Blackpool 4 Chester 0 (FA Cup 4th Round) – Jan 24th 1948

1 – Pre-Match

Chester had hoped for a home tie in the 4th Round but instead they faced a formidable trip to First Division Blackpool.

The Seasiders, who had beaten Leeds United 4-0 in the previous round, were regarded as joint favourites to win the FA Cup and had the most dangerous right wing pairing in the country in the shape of Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen. The Lancashire team had persuaded Stoke to sell Matthews for £11,500 the previous summer and he had formed a lethal combination with the equally skilful Mortenson. It was clear that Chester’s left-sided defenders faced a tough proposition but much was made of the fact that Dave McNeil and Eric Lee had successfully subdued Matthews in the two FA Cup ties against Stoke 12 months earlier.

Blackpool themselves approached the tie with caution having build a reputation as “The Team That Cannot Win A Cup Tie”. Between the wars they had been beaten at home by the likes of Luton Town, Watford and Oldham Athletic while they had also lost at Southport and Southend United. In fact, since joining the league in 1931, Chester’s FA Cup record had been as good as their opponents with both sides playing in the 4th Round on four occasions.

Reflecting on their recent cup record, Blackpool manager Joe Smith was quoted in the Cheshire Observer as saying “Do you wonder that nobody is inclined to be too confident about this Chester match?….I am taking nothing for granted. As soon as I knew that Chester were coming to town I told the boys “This is not necessarily a walk over””

Manager Frank Brown, who had won a Central League championship medal with the Tangerines in 1919/20, commented “It is one of the hardest ties we could possibly have had, but whatever the outcome I am sure our team will give Blackpool a real fight.”

Jimmy McIntosh - Blackpool and former Chester guest player

Image courtesy of Blackpool Former Players Association
Jimmy McIntosh – Blackpool and former guest player for Chester
Image – Blackpool Former Players Association

There were a couple of familiar names in the Blackpool team. Centre forward Jimmy McIntosh had been a regular guest player for Chester during the war with his most notable performance coming in a 7-2 win over Wrexham in October 1942 when he scored a hat-trick. Meanwhile full-back Ron Suart had also made a couple of guest appearances at Sealand Road in 1944/45.

Chester warmed up for the game with a 1-1 draw at Darlington, in which new signing Ray Westwood scored his second goal in two league games, while Blackpool recorded a similar score at Wolves. The Seasiders approached the game as seriously as if they were playing a First Division side but had no special training other than a trip to the brine baths at Lytham and a planned game of golf.

There was no special training for the Chester players in Abergele either. With five part-time professionals unable to make the trip it was considered unviable, much to the disappointment of Abergele District Council who had made arrangements to host a dinner for the players. On the Thursday before the game most of the players went down to the Stadium for a final toning up and tactical talk and this was followed by an evening trip to the Regal Cinema. The following day they travelled up to Lytham St Annes where they stayed at a boarding house owned by a former employee of the Cheshire Observer.

Cup fever had overtaken Chester since the win at Crystal Palace and it was estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 supporters would make the journey. Some supporters had taken an option on buses before the draw was made and within half an hour of knowing the opposition every coach had been booked. Both Crosville and the Corporation had been inundated with calls and it was reported that parties had resorted to booking buses from Birkenhead and Shropshire. The Chester Chronicle stated that the convoy of buses would leave Chester at 9am with 2,000 supporters also expected to travel by train. The paper also suggested that there was hardly a pub, factory or office in the city which hadn’t arranged a trip.

Bloomfield Road had a capacity of 30,000 so the match was not made all-ticket. Chester were allocated 1,400 stand tickets which failed to satisfy the more than 4,000 applications that had reached the club on the Wednesday before the game. Stand tickets had been priced at 6s, 4s 6d and 4s while the paddock was priced at 4s 6d and 3s and the ground at 1s 3d.

The game was scheduled to kick-off at 2:30 while a replay was pencilled in for the following Saturday and made all-ticket.

2 – The Match

Chester named an unchanged starting eleven from the team that had beaten Crystal Palace in the previous round. Winger Phil Turner, who had been out of the side for two months with torn ligaments, had resumed training but wasn’t considered fully match fit.

In the end an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Chester fans made the trip but there was no happy ending as Blackpool ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. It proved to be an uncomfortable afternoon for goalkeeper George Scales, the hero of the Crystal Palace match, who was at fault for the two goals scored before half-time. Although Frank Brown’s side had plenty of possession they were unable to tame Stanley Matthews who reportedly had one of his best games since joining from Stoke.

