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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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Chester City’s Anthony Barry finally confirmed his transfer to Blue Square Premier rivals Wrexham on Friday afternoon.  Delayed by a day due to the inclement weather, Barry passed a medical and signed a deal that will keep him at the Racecourse until the summer of 2011.

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Mick Wadsworth has praised his side for prising a point from their trip to neighbours Wrexham.

 
The Chester City boss underlined his delight about the Blues performance in yesterday’s goalless draw at The Racecourse, despite admitting his side had squandered the better chances in front of goal.

He said: “It was a good performance from my team. It underlined our battling, and steely qualities, and our determination not to be beaten.

“I thought we were the better team and we created a couple of good scoring opportunities.

“We had the best two chances to win the game.

 
 
“Their keeper pulled off a great save to deny Gregg Blundell’s header, and I know Gregg was beside himself for missing his close range chance in the first half.

“Gregg was very apologetic at half-time about missing his effort, but that’s okay. That happens to strikers at times and I know he didn’t miss on purpose and we’ll have to live with those sorts of mistakes.

“I thought the game was a bit rough and tumble, but we stood up well to the physical aspects of the match.

“We also came out quite well on the fitness side of the game.”

Wadsworth revealed that on loan defender, Chris Lynch, could be out of action for a spell after suffering a knee injury and having to be helped off the pitch during the first half.

He added: “I thought we were unlucky to lose Chris who sadly looks like he has picked up a bit of a serious injury. I hope it’s not, but it doesn’t look too good at the moment.

“The injury is a big blow for Chris and it’s obviously a big blow for us too because he is an outstanding player.

“But I thought Shaun Kelly did very well as a centre half when he came on as a substitute to replace him.

“Wrexham striker Gareth Taylor can prove a difficult opponent as I’ve found out many times over the years. On his day he can prove a very good player as he proved last week against Luton.

“But he didn’t dominate against Chester City and I’m quite proud of that.

“I don’t think John Danby had one save to make and we soaked up everything that they threw at us.

“Everything seemed to find John’s hands and he did really well to collect Wrexham’s crosses. We defended the box very well and it was good to see Gareth Taylor didn’t get a chance to dominate.”

Wadsworth also reserved a few words of praise for debutant central midfielder, Clark Keltie, who signed for the Blues 24 hours earlier on a one month loan deal from Rochdale.

He said: “Clark did well for us on his debut, but he just needs games and everybody could see that during the last 20 minutes of the match.

“I thought he was very dominant after the first half and it was good to see him doing well around the centre circle because we need that power and strength.

“He will be a good addition to the squad and now let’s hope if he continues to do well we can keep him for more than his one month loan because that’s our aim.

“At the end of the day I’m just proud of my players. I hope everybody recognises what a great bunch of players I’ve got at Chester.

“We’re not saying that we’ve got the best players technically, but in terms of spirit and in terms of wanting to do well for the club the players are absolutely sensational.

“They are giving me everything they’ve got.”

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Wrexham Football Club

Wrexham Football Club

City’s 31-year wait for a league victory at the Racecourse goes on – but it is they who will be the happier team after this derby ended even.

Mick Wadsworth’s men were the dominant force before the break and they would have led at the interval had Gregg Blundell not wasted a golden opportunity.

The Dragons improved after the restart but they could find no way through an inspired Blues backline marshalled superbly by captain Tim Ryan.

City manager Wadsworth made two changes to the side that drew at Salisbury City in midweek – and that meant a baptism of fire for new boy Clark Keltie.

The 26-year-old, signed on an initial month’s loan from League Two side Rochdale, took his place in the centre of midfield as Michael Lea returned at left-back.

Dean Saunders unsurprisingly kept faith with the team that thrashed title favourites Luton Town in Wrexham’s last outing. That result restored some much-needed morale into the Dragons camp after a three-match winless run – but their confidence was nearly dented in the very first minute.

There was just 45 seconds on the clock when Ryan launched a hopeful ball into the box which Chris Maxwell failed to deal with. Nick Chadwick stooped to head the ball into the empty net – only for referee Michael Naylor to somewhat kindly rule the effort out for a foul on the young goalkeeper.

The hosts responded well but it was Chester who came desperately close to breaking the deadlock in the ninth minute.

Maxwell decided to punch clear following a huge kick from opposite number John Danby, with the ball dropping kindly for right-winger Ben Wilkinson, whose first-time cross was an inviting one. Blundell rose to meet it and his flying header was brilliantly pushed around the post by Maxwell.

Wadsworth would have been pleased by the start but he was handed a blow in the 21st minute when centre-back Chris Lynch – so impressive since his loan move from Burnley – was forced off with a serious-looking knee injury.

But with substitute Shaun Kelly proving to be a more than able deputy, the loss of Lynch failed to knock the visitors out of their stride and they wasted the best chance of the game on the half-hour mark.

A long throw from Neil Ashton fell to Blundell and, with the goal at his mercy and from just eight yards out, he skewed his volley horribly wide.

Wrexham – who survived two decent penalty appeals for shirt-tugging – had to show more in the second half and while they did, the closest they came was when skipper Gareth Taylor’s goal-bound shot was bravely blocked by the excellent Ryan.

Andy Fleming then fired wide but the Blues weathered the storm to take a well-deserved point back across the border – their fifth away draw in succession.

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Big match derby tickets for Chester City’s visit to the Racecourse will go on sale at the Deva Stadium today between 10am and 4pm during office hours.  

The Blue Square Premier League match is scheduled to be played at the Racecourse on Sunday, September 27 (kick off 12pm).

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