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Alfreton Town (H) | Chorley (A) | Darlington (FAC2Q A) | Darlington (FAC2QR H) | Blyth Spartans (H)
Saturday 25 September
Chester 5 Blyth Spartans 1
National League North
Attendance: 1,444 Half Time: 0-1
Booked: Weeks.

Chester: Gray, Grand, Weeks, Hardy (Johnston 59), Glendon, Waring (Redshaw 59), Dudley, Horsfield (Cowan 70), Lacey, Williams, Askew. Subs not used: Livesey, Cowan, Marsh-Hughes.
Blyth Spartans: Mitchell, Byrne, Lees, Reid, Watson, Painter, Liddle, O’Donnell, Dale (Maguire 56), Thomson (McNall 69), McKeown (Evans 73). Subs not used: Buddle, Curran.

Referee: L.Marshall.

A warm September sun burnished the smooth turf of the Deva stadium as Chester’s passing and movement clicked into place. Blyth were routed by a consummate second half display which had the home faithful purring with delight.

At half time, however, the noises off were murmurings of discontent and even a few boos as City trailed to JJ O’Donnell’s crisp turn and strike five minutes into the game. It might have been worse as Thomson’s effort was saved by Gray when the tall striker was through on goal and later O’Donnell’s glancing header was disallowed for offside by the narrowest of margins.

But there had been signs of City getting into gear in the first forty-five minutes. Glendon dribbled and put Dudley through only to see his first time effort saved. Then, following good work by Hardy to win the ball back, Glendon found Waring in the box, who touched it back to Dudley who again saw his goalbound shot saved. A nicely weighted ball from Horsfield, making his debut at right back, put Weeks through but his angled shot was parried by Alex Mitchell in the Spartans’ goal.

Weeks did, however, finish with precision shortly after the break to level the score. Dudley was involved in good approach play with Hardy on the left. Hardy’s shot was blocked but came out to Weeks in space who drilled the ball home into the corner of the net. Before this there had still been time for Gray to make another smart stop and Lees to head over from the resultant corner for the visitors.

But buoyed by the equaliser the Blues began to sweep forward again. Weeks picked out Dudley’s run with the perfect pass and Chester’s Lewandowski stroked the ball past Mitchell. Waring made sure of the finish as the ball approached the post. Minutes later Dudley added his own name to the scoresheet as Glendon put him clear and he curled a sweet left footed shot into the far corner. Three goals in ten minutes had changed half-time chunterings on the terraces into chants of praise.

Blyth dug in and mounted a fightback as they struggled to get back in the contest. Feisty tackles flew in and Watson was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a flying one on Weeks as frustration threatened to boil over. Their admirable fans continued to chant their encouragement, despite the whirlwind of events.

Prior to Dudley’s goal, managers Morley and Johnson brought on Johnston and Redshaw – signed on loan from Ashton United – to refresh City’s attacking play further. As on Tuesday Johnston added impetus and pace to the Blues’ attacks and Redshaw’s movements up front opened up more possibilities.

The game was taken further away from the Spartans when Weeks, applauded in appreciation as he approached the corner spot, floated the perfect cross for Matty Williams to head firmly in for number four. Johnston might have added another when his shot whistled across the goalmouth before Redshaw capped his debut with a crisp finish from Johnston’s pass to the far post.

Chester had grown into this game after the early setback, remaining patient in their build-up play. Weeks was rightly named man of the match for a dynamically industrious performance but others excelled too: Glendon seemed to play with a freedom no doubt due to the influence of Lacey in defensive midfield role; Dudley looked more of his old self, his silky skill and smooth distribution oiled City’s attacking machine; the two debutants - Horsfield who fitted in well at right back and Redshaw moving with elan up front – added to the enjoyment of the afternoon but the whole squad emerged with credit as this win demonstrated their considerable capabilities.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match pictures | Watch the highlights [YouTube]

Tuesday 21 September
Chester 1 Darlington 0
FA Cup Second Qualifying Round Replay
Attendance: 1,064 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: Askew.