Blackpool got off to a quick start but Chester were in no way overawed and fought back strongly. However, just when it looked like they had weathered the early storm, they fell behind to a freak goal. On eight minutes full-back Eddie Shimwell launched a mighty clearance from within his own half but Scales badly misjudged the bounce and the ball hit the frozen ground, and soared high over his head into the net. Freddie Willcox made a vain attempt to clear the ball but collided with the upright and had to receive attention.

Cheshire Observer headline

It was a disastrous early blow and the mistake seemed to affect Scales’ confidence. When Mortensen hit a simple low shot on 25 minutes the goalkeeper was late in diving and let in a goal which he would normally have comfortably saved.

Trailing by two goals, after only 25 minutes, Chester faced an uphill task but they stuck to their guns and had as big a share of possession as their illustrious opponents. Both Joe Brown and George Williamson had good opportunities but despite a good spell of pressure City were unable to breech the Blackpool rearguard.

At the other end Willcox cleared off the line when Alec Munro shot for goal after good work by Matthews.

In the second half Blackpool took control of the game with Matthews a constant threat. The Chester defence struggled to cope with his wizardry and Dave McNeil, who had mastered the right-winger the previous season, was often outwitted. Fortunately the central defenders were able to deal with the stream of crosses otherwise the damage might have been much worse.

After Scales had partially redeemed himself with a brilliant save from Matthews Blackpool extended the lead on 69 minutes when Jimmy McIntosh fed Mortensen who ran through the Chester defence to fire past the keeper.

Chester’s best chance fell to Tommy Burden, who worked hard throughout, but his shot was blocked by Joe Robinson. The centre-forward was also unlucky to see a header from Bobby Hamilton’s cross go across the face of goal and out of play.

Six minutes from time the Seasiders wrapped the game up when Harry Johnston’s shot beat Scales off the post. Chester kept on trying to the end but they had been beaten by a better side although they received plenty of plaudits with the Blackpool Evening Gazette stating: “This Chester team deserves all the praise which could be given to it. Some of its football was of a class which Third Division teams are not supposed to play.”

Blackpool – Robinson, Shimwell, Suart, Johnston, Hayward, Kelly, Matthews, Mortensen, McIntosh, Dick, Munro

Scorers – Shimwell 8, Mortensen 25, 69, Johnston 84

Chester – Scales, Willcox, McNeil, Williamson, Lee, Butcher, Hamilton, Astbury, Burden, Westwood, Brown

Attendance – 26,414

Chester Chronicle cartoon

3- Post-match

Amongst the congratulatory letters received by the club after the game was one from the Blackpool FC Girls’ Supporters Club who complemented the team on their display saying “I thought you put up a better fight here than many First division clubs have done.” they also expressed surprise that the club was only 17th in the Third Division North. In fact the FA Cup run was the highlight of a disappointing season and Chester’s final 20th position was the first time they had finished in the bottom half of the table since joining the Football League.

Opponents Blackpool also saved their best performances for the FA Cup and reached the final where they were beaten 4-2 by Manchester United in a thrilling match. This was the first time that Chester had been beaten by the eventual finalists since 1890/91 when they were hammered 7-0 by eventual winners Blackburn Rovers. In the league the Seasiders finished in what was considered a disappointing ninth position.

The Blackpool tie proved to be the final FA Cup match for six Chester players: George Scales, Tommy Burden, Bobby Hamilton, Joe Brown, Freddie Willcox and Ray Westwood.

Scales continued to make regular appearances for Chester as he shared goalkeeping duties first with Jimmy MacLaren and then Ted Elliott. By the start of the 1949/50 campaign Elliott was firmly established as first choice keeper and in September Scales joined Rhyl, initially on loan, before making the move permanent. He won a Welsh Cup winner’s medal with the Welshman in 1952 to match the one he acquired with Chester in 1947. On both occasions Merthyr Tydfil were the opposition.

He left Rhyl in summer 1952 and became long-term landlord at the Pen-y-Bryn Hotel in Llanrwst. He died in 1993.

