Six men who admitted affray at a Chester FC play-off match have all received suspended prison sentences.

Chester Crown Court (sitting at Chester Magistrates Court) heard on Monday, March 18 that the six men invaded the pitch at full-time in the club's play-off semi-final against Brackley Town on May 7, 2023, which the home side lost 1-0.

One of the six threw punches at Brackley fans in the away end of the ground, while others threw lit blue flares at supporters.

In a lengthy sentencing, Recorder Peter Atherton spared the following defendants immediate custody: Joseph Gillam, 25, of High Street, Saltney; Timothy Mills, 39, of Penmon Close, Chester; John O'Hanlon, 37, of Arnhem Way, Huntington; Mark Perrin, 34, of Auckland Road, Chester; Daniel Radford, 23, of Sumner Road, Chester; and Shane Wharton, 54, of Egerton Street, New Brighton.

Prosecuting, Myles Wilson said all defendants had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, save for Wharton, who had admitted affray at his first crown court appearance.

Photos were presented on court screens from the day of the affray, identifying the defendants on the pitch and what they were doing during the 14-minute disorder.

Gillam was seen throwing missiles and making gestures, Mills - dressed in a day-glow hi-visibility outfit - was seen picking up a lit blue flare and throwing it at Brackley fans, while O'Hanlon pushed a club steward aside to invade the pitch and gesture at away fans.

Perrin, wearing a distinctive black hoodie, threw a blue flare at away fans, and also tampered with the away supporters' coach front wheel outside the ground, as well as banging on the windscreen.

Radford threw four missiles towards the Brackley crowd, while Wharton was seen throwing punches towards Brackley fans.

Gillam was also in breach of a suspended sentence - imposed in November 2023 for an "ugly" affray and assault at the Commercial Hotel in 2022 - for failing to attend unpaid work appointments. The court heard he had since re-engaged with probation and had 41 of the 120 unpaid work hours to complete.

Mills had 18 previous convictions for 39 offences, including ones for violence, but nothing similar on his record since 2009. O'Hanlon had previous convictions for affray and public order offences. Perrin had one previous conviction for theft, Radford had no previous convictions. Wharton had nine previous convictions for 19 offences and had received a six-year Football Banning Order and an 18-month sentence in 2005 for violent disorder.

Representatives for all six defendants said they expressed remorse for what the "spontaneous" offending and said there were realistic prospects of rehabilitation in each case, without the need for immediate imprisonment. In addition, none of the six had offended since last May.

Thomas McLoughlin, defending Gillam, said the breach of the suspended sentence was a "blip" and he could continue unpaid work in addition to his full-time job as a roofer. His partner was due to give birth later this month and prison for Gillam could mean his partner and the new-born baby not having a home.

Richard Thomas, defending Mills, said the defendant had been drinking that day and made full admissions in interview. He had a 17-year-old son who would likely lose his home if Mills went to prison.

Michael Whitty, defending O'Hanlon, said the defendant recognised alcohol played a part in his behaviour, which was "entirely unnecessary", and he had since drank less to spend more time with his family.

Alun Williams, defending Perrin, said the defendant had been drinking far more than he nomrally would at a friend's address prior to the game, and his friend left the match at half-time, and he regretted not doing so too. The offending happened during an "incredibly difficult time" for the defendant, losing his relationship, employment and home.

Mr Thomas, also defending Radford, said the defendant had consumed a large amount of alcohol, which he was not used to, and has not drunk since. He was a "conscientious and hard-working young man" who had been part of an "isolated incident".

Isabella Denn-White, defending Wharton, said the defendant was "ashamed" of his behaviour and wished to express his apologies to the court. Since the offending, he had a heart attack and suffered with anxiety, depression, diabetes and PTSD, the last of which he developed after he stopped an armed intruder while working in the security industry in 2018.

Gillam, Mills, O'Hanlon and Radford were each sentenced to 10 months, suspended for two years. During that time, they must each complete 120 hours unpaid work. In addition, Gillam was fined £300 for breaching his suspended sentence.

Perrin was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years, and must complete 120 hours unpaid work and 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days. Wharton was sentenced to 48 weeks, suspended for two years, and must complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

In addition, all six were handed five-year Football Banning Orders preventing them from attending official football matches. They must each pay £425 court costs and a £187 surcharge.

A seventh defendant, 33-year-old Joseph Henry, of Blacon Point Road, is due to be sentenced on Tuesday after admitting affray at the same match.