Rush revels in triumphant welcome home

Chester City 1 - Macclesfield Town 0
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The Independent Football

Twenty-five years after making his debut for Chester City, Ian Rush made a winning return to the home of his alma mater as manager of the Coca-Cola League's bottom club.

Twenty-five years after making his debut for Chester City, Ian Rush made a winning return to the home of his alma mater as manager of the Coca-Cola League's bottom club.

As a 17-year-old striker, Rush scored 17 goals in 34 games for his first club before a £300,000 move to Liverpool, where he became Anfield's most prolific scorer, with 346 goals in 658 matches. Rush could have stayed in the comfort zone as Liverpool's striker coach under Rafael Benitez, but jumped at the chance of replacing his former Anfield team-mate Mark Wright at the Deva Stadium.

In the intervening years, Chester have moved home - the current ground replacing Sealand Road, where Rush served his apprenticeship - and survived a couple of financial crises. Their return to the Football League after four years has been difficult, with last Monday's Paul Gascoigne-inspired 3-1 defeat at Boston illustrating the size of the task facing Rush and his assistant, the former Welsh international defender Mark Aizlewood. Their first game in charge, in rural Lincolnshire, was a real eye-opener for the pair, who also manage the Welsh Under-17 team.

Having rewritten the records at Liverpool, before his career petered out via Leeds, Newcastle and Wrexham, Rush has a job on his hands if Chester are to avoid an unwanted place in history: no promoted team have ever been relegated from the Football League after just one season.

"From the two games I've seen against Darlington and Boston, the signs are encouraging," Rush wrote in yesterday's programme notes. "The players showed they can play football, but they can't play in fits and starts, and we won't get anything unless we show the right work commitment. But I'm confident we can turn things around."

After posing for his first-home-match photos in brilliant sunshine, Rush settled down to watch his new charges go in search of their first League win of the season, applauding every good play and contesting every unfavourable decision. Chester nearly made a dream start when full-back Darren Edmondson crossed from the right for Stuart Drummond to head over. Then Michael Branch made a piercing diagonal run from the right before scuffing his shot from just outside the area.

After a week of intense coaching from Aizlewood, Chester's defence looked more solid, but Jon Parkin almost gave Macclesfield the lead with a neat right-foot shot which hit Wayne Brown's left-hand post. Then Branch crossed from the left for Drummond's header to drop agonisingly wide of the post, and Branch narrowly headed over.

Macclesfield weathered the storm, with skipper Tommy Widdrington driving them forward from midfield, and 10 minutes before the break, Mark Bailey released Parkin down the right and he forced Brown into a fine save from six yards. But Chester looked the more likely to score, and nearly did seven minutes before the break. Again Branch was involved, crossing from the left for Cortez Belle to set up Kevin Ellison, but his eight-yard shot hit the crossbar. An exciting first half was rounded off by a 20-yard shot by Matthew Tipton, which Brown superbly turned over the bar, and a Ben Davies drive, which Macclesfield's keeper, Steve Wilson, managed to hold.

The game really opened up in the second half, and after Danny Whitaker had fluffed a good chance for Macclesfield by shooting weakly at Brown, Branch almost scored for the home side but shot narrowly wide. The former Everton strikerwas also close after 65 minutes, when his delicate 18-yard lob just cleared the bar.

Macclesfield's goal came under siege. Ellison's shot was deflected for a corner from which Drummond headed narrowly wide. Ellison's goal-bound shot was well saved by Wilson, who then tipped over a stoppage-time header from Danny Collins. Then, from the resultant Ellison corner, Collins headed home despite a valiant but vain goal-line clearance.

So a first home goal produced a first home win in front of Chester's biggest crowd of the season, who gave the team and their chuffed new manager a standing ovation. But, after Chester had conceded 15 goals in seven games, Rush will be just as pleased to have kept a clean sheet.