Chester FC fell to defeat in their first pre-season game of 2020/21 this afternoon at Radcliffe.
It was a tough workout for the Blues against strong opposition from the league below who have already been back in training for a few weeks – with Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley’s side going straight into a game on their very first day of pre-season.
Radcliffe, sharpened by match fitness, started quickly out of the traps in this one – putting new goalkeeping acquisition Louis Gray to the test in the Chester goal.
The 25-year-old made a superb reaction save from close range to deny Andy Owens inside the first five minutes – and was also on hand to deny Jean Louie Akpa-Akpro inside the area, getting a hand to his shot before Jamie Morgan headed the loose ball away from the goalmouth on 21 minutes..
Between this, Chester had two very good chances to open the scoring. John Johnston firstly made a storming run into the box after picking up a loose ball on the left. He looked to sidefoot home with the angle against him, and forced Cam Belford into a strong save with his legs – Will Goodwin then fired the rebound off target.
Belford was busy again five minutes later. Trialist A’s hopeful ball forward bounced awkwardly, and teenager Lloyd Marsh-Hughes did brilliantly to muscle his way past two defenders and latch on to it – but the keeper was off his line quickly to thwart the Welshman.
After Danny Livesey made a superb last ditch challenge on Akpa-Akpro inside the box, Lee Fowler’s side would then hit the front on 24 minutes.
Luca Navarro was first to react to a deflected shot on the edge of the area, and curled into the bottom corner beyond Gray.
The first half would fizzle out after the goal – and there was then a chance for a new set of players in the second half to work on their fitness for the Blues.
Chester were much improved in the second 45, they dominated the ball and started creating chances with regularity at the start of the half.
Trialist F, impressing in the left-back position, made a promising burst into the area on 49 minutes but was denied by Belford. George Glendon, who really shone in the midfield, followed up with the rebound which was closed down – before Anthony Dudley fired wide.
Moments later it was Trialist F going for goal again, after a delightful Blues build up the defender dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area.
Then, against the run of play, Radcliffe doubled their lead on 68 minutes. It was an unfortunate moment for Trialist F – who did finally find the net – but at the wrong end as Matty Crothers free kick beat Jon Worsnop and struck the defender before rebounding into the net.
Chester continued to create chances, and again would be denied by Belford as Glendon’s excellent cross was headed towards goal by Danny Elliott – but the stopper showed quick reflexes to tip the ball behind.
Ten minutes later, Brad Jackson did well to ride a challenge as he cut inside off the right flank, but the winger would drag his shot wide of the mark.
Radcliffe then hit another sucker punch – making it three on 86 minutes. Akpa-Akpro beat the offside trap and rounded up Worsnop, enabling Blues Academy Graduate and Boro full back Rhain Hellawell to slot into an empty net.
But Bern and Jonno’s side didn’t go home empty handed in the goals column. On 90 minutes, some patient build up around the edge of the area, started by Jackson’s driving run, was finished off when Elliott danced away from a couple of challenges and whipped a shot into the corner.
Chester (First Half): Gray, Morgan, Livesey, Trialist A, Taylor, Trialist B, Trialist C, Trialist D, Johnston, Marsh-Hughes, Goodwin.
Chester (Second Half): Worsnop, G Roberts, K Roberts, Grand, Trialist F, Jackson, Trialist G, Glendon, Dudley, Hughes, Elliott.
Subs Not Used: Trialist E, Waring.
Scorers: Navarro 24, Trialist F (OG) 68, Hellawell 86; Elliott 90.