Monday, 19 November 2007

Local Rivalry with Birkenhead FC

Chester 8 Birkenhead 0
Combination League - 12 October 1907

As Chester Football Club moved into the twentieth century, the club competed in the Combination League. Along with sides such as Tranmere Rovers, local wirral team Birkenhead were a club who became keen rivals with Chester, just as in the manner of present day confrontations dictate with neighbours Wrexham.

Back in the opening stages of that Century many fierce battles enraged between the 'Cestrians' and their Wirral counterparts, Birkenhead. On one occasion Chester drew away to Birkenhead in an FA Cup clash. The game resulted in a 1-1 draw with the replay at Whipcord Lane turning out to be a thriller as Chester edged out to become the eventual winners with a 5-4 scoreline. However, immediately after the game Birkenhead raised protest on the basis that our ground was too short. Chester didn't defend the accusation and the flaw forced Chester out of entering any future cup competitions.

From that moment onwards a unique atmosphere ensued during clashes between the two clubs. In October 1907 supporters witnessed an impressive eight nil demolition over Birkenhead at their new eleven month old home of Sealand Road. Amidst the Jubilant scenes from the crowd, the supporters who were present at this game enjoyed the spectacle as Chester completely outplayed Birkenhead with extreme superiority.

Through the regular Football News column on page five, local newspaper the Chester Chronicle published the following match report in the 19 October edition.

match programme
This game was one of the first
where Chester Football Club issued a programme

Football followers and critics of wirral were given rather a different opinion of the merits of the Chester team on Saturday than they expressed after the match against Tranmere. Chester again played at home, but in a more earnest spirit, and bent of retrieving their reputation, after the disaster of the previous week, at the expense of Birkenhead. How well they succeeded is told by the eight goals they scored against none. The shocked and silent crowd of a week previous was a happy and jubilant crowd, and the team they had classed as "no good" had more than pleased them, and many declared that there was no team to touch the Cestrians in the Combination - no not even Tranmere. Well, perhaps if Chester had played as they did last week against Tranmere they would have gone a step nearer to Crystal Palace.

Birkenhead came to repeat the accomplishment of their neighbours, the Rovers, but their attempt was an extremely weak one, and eight goals does not exaggerate the superiority of the Cestrians. Birkenhead and Wirral clubs usually provide Chester with points, and a substantial amount of goals, but Saturday's score is a record against them, and will give the Chester goal average a needed improvement, for it is much below last years.

It was a relief to see Grundy and Lees back again, whilst Matthews played at right half instead o Appleton, who had been off form of late. Straight from the kick off, through smart, short passing, puzzled the visitors defence, and in the first minute their goal was in danger. Lipsham sent one of his swiftest shots across the goal, and the ball afterwards went behind. The attacking was all done by Chester, and the visitors were completely outplayed. The pressure could not go on long without goals, and three came before the interval. The first goal was scored by Wallace Jones after some smart play between Matthews and Grainger, the latter passing the ball on to Jones who scored with a curling shot, which the goalkeeper appeared to think was going wide.

Birkenhead made an effort to draw level but Dodd cleared a weak shot across the goal, and the ball returned to the other end, and Freeman shot with great force, the ball, fortunately for Birkenhead, striking the goalkeepers legs. Freeman again got through the defence and forwarded the ball in front of goal. From a corner kick, splendidly placed by Matthews, Lipsham scored the third goal and half time arrived with the score Chester 3 Birkenhead 0.

The second half was simply a game of shooting for Chester, and Birkenhead had to turn all their efforts to defending the goal. Chester halves completely overpowered the forwards, and the ball rarely passed the half way line. The forwards saved themselves of every chance of a shot, and the fourth goal dribbling through the defence, with a shot from close range. The fifth came from a free kick near the penalty area. The Birkenhead defence expected Gordon to shoot at goal, but he passed the ball to Wallace Jones, who was by his side, and he scored with a good shot. Wallace Jones also scored the sixth with a very clever shot, which was taken with his back to the goal. Freeman added the seventh from a corner, and he also added an eighth.

Birkenhead were an outclassed team, and Chester are to be congratulated on their splendid play. They have not quite regained their old dash, but for accurate play and shooting, the display was of their best, and how different from the week previous. The forwards were quicker, and their "tricky" and neat short passes altogether upset the calculations of the Birkenhead halves, but they possessed a good pair of backs, who defended stubbornly.

Williams seemed more at home with Lees than he was lately, although his partner was not at his best, and was limping badly at the conclusion of the match. His shooting was slower and not so accurate as usual and he missed one or two chances of scoring. Freeman and Wallace Jones were both in great form, and each showed that shooting was more profitable than dribbling the ball through the goal by scoring three goals each. The halves were far too good for the forwards they had to meet, and the inclusion of Matthews in the line was a great improvement. He played a magnificent game, and was the most prominent man on the field. Grundy was better than ever after his slight rest, but Russell was again weak. Dodd had a light day in goal, not having one dangerous shot to save.

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