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Saturday 30 September 2000
Hednesford Town 0 Chester City 0
Attendance: 1,435 Half-time 0-0

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Robinson, Haran, Lake, Pointon, Bagshaw, Owen, Cooper, Sedgemore, Bonsall (Brown 74), Russell (Airdrie 74). Subs not used; Bradley, Evans, Carney.
Chester City: Brown, Woods, Gaunt (Lancaster 14), P.Beesley, Moss (Kerr 56), Carden, Blackburn, Fisher, Doughty, M.Beesley (Finney 64), Whitehall. Subs not used: Woodyatt, Greygoose.
Referee: G.Simpson (Westhill).

[Match Programme]Back in January 1996 Chester travelled to Middlesbrough and got hammered 6-0 in the FA Cup Third Round. It was a match memorable for Kevin Noteman's penalty miss and the silky skills of Middlesbrough's "White Feather". In the next round the Smogmonsters played Hednesford and the Pitmen gave them a hell of a game, only bowing out by 3 goals to 2. Stuart Lake earned rave reviews on that occasion for the marking job he did on Emerson. Now he wants to ply his trade at a higher level but Hednesford naturally want to recoup a big fee for him first.

On Saturday the ponytailed Lake was easily the home side's man of the match. Despite appearing overweight he managed to hold a defence together which had shipped nine goals in their previous two matches. I have to admit that I yelled "Fatty" at him as he went for a ball earlydoors but after that had nothing but admiration for his performance. He had Hednesford's best effort of the first half – a long range free kick which Brown watched go inches over the bar.

City never really got into their stride in this hugely disappointing game. One can understand the home side's caution after two heavy defeats (Though at Keys Park their record is good) but it made for a deadly dull match. The travelling Blues fans tried to lift the atmosphere with a "Graham Barrow's Blue and White Army" counterpoint for a few minutes early in the second half but even they were defeated by the tedium of the play.

Chester threatened to score only briefly – when they managed to string a few passes together. Moss and Lancaster looked dangerous down the right but Doughty did not get as much space as he did on Tuesday night. Whitehall sent a direct free kick narrowly over the bar. And when the ball was played to feet in and around their penalty area the home defence looked decidedly nervous. But City could not retain possession long enough in midfield to exert prolonged pressure.

In the second half Chester looked the better side and came the closest to scoring though Hednesford probably had most possession. Blackburn seemed to mis-hit a shot as the goal beckoned and later had a crisp effort smartly saved. Woods headed over after a raking cross from the right by Lancaster (Who replaced the hamstrung Gaunt after only fifteen minutes).

Beforehand the atmosphere had been a bit hostile – with some good reason – among the visiting support. Obliged to pay an extra �3.50 to pay for the extra police and hired stewards – some from Birmingham City, some from Wolves and some – judging by their appearance – from Rentamob, the City fans were not very gruntled. "Are we Millwall in disguse" sang the scapegoated Cestrians. None of the stewards even knew where the toilets were because they had never been to the ground before. The club shop had packs of Wrexham programmes for sale at discount price and had a huge poster of Shrewsbury Town (Ratcliffe included) on the wall. If you were paranoid you might have thought they were deliberately trying to provoke.

By the end of the game however the anger had dissipated into utter frustration at such a lacklustre match. It may prove to be a useful point in the end and both sides will be happy with a clean sheet. But with R&D chalking up another win, more ground was lost on the dream of a rapid return to the League. Chester don't seem to be able to create much against teams that break the game up. Against footballing sides like Donny Rovers and Nuneaton we are superb on the counter attack but we need some creative graft as well.

Oh and by the way. When we entertain Hednesford at the Deva soon we should make their Directors pay through the nose and employ DC Evans as their personal bodyguard for the night.

