Chester FC 5-0 Nantwich Town

Reporter:

Tom Norris

Chester completed their pre-season preparations with a morale boosting success.

Rob Hopley bagged a brace, while goals from Michael Wilde, Mark Peers and Josh Macauley made sure that Neil Young's side will head into the season opener at Warrington a week tomorrow on a high.

After a tricky 10 minutes at the start of the game, Young's men completely outclassed a weak looking Nantwich Town outfit, playing some sumptuous football in the process.

Captain George Horan marshalled the defence effectively, Andy Burgess pulled the strings in the middle of the park and the front two of Wilde and Hopley failed to give Danny's, Barrett and Edge, a moments piece.

There were a few teething problems during the opening 10 minutes as the visitors twice carved through a very open looking Chester.

A move involving Nathan Southern, Rodney Jack and Danny Griggs saw the latter forced Chester goalkeeper Richard Whiteside into an excellent point blank save, before Sam Aspinwall's shot from a Griggs pass was hacked clear by Horan.

Chester grew in confidence and former Rhyl midfielder Mark Connolly received a Greg Stones pass before forcing Jason Astbury into a fine stop.

A tactical switch involving wingers Iain Howard and Mark Peers saw Chester raise their game further, Wilde poking a centre just wide of the left upright.

The ex-TNS striker was not left waiting too much longer for his eighth pre-season goal, Wilde collecting a pass from Burgess before running clear of the defence and dinking over a helpless Astbury.

Chester continued to pour forward and it was that man Wilde at the centre, playing a one-two with Hopley and watching as his drive was deflected wide.

Form the resulting corner Young's men doubled their advantage, Connolly's centre flicking the Nantwich crossbar before Hopley headed into the roof of the net.

The start of the second half was met by the introduction of Roger Sharrock, who is still feeling his way back to full fitness, replacing Howard.

The interval failed to halt Chester's momentum and Mark Peers soon made it 3-0, the tricky midfielder picking up the ball 25-yards from goal and firing unchallenged into the top corner of the visitors net with his weaker left foot.

With that goal Young took a chance to rest Wilde and Stuart Graves, bringing former Vauxhall Motors striker Macauley and Chris Williams on.

Macauley could have netted with virtually his first touch of the ball, but he was denied by Astbury, while Connolly nicked the ball off the foot of Hopley as he readied to shoot.

There was to be no denying Hopley just before the hour mark as Stones free-kick was only parried into his path and he smashed home off the underside of the bar.

Chester were playing with freedom as Nantwich toiled and the hosts nearly scored with a brilliant flowing move.

Sharrock started the passage of play before Macauley and fellow substitutes Adriano Rigoglioso and Michael Aspin combined, Hopley then dummied a centre for Sharrock to fire home, but his cheeky finish was cleared off the line by Barrett.

Another substitute, Stuart Jones, forced Astbury into a smart double save from a Rigoglioso corner, while Aspin and Sharrock also saw efforts kept out.

Nantwich briefly halted the home surge as Sam Madley threatened to ruin Chester's clean sheet with a run and shot, replacement goalkeeper Chris Oldfield tipping wide.

Chester flexed their muscles in response to Nantwich's foray forward, grabbing a fifth goal through Macauley, the striker the beneficiary of a disguised slide rule pass from Burgess.

The evergreen Jack should have ended the visitors day on a positive note but fired over before Macauley came close to a second goal, only to be denied by the exceptional Astbury.

The referee ended Nantwich's misery as Macauley's header was stopped, Chester receiving a deserved ovation.

Chester: Whiteside (Oldfield 54); Stones (Aspin 61), Graves (Williams 50), Horan (C) (Jones 61), Meadowcroft; Peers (Rigoglioso 57), Burgess, Connolly (Sheehan 57), Howard (Sharrock 46); Hopley, Wilde (Macauley 50).

Subs Not Used: Mahoney.

Nantwich Town: Astbury; Kirkham-Stubbs (McKay 74), Foster, Barrett, Edge (Herd 70); Jack (C), Street (Stockhall 68), Parkes, Griggs (Smith 76); Aspinwall (Lane 70), Southern (Madley 59).

Referee: Paul Graham.

Attendance: 1,004.

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