Season Review 1985-86
The new season started with a new manager and several new players but the close season had not been without its fair share of controversy. The majority of Chester fans were angered and disappointed when Mickey Speight was not given the managers job following his tremendous efforts during the previous season but the fans choice was too outspoken for the Directors liking. The new man in charge was ex Wigan Athletic boss Harry McNally and he quickly set about the task of assembling a squad, signing the likes of David Glenn, Milton Graham, John Kelly, Peter Houghton, Wakeley Gage and Gary Bennett.
Just 1,750 fans turned out for Harry McNally’s first competitive game of the season, a 1-1 home draw with Halifax Town in which Stuart Rimmer scored whilst game number two brought a 3-0 defeat at Peterborough United. Mr McNally soon made his presence felt and as the new players began to settle in an unbeaten run of 9 games followed. The first win in the league was at Tranmere Rovers where the scoreline was 3-0 whilst a Peter Houghton goal was enough to secure the first home victory, against Hereford United.
This period also brought a fine 3-0 win at Torquay United and 4-0 home wins against both Burnley and Crewe Alexandra, Gary Bennett scored his first two goals for the club in the latter. Stuart Rimmer took the side to even greater heights, however, when he celebrated his 21st birthday by scoring 4 goals in the 6-3 win at Preston North End, a result that left us third in the table.
That fine spell ended when Swindon Town won 1-0 at the Stadium on October 19th, our first home defeat in the league but the side again bounced back with an unbeaten run of 10 games. The 4-0 home win against Colchester United on November 6th took us to top spot, a position we retained until the turn of the year. Unfortunately this period also brought the seasons low point when Stuart Rimmer suffered damaged knee ligaments whilst scoring against Leyton Orient, an injury that was to end his season.
Wakeley Gage had also returned south just prior to the Orient game, Mickey Speight had gone even further afield, taking up a coaching position in Norway and Andy Holden was finding his season ravaged by injury. New faces arrived as replacements with Ian Richardson signing from Watford with the unenviable job of replacing Stuart Rimmer, John Bramhall moving in on loan and Graham Abel stepping up from non-league soccer. Goalkeeper Ray Cashley was another temporary recruit.
A 3-2 defeat at Cambridge United on Boxing Day proved to be a mere “blip” and the New Year was celebrated with a 4-1 thumping of Port Vale. That victory was the first game in a 6 match unbeaten run but that ended with a surprise 3-2 home defeat against Northampton Town in early February. The jitters then set in for a while with no wins coming from a further 6 game spell. Despite this “iffy” spell second place was maintained and with the manager making shrewd use of the loan system fortunes were gradually restored.
Billy Wright, Earl Barrett, Steve Johnson and Barry Butler all arrived at the club and it was a goal from Wrght that helped us on the way to a 2-0 win against Preston North End. With that result under the belt the final run in of 11 games produced just two more defeats, 4-2 at Swindon Town where we did not get a fair crack of the whip and 2-0 at Scunthorpe United on the final day of the season. On April 19th a goalless draw at Leyton Orient secured promotion though in the end we had to settle for second place behind Swindon Town, all this on an average game of just 2,922!
Of 46 games player, 23 resulted in victories, 15 were drawn and 8 lost, 83 goals were scored and 50 conceded. Our tally of just 5 defeats away from home was the best in all divisions, a record that we shared with Liverpool and Derby County. Martin Lane, Bobby Coy, John Kelly and Gary Bennett were the mainstays of the side, all reaching the 40 game mark and beyond.
Unfortunately, or maybe it was fortunately, cup football didn’t prove much of a distraction from our efforts in the league. In the Milk Cup Tranmere Rovers were beaten 3-1 on aggregate (courtesy of a 3-1 win at Prenton Park) before Coventry City stopped our gallop with a 9-3 aggregate victory. Youngster David Murray had made his debut at Highfield Road where we tried to attack our more illustrious opponentns and ended up losing 7-2!
Bury beat us in the first round of the FA Cup, 2-0 the score at Gigg Lane, whilst interested in the Freight Rover Trophy ended after defeats against Rochdale (1-0) and Wigan Athletic (2-0). In fairness these last two games were used to “Blood” youngsters such as Mark Sconce, Brian Croft, Colin Woodthorphe, Ritchie Palmer and Ian Bailey whilst Bobby Coy had a fine game in goal at Spotland if my memory serves me right!