1 – Pre-Match
For the first time since the 1934/35 season Chester were drawn against non-league opposition in the 1st Round of the 1947/48 FA Cup. Bishop Auckland were one of the most famous names in amateur football having won the Amateur Cup on seven occasions and the Northern League nine times including the previous campaign.
The tie, against a team unbeaten in the league, was considered one of the most attractive games of the round and it was not an easy proposition for Chester who had failed to recapture their form from the previous season. They also had three key players on the injury list with goalkeeper George Scales and forwards Tommy Astbury and Phil Turner all set to miss out.
One of the major concerns for Chester was the loss of form shown by Dick Yates. The centre forward had scored 36 goals during the previous campaign but had only managed one prior to the FA Cup tie and that had been in the first game of the season against Oldham. The previous Saturday Frank Brown’s side had lost by a single goal at Accrington Stanley when, despite having the majority of possession, they had failed to create many scoring opportunities.
The Bishop Auckland team, comprising of school teachers, steelworkers, electricians and clerks, arrived in Chester the day before the game and stayed at the Queen Hotel. The Chronicle reported that they were hopeful of securing a draw and their secretary, Kit Rudd, was quoted in the same paper as saying: ” We have a very good amateur side and we shall fight very hard.”
The game was scheduled to kick-off at 2pm with a new ruling meaning that their would be 30 minutes extra time if the game finished all square after 90 minutes in order to obviate the necessity of mid-week replays.. If a replay was required it would take place the following Saturday.
2 – The Match
The Chester team lined up with one change from the Accrington defeat with winger Joe Brown replaced by former Raith Rovers player, Harry Colville who had been playing centre forward for the reserves. Another Scot, Jimmy MacLaren, continued to deputise for George Scales in goal while Eric Lee returned to right back in a straight swap with Tommy Burden who moved to inside right as Tommy Astbury failed to recover from his knee injury.
The conditions for the game were not conducive to good football with a soft surface covering very hard ground underneath.
Chester got off to a perfect start and took the lead in the 12th minute when Dick Yates played a beautiful pass to Bobby Hamilton who beat Farrer twice before his cross-cum-shot found Yates who applied the finishing touch. In fact the centre forward should have scored before this but, when put clean through, his shot was blocked at close range by Washington
On the half hour mark the lead was extended but there was large element of doubt about the goal. Colville played a perfect ball through to Tommy Burden whose shot struck the inside of one post, bounced across the goal and was fielded by Washington. However the linesman ruled that the ball had crossed the line and a goal was given. There were no protests from the sporting visitors. Three minutes before the interval the Bishops pulled a goal back when Farrer scored from the penalty spot after Colville had been adjudged to have fouled Twigg although the decision looked harsh. On the stroke of half time Colville had the chance to make amends but he blazed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The goal spurred on the visitors, who were well backed by 10 coach loads of supporters, and for the first 20 minutes of the second half it looked as though they might snatch an equaliser. Nevertheless the best chance fell to Yates who headed wide of the upright from a Washington clearance. At the other end Douglass shot wide of the upright before Yates wrapped the game up in the 78th minute with a great shot from Reg Butcher’s excellent pass. The strike showed some of the hallmarks of one of his goals from the previous season. The match finished with Bishops almost scoring a second but Douglass’ well-struck shot was brilliantly saved by MacLaren.
It had been a mediocre display from Chester. They had just about deserved their victory but the visitors came out of the game with a great deal of credit. Man of the Match by some distance was Bishops’ left-half Bob Hardisty, who was competing with Eric Lee for a place in the England amateur team. The 26 year old school teacher put in an energetic performance and, according to the Chronicle reporter, his accurate passing along the ground made the Chester half-backs look shoddy by comparison.
The Cheshire Observer felt that the difference between the sides was the Chester defenders who proved to be too strong for the opposing attackers. While MacLaren dealt with everything that came his way he was ably assisted by full backs Freddie Willcox and Dave McNeill who both put in whole-hearted displays and were fast in the tackle. However, the home forward line was less impressive and looked disjointed. Although outside right Bobby Hamilton had one of his best games Colville was disappointing on the other wing. The two Tommys, Best and Burden, performed ‘quite well’ while Yates showed some glimpses of his old self and it was hoped that his goals would help increase his confidence.
Chester – MacLaren, Willcox, McNeil, Butcher, Williamson, Lee, Hamilton, Burden, Yates, Best, Colville
Scorers – Yates 12, 78 Burden 30
Bishop Auckland – Washington, Hadfield, Farrer, Egdell, Tulip, Hardisty, Twigg, Gilhome. Douglass, Teasdale, Smith
Scorer – Farrer pen 42
Attendance – 8,300
Despite scoring two goals this proved to be the final FA Cup match in Chester colours for Dick Yates. The Queensferry born striker played in the next league game against Stockport County but was surprisingly transferred to Wrexham for a four figure fee in December, The move provided instant dividends for the centre forward as he scored a hat-trick in his debut for the Reds against Halifax. He went on to play for New Brighton in the Football League before turning out for Flint Town United, Colwyn Bay, Bethesda Athletic and Connah’s Quay. He later worked as a petrol pump attendant at John Summers Steelworks and died in 1976.
It was also the final game for fellow striker Tommy Best who was unfortunate to miss the rest of the cup run. The first coloured player to represent Chester in the Football League Best ended the campaign as Chester’s second highest scorer behind Tommy Burden with 10 goals in 30 league games. By the start of the following season he was attracting the attention of bigger clubs with Cardiff, Blackburn and Blackpool all interested in signing him. In the end he opted to join Cardiff City and Chester received £7,000 for his services. After a season at Ninian Park he signed for QPR in 1949 but only made 12 appearances, scoring three goals before moving into non-league football with Milford Haven. This was followed by a successful three seasons at Hereford United and then 18 months at Bromsgrove Rovers. After leaving football he worked as a baker for Mother’s Pride. In February 2009 he made his first visit to Chester in 60 years when he was a guest at the game against Gillingham. Tommy died in September 2018 at the grand age of 97.
Opponents Bishop Auckland went on to have another successful season in the Northern League and finished as runners-up as well as reaching the semi-final of the Amateur Cup. Bob Hardisty, who had such an impressive game, went on to play alongside Eric Lee in the Great Britain team in the 1948 Olympics.
The draw for the 2nd Round handed Chester an intriguing away tie at local rivals Tranmere Rovers.