Winning Numbers

Following Saturday’s 2-1 win over Colwyn Bay a few people were asking me about the best ever start to a season and this prompted me to quickly check up on a few more records before this afternoon’s game at Altrincham.

Best start to a season

As I pointed out in my last article, Chester are not known for winning the first game and the current run of three equals that of the 1978/79 season when Alan Oakes’ side won at Southend and then beat Walsall and Exeter at Sealand Road in the old Division Three.

Victory at Moss Lane today would equal the record of 1934/35 when Gateshead, Accrington and Hartlepools (twice) were defeated in Division Three North. The overall club record was seven wins in the Combination at the start of the 1906/07 season. There were also seven wins at the start of the 1914/15 campaign but I have discounted this because Chester later resigned from the league.

Unbeaten League Run

Chester are now unbeaten in 19 league games with the last defeat on January 21st at home to Hednesford Town. This is now the second longest sequence without a loss but there is a long way to go before the club record is beaten. Between January 1908 and March 1909 Chester went an incredible 31 games unbeaten in the Combination.

However the current run has beaten the Chester FC league record. Following the 3-2 home defeat to Radcliffe Borough on December 11th 2010 the Blues didn’t lose again until the 2-1 setback at Lancaster City on March 19th 2011, a run of 16 games.

This sequence also passes the 18 game unbeaten run set by Mark Wright’s Conference promotion team which started with a 2-1 win over Shrewsbury in August 2003 and was ended, by Stevenage Borough, at the Deva in December. The 1934/35 team, which finished third in Division Three North, also remained undefeated for 18 games between October 1934 and February 1935.

Unbeaten Away Record

Chester are now unbeaten in 13 away games, a run which stretches back to the 2-1 defeat at Bradford Park Avenue on November 2nd last year.

In 2010/11 the Blues went 15 games unbeaten away from the Deva. Starting with the 1-1 draw at Warrington Town in the very first game Chester didn’t lose a league away game until the aforementioned 2-1 setback at Lancaster in March.

The club record for away games unbeaten is 17 in the Cheshire County League during the 1930/31 season. The run started with a 3-3 draw at Runcorn in September and was ended by Manchester North End the following April.

Consecutive games scored

One record that has been smashed is the record for scoring in consecutive games. Chester have now scored in every league fixture for the last 12 months which is a run of 42 matches. The last time they failed to find the net was at Hednesford in the 1-0 defeat last year.

Since the club was re-formed in 2010 they have only failed to score in 2 out of 89 league matches. The other game, besides Hednesford, was the goalless draw at home to Witton Albion in March 2011.

The previous record was a run of 36 games between September 1930 and April 1931. Prior to this there were also two sequences of 28 games in the early 1900s.

and finally

In recognition of today’s game I thought I would mention that Chester’s record victory was set against Altrincham when they won 13-2 at Sealand Road in November 1929 and, just to bring everyone down to earth, on Bank Holiday Monday last year Chester lost 4-1 at Nantwich Town.

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Summertime Blues

While writing this weeks column for the Leader a couple of things struck me about Saturday’s big kick-off.

First of all, ignoring the new\reformed club argument, Chester will be playing in their fifth different league in five seasons and I’m struggling to think of any other club that can match this unique achievement. For the record the last five seasons read:

08/09 – Football League Two
09/10 – Blue Square Premier
10/11 – Evo-Stik North
11/12 – Evo-Stik Premier
12/13 – Blue Square North

I would be interested to know if anyone can think of any other club with a similar record.

Secondly, Chester has not won an opening day game since they beat Accrington Stanley 2-0 in 2006/07 which means it is now six seasons without a win. In fact, since the war, the record has not been particularly good with only 19 wins in 66 opening games so don’t expect big things on Saturday. Even these wins came in batches with six wins in an unbeaten run of eight seasons between 1965 and 1972 followed by a sequence of four successive victories between 1976 and 1979. Since the 3-2 win over Wimbledon in 1979 there have been only six wins in 32 seasons which is an extremely poor return.

