by Ian Richardson
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Chester FC 4
Matlock Town: Jon Kennedy, Micky Harcourt, Oscar Radford (Tyeisse Nightingale 46), Liam King, Adam Yates, James Lukic, Chris Bettney, Steve Warne (Lee Morris 64), Ian Holmes, Gareth Davies, Ben Algar. Other subs: Kris Witcombe, Nick Buxton
Referee: A Clayton – Hyde
Star man: Liam King
The 2,605 attendees at the Exacta Stadium on Saturday probably saw the future Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division champions, who handed Matlock their heaviest defeat for over two seasons.
Chester were simply superior all over the park. They had strength, flair, determination, in fact all the attributes that champions are made of.
It wasn’t that Matlock played particularly badly. Nobody would probably have lived with Chester on the day.
Manager Mark Atkins opted for the 4-5-1 formation which had been a success in other recent difficult away games at Northwich and Hednesford. Ian Holmes was again the lone striker. Lee Morris, re-signed from Belper, was on the substitutes bench with fellow striker Tyeisse Nightingale.
Matlock began brightly as Micky Harcourt broke down the right to see his low cross blocked.
Matty McNeill, who was to prove a very painful thorn in Matlock’s side, sliced wide and when new signing Antoni Sarcevic found space on the right, he wasted a great opportunity with a poor cross.
But Chester were building a head of steam. Sarcevic pulled a shot wide and McNeill flicked a long throw beyond the far post. The pressure told on 24 minutes when full back Liam Brownhill delivered a peach of a cross. McNeill met it with a thumping header which went in off the bar.
Chester then piled on the pressure. A great challenge by Harcourt on Robbie Booth, who was in the clear, averted more danger and Jon Kennedy did well to turn aside a shot from the same player.
Then there was a real escape as Brownhill fired against a post and when Matty McGinn beat Bettney, George Horan shot wide.
The interval brought a change of formation as Oscar Radford, who had picked up a first half injury, was withdrawn. Ben Algar switched to full back and a 4-4-2 line up with Nightingale on up front followed.
But there was no respite for Matlock. Chester immediately went for the kill and doubled their lead nine minutes after the interval. McNeill again did the damage, turning and twisting, shrugging off Adam Yates and firing low past Kennedy.
Now it was more a case of damage limitation. Sarcevic tormented Matlock in a jinking run which ended with Kennedy holding his firm drive from the edge of the box.
There was a sniff of a chance for Matlock when Chris Bettney took a free-kick quickly, but Harcourt’s cross was headed away by Horan, but a fightback wasn’t on the cards because in the main, it was Chester asking all of the questions.
Kennedy kept any faint Matlock hopes alive with a fine save from Booth and then pulled off an even better double block from substitutes Iain Howard and Mark Wilde.
But Wilde and another substitute, Luke Holden hit late goals which put gloss on a cultured Chester performance.
Holden’s goal on 89 minutes was controversial as he chipped over Kennedy and the ball dropped onto the line off the bar. It was an audacious effort which the referee’s assistant ruled had crossed the line, quite an astonishing decision given he was some 30 yards away. Chester fans admitted afterwards that the ball had not crossed the line.
Then Howard found room on the left and hoisted a centre into the box which Wilde finished with a power-packed header.
It will take a good side to beat Chester to the title and if there is a better striker in this league than McNeill then we’re yet to see him.
Matlock need to put Saturday down to being ‘just one of those days’ and regroup quickly.
They won’t face sides of Chester’s quality every week.