The Coasters make their long-awaited return to National League North action on Tuesday evening when they travel to fellow high-flyers Chester FC.
There’s no doubt that the 2020/21 season has been a peculiar one, particularly within the lower reaches of the footballing pyramid, where uncertainty has become the new normal. However – as it stands – it’s all go for the Deva Stadium for Tuesday’s decisive clash between two promotion-hunting outfits. ‘Get to Know’ tomorrow’s opponents a little better.
The original Chester F.C. was founded in 1885 and joined the English Football League ahead of the 1931/32 season. The club was renamed Chester City in 1983, and were predominantly found in the Fourth Tier of the Football League with some occasional presences in the Third Tier. The club was relegated to the Football Conference in 2000 but returned to the Football League in the 2003/04 season after winning the Conference. However, following another relegation in 2009 the club faced financial difficulties which led to starting the season with a 25-point deduction, and the club was wound up in 2010. City Fans United formed in 2009, following discontent surrounding the running of Chester City. A ballot was held to name the club which lead to the decision of renaming it Chester F.C. as it was originally, with the Blues being reborn on the 21st of May 2010 ahead of the 2010/11 Northern Premier League Division One North season.
Their first competitive game saw the Blues draw to Warrington Town, Rob Hopley scoring the first goal of the new era. Chester went on to win the Northern Premier League Division One earning promotion to the Premier Division. The Blues would go on to achieve back-to-back wins, after securing the Northern Premier League Premier Division with a total of 100 points and 102 goals scored. Chester’s meteoric rise continued in the 2012/13 season, as the Seals would go on to win the Conference North earning their place for the 2013/14 Conference National only 3 years after the demise of Chester City in the same league.
Sadly, Chester went on to be relegated back to the Conference North in their first season in the Conference National in a dramatic manner as goal difference would dictate the result. Fortunately for the Blues, Hereford United would go on to be expelled from the Conference National which placed Chester back into the Conference National for the 2014/15 season. The Blues remained in the Conference National for a few seasons, experiencing some success such as achieving the FA Cup Second Round in 2014/15, as well as an unbeaten run to the first half of the 2016/17 season. However, they were relegated to the National League North after the 2017/18 season where the Blues remain today.
The Managers – Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley
Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley have been at Chester FC since taking over the Blues in May 2018. The Chester FC joint-managers are wee-known within Non-League, not just for their charismatic attitudes, but also for their impressive record in management. The dynamic duo have been working side-by-side for nearly 12 years, having achieved several successes throughout their career, basing their successes on the positive relationship they share which features “implicit trust” between the duo. Johnson and Morley started their management careers together at Ramsbottom United, where they delivered two promotions throughout their six years at the club. They then moved to Salford City, where they were extremely successful earning three promotions for the club, and guiding Salford to the National League ahead of the 2018/19 season. They finally arrived at Chester in 2018, and led Chester to a 9th place barely missing out on the play-offs by three points. They finally qualified for the play-offs in 2019/20 after the season was cut short due to the pandemic, but were defeated by Altrincham in an eliminator.
Both Johnson and Morley experienced playing careers before entering coaching. Anthony Johnson is a former soldier, spending four years in the army and still travelling every weekend from Aldershot to Bury in order to play. After leaving the army, Johnson went on to represent Salford City as a player.
Bernard Morley played for Clitheroe FC and Ramsbottom United before progressing into coaching after an early retirement due to injury put a premature halt to Morley’s playing career.
The Captain – George Glendon
Captain, George Glendon, has been with Chester since August 2019, when he put pen to paper on a short-term deal. Since then, Glendon has made a positive impact on everybody at Chester FC, quickly becoming a fan’s favourite and nailing down his position in the heart of The Blues midfield. Johnson and Morley made Glendon their captain and managed to tie him down despite interest from Clubs higher up in the pyramid.
The 25-year-old midfielder began his footballing journey at Premier League outfit Manchester City, rising through the youth ranks to captain the prestigious Elite Development Squad. Glendon then moved on loan to League One side Fleetwood Town, signing permanently in January 2017. He made 56 league appearances for The Cod Army under Uwe Rosler’s stewardship, before being released at the end of the 2017/18 season. Glendon moved further up north to Carlisle United and netted his first professional goal against Morecambe in an EFL Trophy fixture.
Following his release from Carlisle, the midfielder joined Chester. Glendon is also an England Youth international, having made 4 appearances for the U17’s and 1 for the U16’s.
