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Telford 0-0 Chester: Battling Bucks stand firm to net a deserved reward

A goalless stalemate wasn’t the result AFC Telford truly needed, but this was definitely a point earned and deserved against an in-form Chester side.

Brendon Daniels (11) (AFC Telford United Midfielder) chasing a long ball through Spennymoor's box.
Brendon Daniels (11) (AFC Telford United Midfielder) chasing a long ball through Spennymoor's box.

Kevin Wilkin’s team showed resilience and the defensive unit, in which Harry Flowers and Adam Senior were near faultless, restricted the Seals to very few shots on target.

Despite the visitors being the better side in possession, the Bucks had the best chances to win this game, and home goalkeeper Luke Pilling wasn’t as overworked as many fans might have expected.

Wilkin made two changes to the side that held out for close to 70 minutes before succumbing to Solihull Moors in the FA Trophy last week. Brendon Daniels and Jamie Allen, who had both served suspensions for recent dismissals, returned in place of Brad Bood and Nate Blissett.

In front of a crowd just one shy of 2,500, easily the Bucks’ best attendance this season to date, the game was a real contrast in styles. Chester, under their young manager Callum McIntyre, are not a physically dominant side, instead relying on speed of movement and rapid, slick possession to bamboozle teams.

Given the Bucks tendency for ‘inattentiveness’, as Wilkin has described it, his side were in for a real test of their concentration, but came through despite a few nervy moments.

Neither side took a firm grip of proceedings in a frantically-paced start, although the visiting supporters, in good voice all afternoon, were eager to appeal for every decision.

The Bucks were dealt a blow when midfielder Prince Ekpolo began to struggle with a back injury. Despite treatment, he couldn’t last beyond the 34th minute, and was replaced by Luke Rowe. The tigerish Rowe joined recently from Hednesford Town, and made his Bucks debut.

Set-piece opportunities looked the Bucks’ most likely way of making a breakthrough, and in the 26th minute a foul on Bucks captain Robbie Evans led to a great chance.

Daniels’ free-kick wasn’t claimed by visiting goalkeeper Harry Tyler, but striker Montel Gibson couldn’t direct a free header on target and put the ball wide. Chester were able to apply pressure for longer, and striker Kole Hall, briefly a Buck in the 2020/21 season, went down under challenge just inside the box, but there was no censure from referee Jonathan Maskrey.

Just before half-time, Bucks defender Flowers almost opened the scoring from a corner, getting above two defenders at the far post to head down and towards the line. No-one in home colours could turn the ball over the line and Tyler gratefully dropped on to the loose ball to smother the danger.

Tyler then produced a really good save to turn over a Daniels free-kick from 25 yards after Evans had been caught by a raised boot from Chester skipper Weeks, the man who makes the Seals perform.

The visitors started the second half in positive fashion but again found the Bucks obdurate and watchful.

They repelled a couple of dangerous set-pieces and Pilling was smartly off his line to stop the Seals on the one occasion where they appeared set to break through.

As the game progressed, the Bucks replaced Byron Moore with Nate Blissett, the giant forward paired with Gibson as Allen moved into midfield, and his physicality almost brought some reward.

Chester’s pass-pass-pass approach hadn’t broken through and they became drawn into a game more to the Bucks liking, going from front to back much more quickly and missing out the midfield.

Daniels couldn’t turn and get a shot off when the ball fell to his feet after a long throw, and then Blissett drove in hard towards goal off the left wing, forcing Tyler to save his fierce drive at his near post. Allen then won a corner with a driving run of his own, one that Liam Nolan couldn’t head on target.

A foul that earned substitute Iwan Murray a booking presented Daniels, the man fouled, with another chance to exercise his frequently accurate left foot from 25 yards, but Tyler was behind the effort, taking it into his midriff.

The game ended in a flurry of activity but with neither side able to break the deadlock, resulting in a point for each, but one that may satisfy the struggling Bucks more than their high-flying Cheshire opponents.

Telford: Pilling, O’Brien, Daniels, Evans, Senior, Flowers, Nolan, Ekpolo (Rowe 34) , Moore (Blissett 59), Gibson (Williams 87), Allen. Subs not used: Burroughs, Green.

Chester: Tyler, Morgan (Thomas 66), Brown, Weeks (c), Williams, Edwards, Devine (Murray 81), Roberts, Hall, Caton, Willoughby. Subs not used: Kenyon, Earl, Lynch.

Referee: Jonathan Maskrey.

Attendance: 2,499.

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