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It had been another bad day at the office for IT professional and part-time manager of Northwich part-timers Kingfisher FC, Ray Kinsale. The sheer weight of idiot problems raised by idiot users of the new billing system he was working on was beginning to weigh heavily on his mind, and the injury list for Kingfisher FC ahead of Sunday's crunch game against Penny Black FC, only two days away, was the cause of real concern. But Friday July 12th 2003 was to be the changing point of Ray's life, but he wasn't to know this as he queued with the rest of the Friday evening traffic on the Runcorn-Widnes bridge.

When he finally reached his Northwich home that evening he opened the door to find two pieces of post on his doormat, the first was the long-awaited copy of CM 03/04, delivered on the day of issue by those trusty people from Amazon. The second, however, was more of a surprise. It was a letter, on headed notepaper from Chester City football club, offering him the vacant manager's position.

Ray had no ideas why he, an unknown pub team manager, had been asked to pick up the Chester manager's job, but that didn't stop him picking up the phone and calling the City charirman straight away with his acceptance of the job.

He would start tomorrow......

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It had been another bad day at the office for IT professional and part-time manager of Northwich part-timers Kingfisher FC, Ray Kinsale. The sheer weight of idiot problems raised by idiot users of the new billing system he was working on was beginning to weigh heavily on his mind, and the injury list for Kingfisher FC ahead of Sunday's crunch game against Penny Black FC, only two days away, was the cause of real concern. But Friday July 12th 2003 was to be the changing point of Ray's life, but he wasn't to know this as he queued with the rest of the Friday evening traffic on the Runcorn-Widnes bridge.

When he finally reached his Northwich home that evening he opened the door to find two pieces of post on his doormat, the first was the long-awaited copy of CM 03/04, delivered on the day of issue by those trusty people from Amazon. The second, however, was more of a surprise. It was a letter, on headed notepaper from Chester City football club, offering him the vacant manager's position.

Ray had no ideas why he, an unknown pub team manager, had been asked to pick up the Chester manager's job, but that didn't stop him picking up the phone and calling the City charirman straight away with his acceptance of the job.

He would start tomorrow......

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Chester Evening Leader

Unknown Manager of Pub Team appointed City Boss

In a surprise move today Chester chairman Stephen Vaughan appointed total unknown Ray Kinsale as manager of Chester City football club. Speaking exclusively to this paper chairman Vaughan said "I was looking for a steady character with exciting potential to fill the vacant manager's position. After the last manager a bit of stability is required and Kinsale's record with Kingfisher FC speaks for itself." Whilst it is true that Kingfisher FC haven't lost in two years it's also true that they are a side in the Northwich and District Sunday League so the wisdom of this selection quite frankly has to be questioned. This writer, for one, waits to see just how quickly the unknown Kinsale will last.

Harry Hackmeister

..and elsewhere in the paper

Chester Evening Leader not National Paper shock

In an unfortunate incident today the new Sports Interactive game patch for CM03/04 claimed that the Evening Leader wasn't a national paper. This is just the sort of clueless, uninformed journalism that this paper, for one, despises

Roger Hackmeister, Editor Chester Evening Leader

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Authors note:

I am doing this story 'straight out of the box', I have literally just got CM03/04 and have not had a chance to work out anything except that my CM3 tactics don't work !

I'm using a 2.4Ghz Athlon with 1GB of memory, and I'm playing a new game with the number of leagues recommended to me by the system, we'll see how the speed holds up

Just a note about a couple of things from the story so far. I did not get the game on 13th July 2003, which is a Sunday anyway and not a Saturday, that is artistic liscence as it's the day the game starts. I'm also likely to start using the first person, as a style of writing as I'm not best comfortable with the third person style.

Also, the name of the thread refers to an ancient by-law of Chester, one that has never been repealed. And, by the way, I really am a Chester fan, so I hope sentiment doesn't cloud my judgement !

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Preseason - Excerpts taken from the private memoirs of Roy Kinsale

Sunday 13th July 2003 was my first day in the job, a game with Nottingham Forest was due that very afternoon, so I choose to ask my assitant manager Steve Bleasdale to pick the teams whilst I got on the phones to try and drum up some additions to the back room staff

In addition to Bleasdale, who was left over from the previous mangers time at the club a couple of ex-players make up the bulk of the existing staff. Iain Jenkins, the former Northern Ireland full back is a coach whilst Big Joe Hinnigan retains the physio's job that he's held at he club for many year. A sole scout, Alan Cotterell makes up the existing backroom staff. Cottrell was asked on that first morning to look out for youth players to fill the rather thin on the ground reserve squad.

As a result of the morning's work on the phones contracts were offered to two scouts, Rob Campkin and David Jarrett and two coaches, Ian Gilzean and John Rudkin.

Meanwhile the afternoon's game against Forest would be a good chance for me to see what I've got in the squad. First impressions were of a side with very little width defensively so I asked Bleasdale to put out a side in a 5-3-2 Defensive formation in the match

Chester 2 - 1 Nottingham Forest

Preseason Friendly Sunday 13th July 2003

The tactics selection certainly appeared to be a good one, with Chester sprinting to a 2-0 half time lead against a Forest side seemingly bereft of ideas against a well marshalled Chester defence. Both goals were scored by Steve Brodie, the first following a good break by on-loan striker Robert Gill.Gill breaking from the half way line and then squaring the ball for Brodie to score. Four minutes later Brodie lost his marker and headed home a Paul Carden at the far post. In the second half Forest came back with David Johnson knocking the ball into an empty net fter a Eugen Bopp cross eluded goalkeeper Ian McCaldon. McCaldon went a long way towards making up for this with a great save in the 84th minute, but it was Chester who finished the stronger and ran out worthy winners.

Brodie came away from the game with a bruised heel, and will be out for a week.

By the time the next game came around the four back room staff had signed and Chris Waddle was named manager of Leigh RMI

Chester 3-0 Witton Albion

Preseason Friendly Wednesday 16th July 2003

A game against the local part-timers would give a chance for some of the younger players to show what they could do, and wholseale changes were made from Sunday's match. A quiet first half ensued as Chester's young players struggled to stamp their mark on the game. A breakthrough did come on 44 minutes as Adam Hunter, an attacking midfielder, set free Lee Reece down the left. Reece got to the byline put over a wonderful cross that young Jamie Heard, playing at right wingback met with a powerful header that flew into the net. A more positive approach in the second period brought instant rewards Adam Hunter heading home on 49 minutes from a Gethin Lloyd cross. On 55 minutes Lee Reece, who had an excellent game, had a slice of luck when the Witton keeper fumbled a simple backpass and allowed Reece the simplest of tap-ins for City's third. The Chester forwards were guilty of wasting a few chances after that but Chester ended up running out comfortable winners of the game.

Chester 0-0 Tranmere

Preseason Friendly Saturday 19th July

The prematch scout's report from David Jarett shows what should be an interesting match up with Chester's defensive 5-3-2 coming up against Tranmere's attacking variation on the same formation. The first half passed off without any goals with Tranmere's attractive passing game failing to get any change out of a resolute Chester defence, Tranmere did have by far the lion's share of the play, however. The second half was no different from the first,and the game remained goalless. Chester had no real dramas in keeping Tranmere out but didn't produce much in attack theselves, which I found slightly disappointing.

Chester 0-0 Rotherham

Preseason Friendly Wednesday 23rd July

First division Rotherham were the next team to visit the Deva Stadium. Chester strated brightly, Brodie hitting the post on 11 minutes after being set free by right winger Rapley. This was a close as anyone got in the first half, the period ending 0-0. The second half was more of the same, more evenly matched than the Tranemere game, with goalkeeper McCaldon seemingly cementing his first team spot with a commanding display. But I had fewer questions answered about the defence and the left wingback slot looks a problem.

On a postive note the game against Rotherham attracted 5157 paying customers, hinting to me that entertainment wise the team must be doing something right. Before the weekend's fixture however it was time to get on the phones again and look to strengthen the side.

Chester 0-0 Sheff Utd

Presaeson Friendly Saturday 26th July 2003

The next vistors to the Deva were the highly rated division one side Sheffield United. The first half was a bit one sided with Ndlovu outstanding for the Blades, but Chester defended well once more and there were few scares for McCaldon in the Chester net.Heard and Collins did well in Chester's back line. It was goalless at half-time, and it was to remain that way. Chester were brighter in the second half, but still didn't manage a shot on target, however three consecutive clean sheets against higher division opposition is very pleasing from my point of view. Young Jamie Heard, a right back utilised on the right side of a back three was man-of-the match with a notable performance coming from midfielder Micheal Twiss

Vauxhall Motors 1-3 Chester

Preseason Friendly Monday 28th July 2003

Part-timers Vauxhall Motors managed to start off in a way that neither Sheffield United or Rotherham could by scoring an early goal against Chester's second string of players. On 10 minutes the Motor's left winger reached the byline had his pinpoint cross knocked across the face of goal for the center forward to knock a deflected shot into the net past the unlucky Wayne Brown. Chester came back strongly Adam Hunter running through the Motor's back line on a superb through ball by Gethin Lloyd and slotting it past the on rushing keeper on 24 minutes.Beesley added a second five minutes later put into the box following a good run by Shaun Carey, young Beesley kept his head and calmly placed it past the keeper. Chester started off the second half the way they had finished the first but it wasn't until the 61st minute that they added the third. Hunter running form the edge fo the centre circle, following good work by carey, to the edge of the box where he hammered a 20 yard shot past the Motor's keeper. Lee Reece had a good chance to make it four near the end but headed straight at the keeper. All-in-all a good performace by the youngsters in the team with left wingback Scott Bagnall getting the man of the match accolade. Who said the left side was a problem ?

At this time I made my first foray into the transfer market signing Birmingham's Carl McNally on a season long loan, the 20 year old attacking midfielder should add options in midfield.

Chester also made it's first permenant signing of the season, experienced left midfielder Gary Bowman.Scotsman Bowman who is 28 has played for a number of clubs over the years in Scotland St.Mirren and Clydebank being the main ones, he will, hopefully, prove to be the starting left wingback.

Scunthorpe 1-1 Chester

Preseason Friendly Wednesday 30th July 2003

Bowman and McNally would go stright into the team for this freindly. But Chester struggled in the first half against a lively Scunthorpe side. Scunthorpe full backNathan Stanton got the only goal of the half with a rasping dirve from the corner of the box after a corner had only been half cleared. As manager I was upset at how my defenders failed to close down the player. Foster for the disappointing Brodie was the only half time change, indicating to the players that I want to see how they deal with a bit of adversity. Chester did indeed respond in the second half, with McNally making a notable miss early on. Chester did equalise through Darren Stamp who shot past the goalkeeper after being put in by Micheal Twiss.

The end of July saw a great deal of contract activity at Chester with new deals being offered to Carden, Brodie, Stamp, Twiss, McCaldon, McIntyre, Bolland, Guyett, Connolly, Hunter, deals were not offered to Brady, Coulson, Cameron who are all in the final year of their contract.

Chester 2-1 Reading

Preseason Friendly Saturday 2nd August 2003

Chester sprung out of the blocks in this game Rapley stealing the ball from Reading left winger Salako charging down the wing and crossing for Brodie to sweep the ball into the net after only 18 seconds of play. Chester continued to dominate the early exchanges but couldn't turn the advantage into any more goals. Reading worked their way back into the game and equalised on 33 minutes when Harper met a Salako cross and netted past an exposed McCaldon.Adrain Williams limped off near the end of the half a worry for Reading ahead of next week's season opener. The half continued at a lively pace, but the score remained 1-1 at the half. Chester started the second half as brightly as the first. Only six minutes into the second period a long clearance by Heard was collected by Stamp who took the ball into the box, looked to have pulled it too far wide, but then crossed for Brodie, who had lost his marker to head home, 2-1. A lively, open game followed, with both sides wasting good opportunities and both goalkeepers making important saves. Reading, however, couldn't get back on parity and the game ended 2-1 to Chester. Brodie was named man-of-the-match for his two-goal display.

In the week running up to the start of the new season Chester added to their squad by signing Sergei Baltacha a defensive midfielder released by Milwall against heavy competition from Hartlepool and Clyde. Elsewhere they had an offer for Hull defender Greg Strong accpeted and enetered a bidding contest for Scottish left back Andrew Bell

In the pre-season promotion odds Chester rate as 6-4 joint favouries with Morecambe. Dagenham & Redbridge and Scarborough at 7-4 and Shrewsbury and Exeter at 6-1 make up the top tips list.

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Player profiles


1.Wayne Brown

First choice keeper at city for a number of year's Brown(26) looks to have lost his first team spot to Ian McCaldon. In many ways technically superior to McCaldon He does have a weakness rushing out.

20.Ian McCaldon

The big Scottish goalkeeper(28) cemented his first team berth with a series of impressive displays pre-season, and made a convincing a case for the job. He has great physical attributes for the goalkeepers job.


13.Gethin Lloyd SW/D C

A 19 year old Welsh centre back with a good work rate but still alot to learn. Reserve Team player.

26.Jamie Heard D R

20 years old, bags of promise seeemingly at home at wing back, or on the right of a three man defence. First Team Squad.

18.Scott Bagnall D L

This 19 year old left back is a great team player, whose decision making skills are good for one so inexperienced. Reserve Team Squad.

23.Paul Connolly D LC

Another 19 year old this defender's main asset is his tackling. However not very receptive to training. Reserve Team player

5.Phil Bolland D C

An agressive centre back, good in the air, this 27 year old is a backup to the first team squad.

25.Scott Guyett D C

A 27 year old Australian, no doubt still smarting at the Rugby World Cup defeat, is a good all round defender, strongest in the air. Unimpressive in pre-season and now languishing in the reserves.

17.Carl Ruffer D/DM C

A solid, if unispiring, defender who can also fill in as a defensive midfielder. A consitent performer in pre-season but never quite managed to make a starting spot his own, starts the season as backup to the first team.

2.Danny Collins D/AM C

Aged 23, Collins is one of the most promising players at the club. At home in a back three he can also fill in as an attacking midfielder and with his ability at the long shot is a threat at set pieces. His versatility is an asset to the first team.

22.Tom Coulson D RC

A 18 year old defender, he has dissapointed in pre-season and has been placed on the transfer list. For now, he warms the bench for the reserves.

6.Sergei Baltacha D/DM C

A new signing in the preseason this player, only 24, has shown himself to be a versatile defender who is capable of making the center man of the back three position his own. Good in the air and with a strong tackle this player is already a vital member of the first team.

30.Greg Strong D C

Another new signing, for £10,000 from Hull. He is left footed, and can play on the left side of the back three, a position which was becoming a bit of a problem. The 28 year old has made a bright start for the club and has made a starting place in the team his own.


7.Andy Harris D/DM RC

A versatile player who can fill in at the back, at right wing back or in the midfield. This 26 year old is an on-field leader as well as being a hard worker. Has yet to break into the first team on a regular basis, but his chance will surely come.

4.Paul Carden DM RC

A 24 year old who has made a starting spot his own. A defensive midfielder with a good range of passing for this level he fits in well in the centre of midfield. If all goes well will be a good player for Chester for years to come.

7.Kevin Rapley M/F RL

A wide player who has thus far only been utilised on the right side, this 25 year old is a regular feature in the Chester first team in the right wingback slot. Has beter attcking gifts than defending but is still much valued as a wingback.

