Friday, 7 December 2007

FA CUP : The Day Chester Nearly Beat Manchester United

Manchester United 2 Chester 1
FA Cup 3rd Round - 9 January 1965

Legendary Manchester United footballers such as George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton were given a tough time as the Theatre of Dreams was awash with Cestrian cup fever. In front of a record attendance for a competitive fixture involving Chester Football Club, over 45,000 mancunians packed into Old Trafford for a thrilling cup tie as lowly Chester almost caused one of the FA Cup's most unbelievable upsets.

The English FA Cup Competition is renowned for its unpredictability, seldom has it been labelled by many football writers as the greatest knockout cup competition in the world. In his Old Trafford programme notes, Manchester United Manager Sir Matt Busby was expecting a difficult test from his lower division counterparts. He wrote: "The records show we have never previously clashed with Chester in the FA Cup, but I feel sure we can look forward to an exciting and interesting match against opponents who have built up a sound reputation as an enterprising side recently". Busby continued, "Our last meeting was at Chester's Sealand Road enclosure nearly three years ago when, in a friendly, we had the distinction of being the first side to play under their new floodlighting system.

In 1965, Manchester United who were three leagues above Chester at the time got quite a fright as the Cestrians took a shock lead in a rousing first half display. Cheered on by thousands of Cestrians it was Chester who took the game to their illustrious hosts right from the off leaving the Stretford End wondering what was going on.

The national press looked on in dismay, expecting the Red Devis to make easy work of disposing Chester from this FA Cup campaign, however the sunday newspapers were collectively full of praise for a brave Chester side, this following report was published by the Daily Mail.

Two players dominated this rousing, so typical FA Cup thriller - Chester's goalkeeper hero, Dennis Reeves and Bobby Charlton, the one united forward to live up to his reputation in this David and Goliath clash. Reeves was magnificent. Charlton, whose vintage scheming show virtually put United into the Fourth Round. Forget the scoreline, It does not tell the story of this match ... a point which the gallant Reeves would readilly concede.

United should have won far more convincingly. Had it not been for Reeves and his gallant colleagues they would have done so. Chester, of course, had the inspiration of a ninth-minute shock lead. And what a beautifully taken goal it was as Jimmy Humes threw himself at a Hugh Ryden corner. Their jubilation was understandable as the ball fairly whistled into the corner of the net.

There the score stood for 50 minutes. In between Reeves covered himself in mud and glory. United's chance taking did not match their outfield work. Too often they were in a hurry ... and played into the hands of Chester's well drilled defence. How different it was in the second half. United began to play more like themselves. Charlton saw to that. His superb ball control and searing runs put the skids under Chester. And, of course, it was his flighted pass which brought the long-awaited equaliser in the 59th minute.

That pass dropped at the feet of the unmarked George Best and from the inside left position, the little winger turned and rammed it into the net to put United on the vistory trail. Three minutes later, debutant Albert Kinsley, who had seemed a trifle out of his depth, got the winner from close range after a long, searching cross from the left had bounced luckily his way off the outstretched foot of left back Malcolm Starkey.

It seemed all over bar the shouting. But salute gallant chester. They were far from finished and it took a fine peice of work by Charlton, in his own penalty area, to get United out of trouble, eight minutes from the end. With only seconds left another do-or-die save by big Bill Foulkes prevented an almost certain equaliser when Gary Talbot all but met a pass from Mike Metcalf.

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