I took advantage of Wrexham having no game today to go and spy on Chester. I must admit that I approached the ground with a sense of trepidation, as I feared I would see a side which was much better than us. I did, but it was MK Dons.
Chester lost for the third game in a row, so we go into next week's match as the form team!
To be fair to Chester, if I must, you could see why they've had a good start to the season. They're a well organised side who all know their roles in a rigid 4-4-2. However, they were outclassed by an MK Dons side who are the best side I've seen in League Two this season by some distance. Chester will be hoping for a play-off spot at the end of the season, I suspect, rather than sustaining a push for the top three.
City started well, mind. At the start of the game they played the game at the high tempo which suits them and put the Dons under a lot of pressure. They looked to get the ball out early to the wide men, and Kevin Ellison and Richie Partridge are both players who will cause problems at this level. However, today they didn't show much of that pedigree, especially the ineffective Partridge.
Bobby Williamson said before the game that they lost at Bradford City last Saturday because they ran out of ideas, and they spent a lot of time in training last week working on that. Unfortunately for him, they ran out of ideas after just fifteen minutes today! As the pace of their good start petered out they began to be outmanoevred by a side who passed and moved impressively. City's midfield were full of industry but they lacked creativity, and suddenly they were chasing shadows as the game was being played on the visitors' terms.
They did manage to rouse themselves at the start of the second half, with the two wide men swapping flanks, a move which certainly suited Ellison, who began to cut inside and show some threat. They were already a goal down by then though-they'd been lucky to go in without having conceded more-and when they missed a couple of chances after the break you felt they would pay the price. They did. MK Dons scored on the break and despite missing a penalty-a lame effort by substitute Simon Yeo-they never threatened to get back into it.
Keeper Jon Danby looked shaky too, and his kicking under pressure was suspect.
So what to make of it? I often go to see teams before they play us, and until recently I'd have looked at today's performance and thought we had a good chance. The problem is, the way we've been playing lately, I can't feel the same way.
So let's put it this way: if Brian Little can make a difference, Chester aren't anything remarkable, and we can win it. If he can't, their much bigger midfield will eventually overwhelm ours, and in the second half we'll lose the game, like we did against Shrewsbury. And Hereford. And Rotherham. And Barnet.