Chester: Gray, Grand, Weeks, Hardy (Livesey 89), Glendon, Waring, Dudley (Johnston 65), Clark, Williams, Morgan (Marsh-Hughes 76), Askew. Subs not used: Smith, Lowe, Heywood, Hughes.
Darlington: Taylor, Smith, Wheatley, Hedley (Lambert 81), Hatfield, Charman, Cassidy, Storey, Nelson (Dos Santos 60), Griffiths, Cooper. Subs not used: Mondal, Martin, Beauchamp, Purver, Hope.

Referee: M.Barlow.

Chester and Darlo met for this FA Cup second qualifying round replay as two sides struggling to find early season form. Both had been hit by Covid and its knock-on effects. City were further hampered by three additional casualties to the team that drew 0-0 on Saturday: Kevin Roberts injured his knee; Paddy Lacey suffered a reaction to playing his first ninety minutes since a long lay-off and Darren Stephenson was also unavailable through injury.

George Glendon was back after suspension, however and Jamie Morgan and Luke Clark both started. The bench had a youthful look with Lowe, Smith, Heywood and Hughes all featuring along with Marsh-Hughes, Johnston and the evergreen Danny Livesey.

City found early attacking joy down the left as the lively Askew made his presence felt and peppered Darlington’s box with crosses. The visitors grew to dominate possession however, denying the Blues room in midfield. Hatfield took an opportunist shot which looped just over Gray’s bar.

As both teams emerged from the break a dramatic Harvest Moon rose over the Gary Talbot Stand, its golden orange matching the colour of the visitors’ shirts. Both sides showed more attacking intent as they sought to settle the tie before extra time came into play. First Darlo had a shot just wide before City retaliated and Hardy had space to shoot on the edge of the box but could not hit the target. Next Gray pulled off a flying save to deny Griffiths’ direct free kick before both sides traded fizzing low crosses along the six yard line at either end.

Dudley latched on to a ball over the top but was lacking in pace to break through on goal. Minutes later he had a better opportunity when his close range effort was saved at point blank by Taylor. This was Dudley’s last action as Johnston came on to replace him. The winger’s freshness and pace worried the Quakers and helped City build momentum. Weeks worked really hard to win possession on a number of occasions and Glendon began to probe the visitors’ defence. His oblique cross to Waring was mis-controlled by the centre forward but Hardy latched on to it and hooked it into the net despite the close attentions of Taylor. After 177 minutes of deadlock a breakthrough was achieved.

Still the match continued in end to end fashion as the final minutes ticked away. A heavy fog began to filter down over the Swettenham Stand from off the Dee to add a frisson of menace to the scene. But the Blues held on and progressed to the next round after this ultimately highly entertaining encounter. Managers Morley and Johnson will be pleased at the result and the resilience shown by the side they were able to put out on the night. The result was important, not only financially but for the building up of match fitness and confidence too.

Colin Mansley

Picture © Rick Matthews

Match pictures | Match highlights [YouTube]
Saturday 18 September
Darlington 0 Chester 0
FA Cup Second Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,035 Half Time: 0-0
Booked: -.

Darlington: Taylor, Smith, Wheatley, Hatfield, Charman, Mondal (Dos Santos 52), Cassidy, Purver (Nelson 60), Griffiths, Cooper, Storey. Subs not used: Hedley, Rivers, Martin, Hope, Lambert.
Chester: Gray, Roberts, Williams, Grand, Askew, Weeks, Lacey, Hardy (Johnston 83), Dudley, Stephenson (Marsh-Hughes 79), Waring (Livesey 83). Subs not used: Morgan, Clark, Lowe, Horsfield.

Referee: P.Brown.

Chester and Darlington will meet again on Tuesday night for the right to play Marske United after their FA Cup tie ended in a goalless draw.

The Blues made five changes from the side well beaten at Chorley last weekend, Kevin Roberts, Danny Livesey, George Waring, Anthony Dudley and Paddy Lacey all making the starting line-up at Blackwell Meadows.

The chances were at a premium in the opening half, Louis Gray saving from Junior Mondal and Declan Weeks attempting to lob Darlo ‘keeper Tommy Taylor from long distance the pick of the early exchanges.
Weeks and Lacey both saw efforts saved as the first half, dominated by midfield play, wore on.

