Chester 0 Stoke City 0 (FA Cup 4th Round) – Jan 25th 1947

1 – Pre-Match

After beating 2nd Division Plymouth Argyle the draw for the 4th Round was made the following Monday and Chester were given a plum tie against either Tottenham Hotspur or Stoke City. The two sides had drawn 2-2 at White Hart Lane with the replay scheduled to take place on the coming Wednesday. Within half an hour of the cup draw a crowd of around 300 had assembled outside the Stadium in a futile attempt to get tickets.

An emergency meeting was held at the ground the following day where it was decided to make 18,000 tickets available. Although it was acknowledged that another 2,000 spectators could probably be squeezed in the club decided it was better to err on the side of caution. Controversially the prices were increased for the game with tickets priced at 10s 6d for the centre stand and 6s 6d for the wing stands. Meanwhile ground tickets were set at 2s 6d although tickets for the Kop remained at 2s.

It was also announced that stand and ground tickets would be available from the following Monday at the ground between 10am and midday and then in the afternoon from 2pm to 4pm. It was also possible to get tickets at various outlets in town namely Milton’s Radio Shop and Cestrian Company in Northgate Street, Uptons newsagents Handbridge, Childow newsagents on the Lache Estate, Moultons in Saltney, the Post Office Upton, director Sam Argyle’s office in Station Road, H Morgan electrical engineer Boughton and Adams and Durrant in Cherry Grove Road.

Wednesday saw the 3rd Round replay between Stoke and Tottenham in the Potteries and Chester manager Frank Brown, together with Tommy Astbury and captain Trevor Walters, went along to assess the potential opponents. The Chester contingent saw Stoke overcome their 2nd division opponents thanks to a single goal from England international Stanley Matthews. Although it was a less than vintage performance from the Potters Matthews, the outstanding player of his generation, stood out and repeatedly bewildered the Tottenham defence.

With the opposition confirmed Frank Brown was his usual circumspect self and acknowledged the quality of the opposition and expected his team to give a good account of themselves. Meanwhile captain Walters took a more gung-ho approach and confidently proclaimed:

“You can tell all our fans that I shall be disappointed if we lose. I was not particularly impressed with what I saw yesterday.”

The presence of Matthews, “the crowd-drawing magnet”, accelerated interest in the tie and secretary Billy Peters and the Stadium staff were completely overwhelmed by applications for tickets and it was recognised that many people would be disappointed. Peters acknowledged:

I estimate the gross takings of the match at £2,500 and I can guarantee even now that we shall be sending back more than that sum to applicants for tickets.”

It is easy to see the truth in this statement as it was revealed that one request from RAF Sealand alone asked for 2,000 tickets.

The week before the game Chester drew 1-1 with Darlington in Division 3 North game in front of an attendance of 8,266 while Stoke lost 3-0 at Derby County.

At 6am on Monday morning supporters had already started to queue and when the office opened at 10am the available tickets were snapped up within 90 minutes. Meanwhile the outlets in the city all sold out within 15 minutes and it was variously estimated that the club could have sold 40,000 tickets.

An example of how keen supporters were to see the game came from workers at the Reliance Works who sent an ultimatum to management on Monday morning stating that unless they could be assured of an adequate allocation fo tickets they would down tools and take their chance in the queue. This seemed to have the desired effect and an appeal by a company official and two shop stewards to Billy Peters proved successful. Meanwhile a coach load of miners from North Wales were among the people in the queue at 6:30 in the morning and the Chronicle reporter stated that he had spoken to one man who represented a group of workmen and wanted 50 tickets. It was clear that the demand was phenomenal.

An unhappy Chester fan

Stories circulated of Stadium regulars missing out on tickets because they couldn’t take time off work while some supporters reasonably felt that tickets should have been made available at Saturday’s match against Darlington. The process of dealing with postal enquiries also caused resentment with some people, who wrote straight after the announcement of the draw, had their applications returned 10 days later with the message “Sorry we have no tickets”

Around 4,500 tickets were made available to Stoke and these went on sale on the Tuesday morning. There had been reports that several Stoke fans had been in the queues at Sealand Road the previous day while one of the first people in the queue at the Victoria Ground was a Chester supporter.

Meanwhile Stoke had their own problems to deal with as a team of safe breakers had broken in to the ground the previous Thursday and got away with £600. They had blown up a steel safe and as well as stealing players wages had also taken advance booking payments for the Chester cup match.

