Manchopper in….Buxton (2)

Result: Buxton 1-2 York City (FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round)

Venue: Silverlands (Saturday 5th October 2019, 3pm)

Att: 901

The FA Cup inches ever closer to, what is for many clubs, the promised land of the First Round and all the possibilities that come with it:- TV coverage, boosted gates, increased coffers and all the extra publicity amongst a number of other bonuses. For Buxton, a few of these would come a little early in the shape of the former Football League stalwarts York City, the Minstermen now plying their trade just a division above the Bucks. However, a home win would still be seen as something of a giant-killing – and with Silverlands now having a 4G pitch down, this had the possibility to be another added wrinkle to proceedings.

I headed off towards the Derbyshire spa town fairly early during this first Saturday morning of the first weekend of October, with the intention of hopefully getting around any kind of mass congregations of support and perhaps the introduction of the dreaded plastic pint cups. They send shivers down my spine just thinking of them….but luckily, the journey on through Manchester was silky smooth and I passed on through towns including the likes of Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith (yes, I’ve been to both in these silly pages) before arriving into Buxton station, the end of the line, around 50 minutes after leaving Piccadilly. Not bad.

Big train, little train, plastic box.

The Fan Window

Buxton

Having got in for a little before 11.30am, I decided to go on a sight-seeing walk around the town early on. As such, I paid visits to the rather grand fan window at the station itself, the famous Buxton spring, opera house, pavilion and its gardens and the hill on which the war memorial stands upon before heading back on down station-wards to my first stop of the day – this being the Buxton Brewery’s Tap House. A really nice setting that mixed the normal tap house setting with a kind of Mediterranean feel, it was a great place to begin with and the German-style Kellerbier wasn’t bad either, and the choice to play out the full track listing of Elbow’s Seldom Seen Kid album was another tick to their boxes!

From there, I decided to head back towards the steep incline up to the higher part of town, where the square hosts a number of drinking holes, but first you come up to the 53° North café/bar in one of the buildings towards the top of said hill. Given a welcome on entering and getting an Estrella (£4.30) from the bar, though the highlight was given by the puppy, Harley, that came in with double-dad (human and canine), as it decided to ‘relieve’ itself in front of the bar. Class stuff, though I thought it’d be looked on differently if I’d have done so. Double-standards, no? Finishing there, I said a goodbye to the dads and dogs and completed the last bit of the climb and into the town square area, which is complete with King’s Arms, New Inn and the Eagle. Now, having been to Buxton twice before and tested the former two on both occasions (along with the Old Clubhouse near the Opera House), I thought I’d miss them out on this occasion and instead go for the Eagle – which proved to be solid, if unspectacular.

Buxton Brewery Tap

53 Degrees North

Looking towards the Eagle

Buxton is a spa and market town within the county of Derbyshire and is known as the ‘Gateway to the Peak District National Park’, although it lies outside of the National Park boundaries. It is the highest market town in England by elevation and was a municipal borough in its own right through to 1974, when it was merged with other localities, i.e. Glossop, to form the district and borough of the High Peak. The Romans first settled in the area, creating the settlement of Aquae Arnametiae (spa goddess of the grove) and coins unearthed around the town indicate that Buxton was inhabited throughout their occupation. However, from where its current name derives is uncertain, though may be from the Old English for Buck Stone or Rocking Stone, though this (to me anyway) seems unlikely.

Having been initially developed by the 5th Duke of Devonshire from profits derived from his copper mines in the area, the town was built in the spa town-style of Bath and would continue to grow up around its geothermal springs, morphing into the spa town it is known as – with the water from the springs being funnelled out to St. Anne’s Well, a medieval shrine that stands opposite the Crescent and Bath House. Victorians were drawn due to the alleged healing effects of the waters and the later Dukes of Devonshire did little to discourage them travelling there! Earlier, in 1569, their ancestor, Bess of Hardwick, took her husband (one of four no less), the Earl of Shrewsbury, to Buxton to “take the waters” after becoming the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, who herself was taken to the town five years later and stayed at the site now taken up by the Old Hall Hotel. Mary noted Buxton as ‘La Fontagne de Bogsby’.

