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.
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.
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.
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