Tommy Burden had joined Chester in November 1945 from Wolves and was one of the success stories of the early post war years. As well as scoring the winning goals at Tranmere and Crystal Palace he managed an impressive 40 goals in 82 league games. His performances attracted the attention of Leeds United who were then managed by his former boss at Wolves, Major Frank Buckley, and he signed for the Yorkshire club in summer 1948. At Elland Road he was converted to left half, made 243 league appearances and was captain for his final four years in Yorkshire. A disagreement with manager Raich Carter saw him transferred to Bristol City for £3,000 in October 1954 where he remained a stalwart for the next eight years and recored another 231 league appearances. In May 1961 he briefly joined Glastonbury. Away from football he worked in the shoe trade and died in 2001.

Bobby Hamilton
Image – Chester Chronicle

Former Hearts junior Bobby Hamilton had also signed for Chester in November 1945 after being stationed in the city during the war. Although he was used on both the right and left flanks at Sealand Road there seems to be some question as to which was his best position . During the 1946/47 season he was mainly utilised on the left and was only switched to the right when Jackie Arthur was unavailable as appears to be the case for the FA Cup tie against Plymouth. The following year he again started on the left but injuries to Phil Turner saw him feature on the right wing where he played in the 1947/48 FA Cup run. However, a letter in the Chester Chronicle at the time suggests that Hamilton looked uncomfortable at outside left and was much better on the right.

Although Hamilton was one of the players who had attracted the interest of Sheffield Wednesday in 1947 he ended up signing for non-league Yeovil Town in 1948. He featured at outside right in the Yeovil team that famously beat First Division Sunderland’s “Bank of England” team in 1949 and continued to play for the Somerset side until 1952. He died in 1999.

Outside left Joe Brown joined Chester as an amateur from Port Sunlight and made 13 league appearances for the club before being released by Frank Brown at the end of the campaign and signing for Runcorn. The Bebington born winger remained at Canal Street for many years and faced Chester Reserves in the Cheshire County League as late as 1958. He died in 2004.

Full-back Freddie Willcox had joined the club from Everton and made 16 league appearances in the 1947/48 season. Recalling the Blackpool game in 2007 Freddie said that he received mild concussion after colliding with the post in attempting to prevent the first goal and couldn’t remember anything about the rest of the match.

Towards the end of the season he broke his tibia and fibia in a tackle, an injury that eventually brought a premature end to his career. In the 1948/49 season he featured for the Cheshire County League side and eventually signed for South Liverpool who he captained against Chester in a Welsh Cup tie that went to three games in 1949/50. After retiring from football he worked at Ford’s in Halewood and died in 2015.

Freddie Willcox in 2007 with the programme for the match
Image – Rick Matthews

Former England international Ray Westwood was a major signing when he joined Chester from Bolton Wanderers for £2,400 on Boxing Day 1947. Although his class was evident, in the FA Cup ties against Crystal Palace and Blackpool, the 35 year old inside-forward struggled with injuries in his time at Sealand Road where he managed 13 goals in his 38 league appearances. At the time it was calculated that each appearance cost the club £70, an amount they could ill afford at a time when they were starting to struggle financially.

Before the start of the 1949/50 season he refused to accept terms and, after being made available for transfer, signed for Darwen. He continued playing for the Lancashire Combination side until 1951. A cousin of Manchester United and England international Duncan Edwards, he died in 1981 at the age of 69.

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Crystal Palace 0 Chester 1 (FA Cup 3rd Round) – Jan 10th 1948

1 – Pre-Match

Chester may have hoped for one of the big boys from Division 1 in the FA Cup 3rd Round but the tie at Crystal Palace gave them an excellent opportunity of making further progress in the competition. Much like Chester, the Division 3 South side had suffered an up and down campaign. Although they had failed to win an away league match they had proved to be a tough nut to crack at home with only one defeat to their name.

Speaking about the draw in the Chester Chronicle, manager Frank Brown was hopeful stating: “It could have been kinder to us but we have a real chance. The playing pitch at Selhurst is big, and that will suit our boys.”

The Londoner’s had reached this stage of the competition by beating Port Vale followed by Bristol City but were finding goals hard to come by having only scored 23 in 23 league games. Their main strength had been in defence but this had been tested in recent weeks and three goals had been conceded at both Torquay and Northampton.

Chester had struggled in the league since eliminating Tranmere Rovers in the 2nd Round. A defeat at Oldham Athletic had been followed by two setbacks against York City over the Christmas period. For the first league game of 1948, at home to Tranmere, goalkeeper Jim MacLaren had been dropped in favour of George Scales while Joe Brown had returned to the problematic outside left position. Meanwhile a bout of influenza for Trevor Walters had seen Eric Lee move to centre half. The changes had the desired effect and Chester completed their third victory of the season over Rovers by a comfortable 4-0 scoreline.