Pavilion & Bandstand

Boardwalk

As the years rolled on into the 19th century, Buxton continued its growth in the Victorian-era, gaining recommendations from philosopher and Grandfather of Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin, who pointed Josiah Wedgwood I (founder of the Wedgwood potting company) in the direction of Buxton and would then regularly visit with his family, before two of the later generations of the Darwin family would move to the town to reside there. Of the early settlement, only St. Anne’s Church remains of the majority limestone-build town, whilst most of what now stands is made of quarried sandstone from the 18th century and a nearby River Wye-carved limestone cave known as Poole’s Cavern contains unique ‘poached egg’ stalactites, as well as the largest stalactite in Derbyshire. It was handed its title due to a local, notorious highwayman of the same name.

St. Anne’s Well

Opera House Area

The town has also hosted the Buxton Festival since 1979 and its allied ‘Fringe’ festival, as well as being widely known for its bottled mineral water. Meanwhile, Buxton counts the likes of footballers Les Bradd (all time leading scorer for Notts County), Frank Soo (the first mixed-race professional player to represent England) and Mark Higgins, motorcycle trials champion Mick Andrews, BDO darting siblings Lorraine & Dean Winstanley, DJ Dave Lee Travis, Disney director Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins etc.), as well as ex-Coronation Street actor Bruno Langley, or Todd, as most may be more familiar with!

With the “new” Carlsberg being pretty cheap at £3.10, I plumped for that to cut my prior losses before moving on through the neighbouring market area towards the Ale Stop; which was also complete with doggo action in the form of Obi – a lovely thing he is too. After sitting with me for long enough for a regular to remark that he was quite happy with me, he soon abandoned me for crisps. What betrayal….though if I had that choice, I’d go for the crisps too, to be fair. In a state of despair, I polished off the last of my half of Tatton Brewery’s Best (a half, who’d have thunk it?!) and despite planning to pop up to Silverlands then and there to grab a programme early doors (I’d missed them on both previous visits), a quick calculation found it better to have a quick one in the neighbouring The Vault first.

Vault & Ale House

Cheshire Cheese & first post-match stop, The Swan

London Road Inn

Opting for a Strongbow (£3.60) in here, I saw the toilets sign near the stairs, but also near enough to the rear part to cause a bit of confusion and give flashbacks to my unintended trespass in Mill Hill a couple of years back. As it was, it was fairly obvious when getting there and having all that cleared up, I made haste up to Silverlands to grab a programme at £2 though, for whatever reason, I kept trying to pay more than that – first £3 and then £2.50. “I’m too generous sometimes” I said to the guy on the gate, before being handed said bible and returning down the road and back towards the far end of the town’s main thoroughfare. Here, I found the London Road Tavern that had been closed minutes earlier when I passed en route to the ground, was now open and fairly well populated, and so I made the decision to pop in there on my way back after visiting my intended stopping place, the Cheshire Cheese.

With time becoming a factor and wanting to pretty much complete Buxton centre’s pub offering, I decided to go on bottles and a Corona and Peroni in each of the two named above (at £3.00 and £4.00 respectively) saw me having spent up all my pre-match time and so it was back to the Bucks’ home once more, this time for a fairly more extensive time. Arriving to a decent amount of queues on the gates, I handed over my £10 entry and entered into the ground in one corner, between the raised, all-seater (formerly of Maine Road) Main Stand and clubhouse building. A food bar actually sits between the stand and turnstiles, with a sizeable covered terrace located right in front, behind the near-end goal. The far side is populated by a long, covered largely standing area, though also has a small amount of seating available, though it is at a premium, whilst the far end is open, hard standing – as are the corners of the ground too. That’s the highest ground in England, Silverlands, in short and this is the story behind the Bucks of Buxton….

