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Chester reserve place in Cheshire FA Senior Cup final at expense of lower-ranked Witton Albion
CHESTER are unbeaten now in 28 matches, a sequence Witton scarcely threatened to interrupt as the hosts reached the final.
Albion’s own run of results without losing, stopped by this reverse, ended in episodes the Blue Square Bet North champions-elect used to expose a difference in class between the teams.
Not much happened, mind.
The tie was settled in a six-minute spell after half time during which Chester scored twice, goals worthy of an admiring gasp for their finishes.
Lee Trundle’s caressed lob over Witton’s goalkeeper, sandwiched by Marc Williams’ brace, was the pick.
“Even I applauded,” admitted Albion boss Brian Pritchard.
“When something like that happens, the right thing to do is praise the quality of its execution.”
He rested players, four to be precise, to the team that roared back to beat Worksop – the last team to beat Blues back in November – including two teenagers in defence.
Chester’s faces changed too, seven names in the starting line-up that were not last Saturday.
They were smoother at the outset, although Trundle’s flaky finishing in the opening exchanges were no trailer for what followed.
His contact was not clean when meeting Matty McGinn’s centre on nine minutes, allowing Albion custodian Matt Cooper to recover when he should not have had chance to.
Trundle was face-to-face with Witton’s last man a minute later, denied this time by a smart save.
The visitors, pushed back against their will by Chester players pressing high up the pitch, were forced to focus on defence.
Danny Andrews had a first sight of goal midway through the first half, but he shot without sufficient power to trouble net-minder Martin Fearon.
When Michael Powell, once a favourite of fans here, smuggled a loose ball from the goalline it was Witton who felt fortunate at the interval.
They were posed fewer problems in the period after half time, conceding the game’s opening goal at a moment when Chester had started to labour.
Williams, ready to shoot after receiving a cute pass from former Northwich Victoria defender Dominic Collins, stroked a perfectly-placed effort past Cooper into the corner.
Trundle ought to have doubled the hosts’ lead from their next attack but, after tricking away from his marker, blazed his finish wildly off target.
The ex-Swansea striker had fooled everybody, for the impudence with which he chipped Cooper on 73 minutes was in inverse proportion to the look-away-now nature of his previous attempts.
He turned provider for Chester’s third goal, rolled by Williams – despite Ben Harrisons’ attempt to stop him – past Cooper with the minimum of fuss.
Witton could not find consolation with a goal of their own, Anthony Gardner’s shot scraping a post before substitute Steve Foster at least forced Fearon to work at his near post following Andrews’ quickly-taken free kick.
For Pritchard, there was plenty to ponder.
He said: “Details made the difference, which taught us a lot.
“We were made to pay for mistakes, even small ones, that might have gone unpunished in our division.”
Witton Star Man: Josh Glover. Chester sent most of their attacks, during the first half in particular, down Witton’s left, where Glover was standing in for Mathew Wood. He took few risks, timing tackles perfectly while dominating in the air. A shoulder injury hampered his movement after the interval but he was undeterred, and solid.
Word too for Josh Horne, making only his fourth start for the club. A huge assignment for a 19-year-old to be tested by a player as experienced as Lee Trundle. With that in mind, the teenager’s performance was admirable.
Chester (4-4-2) Fearon (GK), Lewis Turner, Horan, Collins, McGinn (Howard 77), Hankin (Jarman 70), Ashley Williams, Brown, Danny Williams, Trundle (Peers 85), Marc Williams. Subs not used Linwood, Nathan Turner. Goals Marc Williams 67, 85 Trundle 73. Booked Horan, Jarman (dissent)
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Horne, Glover, Andrews, Shaw, James (Foster 71), Powell, Hancock, Tuck. Subs not used Plant (GK), Wood, Sheehan, Moseley. Booked Andrews (foul)
Referee Mark Duncan (Warrington)
To read Brian Pritchard's verdict in full, click here: http://bit.ly/Z3S3Zs