One player who missed the league game at Tranmere was new signing Ray Westwood, a pre-war England international from Bolton Wanderers. The 35 year old inside forward had made more than 300 league appearances for the Burden Park club and his signing, for a record £2,400 on Boxing Day, had been regarded as a major coup.

Ray Westwood and Frank Brown –
Image Chester Chronicle

Westwood had scored within 10 minutes of his debut, in the home game against York, and his steadying influence had been regarded as a positive sign despite the 3-2 defeat. However flu had prevented his inclusion against Tranmere although he was expected to be in contention for the Palace game.

Despite the expense involved, a trip to London sparked the interest of fans and the Chronicle reported that supporters all over the city were arranging coaches and train travel down to the capital. The match was not all-ticket but 250 tickets at 4/- had been reserved for Chester in the centre stand at a Selhurst Park ground that was reported to hold between 60,000 and 80,000 spectators.

In preparation for the FA Cup tie Chester once again chose to return to Abergele for special training. The arrival of the Chester team was an event for the town with the Publicity Association stating: “It is good news and a grand advertisement for Abergele to hear that Chester’s directors decided upon Abergele again against the claims of Brighton. Chester FC will join a long list of prominent individuals and organisations who have great faith in the health giving properties of the Abergele air.”

The Cheshire Observer reported that the players got a great welcome when they arrived at the North Wales resort on the Monday before the game and they stayed at “their lucky boarding house at Pensarn within a minute’s walk of the sea front and within easy reach of long country walks”. The players had a strict lights out at 11pm every night.

The stay took the usual format of training with plenty of leisure activities. On Tuesday morning the players had a round of golf before training at Abergele United’s ground in the afternoon. In the evening the squad attended a performance of “Victory Circus”, an animal revue at the Queen’s Theatre in Rhyl. On Wednesday the players did some sprinting on the promenade before a long walk around the grounds of Gwyrch Castle and a whist drive at the local golf club in the evening. Thursday’s programme included more sprinting and massage with a darts match against a local team in the evening.

The Chester team departed North Wales directly for London on the Friday where they stayed at the Imperial Hotel. In what had clearly been a well-organised week Frank Brown commented that the the players had taken the training very seriously and had ben able to completely relax. New signing Westwood was happy with the preparation saying: “I have had a grand week getting to know and settling down with my new colleagues – a great set of chaps.”

The match was scheduled to kick-off at 2:15pm.

Chester players training on the Annexe in January 1948.
Image – Chester Chronicle

2 – The Match

Chester made one change from the side that had beaten Tranmere in the league the previous week. The experienced Westwood returned to the starting eleven in place of Tommy Best while Eric Lee retained his place at centre half despite the recovery of Trevor Walters.

Around 1,000 supporters, led by cheer-leader Micky Moran, made the trip down to London, and were rewarded with a magnificent display. The game was settled by a superbly taken goal from Tommy Burden but they were indebted to an outstanding second half goalkeeping performance from George Scales who had the game of his life. The Cheshire Observer reporter, Ralph Houdley, stated that he could not remember a better exhibition of goalkeeping and the former understudy to Frank Swift at Manchester City fully deserved his standing ovation at the end of the game.

Chester Chronicle view of the game

In a hard-fought game the first half was evenly contested and Chester almost had a dream start when Bobby Hamilton’s well-placed pass found Westwood who rushed his shot and sliced the ball wide. Joe Brown had a good chance to score but elected to pass when he would have been better off shooting while Palace’s Alf Somerfield shot over from a good position.

In the 36th minute Chester took the lead when Westwood found Burden with a gem of a pass. The centre forward deceived Joe Millbank and crashed a magnificent left foot shot past Dick Graham into the Palace net. It was a beautifully worked goal and typical of the former Wolves forward who capitalised on the only opportunity presented to him in the game.

The home side, stunned by the Chester goal, responded quickly and Lewis’s free kick was pushed against the crossbar by Scales and scrambled away by Lee. At the other end Westwood almost added a second but this header from a George Williamson free kick narrowly passed the upright.

It was a different story in the second half when Chester were subjected to wave after wave of Palace attacks with Scales and a resilient rearguard preventing the home side snatching an equaliser. In between making outstanding saves the Northwich born keeper was in the wars and needed attention from trainer Vic Brown on no less than five occasions as he displayed a remarkable show of bravery.