Both Chester and AFC Fylde will be returning to action after a long break, due to postponements and the two-week suspension enforced by the National League . The Blues played their last fixture on the 19th of January, whilst the Coasters have not had a game since January 9th.
Prior to the league’s hiatus, Chester had made a positive start to the new year. The Blues climbed to 2nd in the table and will be looking to return to this form in order to push for 1st place. Their last outing against Bradford Park Avenue saw the Blues drawing 3-3 away from home, with Elliott, Johnston and Morgan getting on the scoresheet. Prior to this fixture, Chester had defeated both Guiseley and AFC Telford at the DEVA Stadium – with 1-0 and 3-0 being the respective score lines. Johnson and Morley will be expecting Chester to maintain this positive form experienced in January.
The Coasters have suffered a longer stoppage to play before the National League North suspension and might have some rust to shake off. Following a disappointing 3-1 Boxing Day defeat to Lancashire rivals Chorley, they went on to open the month of January with a dominating 4-0 win at home against the Magpies. The following week saw Fylde defeat AFC Telford United 2-0 away from home. It will be interesting to see if the Coasters will be able to continue this form in Tuesday’s fixture against direct rivals competing for 1st place.
Chester and Fylde are no strangers to each other, having already played a total of 5 matches in the past. The two sides first went up against each other during the 2010/11 Northern Premier League Division One season, drawing their first every fixture in a 2-2- game. Later on that season,Chester went on to defeat Fylde at Kellamergh Park in a game-ending with a 3-1 scoreline. The remaining three fixtures between the Coasters and the Blues have ended in a draw, despite the 2017/18 FA Trophy fixture between the two sides ending on a Chester FC win on penalties.
As far as the predicted Chester FC line-up could go, that is a difficult one following the lengthy stoppage to the National League North season. Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley also often change kit numbers which shakes things up a little bit for the Blues so it’s a difficult one to consider. However, this is how we could be seeing Chester line-up on Tuesday:
1 Louis Gray
2 Jamie Morgan
5 Kevin Roberts
6 Simon Grand
3 Josh Askew
8 George Glendon ©
4 Declan Weeks
7 John Johnston
11 Brad Bauress
10 Anthony Dudley
9 Danny Elliott
The Blues are expected to start Louis Gray at goalkeeper, who’s been Chester’s regular throughout the 2020/21 season.
Chester’s defensive line could be seeing Jamie Morgan starting again, fresh off scoring an excellent edge of the box volley against Bradford Park Avenue in their last fixture. The experienced central defender Kevin Roberts should feature in a partnership with former AFC Fylde defender Simon Grand, a central defence partnership featuring a wealth of experience. Josh Askew should complete the defensive line, as the talented left-footed defender has joined this season from Boston United.
Declan Weeks should start in a central midfield role, alongside the Chester captain George Glendon. Featuring on the wings for the Blues, former Altrincham key man John Johnston will be expected to start towards the right side. Brad Bauress could be starting on the left side for Chester, as he also featured in their last fixture against Bradford PA.
Anthony Dudley has been a regular for the Blues slotting in just behind the striker, and he’s also been a key player for Chester scoring 5 goals in 17 fixtures for the Chester. Striker Danny Elliott is predicted to start up front for Chester, having been a key player for the Blues throughout their 2020/21 campaign.
One to Watch
Chester have an abundance of talent scattered throughout each position, demonstrated by Sam Goodwin’s recent transfer to Championship side Stoke City. However, on this occasion, we are singling out Danny Elliott as Chester’s one to watch.
The Nottingham-born forward boasts an interesting footballing CV, having started his youth career for Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa before moving to the United States to play University football for Hofstra University Pride between 2014 and 2017. The 25-year-old then went on to play for the North Carolina FC U23 side, before making his Premier Development League debut for the Long Island Rough Riders. He went on to make six appearances for the Rough Riders, before signing with Spanish Tercera División club San Cristobal in October 2018. Elliott made nine appearances for the Spanish side, scoring 2 goals. In January 2019 Elliott joined League Two side Port Vale on a trial basis, signing until the end of the 18/19 season and going on to make six appearances for the Valiants.
Following his release from Port Vale, Elliott joined Chester prior to the 2019/20 season, after a successful trial. He spent a period of time on loan with Alfreton Town where he scored a hat-trick in his first game for the Reds.
This season has been the breakthrough for Elliott, scoring 7 goals in 17 games for Chester – one of them being against Bradford PA, and it will be interesting to see if he continues this impact against the Coasters.