Our first competitive meeting came in the fourth round tie of the 1946/47 FA Cup Competition. We were then in the Third Division North and the City was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a First Division side visiting Sealand Road. The Potters included three England Internationals in their side, Sir Stanley Matthews, Freddie Steele and Neil Franklin for the tie on January 25th 1947. A crowd of 18.706 paid club record receipts at the time of £2,700.
The Chester defence marked Stanley Matthews tightly on the right flank for the first half hour. The England international tried switching to the left but the City defenders stuck to their task brilliantly. Stoke City had came close to opening the scoring before the half time interval but keeper George Scales handled perfectly whilst ace marksman Dick Yates had little change out of Stoke’s Neil Franklin.
Despite all the pressure from a top flight Stoke City side, Chester could have won the game, for just minutes from the end Jackie Arthur was right through and hit a rasping drive which keeper Jepson somehow pulled out a wonder save. Goalless it finished, by the time of the replay a fortnight later snow had fallen on the Victoria Ground and the First Division side were cruising at 3-0 after 65 minutes courtesy of two Freddie Steele strikes and one from Alex Ormston, before tremendous right back Bobby Hamilton and Dick Yates reduced the arrears but it wasn’t quite enough.
We have to go back to the early 1990s for our first league meetings with Stoke City. During our two year exile at Macclesfield, few will have forgotten City’s superb victory over Stoke City that kept our heads above the relegation flood tide. Some 18,000 Stoke City fans had come to praise the Potters in their bid for promotion but Chester were there to bury them and bury them we did. This was a magnificent performance of battling and sheer never say die grit by the Blues, over seen by chess grandmaster Harry McNally who had worked out a scheme to stymie the title chasing home side.
No one did more to personify Chester’s bloody-minded determination than striker Gary Bennett who snarled aggression and commitment over every blade of grass at The Victoria Ground. He got his reward too with a second half winner and he gave the massively experienced Noel Blake a nightmare of an afternoon. From the start Chester set out to frustrate with that curtain of five across the midfield and it stalled Stoke’s efforts at a fast start. In fact Chester looked the more dangerous when Bennett and strike partner Stuart Rimmer harrying and chivvying up front. Both almost sneaked through before Billy Stewart had a save to make, coming out to bravely halt Stein, but Bennett lanced through at the other end to be halted by a desperate Blake.
Blues skipper Graham Barrow forced Ronnie Sinclair into a parrying save with a volley before Stein again tormented Chester down the left and Biggins crashed his diving header into the advertising hoardings. Just as the storm reached its height Chester broke away. Paul Comstive played the ball through, Bennett shrugged off Blake and advanced to beat Sinclair left footed before wheeling away to celebrate in style.