3.Kevin McIntyre M LC

A 25 year old midfielder who can play in the center or on the left. Had a dissapointing pre-season but has been given the chance to resurect his Chester career in the Reserves. Someone to think of if we need to sell someone.

14.Shaun Carey M C

The hard working Irishman, 27, has been given few chances to show what he can do in Chester shirt, and, to be fair, the chances he was given in pre-season he genrally speaking took well. However doen't seem to fit into the midfield puzzle very well and is likely to remain on the periphery of the first team until injuries interveen.

16.Jon Brady AM R

A 28 year old Australian (also smarting at the Rugby World Cup defeat) he has singularly failed to impress. Now languishing in the Reserves is a high candidate for selling.

8.Ben Davies AM RC

22 years old, this player's consistency and all round good play has not failed to impress. A good dribbler he is an atatcking asset and a starting player in the team. A valued member of the team

27.John Davies AM/F R

This youngster,18, has impressed in his outings for the reserves. The right-winger, who is an excellent penalty-taker is avilable on loan and hopes to gain experiece that way. Another player with a good future.

29.Adam Hunter AM C

Aged 19 this player has been outstanding in all his pre-season displays scoring many goals joining in from midfield. A talent that will hopefully take him from the Reserves to the first team in the near furture.

11.Michael Twiss AM/F L

One of the stars of the team this 25 year old, a product of Man Utd's youth system is a integral part of Chester's midfield, the best crosser of the ball in the squad Chester will have to endeavour to use him wider, more often.

31.Gary Bowman M L

Signed on a free before the season started this 29 year old Scot has made the left wingback spot his own. He has been consitently outstanding in all his displays so far and looks to have been an exceptionally good signing.

Carl McNally AM C (on loan from Birmingham City)

On loan from Birmingham this 20 year old has yet to make his mark on the first team and will start the regular season in the reserves.


21.Steve Brodie F RC

This 30 year old forward is likely, long term, to only be a back up to the first team, but whilst Clare is injured can expect a good run in the first team. A hard-worker and a good finisher

12.Ian Foster F RC

Another player hoping to get their share of appearances in the first team, but this 26 year old may be dissapointed as he appears to be 4th in the pecking order for two first team spots. Takes a tolerably good penalty.

28.Lee Reece F RLC

An 18 year old stalwart of the reserves this player showed well in preseason. Good in the mental and physical aspects of the game this player needs to work on the technical aspects a bit more this year. Is still likely to score many goals in the reserves this season.

19.Dave Cameron S C (on loan to Halifax)

Big Dave,as he's known, is on short term loan to Halifax.The 28 year old welshman is a big powerful man, good in the air and brave and aggressive in equal measure. Begs the question, why did the last manager loan him out ?

15.Mark Beesley S C

A 21 year old striker often is described as a goal machine. he did, however, dissapoint in preseason and can only expect chances in the reserves for the foreseeable future.

10.Daryl Clare S C

A 25 year old Irishman this is the club's star player and most valuable asset. Was injured all through preseason, however, so has not had a chance to show what he can do. Club penalty taker, good finisher. Automatic first team choice when fit.

24.Darryn Stamp S C

Aged 25, a player who is good in the air and has a high work rate, he has slotted into the first team with ease,looks a quality player. Very unselfish.

Robert Gill S C (on loan from Doncaster)

Player brought in on short term loan to cover for the injured Clare.

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Chester Evening Leader

Chester Made Joint Favourites After Successful Pre-Season

Chester were tonight named as 6-4 joint favourites along with Morecambe for this year's Conference title by bookmaker to the stars, William Hill. What must have been a swaying factor in this decision must have been the impressive pre-season by the Blues.

Unbeaten in 8 pre-season games, including impressive wins over First Division Nottingham Forest and Reading, Chester look set to take the division by storm. This paper, for one, has never doubted Ray Kinsale's ability and we look forward to a succesful season.

In other news Chester have improved their back line with the signings of Sergei Balthacha, on a free transfer and Greg Strong, a £10,000 purchase from Hull City. Chester were unlucky, however to miss out on promising left back Andrew Bell.Bell chose the lure of higher division football and went to Leyton Orient.

Harry Hackmeister, Resident Chester City journalist

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2003-2004 Season


Chester 0-0 Aldershot

Conference Saturday 9th August 2003

Chester started with new signings Sergei Baltacha at the heart of the three man defence and Greg Strong on the bench. An entirely typical first game of the season followed with neither side wanting to lose. Chances were few and far between but the main point of concern for myself was the apparant lack of communication and trust between the forward pairing of Stamp and Brodie. A dour game in total with Aldershot, who only had one shot in the entire match, being pleased with the point. Chester man-of-the-match Gary Bowman

Leigh RMI 0-1 Chester

Conference Tuesday 12th August 2003

The first half of this game was another dour affair with neither side able to gain an ascendecy. At half time I replaced the ineffectual Brodie with the on-loan Robert Gill. Both sides opened up the second half in a more adventerous way with Chester making the breakthrough on 65 minutes. Darren Stamp reached the byline after being put thorugn by Bowman and then chipped the ball across the face of the six yard box where it was met by an unmarked Robert Gill who headed home. In contrast to the first half an open game of football followed with both sides having numerous chances. However neither side could add to the score and Chester ran out narrow, but deserved winners. Man of the match was Leigh's Steve Redmond

Chester 1-0 Gravsend

Conference Saturday 16th August 2003

A one sided first half with one way traffic towards the Gravesend goal. That Chester scored only once in this half is testament to the form of the Gravsend keeper Paul Wilkerson. The goal that did come was scored on 8 minutes a glorious first time volley from the right-hand edge of the box by Robert Gill. Gill, who had broken into space on the right side of the box was played in by a clever chip by Paul Carden. The early goal suggested a landslide but chances came and went with increasing regularity. the half time whistle came at 1-0. The second half was a much quieter and more evenly contested affair. No further score was registered and the game was marred by an ugly challenge by Gill on Gravesend's Adrian Pennock that left Pennock needing treatment. Gill was rightly shown the red card. Paul Carden was named man-of-the-match after a storming display. Chester rise to 7th in the table on the back of this result.

Margate 0-0 Chester

Conference Saturday 23rd August 2003

Another goalless first half, but this was no bore-fest, with chances at both ends, Chester keeper Ian McCaldon making one superb save. Chester were a little toothless up front only managing one shot on traget leading me to replace debutant Ian Foster in for the suspened Gill with Steve Brodie. Brodie was impressive in the second half but neither side could break through, leading to what must have been a frustrating draw for both managers. Gary Bowman was named man-of-the-match for the second time this season. Chester stay in 7th. Meanwhile Morecambe win their fourth game in a row and sit proudly on top of the conference.

Chester 3-0 Woking

Conference Saturday 30th August 2003

Chester really were firing on all cylinders straight from the off in this game, the hapless Woking side were left chasing shadows for much of the first half, as the four yellow cards in the first period alone indicates. Chester only scored two in this period but could, and should, have had more. The first of the goals came as late as the 31st minute Sergei Baltacha opening his account for the club rising above the static Woking defence to head home a Paul Carden corner. The second, on 42, was a great goal. It started with the impressive Baltacha clearing up a rare woking foray and knocking the ball to Rapley on the right. A raking pass up the line found Brodie in space. He went down the line drew Stamp's marker and then passed the ball infield to find Stamp who controlled the ball took it round the on-rushing goalkeeper and slotted it into the empty net. Quality stuff. Only one more goal was added in the second half, although Chester created even more chances than in the first Ben Davies being a culprit more than once. The goal that was scored came on 75 minutes, with fine work by Twiss on the left putting Stamp clear into the box. Stamp then pulled the ball back across the face of the goal where Steve Brodie was waiting to put the ball into the empty net. There was still time for the impressive Paul Carden to miss and 86th minute penalty. Chester running out comfortable winners of this one. Kevin Rapley was named man of the match. Chester climb a place to 6th, one of five teams on 11 points, one behind Morecambe who today lost their first match. Brodie ended the match injured and will be out for a week.

Gill returned to Doncaster on the completion of his loan period on the last day of the month. At the end of the month Chester lie 6th in the table, but more impressively have not conceeded any goals. This is mainly down to the impressive Ian McCaldon in goal. McCaldon isn't the only player to stand out with the wide players Bowman and Rapley being the pick of the bunch.

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Chester Evening Leader

Great defence, but where are the goals ?

Harry Hackmeister's Big Column of Football

What's going on at Chester City ? After one month of the season the Blues are unbeaten, but lie only sixth in the Conference table. Unbeaten ? Yes, but there are too many draws and not enough wins. Whilst this column applauds defensive security, what we, and every fan of Chester City, I'm sure, wants is goals, gaols, and more goals. Possibly with some good play thrown in for good measure.

As I've said many times before, the jury is out on Ray Kinsale, time to turn it around Ray !

copyright 2003 Harry Hackmeister

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Hereford 0-2 Chester

Conference Tuesday 2nd September 2003

No worries for Chester at this apparantly tricky away match against a strong Hereford team. Goals in each ahlf from Ian Foster, in for the injured Steve Brodie sealed the game. Foster got his first on 7 minutes when a rasping Ben Davies drive was parried by Matt Baker in the Hereford goal and Foster was the first to the rebound. The second came on 78 minutes, and what a goal it was, Bowman, on the left wing played Stamp into the box with a perfectly weighted pass. Stamp drew the keeper and the last man before squaring the ball to gift Foster an open goal, a chance that he did not pass up. The final scoreline in no way flattered chester who had 18 attempts on goal in the entire game compared to Hereford's four. Ben Davies was outstanding in midfield but once again the man-of-the-match accolade went to Gary Bowman for his tirless work on the left. Chester climb to fourth in the table on the back of this win.

Forest Green 1-2 Chester

Conference Sturday 13th September 2003

In an evenly contested first half Chester got their noses in front first with a Darryn Stamp effort on 20 minutes. Played in by Twiss, Stamp's effort took a wicked deflection to wrongfoot the Forest Green keeper. However the home faithful were not kept waiting and Forest Green were level within two minutes. A good run and cross by Martin Foster from the left was headed home by Jamie Moralee who rose easily above a static Greg Strong at the near post. This was the first goal Chester had conceded in the Conference this season.The teams were evenly matched throughout the half and it wasn't unfair to either side to go in on terms. Upset at the effort of some of the players I made wholesale changes at half time Collins replaced Strong, Brodie came on for Foster and Harris replaced Rapley and a more attacking mindset was adopted. Reward came on 58 minutes when Stamp ran the length of the half only to blast the ball against the bar from a tight angle but Brodie was there to knock the rebound into an empty net. Chester were easily the better side in the second half and were well worth their win. Steve Brodie was named man-of-the-match despite only playing 45 minutes. Darryn Stamp for one, can count himself unlucky not to get that accolade, Chester rise to third in the table behind Morecambe and level on points with Shrewsbury.

Wednesday 17th September 2003

Good news greeted me when I reached my office this morning Darryl Clare, the club's most valuable player, out since before the start of the season with injury was back in full training. This was good news for Chester indeed.

Chester 2-0 Dagenham & Redbridge

Conference Saturday 20th September 2003

Clare would start on the bench for this one. Chester got the early goal, with Brodie knocking the ball in off the post after a pass from the selfless Darryn Stamp who had been put in from a through ball by Twiss. This is as good as it got in the first half with Chester managing no more chances and the Daggers only producing on of their own that McCaldon saved easily. After more of the same for the first 15 minutes of the second period I decided to make a change bringing Clare on for Brodie on 61 minutes. Within four minutes Clare had created the second goal, controlling the ball in the center circle and setting Ben Davies free with an exquisite pass, Davies running on to shoot from the edge of the box into the net. A good goal but this was the high point of an otherwise dull half. Both sides managed more in the second half than the first but it was Chester who ran out worth winners. Jamie Heard got man-of-the-match for an outstanding display at the back. Chester climb to second, still a point behind Morecambe but are now the only unbeaten team in the division.

Chester 0-0 Stevenage

Conference Tuesday 23rd September 2003

A dour first half, notable only for the injury to Stevenage net minder Perez on 20 minutes. Chester however failed to really test his replacement, Phil Smith a recent purchase from Margete. Clare was brought on at half time to try and inject something into the game. The introduction of Clare however did little to improve a poor game, chances remained few and far between. Even the introduction of Danny Collins in a midfield role for Twiss failed to spark anything, although Collins did play particularly well. Nil-Nil the final score, and all-in-all a fair result. Gary Bowman was once more named man-of-the-match. Despite the poorness of the game Chester do go top, as Morecambe lose 3-0 at home to Forest Green.

Shrewsbury 0 3 Chester

Conference Saturday 27th September 2003

An entertaining first half with both sides creating, and wasting, several good chances. Former Chester loan star Sam Aiston was the star for Shrewsbury whilst Ben Davies kept things ticking over for City. The Shrews were unlucky that Aiston had to go off injured at half time, whilst for Chester Clare replaced Brodie, who had picked up a slight knock, and replaced Rapley, who had a poor first half with Andy Harris. The second half was as bright as the first with chances evenly distributed until the 74th minute. There then followed a five minute, three goal spell in which Chester took control of the game. The first came from a Clare knock-down for Stamp, a thorugh ball that set Stamp away from the defence, and into the box where he beat a hesitant goalkeeper to the ball, and scored emphatically in the bottom right corner. Three minutes later on 76 minutes it was two. A superb, defence splitting pass by Davies sent Michael Twiss away. Twiss took the ball to the edge of the box where his powerful shot was too much for Scott Howie in the Shrewsbury goal. Howie will undoubtedly be unhappy with that effort. And it got worse for Shrewsbury just a minute later when a Paul Carden corner caused chaos in the Shrew's box.In the ensueing melee Jamie Heard knocked the ball goalwards only to see Martin O'Conner divert the ball past the hapless Howie and into his own net. The drama wasn't over yet with Shrewsbury's centre back Drysdale being sent off for dissent, his second yellow, and Stamp limping off the field in the final minute with what looks like a nasty injury. All-in-all a desrved Chester victory, although not possibly by that margin. The injured Stamp was named man of the match, and Chester stay on top level on points with Morecambe.

Joe Hinnigan's physio's report made better reading than I'd hoped Stamp would only be out three days with a damaged shoulder, and Brodie's knock had cleared up overnight and wasn't of any concern. Meanwhile chairman Stephen Vaughan let it be known to the press that he was "extremly pleased" with the Shrewsbury result. It was also nice to get wider recognition when I was named Conference Manager of the Month for September. Which was nice.

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Chester Evening Leader

Told You So!

Harry Hackmeister's Irritatingly Large Column of Football

Chester manager, Ray Kinsale, has been awarded the Conference Manager of The Month for September. Well , I, for one, never doubted for a second the ability of this young up and coming manager. With four wins and a draw in the month the award cannot have come as a surprise to anyone, and the table topping position is no more than the team deserves.

I hate to blow my own trumpet, well, I don't actually, but never mind. But, didn't I tell you so, well, didn't I. As I've said before Kinsale is quite clearly the man for Chester.

c2003 Harry Hackmeister

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Chester Chronicle

Evening Leader writer Hackmeister rushed to secure unit

In a shock move today Harry Hackmeister, the Chester Evening Leader's Chester City correspondant was carted off, kicking and screaming, to a secure unit on the Bumper's Lane industrial estate, ostensiably for the crime of spouting sycophantic rubbish. This writer, for one, couldn't have thought of a nicer bloke for it to happen to.