Within five minutes of the resumption a thunderous free-kick from Thomas Reece was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Scales and from the resultant corner Jack Lewis charged the keeper against the upright leaving him briefly concussed. As soon as play restarted he was diving at the feet of Somerfield and receiving a kick to the head for his troubles which required more treatment from the overworked Chester trainer.

Further outstanding saves followed from Albert Robson (twice) and Reece and for half an hour the defence was put under immense pressure. Even when Scales lost possession and was lying on the ground the defenders stood firm and blocked shots by packing the goal.

Eric Lee clears another Palace attack.
Image Chester Chronicle

An equaliser looked imminent and Robson and Reece had further shots brilliantly saved but with ten minutes remaining the pressure started to relent and Tommy Astbury had a volley well saved by Graham with Williamson heading just wide from the resulting corner. In the closing minutes Scales capped a magnificent display with another great save from Reece and when the final whistle blew the Palace players rightly congratulated the keeper on his superlative display.

It had been a determined performance from Chester in a thrilling cup-tie and they were roundly cheered off the field by their relieved supporters who had endured a nervous afternoon.

While Scales made the headlines with his second half display plaudits also went to the rest of the defence who performed heroically. There had been doubts expressed beforehand about the deployment of Lee at centre half in place of Walters but the amateur kept a tight hold on Somerfield throughout. Meanwhile Reg Butcher was a tower of strength and Williamson, who was the outstanding player in the first half, never missed a tackle.

While Palace could consider themselves unlucky Chester’s refusal to cave in to pressure earned them a place in the 4th Round.

Crystal Palace – Graham, Harding, Dawes, J Lewis, Millbank, Reece, Mycock, G Lewis, Somerfield, Robson, Clough

Chester – Scales, Willcox, McNeil, Williamson, Lee, Butcher, Hamilton, Astbury, Burden, Westwood, Brown

Scorer – Burden 36

Attendance – 22,084

3- Post-match

Eric Lee’s appearance at centre half was a taste of things to come. Although the number five shirt was shared by Williamson and Walters for the remainder of the campaign it became the regular position for the Chester-born defender from the start of the following season through to 1956/57.

In the week following the game two letters appeared in the Cheshire Observer written by former Cestrians living near Selhurst Park. These forerunners to the Chester Exiles were full of praise for the performance from their native city team. This was only the second time the club had played a match in London, following an FA Cup win at Clapton Orient in 1934, so it was a rare opportunity for exiled supporters to see Chester in the flesh. In those days, long before the internet, one of the writers mentioned that the only way he could follow the club was by reading copies of the Observer which were forwarded to him every week.

Crystal Palace’s defeat did little to help their league form and they only won one of their next ten games but improved results in March and April saw them finish 13th in Division Three South.

This proved to be the only meeting between the sides in the FA Cup. The next time they crossed swords was in August 1958 when Chester visited Selhurst Park for their first ever away game in Division Four with the game ending in a 3-3 draw. Coincidentally Palace were also the opponents for the first ever match in Division Three in August 1975. On that occasion Malcolm Allison’s Eagles won 2-0.

The 4th Round draw handed Chester an away trip to First Division Blackpool and a second meeting with Stanley Matthews.

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Stoke City 3 Chester 2 (FA Cup 4th Round replay) – Jan 29th 1947

1 – Pre-Match

Saturday’s goalless draw left Chester as the sole Division 3 representative when the draw was made for the FA Cup 5th Round the following Monday. The incentive for the winners was a home tie against the winners of the tie between Wolves and Sheffield United which had also finished 0-0.

2 – The Match

The weather had taken a turn for the worse following the match at Sealand Road and by the time the replay took place four days later the temperature had dropped and the players were faced with Arctic conditions. Heavy snow had fallen and there was a thick covering on the pitch which put the match in doubt. Nevertheless around 2,000 Chester supporters made the journey down to the Potteries but the weather conditions made the attendance lower than it might have been. A crowd of 22,683, paying receipts of £2,830 meant that Chester earned around £1,500 from the two ties.

Both teams were unchanged for the replay Given the state of the pitch the game was played at a fast pace and the players coped well with a tricky surface.

It was Stoke who adapted best to the treacherous conditions in the early stages and the Chester defence was put under intense pressure but Eric Lee, Dave McNeil and Trevor Walters all continued from where they had left off in the first game. However Stanley Matthews was seeing much more of the ball than he had at Sealand Road and he was creating chances for the forwards who were guilty of over-eagerness in front of goal. The Potters were also hampered by an early injury to Frank Mountford which left him as a passenger on the right wing for much of the game.

