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HALIFAX TOWN v CHESTER – CLASSIC CUP-TIE

Click on the programmes for larger pictures.

When Chester and Halifax Town were drawn together in the FA Cup First Round in 1969/70 it was the first time they had met in the competition since the 1932/33 season. On that occasion Halifax had been the underdogs but had come out victorious after a replay. Thirty six years later it was newly promoted Halifax who were the favourites but it was Chester’s turn to upset the form book with victory in an exciting cup tie.

After a shaky start to the 1969/70 season Chester had started to find their form and entered the tie on the back of three successive victories. The revival had pulled the club into the top half of Division Four and was brought about by some astute moves from manager Ken Roberts. The backroom staff had been strengthened with the appointment of former Chelsea player Terry Bradbury as player-coach, while Barry Ashworth had been successfully switched from half-back to centre half. In mid-October full back Graham Birks had arrived from Southend but the master stroke had been the signing of striker Alan Tarbuck from Crewe for £4,000. Tarbuck had become an instant crowd favourite with two goals on his home debut against Exeter followed by the winner at Northampton the week before the Halifax game. On the eve of the cup tie there was one surprise in the Chester team when it was announced that Graham Turner (the current Hereford United manager) would retain his place at the expense of Ashworth who had just recovered from injury.

Meanwhile Halifax were consolidating after promotion to Division Three as runners-up behind Doncaster Rovers. Confidence was high at the Shay following a 3-1 triumph over league leaders Rochdale the previous week but there was encouragement for Chester by the fact that Halifax had also recently suffered a humiliating 8-0 thrashing at home to Fulham. Manager Alan Ball was forced into one change with the return of right half Fred Turnbull to Aston Villa, after seven matches on loan, and there were anxieties at the centre of defence where Town were struggling to replace Chris Nicholl following his transfer to Luton. The Halifax side included Hugh Ryden, one of the Chester “Famous Five” forwards of 1964/65, who had moved to the Shay in November 1967 for £5,000. Also in the Halifax side were future Chester players Bob Wallace and Dave Lennard while another player, Freddie Hill, almost joined Chester in the mid 1970s.
Halifax Town 3 (Atkins, Lawther, Hill) Chester 3 (Tarbuck (2), Dearden)
FA Cup First Round 15 November 1969
Attendance – 5,032

Halifax Town – Smith, Burgin, McCarthy, Lee, Pickering, Wallace, Ryden, Lennard, Lawther, Atkins, Hill. sub McMorran
Chester – Carling, Cheetham, Birks, Sutton, Turner, Bradbury, Dearden, Tarbuck, Webber, Draper, Provan. sub Ashworth

CLICK for larger pictureChester’s fighting qualities were rewarded with a thoroughly deserved draw at the Shay. Indeed, they could consider themselves unlucky not to win the tie at the first attempt as their attractive attacking football had Halifax struggling for large portions of the game. Alan Tarbuck was Chester’s danger man and his hard work was rewarded with two goals at crucial points in the game.

Straight from the kick off Chester showed that they were not going to be overawed by their higher division opponents and both Tarbuck and Andy Provan came close in the early stages. It was something of a surprise when Halifax took the lead ,after nine minutes, when Bill Atkins beat Terry Carling with a great shot after being put through by Freddie Hill. The goal acted as a spur to Halifax and Graham Birks had to twice clear off the line from Atkins and Ian Lawther. Gradually Chester fought their way back into the game and Tarbuck equalised on 26 minutes when he beat goalkeeper Alex Smith with a cleverly judged shot from just inside the area. Four minutes later Chester were in the lead when Billy Dearden headed over Smith and tapped the ball in from close range.

By half time Chester were in total control but the game was turned upside down in three second half minutes when Lawther headed in an Atkins cross and then Hill scored from close range after more good work by Atkins.

With only five minutes remaining Chester grabbed a thoroughly deserved, if slightly fortuitous, equaliser when Tarbuck got a slight touch to Birks’ cross and Smith only succeeded in helping the ball into his own net.
Chester 1 (Provan) Halifax Town 0
FA Cup First Round replay 19 November 1969
Attendance – 8,352

CLICK for larger pictureThe replay took place the following Wednesday and while Chester remained unchanged Halifax introduced Lammy Robertson in place of Jeff Lee who dropped to the bench. Once again Chester took the game to Halifax and secured a thoroughly deserved victory after submitting the Halifax defence to almost constant pressure. Such was Chester’s domination that Terry Carling had a quiet evening in the Chester goal as Halifax only won two corners in the whole 90 minutes.

Chester should have taken the lead after only 12 minutes when referee Jolly denied them a blatant penalty. Dave Lennard was the man fortunate to escape punishment after he clearly pulled back Tarbuck inside the area after the livewire forward had beaten him for skill and pace. However referee Jolly chose to ignore the infringement, much to the disapproval of the home fans.

The first half was all one way traffic and it was Dearden who came closest when his goalbound shot got a deflection and struck the crossbar. In the second half Chester, kicking towards the Sealand Road End, continued to exert pressure with the best chance falling to Derek Draper who headed a perfect cross from Keith Webber over the bar. The Halifax goal continued to experience a series of near misses and both sides were contemplating extra time when Chester finally made a breakthrough with only four minutes remaining. A free kick on the right found its way to Birks who crossed the ball into the penalty area where it was met by Webber. The centre forward headed the ball to the far post and Provan popped up to steer the ball past Smith from six yards.

It was a thrilling climax to an exciting game and no more than Chester deserved.
Victory over Halifax proved the stepping stone for Chester’s best run in the FA Cup since 1948. In the next round another Third Division side, Doncaster Rovers, were put to the sword followed by Second Division Bristol City. Chester were finally eliminated in the Fourth Round by Swindon Town. Back in the League Chester maintained their mid-table league position and finished 11th but Alan Tarbuck missed most of the season after breaking his leg against Notts County only a month after the Halifax tie. Meanwhile Halifax maintained their newly elevated position in Division Three by finishing in 18th position.

Chester v Halifax Town Top 10 Matches.


Chas Sumner
[Published 10/01/04]
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