The ticket furore directed much of the attention away from the game itself and while the mass scramble for tickets took place on Monday the two teams based themselves at seaside locations. While Stoke stayed at Stanley Matthews’ hotel in Blackpool the Chester team made their way back to Abergele where they had based themselves before the Plymouth tie. A party of 12 players had ideal weather for their break where they trained in the morning and spent most afternoons on the golf course and were reported to be in good spirits. The only players to miss out on the trip were Reg Butcher, who was tied up on business in Liverpool, while Tommy Burden and Bobby Hamilton were occupied with army duties The good news emerging from the Chester camp was that they expected to be at full strength with winger Jackie Arthur having responded to treatment and expected to return to the side for the first time since Christmas Day.

On the golf course at Abergele before the Stoke FA Cup tie

While Stanley Matthews was undoubtedly the star attraction the clear message coming out of the Chester camp was that there were no special plans to deal with the wizard of the dribble. Manager Brown refused to get into a panic over Matthews and said that he would be treated the same as any other dangerous wing forward. 24 year old left back Dave McNeil was the man who had the big responsibility of taming the skilful winger.

Stoke themselves were determined not to underestimate Chester and manager Bob McGrory was perhaps a little over-cautious when he commented:

“We are quietly confident of winning, for, after all, we played at Tottenham and forced a draw. Surely we can do that -or better than that – at Chester.”

The Stoke Evening Sentinel view

The turnstiles opened at 12:45 with kick-off scheduled for 2:45.

2 – The Match

As expected Chester were back to full strength with former Everton winger Jackie Arthur starting on the right while Bobby Hamilton switched back to the left. Stoke not only included Stanley Matthews but also three other internationals in the form of England centre-half Neil Franklin, forward Freddie Steele and Scottish wartime international Jock Kirton.

Jackie Arthur

Prior to kick-off supporters were once again entertained by mascot Mickey Moran, clad in blue and white with matching umbrella. Coincidentally the Stoke mascot, in red and white, went by exactly the same name and after greeting each other in the centre circle the Chester Moran went through his usual procedure of kissing the ball and shaking hands with the referee.

The match itself was dominated by both defences in a gruelling encounter but in the end a goalless draw was a fair result. While Dick Yates struggled to get change from centre half Franklin at one end the real story was the performance of McNeil ably supported by Eric Lee who successfully stifled the dangerous Matthews. While the England winger was always a menacing presence McNeil and Lee gave him no room to operate and when he switched wings or moved into the middle there was always another Chester defender ready to close him down. Frank Marsh, Reg Butcher and Trevor Walters all came out of the game with great credit with the latter efficiently dealing with the threat of Steele.

The early stages of the game saw Stoke make the running and the best opportunity came to Steele whose shot beat George Scales but McNeil appeared from nowhere to clear the ball off the line. The visitors didn’t have it all their own way as Hamilton was brought down a yard from the penalty area when running through on goal but the resulting free-lick came to nothing.

Scales made the save of the first half when he dived full length to turn a low Syd Peppitt shot around the post but he could do nothing on the stroke of half time when Frank Baker’s effort struck the upright.

The Chester defence continued to cover and block everything in the second half and Scales saved from Alex Ormston while Lee did well to bravely block an effort from Peppitt. At the other end McNeil had two long range efforts saved by Arthur Jepson while Yates headed over from a Marsh free-kick.

Chester finished the game strongly and could have snatched a late winner when an interchange of passes between Yates and Arthur saw the winger’s rising shot brilliantly saved by Jepson although it was felt he should have scored.

It was an excellent result for Chester and the Daily Mail complemented them on their performance especially with regard to their confident handling of Matthews. They also noted how worried the Stoke defence appeared in the last 15 minutes as Chester pressed forward for a winner.

The focus now turned to the replay at the Victoria Ground scheduled for the following Wednesday.

Chester – Scales, Butcher, McNeil, Marsh, Walters, Lee, Arthur, Burden, Yates, Astbury, Hamilton

Stoke City – Jepson, Mould, McCue, Mountford, Franklin, Kirton, Matthews, Peppitt, Steele, Baker, Ormston

Attendance – 18,706

3- Post-match

The attendance fell slightly short of the record set against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1939 when 18,816 crammed into the Stadium. Once again the crowd varied between newspapers and it seems as though more tickets were made available than the initial 18,000. In the end it produced record receipts of just under £2,700 with the clubs receiving a third each and the remainder going to the FA.

Despite the clamour for tickets and outcry about ticket distribution the Chronicle reported that the day went smoothly and the crowd was handled efficiently. The sports editor revealed that he saw some of the alleged unaccommodated regulars inside the ground while signatories of protest letters to the press were there with their families despite the alleged unfairness of the ticket allocation. Half an hour before the game started he circled the ground in an attempt to find ‘regulars’ without tickets and although he found three they were helped out by Stoke winger Ormston who supplied them with tickets.

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