Colin Mansley
Tuesday 26 September 2000
Chester City 4 Nuneaton Borough 0
Attendance: 1,708 Half-time 1-0

Chester City: Brown, Moss (Woodyatt 85), Doughty, Woods, P.Beesley, Lancaster, Fisher, Carden, Blackburn, M.Beesley (Evans 78), Whitehall. Subs not used: Finney, Kerr, Greygoose.
Nuneaton Borough: McKenzie. Simpson, Love, Taylor (Francis 59), Gittens, Crowley (Angus 71), Brennan (B.Williams 59), Charles, McGregor, Kotylo, Sykes. Subs not used: Young, Weaver.
Referee: G.Atkins (Bradford).

If City are to put together a good run of results, they needed to begin here tonight.

After a string of uninspiring home games, City finally turned on the style with an uncompromising exhibition of attacking football. Both sides contributed to an excellent ninety minutes which was characterised by slick passing, strong runs and open play. Out went the high ball which has characterised much of our play this season and in came creative passing, running off the ball and a confidence not seen for quite a while.

[Match Programme]As early as the second minute, Moss and Beesely (M) combined well to force a corner as City gave a hint of what was to come. Fisher looked lively showing awareness of his colleagues around him especially Whitehall who looked every inch the seasoned professional. And it was he who after fifteen minutes should have made better use of a quick through ball, side footing his shot straight at the advancing keeper.

Mark Beesley and Blackburn hit good shots over from the edge of the area as City continued to threaten. Doughty ran hard and determined on the left side with a superb run taking on two players before sending in a dangerous cross which deserved better.

Nuneaton, to their credit took the game to City and in response flashed a shot inches wide Alex Sykes too hit a crisp volley that Brown did well to hold low to his near post as play went from one end to the other. City's patient build up was working well as more gaps started to appear. When the first goal came though, it did so in an unlikely way. A cross from the right from Lancaster hit behind the line of players was spooned up by Crowley attempting to clear. The ball swirled high and seemed to be going out for a City corner. Mckensie in goal, it seemed, had plenty of time to follow the ball safely over the bar but the flight deceived and with an evil spin the ball squirmed inside the top corner of the goal leaving the keeper lying crumpled and embarrassed in front of his own supporters. As welcome as the goal was, it was a shame that the teams should be separated by a goal so comical. Still both sides deserved the ovation that came with the end of the first half.

The second half began where the first half had finished. Both sides were bright and positive. Nuneaton's Lee Charles looked in great shape, controlling the Nuneaton midfield with clever possession and neat touches. A former Queens Park Ranger player he reminded of Milton Graham (remember) and continued running when the cause later became clearly lost. But the second period was all about Chester. Mark Beesley on fifty minutes cut in from the left and crashed a perfect shot in from 20 yards to remind City fans of what he did against Doncaster. Fisher and Doughty at this stage were ripping open the Nuneaton defence showing confidence and a will we have not seen for some time. As City continued piling on the pressure, a short corner on sixty five minutes from Fisher was missed by everyone except Beesley who fired home Chester's third goal with a firm drive from short range at the far post.

Minutes later, the move of the game. Carden turned in defence to deliver a cross field ball to Fisher. Fish showing pace rarely seen continued up the field passed the half way line shaking off defender after defender. With just the goalkeeper to beat, he send a clever lob that that saved just in the nick of time on the line by the last retreating Nuneaton player. It was the move of the game that deserved better but marked City's style of play and spirit this evening.

With ten minutes left, Evans replaced Mark Beesley. Any hint of a slow down quickly went as Evans was sent through a tired Nuneaton defence to calmly plant a strong shot for City's forth and final goal of the night. It could have been 5-0 , minutes later as McKensie in goal was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Evans only for his effort to trickle inches wide. It was good to see him score, as he did on Saturday, since his stay at Chester, to this point appeared not to be a happy one.

Youngster, Lee Woodyatt came on for the last few minutes showing once more that there is talent coming through.

Nuneaton should be congratulated for playing the football they did. Like City, they played the ball on the ground, remained positive throughout and worked well for each other. They will play worse than this this season and take points.

For City, the lesson must be clear, continue to play like this and we will continue to rise up the table. And okay, this report does not mention one or two aspects of our play which needs improving, but this was our night. It was good stuff and let's not forget it.

Bring on the Hednesford.

