Home Thoughts

Last Saturday’s victory over Stalybridge means that Chester has completed 12 months unbeaten at home for the second time since the club was reformed in 2010.

In fact the Blues have only been beaten once at the Exacta since December 2010 when Radcliffe Borough won 3-2 in the Evo-Stik North. Hednesford Town are the only side to take all three points away from the city, on January 21 last year, and this has prompted Chester to embark on an unbeaten sequence that currently stands at 25 league and cup games. The run started with a 2-1 league victory over Mickleover Sports when Alex Brown and Matt McNeil found the back of the net. Since then only Bradford Park Avenue and Northwich Victoria have avoided league defeat at fortress Deva while both Halifax and Worksop secured replays in cup competitions. This gives Chester an impressive home record of won 21, drawn four and lost none over twelve months.

Home Start - Alex Brown begins the unbeaten run v Mickleover Sports Copyright © Rick Matthews

Home Start – Alex Brown begins the unbeaten run v Mickleover
Copyright © Rick Matthews

This series is currently two short of the sequence set between January 2011 and January 2012 when the Blues went 27 league and cup games unbeaten. On that occasion the overall record was won 20 drawn seven and lost none.

Excluding cup games, the Blues are currently unbeaten in 22 home league matches with 20 victories including the last 9 outright since the 1-1 draw with Bradford Park Avenue in October. In the previous sequence, there were 25 league matches featuring 18 wins.

The best unbeaten home sequence in league and cup games was set in the 1970s. Between November 1973 and January 1975 Chester were unbeaten in 35 games. The run started with a 1-0 FA Cup victory over Telford United and ended when Rotherham won 1-0 at Sealand Road in a Division Four game. This sequence covered 27 league games, two FA Cup ties, five League Cup victories (including the 3-0 win over League Champiomns Leeds United) and one Welsh Cup tie.

If you only look at league games the record is 44 unbeaten games between August 1925  and September 1927 when Chester competed in the Cheshire County League. In addition,  between November 1907 and October 1908 Chester won 13 consecutive home league games which is the best home league winning sequence.

Unbeaten League Run

Prior to the 3-2 defeat at Boston United in September the Blues reached 23 unbeaten league games home and away so this Chester FC record is already under threat. The 4-1 win over Stalybridge was the 19th unbeaten game so, subject to the weather, this record will be beaten if defeat can be avoided in the fixtures up to and including the home game with Gainsborough Trinity. As mentioned in previous articles the overall club record is 31 games in the Combination between January 1908 and March 1909.

and finally

The unbeaten home record has seen Chester score 65 goals and concede only 17. Amongst this total there has been three hat tricks. Chris Simm scored three against Marine, on the day the Championship Trophy was presented, while Ben Mills scored three against Guiseley and Craig Curran claimed a trio against Bishop’s Stortford. Craig’s treble is unique in that it made him the first Chester player to come off the substitute’s bench and score a hat-trick.

Unique substitute - Craig Curran scores his second v Bishop's Stortford Copyright © Rick Matthews

Unique substitute – Craig Curran scores his second v Bishop’s Stortford
Copyright © Rick Matthews

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Blown Away

While writing this Friday’s Leader article I checked back through the records for Chester’s biggest away win and was surprised by how far I had to go back to find an away league victory by a similar margin. Here are some associated statistics.

The 6-0 win at Hinckley United was Chester’s first ever game in Leicestershire and equalled the highest score for the newly reformed club. The Blues have won 6-0 on three previous occasions. North Ferriby United were the last side to suffer a similar defeat with Chris Simm scoring a couple and Bradley Barnes coming off the bench to score his last Chester goal back in September 2011.

Chris Simm scores his second against North Ferriby United  Copyright © Rick Matthews

Chris Simm scores his second against North Ferriby United
Copyright © Rick Matthews

Simm also scored a brace on his Chester debut when Ossett Albion were hammered 6-0 in January 2011 with Michael Wilde scoring a hat-trick.

Michael Wilde on target against Ossett Albion  Copyright © Rick Matthews

Michael Wilde on target against Ossett Albion
Copyright © Rick Matthews

In addition, Wilde grabbed three in the memorable first Evo-Stik North game at the Exacta when Trafford were on the receiving end of a 6-0 thrashing.

You only have to go back to September last year to find the last time Chester scored six away from home when this Saturday’s opponents, Stalybridge Celtic, were overwhelmed 6-2 at Bower Fold with Iain Howard scoring his first Blues treble.

Iain Howard scores number 3 at Stalybridge  Copyright © Rick Matthews

Iain Howard scores number 3 at Stalybridge
Copyright © Rick Matthews

The six goal winning margin at Hinckley is the best for the new club surpassing the 5-0 wins at Bamber Bridge and Clitheroe in the first season.

Leigh RMI 2 Chester 6

Leigh RMI 2 Chester 6

When you look back to the Chester City days the last time six goals were scored away from home in a first team fixture was on New Year’s Day 2004 when Daryl Clare hit a hat-trick (and missed a penalty) in a 6-2 win at Leigh RMI. Darryn Stamp scored twice and Alex Smith added a magnificent sixth in stoppage time in a game where the Blues should have reached double figures.