The home side finally made the breakthrough in the 21st minute when a cross from Matthews was headed down by Alex Ormston and finished by Steele whose shot gave George Scales no chance.

Chester responded well with some clever football but failed to trouble Arthur Jepson in the Stoke goal and at the other end McNeil cleared a Matthews shot off the line. On the stroke of half time Tommy Burden has a great chance to equalise but after breaking clear of the defence he was too cautious in trying to beat Jepson and shot wide of the upright.

Eight minutes into the second half Stoke extended their lead after great work by Ormston who beat two defenders before passing to Steele who had the simple job of scoring into an empty net.

Stoke continued to pile on the pressure and Scales made a flying save from Ormston. However, the Potters’ winger didn’t have to wait long to add to the lead when he hit a rising shot past Scales in the 65th minute.

Daily Dispatch photo of Stoke’s 3rd goal

At 3-0 Stoke looked comfortable and they took the opportunity to let the struggling Mountford leave the field with a pulled muscle for the final 20 minutes.

However, when all seemed lost, Chester performed a remarkable late comeback in which they almost took the game into extra-time. In the 71st minute Bobby Hamilton reduced the arrears with a spectacular strike which left Jepson rooted to the spot. Four minutes later the keeper was beaten for a second time when he failed to gather a shot from the ever-dangerous Dick Yates and the centre forward made no mistake from the rebound.

Dick Yates – scorer of Chester’s 2nd goal

The game was now heading for a thrilling finale and Stoke should have put the game beyond doubt when Lee tackled Matthews from behind in the penalty area. The England winger took the resultant spot-kick himself and showed that he was fallible when his shot was saved by Scales.

The penalty miss spurred Chester on to even greater efforts and the final five minutes saw them bombard the Stoke goal and an equaliser seemed inevitable. Jepson made two close range saves while both Neil Franklin and Billy Mould headed the ball off the line in a frenetic finish. The Mould clearance, from a Tommy Burden shot, proved particularly controversial as the Chester forwards were adamant that the ball had crossed the line.

Despite this late pressure Chester couldn’t snatch the equaliser their play deserved and a relieved Stoke held on to earn a 5th Round tie against Sheffield United who beat Wolves on the same evening.

Daily Dispatch view of the game

3 – Post Match

Chester had been superb in both games against one of the best teams in the country. Although Stoke were eliminated from the FA Cup by Sheffield United in the next round their form in the league over the remainder of the season was excellent. They only suffered one more defeat going into the last match of the season when they knew that victory, ironically at Sheffield United, would hand them their first ever league title. Sadly they were beaten 2-1 at Brammall Lane and finished 4th with the title going to Liverpool.

Meanwhile, away from the FA Cup, Chester’s form had slipped after a great start to the season when they only lost one of the first 18 games. The slump coincided with a disruption to the forward line which had been lethal in the first half of the season. Jackie Arthur, Tommy Burden, Dick Yates, Tommy Astbury and Bobby Hamilton were all ever-present until December and their ability attracted the interest of bigger clubs with Sheffield Wednesday reportedly interested in taking Burden, Astbury and Yates to Hillsborough. The injury to Arthur, at Rotherham on Christmas Day, seemed to be a particular problem and he failed to regain his early season form and only made another four league appearances. At the end of the season he was released and joined Rochdale.

There was one other player who featured in his last FA Cup tie for Chester. Although Frank Marsh was still at Sealand Road during the 1947/48 season, and played 31 league games, the former Bolton player didn’t feature in the FA Cup. The right-half had originally moved to Sealand Road from Burnden Park in 1939 and after a handful of game for the Cheshire County League side in the 1948/49 campaign he eventually signed for Macclesfield in January 1949.

Chester’s regained their early season form in March and ended the campaign strongly in 3rd place, all be it 16 points behind the champions Doncaster Rovers. The points total of 56 was the highest since joining the league in 1931 and Dick Yates’ haul of 36 league goals passed the previous Football League best of 34 set by Joe Mantle in 1932/33.

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

Scorers – Steele 21, 53, Ormston 65

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

Scorers – Hamilton 71, Yates 75

Attendance – 22,683

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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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Chester 2 Plymouth Argyle 0 (FA Cup 3rd Round) – Jan 11th 1947

1 – Pre-match

Chester started their first post-war FA Cup campaign at the 3rd Round stage having been one of only three clubs from the Third Division North and South to be given a bye. This was a result of their success in the 1938/39 season when they reached the Fourth Round and took 2nd Division Sheffield Wednesday to three games.