History Lesson:

Buxton Football Club was founded in 1877 as an offshoot of a local cricket club and played their first match later that year. After spells groundsharing with the cricket club at the Park, before venturing out on their own to grounds on Cote Lane, London Road and Green Lane, they moved into long-term home Silverlands in 1884 – the first match there being a Derbyshire Senior Cup tie against Bakewell that Buxton came out of as 2-0 victors. The club later joined the Combination in 1891, though didn’t experience much success and indeed finished bottom of the league table in 1896 prior to leaving the Combination altogether in 1899. Switching to the Manchester League for the new century-spanning season, Buxton finished as 1904-’05 runners-up but spent most of their initial time there in the lower half of the table prior to its 1912 disbanding. Re-joining the League upon its re-forming in 1920, the club considered applying to join the newly-created Football League Division 3 North the next year, but thought better of it.

This led to them edging up to being title contenders in the Manchester League as the years went on – including winning the Manchester League’s League Cup consecutively in 1926 and 1927 – and after finishing as runners-up in both 1929 and 1930, they finally lifted the title in 1932 and joined the Cheshire County League for the following season. They remained there with little in the way of silverware success (though did win their first Derbyshire Senior Cup in 1939) through to World War II, and post-war they re-joined and finished as 1946-’47 runners-up and lifted their second Senior Cup, winning both the last pre-war and first post-war tournament. 1951-’52 saw the club’s first notable foray in the FA Cup, as the Bucks made the First Round for the first time, whereupon they thumped Rawmarsh Welfare 4-1, before going on to face League opposition in the form of Aldershot Town. The Silverlands would see a cup shock as the Shots were, ahem, shot down 4-3 with Buxton’s third-round reward being a tie with Second Division side Doncaster Rovers – who put an end to any fairytale in a 2-0 win at Belle Vue.

Arriving at Silverlands

Two Cheshire League Cups were won in 1957 & 1958, before 1958-’59 saw the First Round reached again, though they this time experienced polar opposite results when, having defeated Crook Town 4-1, they were thrashed by Accrington Stanley 6-1. 1962-’63 yielded a third first-round outing, this time ending at that stage in a loss to Barrow, and the season saw some more slight disappointment in the Cheshire County League, with the club finishing as runners-up. Despite winning the League Cup for a third time in 1969, it would take Buxton a decade from the runners-up placing to finally lift the Cheshire League title, 1973 seeing them achieve promotion to the Northern Premier League and they remained there through to 1987, winning the 1982 NPL President’s Cup along the way, when the NPL gained a second (First) division, with Buxton handed a spot in the Premier. Their spell there lasted another decade, fending off the drop in 1996 on goal difference alone, before being unable to stave it off the next year, after finishing bottom of the table, and things only got worse for the Bucks the next season, as their first outing in the First Division of the NPL ended in a second consecutive relegation.

Being placed in the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division, Buxton found it a rather difficult task to haul themselves back up into the NPL ranks, but 2006 finally saw them achieve promotion as NCEL champions, along with successfully defending their NCEL President’s Cup title (won in both 2005 & 2006), following this up with an immediate promotion from the NPL Division One the next year, in a pretty much complete juxtaposition to the seasons that saw them drop out of the league’s sphere. They also won the that year’s NPL President’s Cup to cap off a fine season in 2006-’07. They finished their first campaign back in the NPL Premier Division in a strong fifth-place, which saw them qualify for the play-offs; beating Witton Albion on penalties in the semi-finals, the Bucks were vanquished in the final by eventual Conference side Gateshead.

Clubhouse

They have remained in the Premier Division right through to the current day, with some seasons being more of a ‘hit’ and others a rather sizeable ‘miss’; last year was more of the former, with a 5th placed finish again seeing a play-off place achieved but, alas, this again ended with Buxton missing out on a Conference North place. On this occasion, the Bucks instead were defeated in the semi-finals 4-2 by South Shields up in the North East. They have gone on to win a total of ten Derbyshire Senior Cups to date, spanning from their first in 1939 through to 2012.

