that we’re now a third of the way through the League season, and just when I was thinking Chester could end up in their highest ever league position since the reformation, Welling finally hit back. In fairness, a goal had been coming as they’d been continually pushing forward following the Chester double substitution.

Just when Chester nails were being bitten as the referee allowed four minutes’ injury time, Welling won a 92nd minute corner. The Blues failed to clear it, and Tyrone Marsh was in the right place to score an easy equaliser. The final whistle went about 90 seconds later, leaving Chester reflecting on another set piece which cost them two points.

Sue Choularton

Picture © Rick Matthews (Chester Leader)

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