Tim Savidge
Saturday 23 September 2000
Kingstonian 1 Chester City 3
Attendance: 1,125 Half-time 0-1

Kingstonian: Farrelly, Boyce (Green 82), Luckett, Allan, Harriott, Harris, Patterson, Pitcher, Winston, Simba, Akuamoah. Subs not used: Allen, Bass, Basford, Hurst.
Chester City:
Brown, Moss, Doughty, Woods, Lancaster, Fisher, Carden, Blackburn, M.Beesley (Evans 61), Whitehall (Finney 84), Richardson (Kerr 69). Subs not used: Woodyatt, Greygoose.
Referee: K.Reynolds (East Barnet).

[Match Programme]In an exclusive interview after the match with Richard Hanford's six year old son, Robin, Paul Carden revealed the secret of his successful form this season. Robin had asked him what he had to eat to be a footballer. "Loads of sprouts" said Paul, playing the role of a latter day Popeye.

The Exiles, who had sponsored the matchday programme in order to ensure a meeting room in which to meet Graham Barrow after the match were delighted that a win for the Blues left everyone in a good mood. In the end this was a comfortable win for City after a shaky start to the second half.

By half time the game should have been beyond Kingstonian. Steve Whitehall had scored a stunning goal on fifteen minutes, turning and launching a shot into the top corner after being fed by Fisher. Mark Beesley went close later – one shot was parried and trickled the wrong side of the post and another was scrambled off the line. At the other end Simba went close with an effort from the edge of the box – otherwise he was well marshalled by Lancaster, playing in the middle of the defence.

With only a slender City lead, however, the K's were bound to mount a challenge for an equaliser after the break. They were a useful attacking force, with Eddie Akuamoah causing Moss problems down the K's left wing. It was Moss's challenge on Sammy Winston which produced the equaliser. Although Winston seemed to go down late, Moss was nowhere near the ball and the referee pointed to the spot. Brown had no chance with Luckett's penalty.

It was only seven minutes or so later, however, when Whitehall went sprawling from Luckett's challenge and a City penalty was awarded. After Whitehall himself converted this, Chester never looked back. Andy Evans, (Who replaced Beesley with half an hour to go), after allowing himself to be caught yards offside on a couple of accasions, made no mistake when he swept Doughty's visciously in-swinging corner over the line for City's third.

The last ten minutes saw City in total control. Fisher, captain for the first time, saw the K's defence part in front of him and let fly with a dipping shot, turned over at the last second by Farrelly.

A successful outing into west London suburbia then. The Kingsmeadow Stadium is easily the most non-League ground we have visited this season. Netting behind the terraces stopped the ball straying into people's back gardens. Partly because it was a balmy sunny afternoon the atmosphere was very laid back – I'm not sure whether I prefer this friendly ambience to the earthier buzz of the League or not (Probably not). Having said that – the facilities for supporters beneath the stand are pretty good (A much bigger social club than at the Deva, for instance and a big screen TV). At half time City fans could make their way out of the terrace and into the Saxon Lounge beneath the stand for a pint. I hope Kingstonian climb the table away from the relegation zone – as their Trophy form last season suggests they should.

But on Saturday it was City who had good cause to celebrate. Graham Barrow, Neil Fisher, Matty Doughty and Paul Carden put in a much appreciated appearance at the Exiles gathering. And Robin Handford – vociferous in his support all afternoon – made a cracking interviewer.

Colin Mansley
Wednesday 20 September 2000
Cheshire FA Umbro Senior Cup Round 1
Crewe Alexandra 2 Chester City 1 (aet)
Attendance: 645 Half-time 1-1

Chester City: Greygoose, Moss (Lancaster), Doughty, Woods, Gaunt (Berry), Blackburn, Carden, Richardson, Finney, M.Beesley (Wright), Fisher. Subs: P.Beesley,

A full strength City team take the lead through Nick Richardson on 11 minutes following a Matt Doughty corner but are begged back before the break. Alex, consisting of reserves and youth team players get the winner in extra time.

