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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