Jeremy Journo, Staff writer

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Chester 1-0 Farnborough

Conference Saturday 4th October 2003

Daryl Clare was brought in for his first start of the season in place of Brodie. Unfortunately the play in the first period did not bear out that decision, with neither side producing football of any real quality. Farnborough managed no chances at all in the half and Chester only had three, all off target. Stamp managing to put the ball well wide when in good positions on two occasions. Rapley had to come off after picking up a worrying knock after only 26 minutes of play. Andy Harris came on in his place. The second half was a far more lively affair with Chester getting to grips with the deep lying Farnborough defence. The first significant action of the second period didn't come until the 58th minute when after good work on the left by Bowman and Twiss, Paul Carden hit the ball from the edge of the box. the ball took a slight deflection off Hillyer on the way past and eluded the goalkeeper. 1-0. This was the scoreline it was to stay for the rest of the match with Chester carving out, and wasting, several more opportunites. The match winner Carden had to come off near the end with an injury that will require the further attention of the physio. I await Big Joe's physio report in the morning with some trepidation. Carden was named man-of-the-match, and rightly so, for he was at the heart of everyting good that Chester did in the entire game. Despite the win Chester slip back to second, being overtaken on goal difference by Morecambe.

The good news is that neither injury turned out to be serious, both Carden and Rapley should be back in training well in time for the next game.

On the following Saturday England fought out a 0-0 draw in Turkey, but could only manage 2nd place in their Euro Champs Qualifying group, following a poor draw in Macedonia earlier in the campaign.

Meanwhile Chester are drawn away to second division Chesterfield in the first round of the Vans trophy.

But there was better news in the draw for the 4th Qualifying ropund of the FA Cup. Chester were drawn at home against a lower league team, in the form of Croydon.

Northwich Vics 2-1 Chester

Conference Saturday 18th October 2003

Although Chester started off the local derby the brighter of the two teams, with the better of the early chances it was Northwich who scored first. Crawford latching onto a clearnce and taking it away from Strong and hammering it past McCaldon and into the far corner of the net, the score coming in the 15th minute. Chester equalised in 26 minutes when Stamp headed home a routine corner by Carden. Chester then exterted the lion's share of the possesion, but whilst there wasn't equity in the shot count at the end of the first half, the goals tally was to remain even. The second half continued in the same vein, with Chester wasting chance upon chance, with finishing from the Jonny Wilkinson school of knocking the ball over the bar. Indeed it was the Vics who got the winner in the mid-Cheshire derby with a very well worked move which culminated in Ward shooting past McCaldon, who can't have been happy with his performace. Chester huffed and puffed towards the end, but never looked like equalising for the second time. All-in-all a very disappointing way to lose your unbeaten record. Vics goalie Andy Woods is unsurprisingly named man-of-the-match. Chester drop to third in the table.

Chesterfield 2-0 Chester

Vans Trophy 1st Rnd North Wednesday 22nd October 2003

Chester were certainly not overawed by their visit to second division Chesterfield, having the better of the exchanges in a scoreless first half, Chester's best moment being a shot from the edge of the box by Darryl Clare that whistled past the post. At the other end McCaldon made a decent save to keep out a long range effort by the veteran Paul Warhurst. All-in-all a balanced first period. At the half I tok off Gary Bowman[/b} who was not at his best and replaced him with Andy Harris with Kevin Rapley switching to the left side. It was Chesterfield, however, who came out fighting after the break, clearly fired up by their half-time team talk they had scored within the first five minutes of the restart; Mark Hudson firing in from close range after McCaldon had parried a Kevin Dawson shot. Chester tried hard following this, but from here on there was only going to be one winner, and Chesterfield added to their tally on 73 minutes when Gareth Davies headed home a Stuart Howson cross unchallenged. Chester ended the game with only three of seven attempts on target (compared to five of eight for Chesterfield) something that I think we'll have to look at in training. Man-of-the-match wa Chesterfield's Kevin Dawson who was commanding at the back. As they say, a good chance for us to concentarte on the league.

Chester 4-0 Croydon

FA Cup 4th Qualifying Rnd Saturday 25th October

Chester sped into a two goal lead early on in this game. the first came from Darryl Clare, his first goal of the season, a through ball from Carden was smashed past the Croydon keeper by Clare from the edge of the box. Only five minutes gone. On 9 minutes Chester made it two-nil. A Michael Twiss free kick on the edge of the box was deflected onto a post by the wall, where Paul Carden was first to the rebound to knock it into the gaping net. After such a whirlwind start Croydon did well to get a grip back on the game and the rest of the half degenretaed into a bitty midfield contest. Chester had a Stamp header well saved late on, but that was about the only highlight from the last 35 minutes of the half. Chester doubled their advantage in the second half, but had to wait until the hour mark for the third goal. Darryl Clare was the scorer, his second of the match, the goal coming when Clare intercepted a suicidal pass across his own box by the Croydon right back, leaving Clare a simple task to put the ball into the net. The fourth, and final, goal came on 73 minutes. Greg Strong's powerful header from a Paul Carden corner was bravely parried by the Croydon keeper, but only into the path of Jamie Heard who steered the rebound into the empty net for his first goal for the club. Chester had further chances to extend their lead but squandered them all. The game finishing a convincing 4-0 to Chester. Darryl Clare was named man-of-the-match for his two goal blast. Wayne Brown selected in goal for the game ahead of Ian McCaldon, folowing a couple of poor displays by the Scottish net minder, picked up a shoulder injury that would keep him out for a week.

Chester were drawn at home again for the first round proper, Fellow conference team Barnet will be the opposition.

At the end of the month Dave Cameron returned from his loan at Halifax, a few games in the reserves should see him back to fitness.

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Chester Chronicle

Where have all the matches gone ?

Jereny Journo's quiet pitchside chat

A whole month gone, and only two league games ?, what's going on ? I get this gig and there's nothing to report on. I was trained at RADA you know. And yes I do know it's not for journalists but don't anyone ever try and tell me I'm not a drama queen.

Oh yes, football. Chester won one in the league, lost their first game in the league, lost in the tinpot Vans trophy and are through to the first round of the proper cup. That about sums this month up.

Do I get this gig full time ?

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Memo from the Owner of Chronicle Group Newspapers

To : Editors, Chester Chronicle, Chester Evening Leader

Quite frankly, lads I'm a bit disturbed by the reporting on Chester City over recent months, can we look at re-instating Harry Hackmeister ?


Sir Barrington Smythers-Hackmeister III

Owner, Chronicle Group

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Chester 2-1 Exeter

Conference Saturday 1st November 2003

A lively opening period of much endeavour and few clear-cut chances was the order of the day in the first half here. Exeter succeded in breaking up most of Chester's good work, without creating much themseleves. The half looked to be heading towards a goalless conclusion when Ben Davies broke down the right wing, carried the ball half the length of the pitch only to get cut down as he cut inside the full back after feinting a pull back as he reached the byline. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Darryl Clare, who put the ball to the keeper's left and into the corner of the net. 1-0 in injury time in the first. Exeter came right back into the match in the second half, exhibiting a far more positive attitude than in the first. Their efforts were rewarded on 80 minutes when Reiner Moore shot from a tight angle past a badly positioned Ian McCaldon. The lead did not last long, however, as Chester redoubled their efforts and were rewarded with a goal in the 83rd minute. A Paul Carden corner was headed back across the face of goal by Jamie Heard where it was met by Sergei Baltacha, who gratefully buried the ball into the roof of the net. Chester held on until the final whistle with some ease for a slightly undeserved two-one win. Kevin Rapley was named man-of-the-match. Chester rise to second in the table of the back of this, behind Aldershot on goal difference, with Morecambe, having lost again, dropping to third.

Scarborough 1-3 Chester

Conference Tuesday 4th November 2003

Scarborough stunned Chester with a goal in the first two minutes Quayle crossing for Quigley to head home. This set the tone for the first half which Scarborough dominated, Chester being strangely out of sorts in midfield, especially. It was only a couple of good saves from McCaldon that kept Chester in it at this stage. Going forward the Blues didn't get a single shot on target. In an attempt to get things sorted I took off Bowman and Carden at half time, replacing them with Ruffer and Harris. Chester turned the game round in the second half, having been told, by myself, to pull their finger out ! We switched to a more attacking style of play and it soon brought rewards. On 50 minutes Stamp taking the ball round the keeper after Rapley, from the centre circle, had found Clare, up the middle, who then flicked the ball for Stamp to pick up on the edge of the box and take it past the keeper. The second came on 55, and it was the ever more impressive Clare who scored it. Andy Harris met a keeper's clearance in the centre circle with a powerful header that sent Clare clear of the defence, who then rifled a 20 yard shot into the top right hand corner for a spectacular goal. Chester completed the scoring on 68 minutes, Clare breaking from the half way line again had his shot from the edge of the box parried this time only for Twiss, who was following up, to have the simple task of knocking the ball into the empty net. A very impressive second half display by Chester. Unsurprisingly Clare was named man-of-the-match for his one goal, two assists performance. Chester go back to the top on the back of this performance as Aldershot can only draw at struggling Northwich.

Gary Bowman picked up a calf strain in the match and will be out for three weeks.

Chester 1-0 Barnet

FA cup 1st Round Saturday 8th November 2003

A good first half for Chester, punctuated early on by a 5th minute Jamie Heard goal, headed in from a Paul Carden corner. For the rest of the half Chester barely raised a sweat against a lacklustre Barnet side. Chances came and went, but Chester failed to add to their early score and went in at the half, one-nil up. Barnet came right back into the game in the second half and put Chester under considerable pressure. However they couldn't manage a breakthorugh and the score remained 1-0. Chester managed a couple more chances late on Stamp being guilty of shooting straight at the keeper when he really should have scored, but 1-0 it stayed. Chester are through to Round Two.

Kevin Rapley, filling in on the left for the injured Bowman was named man-of-the-match. Let's hope for a home draw in the next round.

I took another dip into the transfer market, with regard to our lesser goal difference than our rivals, and signed Stoke's Ryan Hutchinson on a three month loan. Hutchinson F LC is a forward who has been knocking them in for fun in Stoke's reserves, but is deemed surplus to requirements by the Potters. I'm looking for him to add some goals, initially from the bench.

In the FA Cup second round draw Chester were drawn at home against either Rochdale or Bury, both sides in the third division.

In European play-off action England sailed past Slovenia to get to the championships in Portugal. They'll be joined by Scotland who secured their win over two legs with an impressive 3-2 away win in Norway. Wales were out of luck though as a poor perfomace in a 1-3 home defeat to Bulgaria undid all their good work in the first leg.

Bury secured their place in the second round of the FA Cup with a 5-4 penalties victory after a 1-1 draw with 'Dale. They now come to the Deva stadium on December 6th. Meanwhile Morecambe provided the shock of the round dumping second division Tranmere out on penalties in their replay.

Chester 1-1 Halifax

Conference 22nd November 2003

A poor first half, with much endeavour from both sides, but not too much in the way of application. Chester managed only three shots, none of them on target, despite me asking them to play with a more attacking mentality than would be the norm. Halifax manged the only goal of the half, a Mallon penalty awarded after Strong was adjuded to have fouled the Halifax forward in the area. At half time I withdrew Darryl Clare, who was having a bit of a 'mare and replaced him with new signing Hutchinson, switching Stamp to the right side. Chester equalised within four minutes of the restart, and what a goal it was. Heard took the ball on the right form a Harris throw just inside the Halifax half. He then played an inch perfct cross field ball to Rapley who knocked it in, first time to Carden on the edge of the 'D'.Carden then put the ball, first time, into the path of Twiss who was bursting into the left side of the box. Twiss took it on a stride and blasted a shot across the face of the goalkeeper and into the bottom right corner of the net 1-1. After such excitent very little could live up to that Hutchinson did well on his debut without ever setting the world on fire and young Adam Hunter got an outing late on, but couldn't make much of a difference. No further goals, a draw a fair result. Ryan Mallon of Halifax was named man-of-the-match. Chester dropped to second, behind Aldershot once more, on the back of this result.

Barnet 1-0 Chester

Conference Tuesday 25th November 2003

Bowman returned to the side after injury for this one, Harris dropping to the bench with Rapley reverting to the right wing back slot. Barnet scored first in the match after only 10 minutes, and it was a litany of bad defending that let them do it. During the move Clare, Davies, Rapley, Heard and Strong all failed to close down the Barnet players allowing them the freedom of the park to play in. Don't think I've left anyone out. Anyway a long pass down the left wing found Strevens in acres of space, and he was given time to cross, finding Micheal Harper who was given all the time he needed to bring the ball down, turn and shoot past the onrushing McCaldon. In the rest of the first half Chester failed to make an impression, and the score remained 1-0 at the half. I took the very dissapointing Clare and Rapley off at half time. Their replacements, Hutchinson and Harris both played better, but fared little better in the second half. Chester huffed and puffed and mad a couple of very presentable chances which Stamp and then Twiss proceeded to miss. Meanwhile McCaldon, on his own mainly, performed well to deny The Bees a second. the game finished 1-0 to Barnet, a thoroughly poor performance from City.

Gary Bowman was named man-of-the-match on his return from injury, other than McCaldon he was the only player to emerge from this game with any credit at all. Chester drop to third. Disappointed.

During the week I obviously had reason to think long and hard about the previous two or three games. Convincing? we hadn't been that at all and so a tactical rethink was on the cards. I asked Steve Bleasdale to start teaching the lads at training about the 3-5-2 system that Valencia play, only a couple of changes from our old formation with the wing backs pushing up to be convetional wide midfielders and the centre of the three midfielders dropping back into a holding role. We'll try it out on Saturday against Tamworth, fourth from bottom of the conference, with the game at home, what could be a better time to experiment ?

Chester 1-0 Tamworth

Conference Staurday 29th November 2003

The expeiment with the new tactics worked very well in the first half of this game, despite having no width at the back the addition of a holding midfielder meant that cover was always available and Tamworth, for a fair amount of hearty endeavour produced no shots in the entire half. Chester on the other hand looked inventive coming forward. I'd put Twiss out on the left (with Bowman in the centre and Ben Davies as the man 'in the hole') where he was a revalation, he made Chester's two best chances of the half, neither of which were taken, one a cross on the run that Stamp crashed against the upright and the otehr a delightful through ball from which only a desperate saving challange could prevent Davies from scoring. But a goal did come, on 21 minutes, and in a surprisingly routine way Rapley heading home a Paul Carden corner. It was Kevin Rapley's first goal of the season. The second half was more of the same with Chester palying well but squandering the chances that came their way. They did have a goal disallowed at the end when Bowman struck a sweet volley from outside the box, wheeling away to celebrate only to see the linesman's flag, presumably raised for offside against Stamp who, to my mind, wasn't interfering with play. Tamworth had their own problems with officialdom, with Armand One being sent off for abuse of the ref for a second yellow card, seconds after getting the first one for diving. All-in-all a far easier win than the final 1-0 would suggest Rapley was named man-of-the-match, although both Twiss and Carden must have run him close. Chester stay in third as the teams above us, Aldershot and Morecambe, both won also.