Chester’s best chance to break the deadlock came in the 54th minute as Darren Stephenson was sent through by James Hardy but the striker could only find the side netting with his effort on goal.

Taylor was the busier of the two keepers, on hand to save from both Waring and Hardy as the Blues looked to breakthrough. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though with Simon Grand making a last ditch tackle, and Andrew Nelson shooting wide from 20 yards when well placed late on.

Picture © Rick Matthews

Match pictures

Saturday 11 September
Chorley 4 Chester 1
National League North
Attendance: 1,520 Half Time: 3-1
Booked: Glendon, Hardy.
Sent-off (second yellow): Glendon.

Chorley: Urwin, Henley, Leather, Baines, Whitehouse, Calveley, Cardwell (Blyth 57), Tomlinson, Shenton (Okome 84), Blakeman, Hall (Alli 69). Subs not used: Spencer-McDermott, Scarborough.
Chester: Gray, Cowan, Livesey, Williams, Grand, Clark (Waring 42), Weeks, Glendon, Johnston (Dudley 57), Stephenson, Askew (Hardy 57). Subs not used: Roberts, Lacey.

Referee: D.Rogers.

Chester were made to pay for a sluggish start by Chorley who found themselves 3-0 up with just over half an hour played. After going close early on the home side opened the scoring on eight minutes as harry Cardwell rose highest to head home a Billy Whitehouse cross.

Chester responded and saw efforts from Josh Askew and Matty Williams effort saved by Matt Urwin. The Magpies doubled their lead however on 20 minutes with Ollie Shenton converting Will Tomlinson’s driven cross into he box.

almost scored his second moments later heading just wide but wasn’t to be denied in the 36th minute, forcing the ball home from close range following an Adam Blakeman corner.

The Blues pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time, Dan Cowan was on hand to score from close range after Danny Livesey had flicked on a Declan Weeks free kick.

Weeks was denied twice in the closing seconds of the half as Chester pressed for another goal.

Six minutes into the second half Chorley grabbed their fourth as Scott Leather side footed home from close range from a corner giving Louis Gray no chance.

Chester’s miserable day was completed ten minutes from time with the dismissal of George Glendon for two yellow cards.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match pictures

Saturday 4 September
Chester 3 Alfreton Town 2
National League North
Attendance: 1,368 Half Time: 1-0
Booked: Gray, Askew, Clark.
Sent-off: Livesey.

Chester: Gray, Cowan, Livesey, Williams, Askew, Weeks, Glendon, Clark, Hardy (Roberts 73), Johnston, Dudley (Stephenson 64). Subs not used: Grand, Lacey, Marsh-Hughes.
Alfreton Town: Willis, Clackstone, Wilde, Lund (Branson 82), Smith, Allan (Wiley 46), Hobson, Evans, Read, Southwell, Reeves (Tuton 86). Subs not used: Smith-Eccles, Stewart.

Referee: J.Mulligan.

This was a game that had just about everything including another late late goal for the Blues.

After an even start that saw both sides create half chances it was Chester who broke the deadlock on 30 minutes as a reverse ball from Anthony Dudley found James Hardy who turned his marker twice on the edge of the box before firing a shot across goal into the far corner.

The visitors had goalkeeper Josh Clackstone to thank for a smart save on the stroke of half-time to deny Dudley doubling Chester’s lead.

A late tackle on Bailey Hobson saw Danny livesey given a straight red card 20 minutes from time. Joint manager Andrew Johnson was also sent to the stands by referee Mulligan.

Ten minutes later Matt Rhead leveled for the visitors scoring at the far post after starting a breakaway move himself. Parity lasted only 60 seconds as Declan Weeks scored in the bottom left corner from outside the box following a throw-in.

Alfreton wouldn’t give up and equalised again through Rhead as he met a right wing cross, out jumped the Blues defence and sent a looping header over Louis Gray into the far corner of the net.

Chester came again and two minutes into added time scored the winning goal as Dan Cowan, despite being held back by a defender, was there to meet Weeks’ right wing corner and head past Clackstone to seal three dramatic points.

Picture © Rick Matthews

League table after this match | Match pictures | Watch the goals (YouTube)






















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