Tuesday 12 September 2000
Chester City 1 Northwich Victoria 1
Attendance: 1,717 Half-time 0-1

Chester City: Brown, Moss, Doughty, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods (Fisher 46), Carden, Blackburn, Evans (Ruffer 46), M.Beesley, Finney. Subs not used: Greygoose, Lancaster, Berry.
Northwich Victoria: Rigby, Bailey, Ellis, Robertson, Simpson, Devlin, Norris, Holcroft, Quinn, Fletcher, Vickery. Subs: Davis, Kimmins, Lauri, Walsh, McDermitt.
Referee: S.Bratt.

[Match Programme]It was not a good game and the omens were out from the start. The game was sponsored, by Drive UK which given the petrol crisis inspired no confidence and when by 7.20 at least three of the City squad had not yet arrived, I couldn't help feeling this was not going to be a classic.

The first half was simply quite dreadful. They began positively and a neat interchange was so nearly converted by Chris Blackburn whose firm shot deflected over by their advancing goalkeeper.

Instead of taking encouragement from the exposure of Northwich' clear vulnerabilities they continued for most of the first half thumping the ball high up field to the anonymous Andy Evans whose touch nor awareness of his team-mates meant City's attacks broke down far too early to threaten Northwich's defence. On the few occasions when Doughty pushed forward with the ball at his feet his crosses were poor with City's best chances largely contained to shots outside the area.

It was little surprise when on seventeen minutes, Northwich scored. A measured ball from midfield sent Gary Fletcher through and comfortably evading the challenge from Matt Woods stroked the ball past Wayne Brown. Northwich, using newly signed, Jimmy Quinn, as their target man looked the more balanced side. In midfield they gave themselves time, thought more purposely about their passes and with the pacey Darren Vickery on the left wing supported well by Neil Ellis looked much like the team to score again.

Just before half time however, City began to play with greater purpose. Finney whose touch and runs are an improving feature of his play missed a decent chance from 12 yards and Mark Beasley one minute later equally could have done better. But it was a awful and insipid first half and one greeted, as it was brought mercifully to a close, with a mixture of relief and derision.

At half time, Barrow must have realised his game plan was not working and both Woods, who had looked unconvincing and Evans whose presence on tonight's showing was (to take a line from Black Adder) like a broken pencil – pointless – were taken off replaced by Fisher and Ruffer.

Heaven knows why Fisher has not played this season since his appearance and that of Ruffer transformed the second half with City playing like a team driving on a higher octane. Fish's neat one-twos gave City greater options. Linking well with Doughty, City grew confidence playing neater and more confident football. Ruffer too was positive and penetrating and his understanding with Mark Beasley seemed both instinctive and natural. Time and time again were City looked as though they would score breaching Northwich's defence only to be denied with a desperate tackle or a shot just inches wide.

As the evening went on it began to look at though City's luck would not turn. Northwich to their credit continued to break out of defence with verve and style and Wayne Brown had to make an excellent save to defence early on to keep the margin at just the single goal.

On seventy five minutes with City mounting a yet a further attack, tempers spilt over. Vic's goalkeeper Malcolm Rigby, waiting for a City corner, retaliated stupidly to some pushing and shoving and head butted a City player – in gesture more than in contact. His dismissal was predictable as was the encouragement it gave City to launch further offensives. One minute later, a cross from the left was met by Blackburn in a crowded box whose shot flew into the top right hand corner. It was a excellent strike from a player who up until them had turned in a mixed performance.

Although further chances fell our way, the truth is that we were not good enough to take them. City just ran out of time and juice. The final ball was often just not there, and Northwich fought bravely for their draw.

Although the second half offered far greater promise, the game should be judged on ninety minutes and I'm telling you, it was not all pretty stuff.

This was another disappointing result for City fans to add to the fruitless return from Yeovil on Saturday. It is another two points dropped and with Rushden and Diamonds taking three more points away from home this evening Graham Barrow must be all to aware of the points gap that is already developing. He has some serious thinking to do and might begin by letting his best players do the talking on the field at the beginning and not on the bench.