Aldershot manager Terry Brown deservedly picked up the manager-of-the-month trophy. The board did report that they are pleased with the club's progress, however.

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Many thanks for the kind words displaced_seagull. I've got to say, in a quite possibly sycophantic type way that it was reading your Chester story that got me interested in doing this in the first place.

All I've got to do now is get a bit better a developing the journo bits....

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Chester Chronicle

Chronicle journalist hospitalised in freak reporting accident

It is with sad regret that The Chronicle Group of newspapaers has to announce the hospitalisation, with serious injuries, of the promising Chronicle journalist Jeremy Journo. Jeremy was injured whilst covering the England Rugby World Cup Winners parade through the streets of London today. It is not clear what happened, but witnesses report seeing Journo fall under a police horse after waving a bottle of Gin in the air and shouting 'I'm Henery the Eighth , I am' and falling over backwards, under the horse. Foul play is not suspected.

It is not clear who will do this month's monthly report on Chester City's progress, with Journo's arch rival and Evening Leader journalist Harry Hackmeister still being held,as far as we know, against his will in a secure institution. Who will write the report ? Will there be a report ?

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Chester Evening Leader

Discraced journalist 'escapes' from secure unit

In a dramatic overnight development it is reported that discraced Evening Leader journalist, Harry Hackmeister, has escaped from his secure unit, a lock up on the Bumper's Land industrial estate. Complicity in the escape by persons unknown cannot be ruled out, as the padlock was quite clearly removed from the outside whilst the guards were all watching coverage of the World Cup Victory parade on the telly.

Hackmeister is now on the run.

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Memo from the Owner, Chronicle Group Newspapers

To: Editors, Chester Evening Leader, Chester Chronicle

Seems like we'll need a stand in to do the monthly report. I used to be a sports reporter, so use this....

It's not like it was in my day !

The improbably ponderings of Sir Barrington Smythers-Hackmeister III

It really isn't like it was in my day. When I was just a junior sports reporter on this paper Chester were a team in the old Fourth division a team with a proud record. That record was, of course, that they were the only team never to have been promoted or relegated. That was until 1974/75 when they were promoted to Division Three on goal average, whatever that was, I don't think I understood that even then. Incedentally 1974 was the year that the town bye-law about beheading Welshmen found within the city walls after the hours of darkness was repealled. Not that we ever did, mind, but it was a nice one to have in the armoury.

Anyway where was I, Oh yes the month just gone. Quite impressive, other than the abject surrender against Barnet in the league, and after we'd beaten them in the cup too. But third in the league is a good position to start making a run for the title, if they can hold it together next month then we're set fair for promotion back where we belong in the league. If Kinsale can manage that then we'll see to it that he gets the freedom of the city.

Come on you blues !

Sir Barrington Smythers-Hackmeister III


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Chester 0-1 Bury

FA Cup 2nd Round Saturday 6th December 2003

I decided to stick with the 'Valencia' formation for the cup tie against the side from the higher division, Bury. and, indeed, Chester had by far the best of the opening period limiting Bury to a single corner. Meanwhile The Blues couldn't break the deadlock themselves, Stamp firing wide when well placed and Carden trying a long range effort that, in realty, had little hope of beating Garner in the Bury net.Clare looks to have picked up a knock, but I decided to stick with him, at least for the start of the second half. It was very much the same story in the second half with Chester not taking the chances that came their way, and this came back to haunt them when on 71 minutes a O'Shaughnessy free kick was put in at close range by Ben Thornley. It was to prove to be Bury's only shot of the entire match, but Chester fell away after this and produced no real clear cut chances to level the game. It finished 1-0 to Bury, but what frustrated me most was the apparant inability of my wide men to get crosses in, Stamp is good in the air but he was never given the chance to prove it. Thornley was man-of-the-match for his decisive contribution to the game, and Chester are out of the cup...

In cup shocks Stevenage and Exeter of the Conference beat league sides to progress to the third round whilst Morecambe and Telford get second round replays.

Burton 6-2 Chester

Conference Saturday 13th December 2003

No change in the formattion for this one, it would be interesting to see how it coped in away games. Not well, was the answer. A disaterous opening quarter saw Chester three down within 16 minutes. Some shocking defending to blame, in addition to some tactical naievity on my part saw us two goals down by the 7th minute both came from wide areas, the first Ducros crossing for Talbot to head home unmarked on 3. On 7, it was two Ducros cutting in from the left after a 50 yard pass from Kelley and bautifully chipping McCaldon from the edge of the box as the big Scotsman came out. It was three on 16 minutes when Ben Davies was harshly, in my view, adjudged to have fouled Ducros in the box at a corner. Talbot made no mistake from the spot for his second of the game. Chester regrouped somewhat after that and pulled one back afetr 43 when Clare put in Stamp with an exquisite flick into space. Stamp made no mistake from the edge of the box. Leaving Chester 3-1 down at half time, but with a glimmer of hope. A hope that didn't last a minute as Burton made it four on 46 minutes when Webster was allowed a free header in the six yard box to score. Four became five on 51 when Talbot completed his hatrick, to be honest can't remember how this one was scored, it all became a bit of a blur at this point. Chester made it 5-2 on 59 when Clare knocked in a Stamp cross at the second attempt. Burton still had time for one more Chettle heading home a corner on 80 minutes. Talbot was named man-of-the-match for his three goal haul. Chester drop to fourth.

A humbling loss then, but not one that I'm going to blame entirely on the system. yes the first two goals were due to allowing Burton too much width, but thereafter it was just poor defending that cost us. For example why was there no man on the post for Chettle's goal ? A man there would have surely kept it out. If you bear in mind that Chester had seven shots on target for two goals the statistic that Burton had six goals for their nine shots on target kind of implies that we plain just didn't do well enough defensively. There'll be changes before the next game, mark my words.

As a reaction to this loss I went out and got Ben Stevens a right winger on loan for 3 months from Glasgow Rangers.

Chester had no mid-week game due to Morecambe's cup replay, but due to other results we fell to fifth in the table.

Accrington 1-3 Chester

Conference Saturday 20th December 2003

Not the start we wanted really. Accrington scored in the first minute. We'd made a number of changes to the defence since the last game, but it was the one survivor Baltacha at fault here. He didn't close down Justin Jackson allowing him to shoot, and then allowing him to knock in the rebound after Wayne Brown bravely parried the first effort. Amazingly enough things looked up after that, especially when on 5 minutes Stanley's biggest threat, Jackson was sent off for taking a swing at Bolland right in front of the referee. Chester had the upper hand from here on and equalised through Clare who knocked home a perfectly weighted Michael Twiss cross on 23 minutes. Truth be told Chester should have gone in at the break ahead but poor finishing let them down on more than one occasion. It remained 1-1 at half time. Chester pressed home their man advantage in the second going at Accrington from the off. It only took six minutes to get another; a fine turn and shot in the box from Stamp after a Paul Carden corner had been half cleared. It became three-one on 73 minutes, nice play by Clare setting Stamp clear on a one-on-one with the goalie. Stamp took it round the netminder with style and sidefooted the ball into the empty net. It was, a devastating counter attack. Chester dominated the game and broke clear of the Accrington defence many more times as the Lancastrains pressed forward on an attempt to get back into the match. more chances and more misses followed with young debutant Ben Stevens, who had an excellent game on the right, being a notable culprit near the end. An easy enough win, Darryn Stamp was named man-of-the-match and Chester regained fourth spot in the Conference.

Chester 2-2 Morecambe

Conference Tuesday 23rd December 2003

Festive spirit pretty much in evidence from Chester's back line in the first half of this rearranged game, vertiably a game of "two halves". Morecambe were two up by the break, both scored by the impressive Nick Rogan the first from a Leki Odunsi cross and the second from a run following a through ball by Dean Howell. Morecambe deserved to be in front at the break. There was the festive sound of smashing tea-cups in our dressing room at half time. I took off Brown, at fault for the second goal, Clare and young Stevens and replaced them with McCaldon,Rapley and Hutchinson. The second half was a different affair, and it was all Chester. The Blues got one back on 48 when Stamp headed home an accurate Twiss cross. Morecambe then failed to help themsleves by having not one, but two, players sent off, Thompson for elbowing on 53 and Lane on 65 for a very crude challenge. Both were trying to put Twiss out of the game and how they must rue failure as Twiss got the equaliser on 69 after sub Rapley got to the byline and pulled it across the face of goal. Try as they might Chester couldn't secure a winner. Mawson was outstanding in the Morecambe goal but the main problem was lack of accuracy. Chester had 15 shots in the game, only six of them on target. Morecambe managed 5 shots with just two on target. Rogan was justifiably named man-of-the-match, meanwhile Chester reclaim third spot in the league.

The bad news is Twiss pulled a hamstring near the end of the game and will be out a week. Not good timing with the Christmas weekend coming up.

Telford 0-0 Chester

Conference Friday 26th December 2003

Only one change from Tuesday's game, other than the change neccesitiated by the injury to Twiss, Rapley coming in, despite the players looking a little tired. Phil Bolland came in for Carl Ruffer, who was looking the most tired of any of them, but I figured that if we are to get this system to work then chopping and changing the defence each game probably isn't going to help.

A dour first half, typical of Boxing Day fixtures, really. A half of much half graft but not much skill and very few clear cut chances. The only really good chance came in first half injury time when Brown saved point blank from Mils after good build up play from Telford, with Carden gratefully hacking the ball clear. A worrying note for City was that Baltacha had to come off on 33 minutes after picking up a knock. Young Paul Connolly, getting a flavour of first team life on the bench, was thrown on as his replacement, a bit early in the game for my liking, but let's see how the lad copes with it. He slots into the left side of the back three with Collins moving to the centre. Chester were brighter in the second half but the game wasn't really any better. Chester managed a couple of long range shots, on target but easily taken by Chris MacKenzie in the Telford goal. Foster who I'd brought on for the dissapointing (again) Clare was himself injured in a heavy challenge. Looks like Joe Hinnigan, the physio, is going to be a busy man tomorrow. 0-0 was, unfortunately, a fair result, neither team offering anything much to the 2567 fans at The Buck's Head, who braved the December weather for this traditional fixture. Matt Clarke the Telford right back, was named man-of-the-match. Meanwhile Chester stay third, but at the top Aldershot have opened up a gap of 8 points.

The injuries weren't as bad as they first looked, Baltacha would be out a couple of days with a wrist injury, but other than that a clean bill of health.

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The weblog of Hackmeister.net

Hi, Harry Hackmeister here, reporting to you from my hideaway deep in the heart of suburban Chester. they thought they could silence me, but here I am, escaped, and reporting.....

And don't they need me, what a bad month that was for Chester, only one win. Two draws, out of the cup and that thrashing at Burton. What is Kinsale thinking of if he thinks he can get a bunch of conference level footballers to play a continental formation. I've said it many times before, Kinsale is a man out of his depth, he best start paddling, or it could all go wrong for Chester this year.

The original Harry Hackmeister c 2003

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I was in the Albion Arms having a quiet pint, musing on the New Year's Day game at Aldershot, who were league leaders by a distance.

From my spot at the bar where I was reading Hackmeister's latest missive, I could see that he was right. Or was he ? did I have the courage of my convictions ? could these boys master the tactics ? More importantly could I get this club promotion ?

As a drained the last of my pint of Greenall's the answer came to me. Yes, I could get this team promoted, and what's more I would.

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On the moring of the New Year's Day game the previous year's awards were announced. Real Madrid's Roberto Carlos won World Player of the Year ahead of Javier Zanetti and Jan Koller, whilst Raul, also of Real Madrid, won the World Footballer of the Year (what's the difference ?), Tomas Rosicky was second and Rio Ferdinand third in this one.

Meanwhile Thierry Henry was crowned European Footballer of The Year with Gary Neville(are they joking ?) second and Dede third.

Stevenage Borough's Graham Westley won Conference manager of the month for December. Meanwhile Nick Rogan's second goal for Morecambe against Chester is placed third on the Conference goal of the month contest.

Aldershot 1-0 Chester

Conference Thursday 1st January 2004

What could be nicer for New year's Day, a trip away to the runaway leaders of the division. A game we probably have to win if we're going to catch Aldershot. It was good, therefore to see Baltacha fit to start and raring to go. Twiss was still injured, so this wasn't going to be our strongest team, but it would be close to it. I did make the decision to drop Darryl Clare to the bench, after his recent poor run of form, and replaced him with Steve Brodie. Rashness or Masterstroke ? The game would tell all.

It was all Aldershot in the first half, but they couldn't break the deadlock with Wayne Brown in good form. What was surprising was the way in which the Chester defenders stepped under high balls so often, refused simple passes to play the ball out instead and generally play in a way that invited Aldershot on to them. A quite embarrasing result for the coder's at SI, making this the most unrealistic half of football seen yet on the 2-d game represenatation. I decided to replace Steve Brodie at half time, Darryl Clare coming on. Brodie didn't do alot wrong, he just didn't do very much of anything. Chester at least managed a shot in the second half but couldn't score, Aldershot kept the pressure on but could only break the deadlock once. Rocco D'Sane, who had a fine match, vollying home acorss the face of the goalkeeper after a cross from Tim Sills was inexplicably allowed to pass across the face of the box unmolested. 1-0 was the final score, a disappointing result, but not surprising given the pressure that Aldershot had. D'Sane was man-of-the-match and Chester drop to fifth after the game.

Chester have been drawn away to lower league opposition in the third round of the FA Trophy, at Hitchin.

A day off on Saturday 3rd Jan 2004 as the Third round of the FA Cup goes ahead, traditionally a day of shocks and upsets, but sadly without us in it this year. Is this an indication of the way the season is going ?

In the cup Chester's conquerers in the second round, Bury, are roundly thumped 4-0 at home by Premiership Everton. Three premiership sides crash out against lower opposition, Charlton lose at home to first division Wigan, 3-1 the score. Leeds go down by the smae scoreline at home to second dvision QPR. But the plaudits of the round go to Conference side Exeter who win 3-1 at home to premiership Birmingham. The other conference team in the third round also makes it through to the fourth with a fine win. This time it's traditional giant-killers Stevenage who beat first divison Gillingham 3-0 at Broadhall Way.

Chester 1-1 Leigh RMI

Conference Tuesday 6th January 2004

I'm looking for the lads to bounce back with a good performance against Leigh RMI, they're mid table, so it won't be walkover, but we have to start performing soon. Clare returns to the team, let's hope he feels he has something to prove to me now. Twiss reported for training only this morning and lacks a bit of match sharpness, so he starts on the bench tonight. I'm rewarded with exactly the kind of performance that I was looking for with Chester more than on top in an open and exciting first half. There was only one goal and that came to Chester in first half injury time when Stamp headed home the rebound after his first effort, a header from a Paul Carden corner was blocked on the line. Stamp had missed a few in the first half, but it was nice to see him get one here, his 10th goal of the season. Whilst Chester had the best of the first half Leigh were certainly not bystanders to the action, they managed only two efforts on goal, but got them both on target, but Brown dealt with both very safely. The second half started in the same vein with Chester piling forward wasting chance after chance. If you are only one goal up you have to defend well, and Chester failed to do that on 74 minutes when they only half cleared a corner , the ball came back in and Rae was there to poke the ball home from close range. After Clare was booked I brought Twiss on in a forward's role to replace him, he did well, but couldn't alter the scoreline and the game finished 1-1. Ian Martin in the Leigh goal was named man-of-the-match for his heroics. Chester climb a spot to fourth.