After a visit to the food bar for some chips and gravy, the game got underway with York coming out the stronger early on, though both sides would create little more than half-chances during the early skirmishes – Buxton’s Liam Hardy looping a header onto the roof of the net and York’s Kyle McFarlane driving an effort straight at Bucks stopper Grant Shenton. But it would be the hosts who would grab the first strike of the afternoon on eleven minutes, when the exotically named Diego de Girolamo, a former City player, nonetheless, pounced upon a knock-down in the area to slot home at the back post. 1-0 and the shock was on!

Match Action

Match Action

View from the Main Stand at ‘Tarmac Silverlands’!

More glimpses of goal would come and go, as the sides looked to extend and level up the scoring respectively, and went close through Warren Clarke’s fizzing drive, before Ryan Whitley had to be alert to keep out Bucks hotshot Liam Hardy when one-on-one with the hosts’ main scoring threat, following a long ball over the top. The half ended off with Adriano Moke testing Shenton with another effort from a fair way out, but that would be that as the sides headed in for the break. However, I’d seen enough to suggest that York would turn it around in the second half, as I’d stated to City fan Ben, so my reputation was on the line!

Indeed, the second half began much like the first, with an early strike seeing City duly level in similar circumstances to Buxton’s opener. After around five minutes of play, a ball into the area caused mayhem around the six-yard line, the ball eventually deflecting into the bottom corner. It looked as though York’s #9 may have got a touch en route, but it would be later credited as an own goal. With momentum at their backs, York now looked to assert the dominance their league placing should suggest. #5 headed over from a corner, before Buxton responded, a pair of shots from Hardy and the #9-clad de Girolamo (as opposed to, I assume, brother Nico) kept out by Whitley, with this enabling a swift counter down the other end, where a brilliant double save by Buxton ‘keeper Grant Shenton kept his side level. Keeping out the initial effort, with the loose ball meeting the head of Jordan Burrow, who looked destined to score, only for Shenton to fling himself across goal to block out the effort. Tremendous stuff, and it’s important to focus on the brilliance that goalkeepers pull off sometimes, as they certainly take the flack for the smallest of errors.

From the terrace

Match Action

Match Action

York continued to press onwards, though after #9 had seen his free header once again brilliantly saved by Shenton, it looked as though the Bucks were on course to at least secure a replay. But with ten minutes left on the clock, disaster struck for the hosts as a cross to the back-post was met by young full-back Nathan Dyer, whose looping header came back off the woodwork but fell kindly for a team-mate, who knocked it back his way, and this time the defender made no mistake – opting for power and thumping the ball into the roof of the net. The Buxton players looked broken, though their spirit was not and, with some sorts of trouble beginning to kick-off in the stand behind the goal, seemingly involving ‘fans’ of both sides, they almost got a late, late leveller.  Just after Nico de Girolamo had headed over, and introducing Martin Pilkington surprisingly late in the day, a clever low free-kick by Aaron Chalmers looked to be rolling into the bottom corner, but agonisingly came back off the foot of the upright, the Minstermen’s defence clearing the ball and securing their face in the final quali round.

CORNERS!!

As the authorities and ambulances began to arrive at the gate and enter the ground, the final whistle blew with a fine on-field contest being unfortunately overshadowed by the antics off the pitch. If the sparse info is indeed correct, I wish the young girl who was struck by an object the very best and not to be put off returning back to the terraces quickly. Buxton look a very strong side, and I expect their rise up the table to start quickly and them to be challenging for the higher places come the end of the season, if they continue these performances. York, meanwhile, look to have the steel they have seemingly lacked in recent times to grind out results, which should stand them in good stead as they seek to get back, firstly, into the Conference. Dyer looks to have all the attributes to go far as well; I was surprised to find he’s only 18, as he seems far older in his play and build.