Tim Savidge
Saturday 9 September 2000
Yeovil Town 2 Chester City 1
Attendance: 2,862 Half-time 1-0

Yeovil Town: Pennock, Piper, Skiverton, Steele, Tonkin, Way, Smith, Crittenden, Belgrave, Patmore, Bent (Lindegaard 90). Subs not used: White, Peters, Wheeler.
Chester City:
Brown, Kerr (Fisher 63), Doughty, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods, Carden, Blackburn, Evans (Finney 55), M.Beesley, Wright (Richardson 79). Subs not used: Lancaster, Greygoose.
Referee: S.Tanner (Bristol).

[Match Programme]If Yeovil are one of the better Conference teams then there is not much to fear. Set against this, on today's evidence, Chester will have to improve rapidly – particularly up front – if they are to make any sort of challenge in the conference this year. In addition, the back line of Gaunt, Beesley and Woods is solid – if uninspiring – but the system needs two good wing backs to work the flanks. On today's showing Kerr and Doughty do not fit the bill – although this may be a little hard on Doughty – but it looks like an early return for Darren Moss who travelled with the team will be set for an early return.

In the first half chances and were few and far between until a howler by Paul Beesley in the 43rd minute let in Patmore to score. Chester complained long and loud that the final pass was offside but Beesley had acres of time to clear a fairly aimless punt into the Chester half but only succeeded in chesting the ball to a Yeovil player who played in the big Yeovil striker to slot the ball easily past Wayne Brown. Until then the game had been fairly even. At times Chester passed the ball around neatly in midfield and Wright went close with a header mid way through the half. But far too often Chester's passing moves were static with the ball ending up back in the Chester half – followed by the predictable long ball down the field, On the other hand while Yeovil were no great shakes, they were far more direct and in particular Belgrave's willingness to run at defenders was one of the few bright points of the first half.

In the second half Chester attempted to take the game to Yeovil and succeeded in penning the home team back in their own half for of a long period. The introduction of Finney for Evans after 60mins at least brought some pattern to Chester's forward play. Finney may not have won much in the air but at least he made a succession of good runs and linked up the play. Yeovil however remained dangerous on the break and it was somewhat against the run of play that Crittendon scored in the 72nd minute with a low shot just outside the box with Brown probably unsighted. At this point Chester moved to a 4-4-2 formation with Fisher coming for Kerr on the right side of midfield and his passing helped to prompt a number of attacks. In particular, Mark Beesley had a useful chance to score but with the ball at his feet in the box he tried to place his shot which was easily saved.

All seemed lost in the 86th minute when Paul Beesley was sent off for a second bookable offence. Perhaps the 4-4-2 formation was a factor but he was badly outpaced by yet another run from Belgrave and his clumsy body check left the referee no option – having being booked in the first half – a little harshly for a succession of tussles with Patmore. But as always the 10 men rallied and threw everything at Yeovil. But the goal when it came was fortunate to say the least. A left wing corner was missed by the goalkeeper and almost everyone else except for Bent standing on the backpost who helped the ball into his own net. Sensing the possibility of a minor miracle Chester pressed for an equaliser in extra time. In one furious scramble the ball rebounded twice from the crossbar before being cleared by a now panicking Yeovil defence before the referee blew for full time.

It may be that Graham Barrow feels a little hard done by. He certainly had a few choice words for with the linesman after the first goal and also Chester were unlucky not to grab a late equaliser. But frankly he must know that he needs a fit Darren Moss at fullback and possibly a left sided wing back. Beyond that the addition on a new striker is essential if Chester are to make any impression this year.

As to Yeovil – a very neat ground with the bonus of free car-parking or was that offset by the �9 admission to the stands? Dave Webb has moulded a well organised side but certainly not outstanding. It is difficult to believe that they will still be at the top at the end of the season.