After the game [b}Joe Hinnigan[/b] reports that he thinks that Stamp needs a rest. With the FA trophy on Saturday ? a plan is starting to form.

On the Thursday morning before the Hitchin game Phil Bolland pulls a hamstring in training, two weeks off for him.

Hitchin 0-1 Chester

FA Trophy 3rd Round Saturday 10th January 2004

Ruffer came in for the injured Bolland and Stamp was given a rest, with Twiss deputising up front. Give him all full game up top, see how he does...

I've no idea what they were playing at in the first half. Chester had all the play, all the attacks but only managed to hit the target twice in ten attempts. Some appalling afforts were made in this half. Paul Carden paid the penalty for being the worst of a bad bunch. I took him off to be replaced by Harris. A bad attitude all round to the game was evidenced by the fact that Davies, Rapley and Collins were all booked in the first half, the first two for dissent, and against a team that didnt mount a serious attack all half ! Buck up their ideas in the second half ? No chance, it was just a repeat of the first. The game ended with Chester having 15 shots but only 6 of them were on target, Hitchin didn't manage one in the whole game. A single goal did come Man-of-The-Match Sergei Baltacha heading a long Andy Harris throw goalwards, where it took a wicked deflection off a Hitchin defender stranding the goalie. Typical of the entire game. It finshed 1-0, and Chester progess to the next round, but some improvement is required, and soon.

Chester draw another away tie in the 4th round of the trophy, away to Runcorn, a local derby.

Gravesend 1-2 Chester

Conference Wedenesday 14th January 2004

A dull and boring first half. Gravesend scored with the last action of the first half when Perkins rose above three Chester defenders to head the ball into the net past Brown who for reason's best known to SI's programmers hadn't bothered to track the ball across the face of his goal. A bit of a shocker. Chester got back into the game after the break, playing some attractive football. They were rewarded on 73 when Collins played a delicate through ball to Twiss who'd got free in the area. Twiss making no mistake from close range for his fifth goal of the season. More was to follow, on 83 minutes when Collins played a long free kick down the right. {B]Rapley[/b] collected the ball, rode two challenges and rasped a shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the box, a great goal worthy of winning any match, and that was how it turned out as Chester held on to the end with some ease. Gravesend's Perkins was named man-of-the-match. Chester rise a place to third, but only becuase Dagenham & Redbridge didn't play today.

Chester 3-0 Margate

Conference Saturday 17th January 2004

A home game against high flying Margate (currently 7th in the table). Joe Hinnigan says both Stamp and Davies need a rest. I'll take him up on that putting Clare back in and giving Adam Hunter from the reserves a try. He's been getting rave reviews in the reserves, so let's see what he can do at his level. At last ! A half of football the team can be proud of. Chester controlled this from start to finish, once again the finishing wasn't the best but they did score twice. The first was scored, on 17 minutes by Darryl Clare who was there to knock the ball in from close range when Margate keeper, Alan Julian could only parry a Twiss header. A second was to come 8 minutes later on 25 minutes when Rapley broke to the byline pulled the ball back for Carden on the edge of the box. Carden's shot beat the keeper but cannoned back off the post, straight into Twiss's patch where he sidefooted the ball into the empty net. Chester created more chances as the half wore on, whilst not allowing Margate to create anything. Carden was guilty of missing a couple, but an all round good performance, Chester came in at the half 2-0 up. The second half was more of the same but Chester had to wait until the 79th minute for a third goal. It came when Jamie Heard, restored to the team for the underperforming Ruffer, heaed home a Paul Carden corner for his first senior goal for Chester. A moment that capped a man-of-the-match performance by the young defender. Another notable perfomance came from Adam Hunter, quite clearly not overawed by this opportunity. The win consolidates Chester's position, third in the Conference.

Woking 0-2 Chester

Conference Saturday 24th January 2004

Chester opened up this game the brighter of the two sides and were rewarded with the early goal. Twiss broke free on the left hand side of the box, he slid the ball into the path of Clare who had escaped his marker, Clare kept his cool as he went round the on rushing keeper to put the ball into the empty net. It wasn't all one way traffic as Woking frustrated Chester for much of the remainder of the first half, the game degenerated into a scrap fest, with neither side grabbing the ascendancy. Chester had some more good chances, but failed to take them, the half time score remaining 1-0. It took Chester 46 seconds to extend their lead in the second half. Adam Hunter interecpeted a ball in the Woking half and put Twiss free into the box. Twiss took it on a pace and then hit a powerful drive that the keeper got his hands to but couldn't keep it out. 2-0. Chester kept plugging away but more goals wouldn't come, despite the eight shots they got on target in the entire game. Woking substitute Amos Foweya was sent off near the end for an unsightly incident, which I didn't see. The game faded away into a 2-0 win for City. Darryl Clare was named man-of-the-match. Chester rise to second in the table, now only five points behind Aldershot.

In the fourth round of the FA cup, which took place today, 24th Jan, there were precious few shocks. Exeter, of the conference did gain a replay, drawing 1-1 at home to first divison Rotherham. Stevenage, the other Conference team, crashed out of the cup 3-0 at Leicester.

Chester 4-1 Hereford

Conference Tuesday 27th January 2004

The first half of this game was a good example of why Hereford are languishing at he bottom of the table. Chester didn't play badly, but didn't play exceptionally well either but ended up the first half 3-0 up. This from only 5 efforts, only the three scoring ones on target. Rapley got the first on 9 minutes. Darryl Clare was found on the right wing with a good ball from Collins, his cross was met with a firm header from Rapley which seemed to go through the keeper's hands. On the half hour Baltacha won the ball in the centre circle and then played an inch perfect pass to Twiss. He skipped round a defender, into the box where he squeezed a shot just inside the near post. The third came on 42 minutes and was the culmination of a good move of Chester interplay, the ball finally coming to Twiss who crossed for Clare to slide it home. Hereford weren't kept entirely out of the game but ended the half 3-0 down.

Chester conitnued their good work into the second half and Twiss added his second, and Chester's fourth on 53 minutes, and what a good goal it was. Jamie Heard hit a 40 yard pass to Rapley on the left, who played the ball inside first time to Twiss outside the box. Twiss took one touch and rifled a 25 yard drive into the top left corner. Chester continued to play well after the goal, but didn't get it all their own way. Hereford substitute Kenny Deuchar getting one back on 71 minutes after good work on the left wing by Deas. It proved no more than a consolation though and it was the Hereford defence that was the busier towards the end of the game. An easy win. Kevin Rapley was given the nod for man-of-the-match, but both Twiss and Clare can feel themselves unlucky. Chester hold second place, five points back from Aldershot, but with an ever improving goal difference.

Runcorn FC Halton 0-2 Chester

FA Trophy 4th Round Saturday 31st January 2004

Apparantly Chester are 1-6 on favourites for this game. We'll see, it's a local derby, and looks like it'll be played in a gale, which could level out the playing field a little. On the selection side physio Hinnigan recommends giving Twiss a rest. I am loath to do so guven the form he is in, but we need him more for the league games so I guess it'll be a first start for on-loan Ryan Hutchinson. I'll also give another start to Adam Hunter, but that's more than enough tinkering with the team. Chester got off to a good start in this game and were a goal up after only six minutes. Following up a half cleared corner Jamie Heard had a rasping drive deflected off a Runcorn defender. Clare was first to the ball and slotted home from a tight angle, his 10th of the season. Runcorn then battened down the hatches and dug in for a bit of a fight and the game turned scrappy, typical derby game really. Chester doubled their advantage in the 40th minute with a route one special. Andy Harris put one of his long throws right onto the edge of the six yard box where Jamie Heard rose to head home under considerable pressure. Chester undoubtedly had the better of the half but Runcorn fought all the way and can be credited for keeping Chester down to the three efforts on goal that they had. The slightly disappointing aspect for the Runcorn boss would be that two of those efforts had gone in. 2-0 at the half.

Runcorn kept fighting in the second half, and were unlucky not to get on the score sheet when they put together the move of the match on the hour. Unfortunately the Runcorn striker headed straight at Brown. Chester didn't manage any more shots on target in the game, mainly due to the hard work of the Runcorn defence. The Runcorn captain Butler was sent off for arguing late on. Heard was named man-of-the-match for a one goal, one assist effort. Chester march on in the Trophy.

I was pleased to have been named Manager of the Month for January, to be honest after New Year's Day at Aldershot it seemed a long way off, but the lads have come good and put together a good run of late.

Kevin Rapley was named Conference Player of the Month for January, and he's deserved it, switching to the left obviously suits him.

Michael Twiss's second goal against Hereford, the 25 yarder was named third in the Conference goal of the month.

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Cheers HD, nice of you.

I go off on one against SI coder's in The January update, not that I don't do it in the February update, coming next, either. The whole game just get's a little unbeleiveable at times, doesn't it. The main culprits here, the goalie taking the kickoff, have I mentioned that one yet ? You haven't even seen the Grimsby manager, of the second division, winning the Conference manager of the month award, yet, but believe me, it does happen.

Just wait a couple of monthly updates,........ here comes the next one, February.

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The first news of the month was the FA trophy 5th round draw. Chester got an away trip to Accrington, not quite the draw I would have hoped for.

Chester 0-0 Forest Green

Conference 7th February 2004

A goalless first half, with many of Chester's old failings returning to the fore. Of nine attempts in the half only three were on target and Giangelo in the Forest Green goal wasn't really tested with any of the ones that were on target. The only notable incident of the first half was an injury to Ben Davies with the by now rested Twiss coming on to replace him. At halftime I replaced Clare with Brodie but put Brodie in 'the hole' and pushed Twiss alongside Stamp see of that improves shooting accuracy in the second half..

The half opened on a bizarre note when Chester goalkeeper Wayne Brown took the kick off ! But it proved to be no better in the second half with Forest Green setting their stall out for a draw, and defending well enough to get it. Giangelo only had one 'real' save to make when Brodie shot from the edge of the box. Other than that it was a routine day at the office for the Forest Green netminder. Jamie Heard was injured in the second half. I was disappointed to note that the referee didn't stop the game in either case in this match when a Chester player was forced to leave the field due to injury. Craig Rooney in the Forest Green defence picked up the man-of-the-match award for a sterling display. Chester stay second but fall a little further behind Aldershot.

And the news from the physio's room wasn't good. Ben Davies only picked up a slight knock but Jamie Heard broke his leg and will be out until the start of next season at the earliest. A crushing blow to our defence where he was one of the brightest performers this term.

Gary Bowman also picked up his fifth yellow of the season and will have to sit out the next game.

On the Wedensday loan signing Ryan Hutchinson completed his loan period and returned to Stoke. He'd not really set the world alight in his three months at Chester only racking up one start and six substitute appearances, with an average rating of 6.57 over these games. He'd been a useful addition for these months, but not someone I'll be looking to sign come the suummer.

Dag & Red 2-1 Chester

Conference Saturday 14th February 2004

A trip to Dagenham, third in the table, should be a tester, I thought on the coach down, and indeed, was I right ? The Daggers came out at us, all guns blazing, and played some of the best football anyone's played against us all season. We hardly got a kick. That said, for all their domination they only got two goals. What goals they were, however. On 29 minutes Tony Scully picked up the ball in his own half, ran half the length of the pitch and into the Chester area where he calmly slotted it past Wayne Brown. The second was, if anything, more spectacular. It came on 42 when Marc Anthony interecpted a loose ball form Baltacha and hit it first time, from 30 yards into the top left corner. A great goal. The only question at half time was, who to take off ? Harris had had a poor first half and I replaced him with Ruffer and I replaced Clare with Stamp, given the amount of forward play we had, this might be considered a little harsh, but I felt we had to try and kickstart the game for Chester somehow. It looked for a moment to have worked as Chester pulled one back at the start of the second half when, on 51 minutes, substitute Darryn Stamp burst past one challenge on the edge of the box and the fired an unstopable shot from a narrow angle into the roof of the net. That was, unfortunately, as good as it got for City. If anyone was going to score again it was Dagenham & Redbridge, but another goal didn't come and there was some hope for Chester right to the end, though nothing came of it. A disapointing performance from my boys, but hats off to The Daggers, who were worthy winners. Tony Scully was man of the match, Chester swap places with Dag & Red and drop to third.

I recieved a £35,000 bid from Brentford for Michael Twiss. Insulting.

Chester 2-1 Shrewsbury

Conference Tuesday 17th February 2004

Rapley was suspended for this one, having reached five yellows. Bowman just back off a similar suspension takes his place. In addition I gave Twiss a rest, at Joe Hinnigan's suggestion. An evenly balanced game of football ensued, where Chester scored first, after only six minutes. Danny Collins retrieved an overhit Ban Stevens corner and crossed it back into the middle where Sergei Baltacha rose highest to head home. It was end to end from here on in, and it was Shrewsbury who grabbed an equaliser on 37.Martin O'Connor heading home Sam Aiston's corner for his first goal for The Shrews. The game seemed to be heading towrds half time at 1-1 when a terrible error by former Chester favourite Darren Moss gifted Chester a goal. His wayward backpass was intercepted by Darryl Clare 10 yards out, in the clear, and he doesn't miss from there. 2-1 at half time to Chester City then, but it was a very even game. The second half was a keenly contested as the first but with Shrewsbury beginning to gain the upper hand in terms of chances made. But the equalising goal would not come and 2-1 it stayed. There were a few scares for Chester right at the very end but they held on. Darryl Clare was named man of the match and the win takes Chester back above Dag & Red and into second in the Conference.

Danny Collins picked up a shoulder injury in the game and will be out for two weeks.

Accrington 0-1 Chester

FA Trophy 5th Round Saturday 21st February 2004

Cup football, and a pretty dire first half. Lots of shots from both sides but very few on target, all-in-all a bitty first half with neither side taking control, and neither side troubling either goalie too much. The question was, how to change it at half time ? Ben Davies had a bit of a stinker in the first period so I decided to put young Adam Hunter in his place, the young lad has impressed me when given his chances so I had no hesitation in using him here. I decided to leave the wide areas as was for the time being although it was an area I would be looking at in the second period. The second half was a much more exciting affair, a real cup tie with Brown making excellent saves on at least three occasions to prevent Stanley from scoring. Chester did nick a goal in a goalmouth melee following a Gary Bowman corner, both Stamp and Harris had shots blocked on or near the line but Kevin Rapley had no such problems as he drove the ball in from seven yards out. Chester held on resolutely thereafter in the face of some determined attacking. Brown was again excellent, as was Greg Strong, his best performance for a while. The final whistle came with the score 1-0 to Chester. Wayne Brown got man of the match, again Chester advance to the sixth round.

We get a trcky draw in the sixth round of the FA trophy, the quarter finals, away at Exeter City.