Post-match, I joined the rush of people heading out of the ground as the sirens wailed around (it wasn’t quite as dramatic overall) and was soon back where I’d ended my pre-match tour, but this time on the other side of the road at the Swan. Having been unable to peruse the offerings overly in here, I opted for a pint of Stella (£3.50~), which I wasn’t planning on at the time – but having been informed that my parents were out and about back in their bar, I reckoned “free” drinks were better than me paying and decided to hop on the train back an hour later – meaning Spoons was sacrificed. It mattered little in the long run and so, after brief visits to the nearby Old Sun and Queen’s Head for more bottled goodness (at a surprisingly costly £4.20 a pop), I returned back down the steep hill (much more favourable) and back to the station in good time for the train back, which was about to pull in ahead of its return trip.

Old Sun

Queen’s Head

The remainder of said journey went smoothly and, making the connections in Manchester easily enough, I was back home by 7.30pm, which isn’t bad all things considered. As for the day, it had been a decent trip overall, despite the shenanigans from a few fools who blighted the names of both clubs – regardless of their following….though I doubt highly that either are anywhere close to being a fan of either in the real sense of the word. Silverlands is a great ground to visit (though the 4G does take a little of the essence off it) and Buxton is a brilliant town. The game itself was a highly watchable tie and Buxton were unfortunate to not grab a replay out of the contest right at the end, with York not at their best. Anyway, it was the Minstermen who took their place in the hat for the final qualifying round, where they drew fellow League former members Stockport County. What a tie. As for me, I likely won’t be at Bootham Crescent for a final visit that day; but I will be somewhere….

RATINGS:

Game: 7

Ground: 8

Food: 6

Programme: 6

Value For Money: 7

Manchopper in….Chester

Result: Chester 0-0 Southport (National League North)

Venue: Deva Stadium (Tuesday 1st January 2019, 3pm)

Att: 1,953

I’d done it! A whole calendar year without seeing a nil-nil was in the books and so I set off on a New Year Day trip to Chester full off optimism that the run would continue into 2019. Nah, just kidding, I awoke with a strong feeling that the first day of the year would bring it to an end in shuddering fashion. Would my instincts be correct? Well, I was about to find out.

I grabbed the train (an actual Northern one, I know I couldn’t believe it either) and headed into Warrington to catch the train down to the county town (city?) of Cheshire, stopping to pick-up a Tikka sandwich at WH Smith’s en-route over to Bank Quay. After a fair wait, we eventually got rolling and arrived in Chester after around a half-hour’s journey and I set off on a walk of the city walls ahead of finding a drinking hole or two. I was quite taken aback by the amount of “Hello’s” I received on said walk though! Anyway, with my sights set on a number of the historic city’s watering holes, I headed towards Eastgate and to see what I could find.

Chester Racecourse

Chester

Chester

Well, not much was the answer at first which I found slightly surprising. My first three options – the Boot, the Marlborough Arms and the Queen’s Head – were all closed and dark and I began to fear this trip would be something of a let down. As such, I licked my wounds in the Square Bottle Wetherspoon’s over a Punk IPA (£3.49) and tried to figure out a contingency as best I could as the clock ticked onwards beyond midday. Eventually, I came up with something and after a second-look at each to see if anything had changed in the post-12 o’clock times, this wasn’t the case and so I looked to the cathedral for some divine intervention…..and I found it!

Chester is the county town/city of Cheshire and is a walled city upon the River Dee, close to the border between Wales and England. It was founded by the Roman Legio II Adiutrix as a Roman fort (castrum) known as Deva Victrix (from either the God of the Dee or from the pre-existing British name for the waterway and the legion based there) in the reign of the Emperor Vespasian in the year 79AD and was one of the main military camps in Roman Britain prior to being converted to a major civilian settlement. They also built an amphitheatre and four main roads and its comparable size to other major cities of the time indicate it may have been intended to have become the Roman capital of Britannia Superior, rather than Londinium. After seemingly becoming part of post-Roman Powys and an apparent battle which featured the legendary KIng Arthur, 616AD saw the Welsh army defeated by Æfelfrith of Northumbria with the city becoming Legacæstir.

