The Cestrians travelled to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, looking to bounce back from the disappointing result against Durham Cestria the week before in the County Cup. The game was going to be one of the toughest of the season so far; Bolton had been on a good run of victories, including Stoke City the week before in the FAWNL Cup quarter final and scalping the league leaders Burnley the week before. Confidence would be extremely high and Chester could expect a very difficult game. Injuries and other commitments meant a few were missing, including Rachel Mellor, Lizzy Thompson-Clarke, Shannon Etherington, Sarah Burn, Stephanie Loraine and Robyn Parker. Kacie Elson was back in the squad following a very successful trip to Italy to represent England Colleges (picking up a couple of goals and beating Wales in the final) and Abi Thompson getting her second start for the first team, after moving up from the development team.
The game got under way in lovely conditions with the Cestrians playing up the hill and defending the “mound end” – Bolton were straight out of the traps – their 2 wide attackers hugging the sidelines and a ball was quickly played in behind the Cestrians back 4, the Bolton forward got a shot away, it came to nothing but a message to Chester of Bolton’s intent. Bolton quickly settled into a rhythm, passing the ball around nicely and looked to get in behind the back 4 whenever they could. Their midfield 3 and in particular Nichola Worthington started to ask questions, their full backs, were pushing high and creating overloads down the wings. The Cestrians weathered the first 15-20 mins and started to get a foothold in the game. Laura Hockaday was tasked with marking Worthington and gave her no time on the ball. Anna Collin and Lucy Jackman broke up play time and time again, winning the first and second ball and started to get Kacie Elson into the game. Her pace and quick feet started to push the full back towards her own goal – was the momentum changing. The game continued to ebb and flow, Bolton looking to pass their way through Chester, the Cestrians winning the 50/50’s, turned over play and countered. For all Bolton’s passing and movement, it was Chester who looked like might get the first goal. On 43 minutes, Anna Colin burst forward towards the box, and passed to Kacie Elson, who beat the full back and whipped the ball into the 6 yard box, for Nic Havery to turn it past the keeper for the Cestrians to go in 1-0 at half time.
The second half Bolton were out of the traps quickly again for the first 5 mins but didn’t create a clear chance on goal. Chester started to enjoy a bit of time on the ball and were able to play down the hill towards the “mound end”. As the game went on the players started to stretch the pitch, Kacie Elson and Jess Ellison getting in behind the full backs time and again. On 65 mins Bolton had been awarded a couple of free kicks in quick succession, in promising positions but they didn’t come to anything. Two minutes later a Bolton player smashed a shot/cross from the left hand side, heading into the far top corner only for Steph Jones to make a great high diving fingertip save onto the bar/post, which came down onto the line and was gratefully collected. A fantastic save, which stopped Bolton getting a foothold in the game. Spurred on by this, Chester went on the attack again and again. Jess Ellison started to get the better of the full back, cutting in on the 3 occasions to get shots away, but the keeper saved well. Kacie Elson beat 2 defenders and got a shot away into the bottom corner which the keeper somehow managed to save with her feet then hands. On 73 mins a great diagonal ball towards the box, the keeper came rushing out to collect but Nichole Havery got her head to it, looped over the keeper and into the net 2-0 Chester.
A fantastic performance by all the players against a very good Bolton team.