The draw matched Frank Brown’s side with 2nd Division Plymouth Argyle who were making their first ever visit to Sealand Road. Chester had started the season in excellent form with 14 wins in their first 18 matches but a mini slump of three defeats in the previous five league games had seen them lose ground on Doncaster Rovers at the top of the 3rd Division North.

Argyle’s results had also declined in the month preceding the tie and they had a poor away record having only won one out of 11 away games. However they still retained the distinction of having scored in every league match. The recent slide had partly been attributed to the loss of injured goalkeeper Bill Shortt, who was reported as being the one consistent member of their back three. The Wrexham born keeper had been a butcher’s boy in Hoole and after playing for Hoole Alex. became a regular for Chester in wartime football. After being stationed with the Army in Devon he also played wartime football for Argyle and then represented them in the transition 1945/46 season. In summer 1946 he signed for Plymouth for £1,200 . The Welshman was expected to be fit for the tie having returned to the side the previous week in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday which halted a run of five consecutive defeats.

Plymouth goalkeeper – Bill Shortt

Chester prepared for the tie by spending a week training at Abergele on a diet of sherry, milk and eggs. All the players were present with the exception of Bobby Hamilton, Tommy Burden, Eric Lee and Reg Butcher.

The Chester Chronicle report of the get-together makes interesting reading. The party travelled down to the North Wales coast on Monday where they went for a brisk walk on the promenade before tea and then attended the pantomime in Rhyl before another promenade walk. The following day they trained on the beach in the sleet and rain before a game of golf in the afternoon. On returning to the hotel they were joined by Dick Yates who had got married the previous day. The evening was spent at the cinema in Rhyl.

Wednesday saw a more intensive round of training at the Abergele FC ground before a seven mile walk in the afternoon and another visit to the cinema in the evening. The following morning was devoted to sprinting in the morning before a walk in the afternoon and then a whist drive organised by Abergele Supporters Committee in the evening. Friday was intended for relaxing and the party returned to Chester on Saturday morning for lunch at the Albion Hotel before the game.

Plymouth made the long journey north on the Wednesday before the game and based themselves at the Wynnstay Hotel and trained at Wrexham.

Chester were confident before the game and captain Trevor Walters thought that Plymouth would be beaten quite easily noting that although they had a strong attack the defence wasn’t great. Manager Frank Brown was not so forthright with his comments stating in the Cheshire Observer that:

We realise that we are up against a good Second Division side and that our task is not an easy one. Having ground advantage, I’m certain we will win, but in cup football anything can happen.”

Although Plymouth manager Jack Tresadern though that his team would be good enough to reach the 4th Round it seems that the Plymouth supporters were not so confident and their league form did not inspire them to believe that it would be an easy victory despite their higher ranking. The general feeling was that Argyle would be satisfied with a draw.

Cup fever had gradually overtaken supporters and after the quick sale of the stand tickets there had been such a rush for the 15,500 ground tickets that a further 500 had been printed and an attendance of 17,700 was expected. A week before the game it was noted that although the majority of the 2s tickets had been sold there were still some available at Milton’s and Cestrian Electrical Co in Northgate Street, Upton Post Office and Upton’s in Handbridge. This figure fell short of the record attendance of 18816, against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup 3rd replay in January 1939, and it was reported that ticket-holders would be ‘comfortable’.

Secretary Billy Peters had done everything possible to ensure that the crowd could be handled smoothly and an additional 12 crush barriers had been installed on the Kop. Additional parking had been organised in the field opposite the greyhound track entrance in Sealand Road and arrangements had been made for buses to unload passengers in Gladstone Avenue and then pick them up outside the ground after the match. Milton’s radio van was also scheduled to be positioned outside the ground to direct the fans and help the police with traffic control.

An appeal was made for spectators to “pack well together’ and obey the stewards instructions while the 21 turnstiles were scheduled to open at 12:45 for a 14:30 kick-off.

2 – The Match

Chester entered the game with only one change from their regular line-up. Right winger Jackie Arthur had picked up an ankle injury in the Christmas Day game against Rotherham United and this had not responded to salt water treatment. Therefore Bobby Hamilton had been switched to the right wing with Hoole amateur Dennis Selby given his chance on the left wing for only his fourth first team appearance.