Chester amphitheatre

Roman gardens

Chester Cross

In 689AD, King Æthelred of Mercia founded the Minster church of West Mercia in the city which would go on to become Chester’s first cathedral (the current houses the body of his daughter St. Werburgh) before the city’s walled defences were strengthened and lengthened by the Saxons on their arrival to protect the city from the invading Danish forces. Despite breaching the walls to take the city for a short time, the Danes would be forced back out due to the seizure of cattle and wasting of the surrounding areas by King Alfred, whose daughter Æfelflæd, Lady of Mercia, would go on to create the new Saxon burh. would later These defences later ensured Chester would be one of the last cities to fall to William the Conquerer and the conquests of the Norman army, and it was upon the capture that the castle was added to overlook the city and Wales beyond. The name of Legacæstir would last into the 11th century before falling out of fashion, with the more simplistic title of Chester being introduced instead, though the period between the 14th and 18th century saw the city also known as Westchester, due to its prominent position in the North West of the country, being awarded its city status in 1541.

More recently, Chester played an important part in the Industrial Revolution with the Newtown and Hoole areas featuring the Shropshire Union canal and all that came with it, meaning it then supported a cattle market and both of the city’s rail stations – Chester General and Chester Northgate – with the railways providing many workers with jobs and most of the income and exports. Much of Chester’s current architecture dates from the Victorian era with many being styled in the Jacobean way and post-war modernisation saw negative feelings end with an agreement that historical buildings in the city should be protected and re-used, rather than being knocked down.

Chester’s Spoon’s

Dublin Packet….

…whilst the other two are near the Xmas tree.

Chester Cathedral

All three of the pubs here were open and I began with the first of these in the form of the Dublin Packet. A nice little place, they even had Blue Moon on draught which I didn’t expect in the slightest and this quickly made my mind up what I was having today! Coming in at £4.30 wasn’t all that bad too, though I didn’t get the slice of orange which makes it all the more improved and after finishing up I headed just up the way and past the Christmas Tree, bypassing the Coach House for now, just in case things didn’t improve on the pub front in the meantime and instead popped into the Shropshire Arms alongside. BLUE MOON AGAIN(!!!); I exclaimed in my mind as I spotted the Belgian-style wheat beer’s sign on the bar and I knew what was the order of the day once again immediately. What made it even better was it was cheaper (£3.90) and the slice of orange was in existence this time around. Superb stuff!!

Finishing up in here whilst watching the start of the early kick-off, I continued my way across to the other side of Eastgate and along one of the roads off the side to the Old King’s Head which must have been one of, if not the, oldest pub I visited during the day and I settled in within the beams and dimly lit rooms along with a pint of Thatcher’s £3.70 before I continued on up the road and back to the Falcon on the corner of the street which would lead up towards the ground. A welcome surprise was that it was a Sam Smith’s pub and cheap beer is always the order of the day in there and so I knew what to expect as soon as I saw the “Tadcaster” emblazoned offerings dotting the bar. A pint of Taddy Lager for just the £2.30 was just the trick for my final pre-match drink before I headed off towards the Deva Stadium and the England-Wales border.

Chester

Old King’s Head

Falcon

Arriving with a good ten minutes to kick-off, I made my way around the ground to the terrace and paid my £12 entry and was into the ground for my second ever visit, my first being Chester F.C.’s first ever home game – a 6-0 triumph over Trafford, whilst I was still watching the visitors home and away – and the club signed Pat Nevin and Perry Groves with Colin Murray (who we spoke to after the game) in situ too. A strange one was all that. The Deva has obviously not changed much, if at all, since then. Two all-seater stands, one on each side, populate the touchlines, whilst both ends are home to sizeable covered terraces, with one (the usual away terrace) home to a clock, though the Port fans weren’t in great enough numbers for that to be in use today, and they instead congregated in the end of the right-side stand from my viewpoint in the home terracing. The tunnel, dressing rooms, boxes and the like are located within the Main Stand on the left-hand touchline. That’s the Deva in summary and this is the story of Chester FC….