David Pugh in the opening day of the 1991 season at Moss Rose. Chester 2 Fulham 0.

York City 4 Chester 4 in 1946

The overall post-war record is won 19 drawn 20 and lost 27. The game with the most goals was the very first match in 1946 when eight goals were shared at York. The biggest win was the 4-1 over Hereford United in 1977 which also marks the only time (besides the game at York) when Chester scored more than three goals. The biggest defeat was the never to be forgotten 6-0 hammering at Dagenham & Redbridge in 2008 when Simon Davies’ team imploded in spectacular style. There were also heavy defeats at home to Northampton Town in 1987 (a freakish 0-5) and, less surprisingly, 1-4 to Bradford City in Mike Pejic’s first game in charge in 1994. The most frequent result has been 1-1 on 10 occasions and both Chester FC games have ended in that scoreline.

Anyone looking for omens before Saturday’s game at Oxford City should be aware that the Blues have never won an opening game following promotion with a record as follows:

Crystal Palace 2 Chester 0. First game in Division Three

1975/76 Crystal Palace (a) 0-2
1986/87 Carlisle United (h) 2-2
1994/95 Bradford City (h) 1-4
2004/05 Notts County (a) 1-1
2011/12 Rushall Olympic (h) 1-1

Strangely Chester have never won an opening game in a season in which they have been promoted:

1974/75 Lincoln City (a) 1-2
1985/86 Halifax Town (h) 1-1
1993/94 Doncaster Rovers (h) 0-1
2003/04 Stevenage Borough (a) 0-0
2010/11 Warrington Town (a) 1-1
2011/12 Rushall Olympic (h) 1-1

Finally my own personal favourite opening day game would have to be the first Chester FC game at Warrington Town in 2010 which finished 1-1 and proved to be a memorable evening. In second place, for entirely different reasons,  would be the 1-0 win at Peterborough United in 2005 when Keith Curle put one over Mark Wright. This seemed a particularly joyous occasion at the time although it soon went downhill from there.

Honorary mentions should be also made of the 2-0 victory over Fulham at Moss Rose in 1991 when the announcement was made that Stuart Rimmer had rejoined the club.  The 1-0 win over Crewe in 1982 also sticks in the mind because it marked the end of a spectacularly dismal run of games which had ended in relegation from the old Division Three. At the time it at least promised the vague hope of a revival although in the end it was yet another false dawn.

Simmo in action v Rushall Olympic in last season’s opener. Copyright © Rick Matthews

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Deva Stadium Part 3

The final batch of pictures were taken after the turf was laid in May 1992 as the race to have the ground ready before the start of the season continued. Thanks to former programme editor John Martin for supplying many of these photographs which were taken by developers Morrisons. The remaining pictures were again provided by Fraser.

Of particular interest are the aerial views of the ground including a superb unique photograph showing both the Deva Stadium and the derelict Sealand Road ground. It is also possible to see the Stadium floodlights in one of Fraser’s pictures.

As a precaution Chester’s early season league fixtures had to be re-scheduled to allow for the ground to be completed and the season started with four away games where only one point was collected. The stadium staged it’s first game, in the Coca Cola Cup against Stockport, on August 25th and the first league game was played on September 5th against Burnley with Chester winning 3-0, Neil Morton had the honour of scoring the first league goal with Chris Lightfoot and Paul Comstive also on target.

The first league programme included a centre stage spread listing the materials used in the construction and, taken with the complete sequence of photographs, they merely serve to emphasise what was in effect a rush job. The list was as follows:

6,500 Tons of ready mixed concrete
52,000 Concrete blocks
48,000 Bricks
4,500 sq metres cladding
2,000 litres paint
40 miles cable
100 Electric sockets
550 Light fittings
171 Doors
1.5 miles Drainage pipes
16 Standards timber
4.5 Tonnes nails and screws

Twenty years on older fans like me still mourn the loss of the Sealand Road ground and it’s a shame that the shambolic events surrounding the sale of the old stadium resulted in a cobbled together compromise. It could have been so much better.

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