The game was played in a typical FA Cup atmosphere and a splash of colour was imparted by Chester mascot Mickey Moran who was dressed from head to foot in blue and white. He paraded around the ground before the match, rallying support and before kick off caused “a roar of amusement” by solemnly kissing the ball and placing it on the centre spot.

A thrilling cup-tie full of exciting incidents could have opened with a goal for either side in the first minute. First of all Syd Rawlings cross was met by Bill Strauss who fired fractionally wide of the home upright. Almost immediately the returning Bill Shortt misjudged a cross from Bobby Hamilton which hit the top of the bar with Dennis Selby unable to convert the rebound. It proved to be only a temporary respite for Pl;ymouth as Chester took the lead in the fifth minute when Dick Yates headed down to Tommy Astbury who advanced before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Shortt.

Tommy Astbury – Scorer of the first goal

The goal prompted a response from Plymouth who put the City defence under severe pressure as left back Dave McNeil struggled to cope with the dangerous Rawlings and both Dave and Richard Thomas came close for the visitors. Fortunately for Chester the Argyle forwards were unable to capitalise on the chances created by the wingers while man of the match Trevor Walters was outstanding in marshalling his defence.

The last 20 minutes of the first half proved to be all Plymouth and they had a penalty claim turned down but Chester almost scored a second when Tommy Burden’s header from an Eric Lee free kick hit the underside of the bar and was scrambled away by the Plymouth defence. Despite Argyle’s pressure City held on to hold a 1-0 lead at half time

The second half had barely started when the Pilgrims had a golden opportunity to equalise An attack down the left wing saw Bill Strauss hit the crossbar and when the ball fall to Dave Thomas a goal seemed inevitable. However, from no more than five yards out, the centre forward took a wild kick and fired into the Kop. The failure to take this chance proved to be a turning point in the game and Chester gradually took control of the game and began to outplay their 2nd Division opponents. Shortt saved well from both Lee and Frank Marsh while there were opportunities for Astbury and Tommy Burden before City extended their lead in the 62nd minute.

A punt upfield by Selby was chased by Burden who outpaced the Argyle defenders and although Shortt raced out it was the Chester number eight who reached the ball first and rounded the goalkeeper before shooting into an empty net for a fine finish.

Tommy Burden – 2nd Goalscorer

Chester continued to pile on the pressure but Shortt was safe in the Plymouth goal and it was only in the last 10 minutes that the visitors got back into the game. In the closing minutes George Scales made two spectacular saves from Dave Thomas despite suffering from an injury which saw him limping while Burden also picked up a knock which saw him leave the field for a short time.

In a game that was in the balance for large periods the Chester defence were the stars of the show with Walters, in particular, and Marsh the pick of the eleven. Meanwhile the Argyle defence struggled under pressure and it was reported that the score might have been more convincing had the Chester wingers Hamilton and Selby been more proficient on the day.

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

Scorers – Astbury 5, Burden 62

Plymouth Argyle – Shortt, Royston, Dyer, Jones, Dixon, Boyd, Rawlings, R Thomas, D Thomas, Tinkler, Strauss

Attendance – 18,000

3 – Post match

Victory over Plymouth earned Chester an attractive 4th Round home tie against Stoke City and Stanley Matthews.

The attendance was reported by the Cheshire Observer as around 17,000 but as 18,000 in the Chester Chronicle with gate receipts of £2000. Given ticket sales it seems likely that the figure was somewhere in between but it fell short of the 18,816 who had been at the Sheffield Wednesday tie eight years earlier.

Amateur left winger Dennis Selby only played two more first team games and three Cheshire County League matches before joining Altrincham in the summer. Born in Broughton he died in 1969.

Bill Shortt went on to make 374 appearances for Argyle in all competitions making him their 16th ranked player in terms of games played before retiring in 1956. He was also capped by Wales on 12 occasions between 1947 and 1953. He went on to become a publican in Devon and was awarded a benefit match by Plymouth in 1985. He died in 2004.

Bill Shortt Benefit Match

Plymouth finished the season in 19th position in Division 2.

This was the first of four FA Cup ties between the sides. In 1993/94 Chester were beaten 1-0 at Home Park while the two sides also met when the Blues were in the Conference in 2000/01. On the latter occasion Chester were once again the giant killers winning 2-1 at Plymouth after a 1-1 draw at the Deva Stadium.

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