History Lesson:

Chester Football Club was founded in 2010 after the demise of Chester City shortly beforehand. City, who had started out under the Chester FC name following the merger of Chester Rovers and Old King’s Scholars and began playing at Faulkner Street, initially in friendly contests and occasional cup ties. Eventually, Chester made the step into competitive league football, joining the Combination league in 1890 and moving to a new home – The Old Showground – eight years later. Unfortunately, they would be forced out due to housing development after just one year there leading to the club’s initial disbanding.

Returning in 1901, the club was now playing at Whipcord Road but would move to the snazzily named “The Stadium” on Sealand Road in 1906, the ground which would become their long-term home. This stability led to silverware – Chester lifting the Combination in 1909 before a switch to the Lancashire Combination was taken the following year with the club remaining here through to after WWI when they left to become a founder member of the Cheshire County League. They would reach the Football League in 1931, taking the place of Nelson, and wouldn’t finish a season outside the top ten for the rest of the decade, this period seeing Chester record both their record wins in the FA Cup & League, overcoming Fulham 5-0 and York City 12-0 respectively.

Arriving at the Deva

The club lifted their second Welsh Cup title in 1933, defeating close rivals Wrexham to do so and also won consecutive Division 3 North Cups. However, the outbreak of WWII would see the side broken up and despite winning the Welsh Cup for a third time in 1947, and finishing 3rd in the league, form would drop off for Chester with no top-half placing managed through to 1958 and the merging of the regional divisions to create a national Division 4. Even then, it would take six further years for this to change. The mid-1960’s would see an upturn in fortunes begin with the club just missing out on promotion, despite netting 119 goals in League games alone. They would again go close in 1971, losing out on a spot to go up by a solitary point, but would right the dubious honour of being the only club in the Football League to have never achieved a promotion by nipping fourth place from Lincoln City in 1975 on goal average. The club also reached the semi finals of the League Cup that same season, a run which featured a giant-killing, as Chester beat English champions Leeds United 3-0 as well as Newcastle United before going down in a tightly contested replay to Aston Villa.

Now in Division 3, Chester went about consolidation of their place and also reached the FA Cup 5th Round in both 1977 & 1980 and narrowly missed out on promotion in 1978. The club also became one of only two clubs to win the short-lived Debenhams Cup (a competition for the two sides from outside of the top two divisions that went furthest in the FA Cup) in 1977 to record their first national trophy in England. After finishing bottom of the league in 1984, the recently renamed Chester City (1983) comfortably won re-election and remained in the League. Selling on the likes of a young Ian Rush and Lee Dixon over this period, the loss of the former not helping he club as they dropped back to Division 4 in 1982 before being at the basement two seasons later. They would recover swiftly though and return to Division 3 in 1986 and again just missed out on promotion in 1989. This preceeded a spell where City moved out of their long-term Sealand Road home, in 1990, spending a time sharing at Macclesfield Town’s Moss Rose, which affected income, though the club survived battles with relegation in both 1991 & 1992 ahead of returning to Chester for 1992-’93 at their newly built Deva Stadium home.

In the busy clubhouse pre-match

Now in the renamed Division 2 after the creation of the Premier League, City began their time in their border-straddling stadium with an, immediate relegation to Division 3, before bouncing back immediately as runners-up. After the departure of boss Graham Barrow led to a threadbare squad, the club were again relegated and this time would remain there for a substantial time – five years in all – though did lose out in the 1997 play-off semi-final to Swansea City. However, this was a close as they would get to the Division 2 ever again, as administration issues and multiple manager changes led to instability and relegation from the Football League in 2000. They would go close to folding the next year and the ownership issues would only grow over the next few years and despite reaching the Conference play-offs in 2003, losing the final on penalties to Doncaster Rovers and getting back to the Football League the next year as Champions, more. managerial upheavals would end up with relegation being staved off in both 2005 & 2008, but they finally succumbed in 2009 to a club who would follow the same future path that was soon to occur – Darlington. Points deductions all, over the place saw Chester begin the year with – 10 points and an overturned CVA saw this become – 25.

