Nine men and they still can’t beat us! This was one of the most thrilling derbies of all time. It remains to be seen if we will ever take part in another derby date with Wrexham ever again.
The Original match report…
Derek Mann for manager? Nearly 1,000 Chester fans will be nominating him and his team for the freedom of the city after a truly amazing derby clash on Tuesday. This game had everything golden goals, great saves penalty drama, sendings off and white-hot passion and at the end of it, who would dare write off battling Chester as relegation certainties?
One point was scant reward for a second half come back with only nine men following the dismissal of Chris Lightfoot and Eddie bishop but the performance will take pride of place in the annals of these cross border skirmishes.
Two men short and 2-1 down, this should have been a St.Valentines day massacre, instead Chester won the hearts of the fans by not only frustrating Wrexham but at times outplaying them It was a triumph for organisation character and physical fitness on a glue pot pitch, yet this was not just about the second half The game had an astonishing start with three goals and a penalty save in the first 18 minutes and the first half ended with Lightfoot getting the red card for a second bookable offence, quickly followed by Eddie bishop following and off the ball incident with Gary Bennett. The former city striker was never out of the action.
He had a header disallowed for pushing in the second minute and then had his penalty brilliantly saved by David Felgate a minute later after he had been brought down by David Flitcroft. He had another effort ruled out in the last minute of the game after suffering a barrage of abuse from the Chester fans who were incensed at what they considered to be an over the top reaction to the incident which resulted in Bishops dismissal. Chester responded well to the early Wrexham pressure by snatching a 13th minute lead. Milner was felled by Barry Jones and bishop converted the spot kick. Wrexham though were inspired and bounced back with two goals in three minutes.
Karl Connolly fired in the equaliser and then Bennett put them ahead with a glorious goal which he started himself with a cheeky back pass to Gareth Owen in midfield. Chester re-organised at half-time and sent out Chris priest at left back and Iain Jenkins at the centre of defence and both were outstanding in a stirring performance. Felgate, already a hero for his penalty save kept Chester in the game with a superb save from a Steve Watkins header, but was grateful to Julian Alsford for a goal-line clearance later.
Chester fans would have settled for a 2-1 defeat in the circumstances but hopes of something better grew as Wrexham failed to make their numerical advantage count. City counter attacked effectively and six minutes from the end were handsomely rewarded.
Iain Jenkins sent Milner away from the half way line and with a sight of goal appeared to have missed his opportunity by checking back with defenders hot on his heels. He needn`t have worried, for Milner wrong footed a defender, spotted Andy Marriot off his line and chipped the ball over his head and into the net.
The final whistle brought scenes of celebration reminiscent of promotion. A point will do little for their Division 2 survival hopes but the performance will live long in the memory.
Quotes from the main men
Gary Shelton was quick to pay tribute to the City supporters. He said: “The fans were fantastic. They were worth two players to us and I was pleased that were able to reward them . We showed a lot of character. We knew that if we stuck together we could get a result.”
City midfielder Chris Priest said: “The fans were brilliant and it irritated Wrexham. That’s what kept us going. There is a great team spirit at the club and this performance proved it. We knew we had to get behind the ball and rely on quick breaks and I must admit I could not have predicted the result.”
There was also generous praise from beaten Wrexham FC manager, Brian Flynn. “I must admire Chester. They were fighting for their lives and we weren’t. We didn’t make our advantage count.”
But nobody was more delighted than City’s caretaker manager Derek Mann. “I have never seen a performance like it with only nine men. It was magnificent. We knew we would be in for a pounding early on but Dave Felgate got us out of gaol with his penalty save.”
Mann continued: “The performance speaks volumes for the type of lads we have at the club. There have been a lot of downs at the club this season and this match has given everyone a big boost. I think this result worth more than three points to our supporters whop were magnificent. I hope they will carry on where they left off.”
The match programme…
My prized possession, an autographed souvenir from the day itself. Oh what memories.
Fifteen years on, St Milner himself recalls…
Speaking to the Chester Chronicle earlier in the week, Chester City legend Andy Milner remembered the moment that sent City fans into wild ecstasy.
“I set off and there was no-one around so I thought I’d have a nice little run with the ball because it just might give the defence some breathing space,” said the 43-year-old, now a driving instructor living in Crewe. “I just kept on going and it opened up.
“I didn’t fancy taking it on with my left so I made a little step back and got it on my favoured right. Anyone who watched Chester regularly knew that my left foot wasn’t the best!”
“The bus journey back was lively,” he recalled. “We just knew what it meant to everyone. It was nice. Even though we were having a terrible season and it was obvious we were going to go down, it was a little bit of local pride. It was something for the fans, to be honest.”
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