In the Football League the last six goal haul was at Preston when Stuart Rimmer marked his 21st birthday with four goals in a memorable 6-3 victory. Further goals were added by John Kelly and Ricky Greenhough.

John Kelly scores at Preston

John Kelly scores at Preston

As far as victory margins go there are two games of note in the last 25 years when the Blues won by five clear goals. During Graham Barrow’s promotion season, in November 1993, Hereford United were overwhelmed 5-0 at Edgar Street. Prior to that Fulham were embarrassed by Harry McNally’s Blues in January 1987 when John Kelly scored twice and Derek Fazackerley made his debut in another 5-0 win.

Brymbo Steelworks 0 Chester 8

Brymbo Steelworks 0 Chester 8

When you start to look for six goal margin wins you really have to dig back through the records. In February 1968 the Blues made the very short journey across the border to play Brymbo Steelworks in a Welsh Cup tie and scored eight times without reply.

As far as league matches are concerned, Chester has never won by six goals in a Football League fixture and you need to go back 86 years to the Cheshire County League days to find an equivalent result. In April 1927 Ellesmere Port Town were beaten 7-0 and the same score was recorded at Bacup in 1911/12 and at Connah’s Quay United in 1908/09. This remains the record away league victory.

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100 Club

For those that missed it, here is my Leader column from Friday November 2nd which featured a statistical breakdown of Neil Young’s first 99 games in charge. Unless Chester and Corby are involved in FA Trophy replays the fixture between the sides next Wednesday will be the 100th league game.

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The 3-0 victory at local rivals Vauxhall Motors on Tuesday night was the 99th league game for Neil Young and Chester FC. As the Blues prepare to celebrate the 100th game it’s a good time to reflect on what has been a phenomenal run of results over the last two and a half years.

The full record shows that Chester has won an incredible 71 league games since the first game was played at Warrington Town in August 2010 and the Blues have only been beaten on 10 occasions with 18 games ending as draws. It’s impossible to find such a consistent run in the club’s history and for the nearest comparable sequence you have to go back to the turn of the last century.  Between 1906 and 1909 Chester only lost nine games in three seasons although that covered just 82 games.

In modern times Mark Wright’s City lost 16 of their first 100 games after the former Liverpool and England defender took charge of the Blues in January 2002.

The Blues have been almost impregnable at the Exacta and only Chorley, Radcliffe Borough and Hednesford Town have walked away with all three points. It is now 14 games unbeaten at home since Hednesford won in the city in the middle of January.

There can be no complaints about entertainment value over this period with the Blues scoring 242 goals to average just under two and a half goals a game. At the other end a mere 77 have been conceded. Neil Young’s side have now scored in each of the last 52 league games with Hednesford Town the last team to record a shut-out in August 2011. In fact only one other team has prevented Chester from scoring in the 99 games and that was Witton Albion in March 2011. The goalless draw, in the first season, remains the only occasion in which supporters have failed to see a goal from either side.

There have been plenty of high scoring games as well with the Blues putting six past Trafford, Osset Albion, North Ferriby and Stalybridge Celtic as well as scoring five on four occasions. As far as personal goalscoring is concerned there have been eight hat-tricks with Michael Wilde scoring five of them and Chris Simm, Ben Mills and Iain Howard recording the remaining three.

Furthermore, the defensive record is also second to none and when Boston United beat the Blues 3-2 in mid-September it was the first time that John Danby had conceded more than two goals in a league game since the 4-1 defeat at Nantwich more than 12 months earlier. That August Bank Holiday defeat to our county neighbours stands out like a sore thumb amongst the results and only two other sides have managed to score more than twice against the Blues. Curzon Ashton and Radcliffe Borough both scored three times in the Evo-Stik North during the first campaign.

Danby and the rest of the defence also created a club record by going 691 minutes without conceding a league goal between August and October 2011, a record extended by 90 minutes with the inclusion of a Cheshire Senior Cup tie at Hyde.

A number of other post-war records have also been created. By winning seven games at the start of this season the Blues equalled a record set in 1914/15. The defeat at Boston also ended a run of 23 unbeaten games, which was the best since 1908/09. In addition the 15 unbeaten away games and 10 consecutive victories were also the best since 1930/31.

Since the club started it has been surrounded by a very high level of expectancy and this has often overshadowed the incredible job that Neil Young has performed. The results over the first 99 games have been a great tribute to the management team and they can all be extremely proud of their achievements and the records they have created.

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FA Cup Observation

After Saturday’s draw at Gainsborough Trinity it occurred to me that on the last three occasions that Chester have drawn an away FA Cup game they have then proceeded to lose the home replay. Here’s hoping for a change in fortune on Wednesday.

