ChesterFC.com takes a look back at the year 2019…
The New Year started with a goalless draw at home to Southport on the field, and exciting news off it. Striker Akwasi Asante joined the club for a record fee following a successful loan spell from Tamworth. This was followed by a huge victory at FC United in front of a fantastic Blues away following. Despite positive reinforcements in the shape of Sean McAllister, Ben McKenna and George Waring – the Blues ended the month with a draw against Guiseley before defeats to Curzon Ashton and Spennymoor. There was though a resounding win at Winsford Town in the Cheshire Senior Cup.
A below-par run of form continued with a heavy loss at Kidderminster Harriers, before a positive performance by the ten-man Blues ended with an injury time winner for Nantwich Town in the Cheshire Cup. This was after George Green’s controversial first half sending off. The Junior Blues Takeover Day brought positivity around the Deva – capped by a thumping 4-1 win over Boston. The month ended with an away loss at play-off rivals Bradford PA – before an excellent home victory against fellow challengers Blyth Spartans.
The third month of the year started much like February, with a heavy away defeat – this time at Altrincham. The following Saturday, despite having a goal and man advantage, Leamington pegged the Blues back on Community Day. But, after the very exciting news of the potential King George V Sports Hub in Blacon, the month ended with a fantastic away win at Darlington before a goalless draw against league leaders Chorley – in a game the Blues were unfortunate not to win.
After our CFU Chairman Dave Harrington-Wright was awarded the National League North Volunteer of the Month award to start April, the Blues capped a good week on the field with a dramatic late win at Nuneaton Borough. Danny Livesey’s stoppage time strike keeping us in the Play-Off hunt and relegating our opponents in the process. But the top seven hopes were shattered by eventual Champions Stockport County a few days later – as the Hatters hit Chester for six. Our Under 19’s and Womens sides clinched Championship gold, before one win and three draws to end the month left Bern and Jonno’s side just three points shy of the play-offs to end the campaign. A ninth placed finish meant lots to build on ahead of the new season!
May was all about laying foundations for the new season. A hybrid training model was introduced, with a strong core of last seasons team being retained on new deals – as well as Academy graduates Cain Noble and Lloyd Marsh-Hughes making the step up to senior level. Two new faces arrived in Joel Taylor and Jamie Morgan – with the familiar name of Chester City Academy Graduate Kevin Roberts returning to the club. Despite missing the second half of the season due to injury, hugely popular central midfielder Gary Stopforth was voted CFU Player of the Season for 2018-19.
Anthony Dudley’s return from Salford City was big news this month. After winning the golden boot for his 12-goal haul the season prior, the Blues fended off interest from EFL sides to sign ‘Duds’ on a permanent deal. Another familiar face was recruited too as Academy Graduate James Jones was loaned in from the Ammies. More friendlies – including a trip to Newquay – were announced as Wigan Athletic were set to be the first side to come to the Deva to start pre-season at the beginning of next month.
Prior to this game, our new pinstripe Puma home shirt was revealed, and the Legends Lounge was named after the legendary Gary Talbot. After a loss to Wigan came a hectic schedule, including a fantastic and enjoyable trip to our friends at Newquay AFC. We clinched the Supporters Direct Shield after a 4-1 win at 1874 Northwich – this was after signing up Danny Elliott and Russ Griffiths for the 2019/2020 campaign. A good win at Trafford was followed by a disappointing loss at FC United to round off the friendly fixtures.
A fantastic start to the National League North season for the Blues. Two draws to start the season were followed by a first win against Farsley Celtic. Seven unbeaten was where the run ended when, on the last day of the month, Spennymoor beat the Blues in injury time in a came shrouded in controversy. The midfield recruitment of George Glendon was a timely boost for Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley as they looked to kick on in September.
The Blues bounced back from their first league defeat in style, with three consecutive 3-1 victories in the National League North. The third coming in front of almost 800 travelling Chester fans at Telford – with Akwasi Asante scoring his ninth, tenth and eleventh goals of the season – his second perfect hat-trick for the club. Progress was stalled slightly with a replay defeat to Altrincham in the FA Cup before a six goal thriller saw the spoils shared against Leamington. A good month ended with the Under 18’s coming from two goals down to beat Chorley away from home on another memorable night for the academy.
There was a two week break for the Blues after exiting the FA Cup early – before they played out a cracker with King’s Lynn Town on Non League Day. The entertaining match finished 2-2 at the Walks Stadium, and it was certainly a fantastic advert for Non-League football with some of the quality of action on display. A second successive 2-2 followed at Blyth before a convincing 7-0 victory at Runcorn Town in the Cheshire Senior Cup. The month concluded with a top of the table clash and, in front over 3,700 fans, York City edged the Blues 1-0 at the 1885 Arena.
A first home defeat, and only second loss of the campaign, was followed by an unbeaten November. A fantastic away point at Brackley Town saw the Blues become the first side to score at St James Park from open play this season. Then came a convincing 3-0 win at home to Alfreton just prior to Remembrance Sunday, before a trip to Gateshead postponed due to a waterlogged surface. The Blues kept their sharpness with a behind closed doors victory over Accrington Stanley and it was then announced that the Deva had been renamed the 1885 Arena until at least the end of the season. Two victories followed, a superb away win at Brackley in the FA Trophy – the side who won the competition back in 2018 – before a home victory against Bradford (Park Avenue).
A frustrating month for the Blues, who had positives in advancing in the FA Trophy in a replay against Hednesford Town – but drew a blank in three league games: losing at Darlington, drew to AFC Telford and lost to Curzon Ashton. However, a dominant and confident 3-1 victory at Southport on Boxing Day was a significant marker of the strength of the Blues this season.
Let’s hope it’s a 2020 to remember!