The club was later prevented from beginning the 2009-’10 campaign and despite eventually getting underway, they struggled, ending up bottom and were suspended in February of 2010 after a culmination of issues and they were later expelled from the Conference and duly wound up shortly after an application had been made to join the Welsh Premier League. The club’s supporters group, City Fans United, stated their intention to create a new fan-owned entity and Chester FC took a spot in the Northern Premier League Division 1 North for 2010-’11 (after overturning an initial placement in the North West Counties on appeal), playing at the Deva Stadium. The club enjoyed immediate success, three straight promotions, winning both the Division 1 North and NPL Premier Division titles and the Conference North championship too, these successes seeing the club back in the Conference Premier by 2013. They would spend the next five seasons before being relegated back to the now named National League North last time out.

The game got underway and it quickly became apparent that my run would be in serious trouble come around 4.50pm. You know when you can just tell? Well it was one of those days. An apparently weakened Chester looked solid enough, but did look more in trouble on the odd occasion anything at all happened against their visitors who came into the game in a rich vein of form. The first half-hour or so really was dire and I was quite happy I opted have my pie then so I didn’t have to endure it with my complete consciousness. Devarn Green fired comfortably over for Southport, but that was largely that.

Match Action

Match Action

“Shents” action

On the half-hour that big chance came when, just after Jordan Archer just couldn’t provide a touch to direct a low ball into the open net with Grant Shenton in the Chester goal committed, Archer was sent clear of the defence and one-on-one with Shenton, but he found the Chester stopper in no mood to fold and he stood up as long as possible to block out the striker’s effort. Sadly, that was pretty much that apart from a few shots going well awry here and there. Half-time was something of a welcome break for once. One guy behind me remarked there would definitely “be a goal in this”. I wasn’t as sure.

The second half began in far better fashion than the first – not that it had much to improve on, mind you – and despite the game being more watchable, chances still were almost non-existent. In fact, it took until around the hour mark for anything resembling something that could render a “oooooh” from those watching to occur, when Matty Waters fired over from range, the ball nestling in the terrace behind rather than in the goal itself. Southport began to make attacking changes and look for the points as we entered the final half-hour but this didn’t do much to help in all honesty.

F&F – Fans & Flag

Match Action

Match Action

David Morgan hit a well-struck but unthreatening effort straight at Shenton and Charles fired just over later in the game, but that was really as good as it got for the visitors and it was the hosts that almost grabbed the elusive opener (and likely winner) with five minutes or so left to play when Craig Mahon’s goal-bound effort was blocked within the six-yard box by a ‘Port defender betwixt some nervy defending but that would be that and a run dating back to 25th November 2017 at Gillingham came to an end. Nil-nil was, well and truly, written all over it. I made a quick exit.

After the game, I beat a quick haste through the evermore cold night and back to the city centre, popping into the second of the older pubs I’d visit on the day, the Old Customs House where I opted for a pint of Peroni (£4.30) to aid me in my attempts of getting back warmth, before walking off back towards the station, stopping off in the fairly close-by Olde Cottage where I had a pint of a White Ale £3.30 before hopping back on the train back to Warrington and undertaking the short-walk back across town for the train back to end off the day.

No second ‘e’ by order of the grammar po-po

Olde Cottage – see above.

It had been a decent one all things considered, the pubs I ended up visiting were a good contingency and the Deva is a decent stadium to watch a game in, even if its location isn’t the best. Yes, the game was pretty dreadful in the long-run and it ended my long nil-nil less run and so it now has a place in the memory banks for two reasons! Hopefully get back on-track for another run from Saturday, or perhaps the tone has been set for this year already….

RATINGS:

Game: 2

Ground: 6

Food: 6

Programme: 7

Value For Money: 5