For the record:

2009/10
Barrow (a) 1-1
Barrow (h) 0-4

2006/07
Bury (a) 2-2
Bury (h) 1-3

2005/06
Cheltenham Town (a) 2-2
Cheltenham Town (h) 0-1

In 2006 Chester did go through to the next round after Bury were thrown out of the cup for playing an ineligible player.

The last time Chester won a home FA Cup replay was in 1999/2000 when they beat Whyteleafe 3-1 after one of their worst ever cup performances down in Surrey when they drew 0-0.

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FA Cup Winning Numbers

The recent articles on league records seems to have attracted a lot of attention so I’ve put together some basic FA Cup statistics which I may develop depending on progress in the competition.

Saturday’s game at Gainsborough Trinity will be the first time that Chester have appeared in the Second Qualifying Round of the competition since they were beaten by Bangor City in 1927. The last time they won at this stage was 1925 when Witton Albion were beaten 4-2 after a replay.

I’ve put together a table showing the rounds that Chester have reached since they first entered the competition in 1886. It doesn’t completely reflect the progress that has been made as the round numbering has changed over the years. For instance Chester has reached the last 16 on three occasions. In 1890/91 this meant an exit in the Second Round but in 1976/77 and 1979/80 this meant elimination at the Fifth Round stage.

This is the 107th year in which Chester have competed in the FA Cup since they were formed in 1885. There have been eleven seasons when they didn’t enter and ten wartime seasons

The following list shows the round in which Chester were knocked out of the competition:

Fifth Round (2) – 1979/80, 1976/77

Fourth Round (7) – 1986/87, 1969/70, 1947/48, 1946/47, 1938/39, 1936/37, 1932/33

Third Round (16) – 2006/07, 2005/06, 2004/05, 2000/01, 1999/2000, 1996/97, 1993/94, 1990/91, 1973/74, 1970/71, 1965/66, 1964/65, 1951/52, 1945/46, 1937/38, 1934/35

Second Round (22) – 2002/03, 1997/98, 1994/95, 1991/92, 1989/90, 1988/89, 1978/79, 1977/78, 1975/76, 1968/69, 1967/68, 1963/64, 1961/62, 1959/60, 1958/59, 1957/58, 1949/50, 1948/49, 1935/36, 1933/34, 1931/32, 1890/91

First Round (28) – 2008/09, 2007/08, 2003/04, 1998/99, 1995/96, 1992/93, 1987/88, 1985/86, 1984/85, 1983/84, 1982/83, 1981/82, 1980/81, 1974/75, 1972/73, 1971/72, 1966/67, 1962/63, 1960/61, 1956/57, 1955/56, 1954/55, 1953/54, 1952/53, 1950/51, 1889/90, 1887/88, 1886/87

Fourth Qualifying Round (6) – 2009/10, 2001/02, 1921/22, 1911/12, 1910/11, 1888/89

Third Qualifying Round (3) – 1925/26, 1908/09, 1892/93

Second Qualifying Round (8) – 1927/28, 1923/24, 1914/15, 1913/14, 1905/06, 1895/96, 1893/94, 1891/92

First Qualifying Round (7)  – 1912/13, 1907/08, 1901/02, 1898/99, 1897/98, 1896/97, 1894/95

Preliminary Round (6) – 1928/29, 1926/27, 1924/25, 1922/23, 1919/20, 1909/10

Extra Preliminary round (1) – 1930/31

Didn’t enter (11) – 2011/12, 2010/11, 1929/30, 1920/21, 1906/07, 1904/05, 1903/04, 1902/03, 1900/01, 1899/1900, 1885/86

The most rounds the club has played in a season is six in both 1890/91 and 1921/22 although they received a bye in the Fourth Qualifying Round in 1890 when Irish side Cliftonville scratched from the competition. In 1921 they played in eight games which is the highest number of games in a season.

The biggest victory came in 1892 when Liverpool side Stanley were beaten 11-0. Chester also hit double figures in 1927 when Lostock Gralam were hammered 10-1.

The worst defeat came in 1890/91 when eventual cup winners Blackburn Rovers won 7-0.

and finally

Chester’s FA Cup record is not as impressive as the League Cup. They have never beaten a team from the top tier in the FA Cup and there have been only three occasions when they have beaten a team playing at least two divisions above them.

While playing in the Fourth Division, in 1969/70, Chester beat Second Division Bristol City 2-1 with goals from Keith Webber and Billy Dearden. More recently, in 2000, Graham Barrow’s Blues came from 2-0 down to beat Oxford United 3-2 in one of the most exciting games seen at the Deva Stadium. At the time Chester were in the Conference while Oxford were struggling at the bottom of the third tier of league football. Two years later the Blues were still in the Conference when they won by a single Chris Tate goal at Colchester United.

On this basis I would put forward the Bristol City game as, at least statistically, Chester’s finest ever FA Cup victory. It is a game that is rarely mentioned and perhaps should be elevated above the 5-0 win against Fulham in 1932/33 and the 2-0 Third Round win at Newcastle in 1979/80 when the opponents were only one division higher.

Best ever FA Cup victory?

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