Stevenage 3-1 Chester

Conference Wednesday 25th February 2004

Away at the team fourth in the table this game could have gone one of two ways a sterling perofrmance by the lads or a raving disaster. We went for the disaster option. Stevenage scored within the opening minute, and it just got worse from there. The first came when Bolland failed to cut out a Frost long ball and Justin Skinner shot home from the edge of the box. He took the goal well, and that seemed to set the standard for the game. The second came on 22 minutes when Chester's defence failed to clear a corner and Holt headed the ball home when the cross came back over. It was all Stevenage for the rest of the half, but they couldn't make any more of their advantage. 2-0 at thalf time, then, and was I not best pleased ? I took [b}Baltacha[/b],Harris and Clare off at half time, all three had had terrible halves, not that any of my players (goalkeeper Brown apart) could claim any better. All my ranting at the half failed to have much effect though and Stevenage were three up shortly after the break. On 50 minutes Frost headed home a Holt long throw. He rose unchalleneged, and even Wayne Brown doesn't come out to well of that one. But he did raise his game to keep Stevenage out for the rest of the game. Chester got a consolation goal near the end when Kevin Rapley fired in a loose clearance from the edge of the box, the only high point from an offensive viewpoint. A very dissapointing game, not the form of promotion candidates by any means. Andy Holt picked up the man-of-the-match award. Chester drop to third, although Stevenage are now only a point behind, with a game in hand. Worrying, indeed, harder training this week I think.

Andy Harris declared himself unhappy at being subbed. I warned him, telling him that if I'd have played that badly I'd have been too embarrssed to play on. When the next team is announced, who do you think'll get dropped ?

Exeter 1-1 Chester

Conference Saturday 28th February 2004

Another tricky away game to follow the last debacle. Changes were inevitable after the last performance with Harris,Clare and Baltacha all getting the opportunity to sit this one out. A good game of football followed, but one in which neither side could gain the upper hand. The defences dominated limiting each side to two shots on target each, shots which the goalkeepers dealt with admirably, especially in the case of Stamp's 44th minute header which was acrobatically tipped over by the Exeter net minder Rice. Nil-Nil at half time. The game continued in pretty much the same vein until the 69th minute, when Exeter scored. Scott Canham was the first to a long through ball and steered it successfully past brown for his first senior goal. Chester then upped the tempo and were level on 75 minutes when Michael Twiss curled a free kick on the edge of the box around the wall and into the top right corner. The game petered out after that with few chances going to either side and at the death the 1-1 scoreline seemed a more than fair result. Man of the match was Chester's on-loan winger Ben Stevens, Chester drop a place to fourth after Stevenage's 4-1 hammering of Woking at home.

The bad news to come out of the match was that Twissy had picked up an injury and would be out for two weeks, also the physio reported that both Stamp and Davies were in need of a rest.

29th February this year was League Cup final day, and in the game rich boys Chelsea humbled Liverpool 3-0 at the Millenium Stadium.

Unsurprisingly, given his team's rise through the upper echelons of the table Stevenage's Graham Westley was named Manager of the Month for Feb.

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Chester Chronicle

Goalkeeper takes kick off in bizarre incident at The Deva

In a bizarre incident in the Conference game between Chester and Forest Green on 7th February 2004, Chester keeper Wayne Brown was seen to take the kick off in the second half. Why this happened no-one, not least of all this reporter, knows. Maybe the boffins at SI Towers can answer this one ?

The game finished 0-0.

Johnny Journo Jnr. Cub Reporter

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The weblog of the Hackmeister

Inconstency threat to promotion

Everything's not rosy in the Chester garden. After an excellent month of January the wheels have come off again in February. Only one league win, along with two draws and two defeats is not the form of Champions. Indeed I doubt if The Blues will be able to make up the gap that has now grown between them and Aldershot at the top.

Manager Kinsale did well in Jan, and was rightly awarded Manager of the Month, but he has been unable to take the club on in February and the challenge is falling, has fallen ?, away. Too much inconsistency from Ray Kinsale. As I've said many times before, consistency is the key in this division, and unless Chester can pick this up sharpish in March, then this season is lost.

Harry Hackmeister, live from a foxhole in Blacon

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Farnborough 2-0 Chester

Conference Wednesday 3rd March 2004

A Chester side low on confidence, was what I saw today, a team, lying fourth in the table coming to the team in fourteenth spot and having rings run round them. The first half was embarrassing, and Chester were fortunate to only be two down at the break. The first came on 10 minutes Lewis Scott heading home his first goal for Farnborough from a corner. The marking for this one was non-existant. Farnborough dominated the match but failed to double their lead until the 40th minute when Danny Collins gifted them a penalty when he was caught backing in. Fiston Manualle dispatched the spot kick with aplomb. Tea-cup time again at half time with both Collins and Strong being relieved of defensive duties. I decided to persist with Clare for the moment as he can always score goals. Nothing happened of any interest at all in the second half, however, and the score remained two-nil. Lewis Scott was man of the match and Chester stay fourth.

Chester 1-1 Northwich

Conference Saturday 6th March 2004

Some changes made to all parts of the team today. Some of the players, I have to admit, look jaded, and that meant the bench or worse for Stamp, Rapley, Carden, Davies, yes, all my best players. Still, they didn't look like winning on Wednesday, so let's see what some fresh faces can do. In come Brodie, Hunter, Ruffer and making his first start of the season Shaun Carey. Strong was also dropped form the defence Baltacha returning. Northwich were gifted a start by the referee who awarded them a penalty on 12 minutes, for I know not what. A complete mystery. Barnard gratefully accepted the gift on Northwich's behalf. This was to be their only attempt on goal in the entire half. Chester had a number of chances Brodie was twice guilty of shooting straight at the keeper when it looked easier to score, and Chris Holmes in The Vics was impressive but Chester did score an equaliser, right on the stroke of half time. It was scored from 20 yards out by Shaun Carey who was becoming more impressive as the half wore on. It was a good move down the right, featuring Brodie who cut the ball back to the edge of the box for Carey to power it home. 1-1 at half time, then. I took Ben Stevens off at half time and replaced him with Harris. This will be Stevens' last game for the club. The second half petered out as Northwich raised it's defensive efforts whilst not offering anything extra up front. Chester couldn't break them down and the game ended 1-1. Bowman, restored to the left was man of the match. Chester stay fourth. Now six points behind Stevenage in third and six points ahead of Telford in fifth.

The recent run of poor form led me back into the loan market and I was a busy boy. I brought in three players until the end of the season Richard Goodchild a 21 year old centre back on loan from Norwich and two players on loan from Coventry City. Kirk Miller another defender (aged 20) and Mark Noon a 20 year old attacking midfielder. All three had been playing well in their team's reserve set ups, and all three look forward to getting a bit of experience at a competetive level of football.

Exeter 2-0 Chester

FA Trophy 6th round Saturday 13th March 2004

Noon and Miller were brought in for this one at the expense of Hunter who was unlucky and Bolland who wasn't. Stamp returned after his rest, replacing Brodie as did Rapley which meant that Ben Stevens would start his last game for the club on the bench. A frankly dire first half of football followed. Neither side was able to stamp any kind of authority on the game. A tame Clare header, easily tended by the Exeter keeper was the only effort either side had in the entire half. A bit dire as a spectacle. I made one change at the half, bringing Carden on for Ruffer, just in the hope that Carden's better attacking attributes could spark something for Chester. I elected to leave Stamp on, though he was carrying a knock. The game continued to go to plan until the 61st minute when Carden limped out of a heavy challenge and had to come off. This meant bringing on Goodchild so that we had a defence with now not one, but two, completely new players in it. Exeter scored twice, both resulting from corners. The first came on 72 when Flack evaded his marker to head home unchallenged and the second came ten minutes later when Robinson fired the ball in from the edge of the box after it had been only half cleared by the hesitant Chester defence. There was no way back for Chester after this, and we crash out of the Trophy. Exeter's Edward Forbes was named man-of-the-match.

The news from the physio was that Carden had sprained his ankle and both he and Stamp would be out for a few days.

Ben Stevens completed his loan period and returned to Rangers. In his time at Chester he made 17 starting and one substitue appearance with an average rating of 6.39.

chester 2-0 Scarborough

Conference Wednesday 17th March 2004

A chance fairly quickly to get back on track. A first half ensued in which I was pleased to see Chester dominate for the first time in a while, but for all the chances they made they couldn't score. Poor finishing rather than great goalkeeping being the main reason for that. Scarborough had just one wayward shot to their name in the first half, but I warned the lads at half time, that that wasn't likely to continue. I bought Noon and Stamp on for Carey and Clare at half time. Scarborough did indeed come out fighting, but their shooting was even more waywards than Chester's had been in the first period. On more than one occasion Brown was left totally exposed only to see the Scarborugh forward blaze the ball either wide or over. Meanwhile Chester kept plugging away and eventually got the reward they deserved. And it was all down to some ratehr wise substitutions, if I say so myself. The first came on 79 minutes when Twiss broke down the left and pulled the ball back from the byline. Noon met it sweetly enough cracking a drive from ten yards out that Downey performed some sort of miracle on to keep it out. The ball rebounded out however, where Stamp was on hand to sweep it into the net. One became two on 83 minutes when a Bowman long throw was converted at the second attempt by Twiss. Downey, once again, having kept the first effort out. After two goals in four minutes the game was won and Chester took their foot off the pedal. A 2-0 win then, and a well deserved one at that. Kirk Miller was named man-of-the-match for a fine defensive display, he looks to have fitted right in. Chester stay comfortably in fourth spot.

Halifax 0-2 Chester

Conference Saturday 20th March 2004

An entertaining game of football in the first half, this, with Chester making most of the running, but Halifax also supplying their share of the excitment. Chester managed to keep most of their shots on traget, but were met with Clint Davies in the Halifax goal in great form. At the other end Brown also made a couple of good saves to keep the game goalless as it approached half time. But a goal did come in the first period, on 41 minutes. Bowman won the bll on the left and knocked it down the line for Twiss, who took the ball unchallenged into the box. He then hit the ball across the face of the six yards box to find Clare in acres of space to slot the ball home. A well worked goal but the Halifax fans will be wondering where their defence had gone to. I replaced Carden with Harris at half time. Carden hadn't played well, and he'd been booked, so a change was inevitable. Chester continued to dominate the game but contrived not to score a second, and make the last 15 minutes increasingly tense for their manager who, I can now report, likes to tear his hair out in stressful situations. Chester did get a second, with the last kick of the match. Twiss looking an acre offside, it must be said, galloping down the pitch and taking the ball round the keeper, before slotting it home. A 2-0 win, then, and a grey haired manager. Kirk Miller was again outstanding in defence and was again named man-of-the-match, although Twiss and Clare did well up front. Chester stay fourth but are now only three points behind Dag & Red in third spot.

Chairman Vaughan had the good grace to tell me how pleased he was with the win on Saturday. Have to say, looking back, I'm quite impressed with it myself.

No game the following weekend so we were right through to the end of the month. Graham Westley won manager of the month again, and the transfer dealine passed with me rejecting another offer from Brentofrd for Twiss. Meanwhile we marked the transfer deadline ourselves by just beating it to sign Matt O'Halloran, a 20 year old right winger, on loan from Barnsley until the end of the season, more as cover for the first team as anything else.

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A corner turned ?

Another month passes with Chester stuck in fourth spot, but things have begun to look up, or is that jumping the gun ??? After continuing the poor run into the start of the month manager Kinsale has bitten the bullet and gone to the loan market. In doing this he appears to have uncovered a gem. Young Coventry defender Kirk Miller is the man in question, outsatnding in the last two games of the month, which Chester, by no small coincidence, won. Miller is strangely deemed surplus to requirements at Coventry. We've got him to the end of the season, but should Ray Kinsale look to make this a more permenant arrangement. This journalist, for one, thinks so.

As far as the season goes, the promotion spot looks out of reach now, let's hope City can re-center themselves on getting into the playoffs.

Harry Hackmeister, live from a bunker in Hoole

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No game in the Conference on the first Saturday in the month, the third, due to our non participation in the FA Trophy semi-finals. Aldershot won in the league and secured themseleves a playoff place at least, but Chester stay safely in fourth spot as Telford, in fifth, fail to make any ground as they lose at home.

In the Fa Cup semi finals, the following day Liverpool set up a final against old rivals Man Utd, Liverppol with a creditable win over Arsenal in the semi, whilst Man Utd overcame the first division's representative Nottingham Forest in a closer than expected encounter.

Chester 1-0 Barnet

Conference Wednesday 7th April 2004

A very evenly contested game this with Chester having a slight edge in as much as they scored the only goal of the first half. Barnet competed well in the game, and Chester also didn't shirk the fight with some good football being played by both sides in the midst of all the changes of posession. It was Chester who scored though, on 21 minutes. Carey won a ball in the Barnet half and pushed a delightfully weighted ball into the box for Twiss to run on to. This he did before blasting a shot that Shane Gore in the Barnet net did well to get anything on. He could only parry the ball out, however, into Bowman's path. The Scotsman had no problem tucking the ball away for his first goal for the club. Well deserved it's been too. Neither side managed any further clear cut chances and Chester ended the half, with ther noses in front, 1-0. At the half I took off Noon and Clare, neither of whom had had good first halves and replaced them with Davies and Stamp. The second half was all Barnet, although Chester did have the best chance when a Twiss header from a Carden corner was cleared off the line, but other than that it was all Barnet and Wayne Brown and his defence kept them out manfully. It was Bowman who picked up man-of-the-match award, but in many eyes, my own included, it should have been Brown. Thanks to the goalie and the defence Barnet couldn't get back on terms, and the game finished 1-0 to Chester. Chester stay fourth but are now only two points behind Stevenage who have slipped to third.

Tamworth 0-0 Chester

Conference Saturday 10th April 2004

Chester took their time to get into this game having been disrupted early on by a couple of injuries. Collins had to go off after only 3 minutes. Kirk Miller follwowed him on 11 after a 'collision' with Arnaud One, we remember him from the game at our place. It was half an hour before the first shot came in from either side. Chester managed a good passage of pressure for a while around this time but couldn't break through. Disaster struck on the stroke of half time as substitute Harris, being played out of position as centre back, also had to come off injured meaning we'd have to play the second half with Carden in defence and Carey as defensive midfielder. We simply didn't have the width on the pitch or bench to consider a change of formation so the lads would have to play out of position. 0-0 at half time, with this makeshift defence, how long would that last ? As it turned out it was Chester had the better of the chances in the second half too, but, truth be told, they didn't get very close with any of them, the makeshift defence kept out a pretty toothless Tamworth attack with ease. Neither side could break the deadlock and the game ended 0-0. Man-of-the-match was Tamworth keeper Phil Whitehead although that was more a measure of how anonymous everyone else was. Chester stay in fourth, of course. We're now nine points clear of Shrewsbury in fifth and only one behind Stevenage in third, but they do now have a game in hand.

Joe Hinnigan's post match report shows that none of the players injured in yesterday's game will be out for anything more than a couple of days. Meanwhile Rapley is in need of a rest.

On the Wednesday night Stevenage secure themsleves a playoff spot when they beat Dag & Red to reclaim second spot. We are two points behind Dag & Red now, and four behind Stevenage.

Chester 0-0 Burton Albion

Conference Saturday 17th April 2004

I brought in O'Halloran for his first start, in place of the tired Rapley the injured defenders were all fit to resume, and as such the side shows only one change from the last game. A quiet first half ensued in which Chester maanaged to create a couple of chances, but fail to take them and Burton offered nothing. The refreee did spoil the half somewhat by booking three players, one Chester and two Burton, when there wasn't a bad tackle in the half. I decided not make any changes at half time, give them 15 more minutes to stamp their authority on this one. When they failed to do that I swapped Twiss, who had his worst game in a long time for Chester, with Clare who failed to improve things much. The Burton netminder was kept busy but was rarely seriously tested and Burton held on for a 0-0 draw with some comfort. Matt O'Halloran was the star on his debut, putting in a near perfect perfomance for his man-of-the-match accolade. Chester stay fourth but have crept a point closer to Dag & Red. Aldershot need a single point to claim the championship at thier first attempt back in the conference. Hereford become the first team this season to be relegated from the Conference.

