Chester’s dreams of a successful FA Cup run got off to a flying start, as they dispatched ninth-tier City of Liverpool 3-0, at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
A first-half double from John Pritchard, first senior goal for academy star Iwan Murray and a late strike from Cain Noble were the difference between the two as the Blues secured their first win in the competition since the 2-1 victory at Roots Hall, against Southend United in 2014.
Managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley retained their trust in youngster Murray, who was selected for his second consecutive start, following his Man of the Match performance in the 3-1 win against Kidderminster Harriers during midweek. Their bench, too, consisted of five Academy scholars.
Chester’s visitors, North West Counties League side City of Liverpool FC, were competing at this stage of the competition for the very first time, whilst the Blues have never been eliminated as early.
Yet much like Saturday’s away tie at Boston United, the action started relatively slowly, Joseph Holt’s wayward shot, over the top of the Harry Mac, the only chance of the first ten minutes.
Then, on ten, Steven Howson managed to weave away from his marker with ease, nodding John Pritchard’s corner agonisingly over Ben Ascroft’s crossbar, a golden chance gone begging.
Johnson and Morley’s men have showcased their finishing capabilities in the last three league fixtures, converting a combined total of ten goals, but continued to struggle despite their pressure, with Pritchard the next to put wide an opportunity at the near post after Matty Hughes well-placed through pass.
Gary Roberts’ substitution allowed Cain Noble onto the field, Simon Grand taking on the captaincy as a result. It would be the youngster to create the next chance, collecting a lose ball, cutting onto his left and firing towards Ascroft, the Purps ‘keeper palming his shot for a corner.
Perhaps City of Liverpool’s best chance of the half came from no less than fifty-yards out, Jamie McDonald turning and lobbing his shot over Grant Shenton, thankfully over his bar as well.
With the Purps, supporters and players alike, growing into the fixture, the Blues had to find a response, and mustered just that on 43 minutes. Jon Moran the catalyst, his tackle, then pass slotted through to Pritchard who, despite missing a chance of similar requirement earlier, superbly slotted his effort under Ascroft.
But Chester’s summer signing from Ashton United wasn’t done there, the 22-year-old taking on the ball and lifting it beyond Ascroft for the second time in as many minutes. The Seals 2-0 up and in cruise control at the break.
As fitness began to play a pivotal upon the start of the second half, Chester continued with the wind in their sails, Murray flicking a lofted ball into the path of Noble, the 17-year-old firing wide one-on-one.
Then the two academy graduates combined again, Murray delivering from the right onto the head of Noble, who placed his effort just wide of the far post.
Whilst the Blues dominated the first half of the second, City of Liverpool, backed by a superb following of 422, kept their heads up, the impressive Hazlehurst curling his effort, only to be denied by the head of Danny Livesey.
But, on a proud day for the club’s youth academy, a round of pinball in the City of Liverpool penalty area eventually fell to 18-year-old Iwan Murray who, on 71 minutes, placed his effort past Ascroft, and sealed the victory for the Blues.
There was time for a couple more Chester efforts on goal, with Noble once again in the thick of the action, lashing an effort from 20-yards onto the underside of the crossbar!
Then, as three minutes were held up for stoppage time, Noble secured Chester’s fourth of the afternoon, smashing home a rebound from close range, following Mahon’s effort.
The full-time whistle marked Chester’s third consecutive in all competitions, as they extend their unbeaten run to six. The Blues next make the journey to Victory Park, to take on National League North leaders Chorley, in an all-ticket return to league football.
CHESTER: Shenton, Moran (Thomson 73), Grand, Murray, Livesey, Howson, Pritchard, Stopforth, Hughes (Marsh-Hughes 73), Roberts (Noble 30), Mahon.
SUBS NOT USED: King, Crilly, Jones, Cottrell.
ATTENDANCE: 1,806 (422 City of Liverpool).
Match Report by Alex Bullions.