Friday, 7 December 2007

Stourport Swifts - Another Journing Into The Unknown

Stourport Swifts 0 Chester City 3
FA Umbro Trophy 3rd Round Replay – 15 January 2002

To a stranger, searching for the Walches Meadow ground proved to be a testing effort, even the local staff at the town's Esso petrol station had little idea where this Dr Marten's Western League club's ground was. "Sorry, I dunno" was the reply from behind the shop counter. Driving to the footballing outpost of Stourport-on-severn exemplifies the dramatic change in fortune Chester City Football Club find themselves in. A handful of years ago thousands of Blues fans travelled to the likes of the Stadium of Light to witness their side perform in stunning surroundings. Now journeys to the likes of Easington Colliery and Stourport Swifts seem set to be the highlight of cup football in Chester for many years to come.

An inept FA Trophy third round display at the Deva Stadium signalled the need for a replay just a few yards away from the banks of the River Severn and new manager Mark Wright was under no illusion about the tricky task that lied ahead. "It won't be easy. There will only be a small crowd there, but we must battle if we are going to achieve a positive result," the former Liverpool and England International said.

Stourport Swifts secretary Nigel Green highlighted the importance of the tie as the Chester City Team Coach rolled up outside the wooden clubhouse, "it's the biggest game in the clubs history" he said excitedly. Despite only housing little more than just a two hundred and fifty seat stand, as the players stepped off the coach they were impressed by the Dr Martens League ground. Goalkeeper Wayne Brown, once a former Dr Martens League keeper himself with Weston-Super-Mare was pleasantly surprised by the surface, "The pitch is better than ours," said Brown.

With the prospect of playing fellow Dr Marten's League club Solihull Borough in the next round, Stourport Swifts were certainly prepared and ready for the tie. "It will be a completely different game and we know what our pitch conditions are and that will work in our favour. Now that we have played them once I don't think we will be able to pass the ball around as much as they did." said Stourport player-manager Tim Langford. Much was the interest in this tie a record crowd of 630 was attracted to Walshes Meadow. With the congested crowd squeezed its way into the tiny ground the announcement of a ten-minute delay to kick off bellowed from the speaker perched on top of the clubhouse.

New boss Mark Wright was absent, rumoured to be out on a scouting mission. But his newly appointed assistant Ted McMinn took charge of the Blues as the relegation-threatened Conference side eased their way to the fourth round of the FA Umbro Trophy with a 3-0 victory. However Chester were made to work hard for the win, at several points during the game one could not tell which side were from the Conference or which were from two leagues below.

It wasn't until late on when perhaps Chester's extra fitness gave them an edge. Former Manchester United youngster David Brown gave the Blues the lead a minute before half-time with a great run down the left wing. He rounded the stranded Swifts keeper slicing the ball into the far corner. That didn't stop the bumper crowd from roaring on the home side as Stourport poured forward in search of an equaliser. The Worcestershire side created many well-worked chances, forcing keeper Wayne Brown into action on numerous occasions. The equaliser never came to warm the home fans on a frost ridden evening, and Chester wrapped up the tie with two goals in the final 5 minutes from leading scorer Mark Beesley. First, he found the net after exchanging passes with Mike Rose and then in injury-time his 20-yarder was cruelly deflected past the wrong-footed Stourport goalkeeper by defender Steve Ulfig.

Trotting off the pitch towards the changing rooms, Mark Beesley was more than happy to add another two goals to his tally. "After we initially got over the first period I enjoyed the game," said Beesley. "It was a battle. It was always going to be a battle coming here and all credit to them really. They tested us in both games. Once we got a goal in front we started to play it around and I thought we deserved it in the end. I think the fitness showed." The former Preston North End striker has enjoyed a rather prolific scoring record this season, quizzed if he had a scoring target for this season the twenty one year old modestly replied. "No tally really, I just want as many that will keep us up. That's the main thing. But I'm glad to score because I haven't scored for a few weeks so I'm glad to take two."

Pleased about the new management team appointment, Mark Beesley now hopes the club have turned the corner. Beesley continued: "They've only just come in and hopefully they'll stamp their authority on the squad and the club and hopefully get us out of the trouble that we're in. We need to start picking up results and we need to start as soon as possible really because we don't won't to be leaving it as long as we can." Meanwhile, in the absence of his former Derby County team-mate and long-time friend Mark Wright, McMinn took time to pledge his loyalty to the former England International. "I had the chance to continue at Oxford United after Mark left, but my loyalty is with him and we will do all we can to bring in some more player's and make a concerted effort to kick-start the season at Chester, but we will have to bring them in quickly" explained McMinn.

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