Midweek, and Danny Collins picks up an injury in training and will be out for up to three weeks.

Morecambe 1-0 Chester

Conference Saturday 24th April 2004

A tricky away game. Goodchild comes in for the injured Collins and [b}Carey[/b] is dropped, perhaps unfairly to allow Rapley to come in on the left with Bowman reverting to the centre. Morecambe got the early start in this one, scoring on 9 minutes, Miller taking advanatcge of some early confusion in the Chester back line to steal in at the far post unmarked to head past a stranded Brown. Morecambe created more chances, but were very wasteful. They held on to the one-nil lead until the half thanks to their own goalie, Mawson who made a good save to deny O'Halloran after a good run. 1-0 at the half, then, Twiss was again sacrifced after a poor perfomance with Clare coming on. More of the same in the second half, however with Morescmbe missing more chances and Chester failing to take the ones tha they created, a 1-0 defeat then. Morecambe's David Perkins was man of the match. Chester remain in fourth and have now secured a playoff spot, despite the defeat. Aldershot are confirmed as champions a claim the only automatic promotion spot.

Goodchild picked up a knock in the game, and will be out for two weeks. The worrying aspect of this month has been more the lack of goals, however, a situation we'll need to remedy ahead of the playoffs.

At the end of the month Grimsby town's Paul Groves won Conference Manager of the month, which is quite good seeing as Grimsby are in the second division.

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The Harry Hackmeister Weblog


A corner turned ? I asked last month. Now we get the answer, certainly not. As the season draws closer to it's close Chester have been guilty of some insipid performances, and the lack of goals is frankly worrying.

A playoff spot has been secured, a result of the good work earlier in the season. But Chester are in severe danger of letting all that good work go to waste if they can't rediscover their scoring touch. Let's hope manger Ray Kinsale can turn this around and see the Blues to success into the playoffs.

Meanwhile let's cheer the achievement of Grimsby manager Paul Groves, who has picked up the Conference Manager of the month award for April, despite not actually managing a Conference team for any games. Maybe this is a message to all conference managers ? Possibly the people at SI Towers are telling Conference bosses that not one of them has done well enough to beat a manager who hasn't been responsible for a single game. A bit harsh if you ask me.

This is Harry, signing off.

c2003. Harry Hackmeister live from a badger's set in Wimbold's Trafford

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Memo from Sir Barrington Smythers-Hackmeister III, proprietor Chronicle Group Newspapers

To Editors: Chester Chronicle and Chester Evening News

Are we going to have a May Update then ?

Sir Barrington Smythers-Hackmeister III, proprietor Chronicle Group Newspapers

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Chester 0-0 Telford

Conference 1st May 2004

A game of very few chances in the first half, with Chester edging it, if anything. The shots they had, whilst being largely on target failed to seriously test the Telford goalie. Not really much of a call to change personnel at half time but I did ask the boys to be just a bit more thoughtful in their build up play and to seek out the better opportunity. Things looked up slightly in the second half, but whilst Chester contained sixth place Telford with ease they never looked convincing enough to score. Telford goalie Chris McKenzie was named man-of-the-match but that's only because nobody stood out today and he did keep out all of Chester's six efforts on target. Chester remain 4th with only one league game to go.

On this day Arsenal clinched the Premier League title, whilst Gravesend dropped out of the Conference and Kidderminster got relegated from Division Three.

On the following Wednesday, Man Utd made up for their dissapointment in the Premier League by reaching the final of the Champions League with an agreagate 4-0 win over Inter Milan. In the final they will meet Inter's city rivals AC.

Chester 2-1 Accrington

Conference 8th May 2004

The last game of the season saw Chester take on the Confernce new-boys Accrington. Unlike fellow promoted team Aldershot, Accrington have struggled and lie 16th in the table, just about safe from relegation. In response to the lack of goals I put Clare in for Stamp, giving the big guy a rest. Another half which Chester managed to cut off the threat of the opposition, limiting them to no shots on, or off, target in the 45 minutes, without creating too much themselves. They didn't go goalless for once however, as Chester were awarded a penalty when Waine inexplicably handled an O'Halloran cross. Clare calmly slotting home the penalty. No changes made at half time. Chester took their eye-off the ball in the second period, allowing Accrington back into the match with a goal on 50 minutes. It was scored by Justin Jackson from a corner that Chester failed to defend. It then became a much more even contest with both goalies being kept busy. It was Chester who achieved the crucial breakthrough, however, in the first minute of injury time, with a first goal for the club by Matt O'Halloran. The goal came when Twiss broke down the left, reached the byline and pulled the ball back, where it was controlled by O'Halloran and then lashed into the net from a tight angle. Chester did just about deserve this victory. O'Halloran was man-of-the-match and Chester finish the regular season in fourth place.

Micheal Twiss was injured in the game and will miss a week.

Meanwhile Northwich Vics became the third team to be relegated, whilst Leyton Orient occupy the final relegation spot from the third.

As expected Chester will play Dagenham & Redbridge in the play off semi final.

Leeds have had to call in the recievers, we'll keep watching for developpments.

On Sunday 16th May it was Stevenage who ran out winners of the FA trophy, beating Dag & Red 2-1. Let's hope that demoralises our play off semi finalists, somewhat.

Young Tom Coulson a reserve team centre back has left the club, after his contract was not renewed.

Chester 0-0 Dag & Red

Conference Playoff Semi-Final First Leg Wednesday 19th May 2004

A packed Deva Stadium saw a tense affair in the first half of this game with both sides defending a bit deeper than they would otherwise do, and as a result limiting the opposition, in both cases, to just one shot. Darryl Clare had a bit of a stinker and was replaced at half time by Darryn Stamp. In the second half Dagenham & Redbridge were quite clearly the better side, but they couldn't turn pressure into goals. It was another case of comedy defending in an important game, by Chester, balls knocked out for corners that could quite easily have been cleared, or knocked out for a throw. Another fairly unbeleivable game, dissapointing, no doubt, for the coders at SI. Daggers Mark Bentley was named man of the match. Daggers go into the second leg clear favourites.

In the other play off semi. Morecambe lost 2-3 at home to Stevenage and also face an uphill struggle in the second leg.

Dag & Red 2-0 Chester

Conference Playoff Semi-Final Second Leg Saturday 22nd May 2004

Stamp replaced Clare and the fit again Collins came in for Strong in the only two changes made to Wednesday's team. Daggers scored in the first minute, an event which made the game far more open than it might otehrwise have been. Bentley heading home a routine corner. Chester created chances but couldn't get them on target whereas Wayne Brown did well to keep Dag & Red out for the rest of the first half. Carden paid the price for a poor first half, being replaced by Ruffer. Bentley added a second, from another Piper corner on 62, and although Chester huffed and puffed thereafter and threw caution to the wind by putting the third attacker on they couldn't get back into the game. Daggers were worthy winners, 2-0 on aggregate. Bentley was man-of-the-macth again, and Chester's season was over.

So, defeat in the playoffs. This has to go down as a dissapointing season, some rebuilding work required next year, if the chairman gives me another year, that is.

Morecambe, the other pre-season favourite also crash out at this hurdle. Man Utd beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final by a single goal.

In the Champions League final AC Milan edge out Man Utd by 2-1.

Dag & Red won the playoff final, defeating Stevenage by 4-0

In the end of season Conference Select Team, Jamie Heard was selected. not bad for half a season's work. Terry Brown of Aldershot was named Conference manager of the year

Jon Brady and Dave Cameron saw their contract's expire, and were released after we failed to renew them. good luck to the boys.

Manager of the month was Scarborough's Russel Slade.

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A Season's Verdict ? Quite Simply, Not Good Enough

The season is over, and Chester have nothing to show for it. the story of the last two months, with only two goals scored in that time, tells the entire story. Too many portions of the season where they just weren't in the races. Too many times that manager Kinsale couldn't raise his team's game when it mattered. Not good enough in too many areas on the pitch.

So what's required. A bit of a rethink over the summer, both in terms of personnel and in terms of tactics. I'd like to think that Kinsale can lead the team to glory next season, but really I'm not sure he can...

This is Harry Hackmeister signing off.

The Harry Hackmeister Holiday Retreat/Bunker, The Carpathian Mountains, Romania

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At the end of the season I felt it neccesary to review the perofrmances of all the players. Before next season some changes were going to have to be made, and that would mean changes in personnel.

First Team Season Review


Wayne Brown

Reclaimed the goalkeeper's jersey after I'd lost confidence in McCaldon. However I felt he lost form towards the end of the year and in pre-season the No.1 spot is up for grabs

Apps:31 Goals Conceeded:23 Clean Sheets:15 Mom:1 Ave rating : 6.55

Ian McCaldon

Started the season as the number one choice, but made too many basic mistakes for my liking and was dropped. His figures still make tolerable reading.

Apps:21(+1) Goals Conceeded:16 Clean Sheets:13 MOM:1 Ave Rating: 6.68


Jamie Heard

Was playing excellent football when his season was cut short by a broken leg. Will Hopefully return as a force next season.

Apps:27 Goals:4 Assists:2 MOM:3 Ave Rating:7.22

Sergei Baltacha

A solid season, was the player with most apperances last season

Apps:50 Goals:4 Assists:1 MOM:1 Ave Rating:6.69

Greg Strong

Another new player this season. He did well when asked, and is proving a reliable if unspectacular performer.

Apps:29(+3) Goals:0 Assists:1 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.78

Danny Collins

In and out of the side more than he would have liked and often played on his non-favoured side of the left. nevertheless not an outstanding season by anybody's book

Apps:22(+10) Goals:0 Assists:3 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.44

Kirk Miller

Loanee from Coventry, he made it in to the first team and stayed their. Proved to be an impressive addition to the squad and one of the players I will be attempting to sign over the summer

Apps:11 Goals:0 Assists:1 MOM:2 Ave Rating:6.64

Andy Harris

Versatile player, but I don't like his attitude. Unsettled, may struggle to find a place for him in my plans for next season.

Apps:10(+14) Goals:0 Assists:3 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.63

Phil Bolland

Never came through as anything more than a back up player, but a regular performer when asked. Is unlikely to move on in the summer

Apps:10(+1) Goals:0 Assists:0 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.45

Carl Ruffer

A poor season. Never coped well when asked to fill in at defensive midfield and posively error prone when playing in defence. A season to forget. Unfortunately, a player likely to feature high on the list of available players.

Apps:8(+4) Goals:0 Assists:0 MOM:0 Ave Rating:5.58

Richard Goodchild

A loanee from Norwich this player never setteled into the first team and was only ever a bit part player. Will not be pursuing this player over the summer.

Apps:1(+2) Goals:0 Assists:0 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.67

Paul Connolly

Reserve, used in one game as sub. Had a good year in the reserves and we can probaly expect to see more of him in the future

Apps:0(+1) Gaols:0 Assists:0 MOMicon_redface.gif Ave Rating:6.00


Gary Bowman

A good season, both on the left and in the middle of midfield. Offered many stirling displays.

Apps:49 Goals:1 Assists:1 MOM:7 Ave Rating:7.29

Kevin Rapley

Can play up front but more used at Chester as a wide midfielder. he seems a little more at home on the left. A spirited performer right through the year.

Apps:47(+1) Goals:5 Assists:3 MOM:5 Ave Rating:7.06

Paul Carden

A large number of good games as the defensive midfielder, but also one or two duff ones. Made many assists through his taking of the corners. A tendancy to shoot too often.

Apps:46(+1) Goals:2 Assists:9 MOM:2 Ave Rating:6.70

Ben Davies

Was most ofetn used in the attacking midfielder role. Didn't play badly all season, but I would expect to see more flow through, for him to create more chances for it to be a succesful season.

Apps:45(+1) Goals:1 Assists:3 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.98

Shaun Carey

Not used very often, but did pretty well whenever asked. Undecided about his future at the club

Apps:7(+1) Goals:1 Assists:0 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.57

Matt O'Halloran

On loan from Barnsley. Would dearly love to add him to the squad this summer, but I can't see Barnsley wanting to let him go. Performed well in all games played, wide on the right of midfield.

Apps:6 Goals:1 Assists:1 MOM:2 Ave rating:7.83

Adam Hunter

Stepped up form the reserves after a number of good perfomances there. Not overawed by his first games in the senior side, he did well this year, and I think we can expect to see more of him next season.

Apps:4(+2) Goals:0 Assists:2 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.83

Carl Noon

On loan form Coventry hasn't really impressed.

Apps 3(+3) Goals:0 Assists:1 MOM:0 Ave Rating:6.00


Michael Twiss

Also played on the left wing but was mainly used as a forward, to good effect. A very good season. Amazingly no Man-of-the-match awards.

Apps:42(+2) Goals:12 Assists:11 MOM:0 Ave Rating:7.02

Darryn Stamp

A forward who fails to use his height properly, but still had a good season, scoring plenty of goals.

Apps:39(+5) Goals:12 Assists:6 MOM:2 Ave Rating:7.25

Darryl Clare

Got the goals but didn't really play as well this term as we know he can. Some weeks brilliant, others average it has been too much of an up and down year for this player

Apps:34(+7) Goals:13 Assissts:7 MOM:4 Ave rating:6.51

Steve Brodie

Never more than a bit part player. Was given chances in the first team but failed to take them. Prime candidate for the transfer list.

Apps:8(+3) Goals:3 Assists:2 MOM:1 Ave Rating:6.36

Ian Foster

A bad season, never played well, never managed to force himself into the first team. Another one for the list.

Apps:3(+1) Goals:2 Assists:0 MOM:0 Ave Rating:5.50

In the reserves Hunter and Connolly were the stars although John Davies and Lee Reece showed some promise. Poor seasons from Guyett and Beesley will see them onto the transfer list, possibly along with borderline cases like Gethin Lloyd and Kevin McIntyre.

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I circulated details of all the players I'd decided to place on the transfer list.Foster,Brodie,Beesley,Ruffer and Guyett The rejections came flooding back, however we did accept an offer of £8,000 for Scott Guyett from Northampton. I dropped the asking prices on all the other players as well, in the hope of drumminmg up some more business.

Guyett only went and rejected Northampton didn't he. They put in another offer, which this time he accpeted.

Meanwhile I added a player to the roster Ben Foster a young goalkeeper from Stoke, arriving on a free. I also bid £10,000 for Kirk Miller

Miller played hard to get over the contract, but did sign in the end, a good addition to the squad. Meanwhile the services of Matt O'Halloran on a permenant basis were proving to be beyond us, with Barnsley expecting at least £275,000 for him.

In the annual supporters awards Darryn Stamp was named player of the season.

The board, in their wisdom, have decided to limit me to a £3,000 transfer budget for the season, due to the high level of wages the club is paying out (which is why I'm trying to get rid of players, you idiots !). Having said that the board are 'Very Pleased' with my performance as manager this season, and expect to achieve a respectable position again in the coming season.