Tony Peters
Tuesday 5 September 2000
Morecambe 0 Chester City 2
Attendance: 1,557 Half-time 0-1

Morecambe: Smith, Fensome, G.Brown (Takano 71), P McKearney, Murphy, Walters, Thompson (Black 68), Drummond, Eastwood (A.Wright 68), Norman, Lyons.
Chester City:
Brown, Kerr (Lancaster 78), Doughty, Gaunt, P.Beesley, Woods, Carden, Blackburn, Evans, M.Beesley (Richardson 75), Wright (Fisher 75). Subs: Finney, Greygoose.
Referee: E. Idleston (Whitley Bay).

That's better!

This was a big improvement from the previous two games as goals in each half from Chris Blackburn and Matt Woods sealed, what was in the end, a comfortable victory. City started the game with David Kerr at full back instead of Martyn Lancaster and Darren Wright replacing the suspended Carl Ruffer.

Wright's ability to run with the ball added an extra dimension to the side – something that had been lacking in previous games. Meanwhile Kerr had a much better game than his previous outing at Rushden. Perhaps the most encouraging feature was Chester's attempt to play the ball along the ground more than they had done in recent games. The lack of any passing movement, together with some aimless punts upfield, had been painful to watch against Boston and Southport and all credit to Graham for trying to change this.

There is little doubt that we are a difficult side to score against and only Rushden have scored against us in open play. However I still think that we sometimes lack the creative spark that an in-form Neil Fisher or Nick Richardson can provide.

As for the game itself, Chester went ahead on 37 minutes when an unmarked Chris Blackburn headed home a Paul Carden cross. His goal celebration made John Murphy look positively animated. This was Chris's first senior goal for the club and capped another solid performance.

The second goal came after 67 minutes when Matt Woods headed in a Matt Doughty free kick from close range. Its possible that the defence was put off by a manic cry of "keeper" from the Morecambe goalie who promptly ignored his own shout.

There was another excellent turn out from Chester (about 300) at what was another decent non-league ground and all credit to Morecambe who at least tried to play a bit of football against us.

Chas Sumner

Saturday 2 September 2000
Chester City 0 Southport 1
Attendance: 2,861 Half-time 0-1

Chester City: Brown, Lancaster (Shelton 78), Doughty, Gaunt, P Beesley, Woods (Finney 71), Carden, Blackburn (Richardson 59), Evans, M Beesley, Ruffer. Subs not used: Greygoose, Kerr.
Southport: Dickinson, Macauley, Stewart, Linnighan, Guyett, Clark, M. Marsh, Gouck, Arnold, Furlong, Grayston. Subs: Teale, P. Morgan, Whittaker, Mamaria, Elam.
Referee: S Brand.

[Match Programme]A poor performance from the Blues on Saturday. Having had time to think about the game for a few days it is still hard to draw anything positive.

From what I have seen so far of the Conference, there is a world of difference between it and League football. Teams, including ourselves, appear happy with a point. Maybe it is our previous status, but both part time teams ie Dover and Southport simply came to defend. Are we really such "Big fish"?

The game was scrappy in the extreme. We totally by-passed midfield. Blackburn showed willing but received no service. Carden stills seems to be basking in his fabulous performance against Doncaster. Ruffer does little. At times on Saturday he meandered around midfield, neither attacking or defending. The back three seem solid but lumbering. Paul Beesley's passing is at times woeful, with Woods and Gaunt not far behind. Southport showed neatness in build up, Stuart has always been a good lower league player despite his passing years.

Mike Marsh did not break sweat, he did not have to. He was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. Southport scored from a cast iron penalty decision after Woods was caught out in possesion, and then threw himself into a tackle to rectify his mistake. We never really looked like scoring after that. Lancaster hit the bar, and Blackburn blazed the rebound over in blind, terrified panic. Pity that, because he has the makings of a good player.

We had a few scrambles in the second half, but never really looked like scoring. The criticism abounded after the match. I must admit to feeling desperately frustrated by the hit and hope balls up to the likes of Evans and Mark Beesley. We showed against Doncaster, and in glimpses against Dover and Southport, when the ball is on the floor we are a half decent non-league side.

I am not under any illusions we are anything else. However, when we play route one rubbish, we are a POOR non-league side.

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