I was, as I'm sure you were, delighted with our last performance at home. We've had a few disappointments at the Exacta of late, which Neil Young has been first to acknowledge, so it was great to see a performance like the one the lads put in against Lancaster. Plenty of effort, a comfortable win, and probably more goals on another day.
However, following the game the Lancaster manager Tony Hesketh, who apparently was at the match despite evidence to the contrary, labelled us as "not that good a side", commented that we don't have a great deal of flair and mused that Chester will "probably struggle on their travels". It's (very) easy to dismiss this as brazenly inaccurate rambling and I was tempted to do that, but then my article would be a whole lot shorter, so let's see if we can somehow justify Mr Hesketh's claims.
A clean sheet doesn't count if the goalkeeper doesn't have to do anything
Richard Whiteside was a spectator for so much of the Lancaster clash that I'm actually a little miffed that he wasn't forced to pay a tenner like the rest of us. Indeed, rumours abound that Richie brought out his iPod in the second half "just for something to do" and that his biggest test of the afternoon was operating the 'shuffle' function whilst wearing gloves.
Not a great deal of flair
One would have to agree with Mr Hesketh that Chester's three goals that day were sorely lacking in flair. When Iain Howard chested the ball down and crashed a half volley across the keeper into the bottom corner to open the scoring, barely anyone around me celebrated, with one spectator commenting that his follow-through required "a far more extravagant flourish" if we want to be taken seriously in this league.
Then, when Michael Wilde played a perfectly weighted first-time flick to Howard who skilfully lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper, I put my head in my hands. Sure, it was 2-0, but are we happy to be watching such ugly football? And as for that third goal... a flowing counter attack culminating in another precise first-time assist from Wildey and an assured first-time finish from Kyle Wilson... well, I almost walked out in protest.
It should have been 4-0
Had Antoni Sarcevic had the wherewithal to be more blatantly dragged down in the area than he was, Chester would have earned a penalty. In Antoni's defence, for the penalty to have been more nailed-on he would have needed to hand each of the Lancaster defenders a golf club before proceeding to accept the beating of his life right in the middle of the six yard box - but if you want to be a professional footballer, you've got to be prepared to go that extra mile.
(There is, of course, no guarantee that we would have converted the penalty. I imagine that most of our players have forgotten what one looks like by this stage.)
Each player only put in 100% effort
Some people involved in football believe that there is such a thing as "110% effort", so perhaps Mr Hesketh felt that our lads' incredible commitment to winning every ball didn't quite achieve the realms of mathematical implausibility.
Chester will struggle on their travels
I've dipped our away record of P7 W6 D1 L0 F21 A6 into my biggest vat of sarcasm and still I can't find a justification for the idea that we'll struggle on the road. Perhaps Mr Hesketh was merely suggesting that some of the grounds at which we are to play are a little bit tricky to find - which in the case of Bamber Bridge, at least, is a fairly accurate suggestion. I definitely struggled on my travels that day.
It's important to note here that this column is written with a staunchly pro-Chester stance rather than an anti-Lancaster one. I genuinely believe that the performance against Lancaster was excellent and was surprised that we were not given more credit by the Lancaster boss. And whilst I accept that we're not yet the finished article, I do think that we're moving in the right direction. So if it yields the same result as a fortnight ago, I hope Neil's team talk today goes along the lines of "Alright lads, don't play that well, cut out the flair and play in a fashion that implies you'll be useless away from home".
Top of the league, and having a laugh,