Over the next few days, bids came in and were accepted for Ruffer,Beesley and Ian Foster. So, Ruffer went to Cheltenham for £5K, Foster went to Bury for an initial £6k and Beesley is off to Aldershot for £7,000. That should be some money off the wage bill.

Shortly after that Brodie went to league new boys Kettering for no initial payment. I was quite keen to get rid, in order to keep the wage bill down.

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Author's note: At this point in the season, when the annual update happens (the relegated teams are removed from the Conference and new ones added). I added a new team to the game with intention of writing a parralel story line, mainly to try out some new approaches to writing. The team is going to be Kettering Town, which starts with no players, no staff and no board, which I think is going to be a bit of a challenge.

The observant amongst you will notice that I transfer Steve Brodie to Kettering on a free in the month of June. You might say cheat, I disagree. Chester need to get rid of over-paid and under-used players because of the wage situation, whilst Kettering need players. It works as a deal for both clubs, a win-win situation. Not a cheat in my book.

Anyway the new story will be called "And what do YOU bring to Kettering ?", keep an eye out for it....coming soon....

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The real work starts here

Most of us will be packing up our buckets and spades over the next few weeks, but for Chester manager Roy Kinsale the hard work starts here. The job of picking up the pieces from last years (failed) campaign falls to him over the next month and a half, as the team returns for pre-season training and the round of friendlies begins. I call last season a failure becuase nothing less than promotion will do for this side, harsh you might say, but the expectation at this club, amongst it's real fans at least, is high.

I applaud his work in June, aquiring the services of the impressive Kirk Miller, and by removing alot of the dead wood from the first team squad. The board were not happy with the wage situation last year and the way in which Kinsale copes with the demands of the board over the need to infuse new blood in the team will be a defining factor in this season's campaign.

The side are weak on the left side of defence, be it a three or a four at the back, so I would expect to see Kinsale act there, but his main concern has to be finding a tactical blend that will serve Chester well, and use the talents of the better players, Twiss and Rapley, well. The lack of tactical innovation or subtelty last term has to be the main worry for the new one. If nothings changes in that department then I find it hard to see where any improvement will be found.

It's hard to call this season, I think Chester have a nucleus of players capable of taking the team out of this division, but do they have the leadership ?

This is Harry Hackmeister signing off...

Harry Hackmeister is sponsored by Rant! Anger Management Consultants

c2004 Harry Hackmeister, live from beautiful, downtown Hawarden

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Chester 1-0 Hillingdon Borough

Friendly Thursday 1st July 2004

An exercise in attaining fitness this was a chance to try out players in new positions, or for reserve team players to show what they can do. Chester tried out a new formation, a 4-4-2 attacking variation, and it worked tolerably well. Chester scored once, the only goal of the game, with a well taken Darryl Clare strike from just inside the area, having been played in by an astute ball from Adam Hunter. Young Hunter appeared to be the pick of the young players on show. John Davies on the right and Ben Foster in goal had less assured games. Hunter was man-of-the-match. A non-challenging 1-0 win.

The following day I made the first couple of additions to the squad, both young players to act as backup. The first is Chris Hudson, a 20 year old striker, released by Hull despite a very good record in the Reserves. The club is a bit short of forwards following th recent cull of expensive luxury players, and hopefully he won't be the last addition this summer. The second signing is Karl Murray a right winger,aged 21, inexplicably released by Shrewsbury. A good passer of the ball, he gives us good options on the right if we are going to switch to a more orthodox 4-4-2 style.

On Sunday the 4th Chester signed one of their main targets over the summer. Jon Beswetherick is a 26 year old left fullback or midfielder who has a wealth of experience with Plymouth. He's spent a couple of fruitless years at Sheffield Wednesday, but represents to me a major pert of the rebuilding effort. His presence in the team enables us to go to four at the back with some confidence. Other good news today was the return to light training of long term injury victim Jamie Heard. Later on the same day Chester signed another young goalkeeper Jake Cole,19, a former QPR trainee, on a free. Chester now have cover in the reserves at goalkeeper.

Bury 1-2 Chester

Friendly Sunday 4th July 2004

A game against 'better' opposition, and a chance for the new signings to show what they can do. Another chance in the middle of the park for McIntyre. I still need to get rid of players if I want to strengthen any more, and he's a prime candidate, but let's see if he can change my mind about that. A bright 45 minutes of football with both sides playing some good stuff. It was Chester who got the only goal of the half, and it was the product of two of the new signings. Karl Murray scored it, a header from a Craig Hudson corner, a corner that Hudson had won through his hard work. The only other bright spot an excellent save at the end of the half by young Cole to keep the score at 1-0 to Chester at the break. The game continued at a pace after the break, and Chester doubled their lead on the hour. Good work again by Hudson who fed Rapley just inside the box, and his delicate pass through the defence was played to perfection, into Darryl Clare's path and the Irishman made no mistake from eight yards out. Bury got one back 12 minutes later when a suspiciously off-side looking Stephen Palmer tucked home a Richard Preston cross from just inside the 'D'. a good goal, but that was as good as it got for Bury. Jake Cole made an important save late on, rushing out to deny a second for Palmer, who'd broken free of the defence, at his feet. This was only two minutes from the end and ensured a 2-1 win for Chester, a well deserved victory, indeed.

In the Euro Championship final, also played today England beat Holland, 1-0 in a tight encounter, Darius Vassell got the only goal of the game, just before half time. In the aftermath of the finals both Germany's Voller and Scotland's Vogts were sacked. The managers of Italy and Belgium were also relieved of their posts.

Chester 0-1 Plymouth

Friendly Wednesday 7th July 2004

Second division Plymouth were the next friendly visitors to The Deva. The opportunity was taken to try a couple of trialists Brittan, a midfielder and Clarke a right back, that being a position we're a bit short in. An uneventful first half, a typical pre-season game, with a typical pre-season goal. Plymouth scored it, through Daly who intercepted a poor backpass by Bagnall, playing at left back, and then beat McCaldon in the Chester goal with ease. And though Chester battled well in the second half, we were never going to throw the kitchen sink at them and the score reminained 0-1 to Plymouth. Both Clarke and Brittain did tolerably well. Worth another look in the next game.

Chester 1-3 Barnsley

Friendly Sunday 11th July 2004

Another second division team, Barnsley, were next up, and I thought I'd try out some new tactical variations on the 4-4-2 base. Barnsley were the brighter team in the first half, their two divisions of extra class showing. Chester seemed to lack bite in the middle of the park and as such Barnsley ound it easy to dominate the game. They scored once in the first half, on 40 minutes, with a Rory Fallon header at a corner. Poor marking the culprit for that one. I swapped Stamp for Clare at half time and asked the boys to be a bit more aggressive in the second half, well, you can only try can't you. Indeed, Clare got his goal, on 71 minutes, a header from a near post cross from the right by Twiss, but this was only after Barnsley had got their second, on 61 minutes, Donovan converting a break away move, unchallenged by an undermanned Chester defence. Barnsley completed their victory with a third in injury time, scored by Gibbs from a corner. Despite this Chester played well in the second half, and I was much encouraged by what I saw. True, the result didn't go for us, but it's only a friendly.

On Tuesday 13th July I accepted an offer of £8,000 for Sean Carey from Hartlepool. Carey has never been anything more than a peripheral player and is carrying too much of a first team wage for us to be able to keep hold of him on that basis. He should get first team football at Hartlepool and at a higher level, good luck to him. In the meantime we picked up Joe Booth a central midfielder released by Burnley on a three week trial.

Kettering Town 0-2 Chester

Friendly Wednesday 14th July 2004

New boys Kettering Town were the opposition today. New into the league they've signed a large number of players very quickly, let's see how they gell. Meanwhile, for me it was a chance to give Booth a run in the center of the park. Chester were up inside three minutes after an unfortunate incident on the right wing. Young Kettring centre back Paul Dodsworth appeared to lead with an elbow as he rose for a header with Lee Reece. He caught Reece with the elbow, a definite free kick, but it was harsh, in my view, to send him off as well. After Kettering had reorganised their defence, sarifcing a striker to allow the veteran Colin Hendry to come on, Bowman curled in the free kick to the far post where Darryn Stamp managed to get himself matched up with the Kettering left back David Tyrie and powered a header goalwards. It was parried by the experinced Woodman in the Kettering goal but Lee Reece was first to the lose ball and it was 1-0. Chester got a second on 18 minutes after three Kettering defenders attempted to beat Darryn Satmp to the same, arial, ball. Stamp won the challenge setting Bowman free on the left in acres of space. Bowman made it to the byline as the covering defender came across and pulled the ball back for Lee Reece to calmly place the ball into the bottom left hand corner from 10 yards out. 2-0. It stayed like that to half time with Kettering coming back into the game a bit but struggling with only one man up front. I made wholesale changes at half time, to give some of the other lads a run out, besides, it wasn't proving to be too much of a trial. No more goals were scored, with Kettering looking much better organised in the second half with the intorduction of the veteran Marc Vauchan at left back. For Chester Lee Reece stood out, not only for his two goals, but the trialists Booth and Brittain both did well. 2-0 only flatters Kettering because of the poor defensive display in the first half, but all-in-all another good workout by the team.

Chester 2-0 Southport

Deva Cup Pre-Season Friendly Tournament Saturday 17th July 2004

An uneventful first half, a couple of saves from the Southport keeper some poor shooting, but the only real item of note was the fact the Stamp had to come off injured in the first half. I replaced him with Clare, I guess I'll have to wait for the physio's report, in the morning, for the full picture. Chester got two goals in the second half, to no reply and they both came from Darryl Clare conversions of Gary Bowman crosses. The first of these came from open play on 48 minutes. Bowman set free on the left by a perfectly weighted ball from the centre circle by Greg Strong. Bowman hit the cross first time, whilst in full flight, and picked out Darryl Clare's head in a crowded penalty area, Clare making no mistake from eight yards out. The second came on 65 minutes and was Clare heading home a Bowman corner from the left at the near post, under considerable pressure. A regulation 2-0 win, this result taking us through to the tournament final. Where we'll meet Huddersfield, who were 1-0 winners over York in the other game today, in this tounament.

Chester 4-0 Huddersfield

Deva Cup Pre-Saeson Friendly Tournamanet Final Sunday 18th July 2004

Huddersfield of the third division were the opposition and we were expecting a tough match, but that isn't how it turned out. It was remarkably easy for our boys and we roared out of the blocks in the first half. New signing Chris Hudson was first on the scoresheet, after only 11 minutes, rising unmarked in a crowded box to head home Bowman's accurate cross. The second came on 27 minutes when the Terrier's keeper dropped a routine cross from Bowman at Rapley's feet. The winger had no problem stabbing it home from three yards out. Scorer turned provider only a minute later when Rapley played Hudson behind a disjointed Huddersfield defence, the young striker scroing with a clinical drive from the edge of the box past the stranded keeper. A very easy first half, but I warned the boys that they couldn't expect as easy a ride as in the first half in the second. Chester started the second half as they ended the first with Hudson completing his hatrick on 48 minutes, a pinpoint ball from trialist Ryan Clarke was headed on by Darryl Clare into the path of Hudson who met the ball on the half volley twenty yards out and blasted it into the top right corner, giving the Huddrsfield keeper no chance. An excellent goal, capping an excellent perfomance by the young man. Although Chester had many more chances as the game wore on they couldn't add to the total, and the game finished 4-0. A worrying note was that trialist Martin Brittain had to come off with an injury. I'll need to make a decision on whether to sign the lad in the next couple of days, so I hope, for his sake, it's not serious.

Unfortunately, it was serious, a broken leg, that'll keep him out of football for 4 months at least. With the club's current financial state, I can't justify signing a player who isn't going to play, but we'll most likely come back to him when he's fit.

We completed the signing of former Charlton reserve Mark Debolla. Mark is a 21 year old forward and came highly recommended by scout Rob Campkin. He's a very intelligent player who needs to improve his finishing a bit.

Chester 1-2 Coventry

Friendly Friday 23rd July 2004

Coventry of the first division would be today's visitors, and it's time to start to get towards the starting line up for the season, although the new lad will get a game. Chester competed well in this game but in the first half it was the extra class of first division Coventry that told. Chester had three shots in the half, none on target, Coventry also had three shots, but scored from one of the two they had on target. The goal came on the half hour from the highly rated Gary McSheffery crowning a speedy break out from defence by the Sky Blues with a well placed shot from just inside the box. Chester had to weather a bit of a strom at the start of the second half, but weather it they did, with McCaldon in goal in impressive form. And against the run of play it was Chester who levelled the match on the hour mark when Kevin Rapley intercepted a loose pass in his own half, and was able to run half the length of the pitch as the Coventry left back was caught out of position. Rapley drove into the Coventry box and put a low shot inside the keeper's near post. The game was evenly fought thereafter, but it was Coventry who ran out winners scoring a late goal, on 87 minutes through substitute Ben Mackey, with a crisp shot from just inside the box that gave McCaldon no chance. Coventry's better finishing meant that they deserved this game, but nevertheless this was a good performance by Chester.

In the week that followed we completed the signings of trial players Joe Booth and Ryan Clarke.

Oxford signed Chester midfielder Kevin McIntyre for £8,000, that's a few quid off the payroll. We replaced him with the experienced Mickey Mellon, 32, a central midfielder formerley of Tranmere.

Chester 2-0 Sheff Wed

Friendly Tuesday 27th July 2004

Another what looked on paper a testing game proving to be little more than a run out. Chester had by far the better of the first half, and by half time had two goals to show for it. The first came on 14 minutes when Rapley went on a mazy run, before hitting the byline and pulling the ball back for full back Andy Harris steaming into the box on the far side, meeting the ball on the volley and powering it into the net. Harris started the move for the next goal, on 29 minutes, his ball from the half way line cut out two Wednesday defenders and put Mark Debolla into space on the right hand edge of the box. Debolla cut into the box and drew the keeper before rolling the ball square for Darryn Stamp to knock the ball into the now empty net. Another classy goal. At the other end young Jake Cole, given the nod for this game, acquitted himself well with a faultless display of safe goalkeeping. At half time Chester's best player of the first half, Andy Harris had to come off with an injury, a shame for the lad as he was doing well. Ryan Clarke replaced him. The Sheffield Wednesday boss could be heard not only from our dressing room but on the bench by the pitch too. Was he not happy ? Wednesday came out much brighter in the second half, but whilst they snuffed out Chester as an attacking force quite well they didn't offer very much of their own, attacking wise. Cole did have to make a great reflex save from a header in the dying seconds but that's as good as it got really for Wednesday. Two-nil the final score, and a well deserved victory.

Andy Harris's injury turned out to be a calf strain. That should keep him out for a week or so.

Chester 0-0 Middlesborough

Friendly Friday 30th July 2004

The premiership fancy-dans of Middlesborough were the visitors on this fine summer's evening. A slow start to the game with neither side impressing at all. It took 35 minutes for the fans to see a shot, and another three minutes after that to see one on target. Middlesborough did end the half showing some nice football, but young Jake Cole is impressing in goal at the minute and was well equal to all thrown at him. I made some changes at half time, and the second half as a spectacle was much better. Still the Teesider's couldn't find a way past Cole, but they played some attractive football trying to do so. Chester also created a small number of chances the best of which was headed straight at the keeper by Hudson. 5930 came to see this one, a good night for the bank balance if nothing else.

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