Saturday’s FA Cup tie between Dunston UTS and Chester City – “the biggest game in the club’s history,” said club chairman Malcolm James on Look North tonight, and was reminded of the Vase final – calls to mind the last time Chester met Northern League opposition.
It was a soaking wet Saturday in October 2000. Chester travelled to face Easington Colliery in the fourth qualifying round at a time when the Billy Elliott film, made thereabouts, had recently been released.
“They were dancing on the streets of Easington Colliery last night,” wrote the Sunday Express man, but that was half an hour before kick-off.
“Colliery won’t settle for a tu-tu draw,” said the Sun.
The old pit village hadn’t seen so many press men, or more pollisses for that matter, since it had become a melting pot of the miners’ strike in 1984.
Interest had seemed phenomenal. “I’ve hardly had time for a beer all week,” said Easington secretary Alan Purvis, a wonderful man – whatever happened to him? – whose belief in a balanced diet often extended to having a lager in each hand.
Tom Goodrum, the chairman, had spent the week previously helping chaperone a party of Beaver scouts in Paris but still couldn’t escape. “I ended up talking to the press while sitting on a toilet in Notre Dame,” he said.
The rain proved unrelenting. “What’s that for?” said a Sky TV reporter, indicating the large umbrella in the back of the van. “It’s to protect the cables,” he was told.
“Sod the cables,” said the reporter, and commandeered it.
On a good day, it’s reckoned, it’s possible to see down the coast from the Colliery Welfare ground as far south as Skinningrove. On this one they were lucky to see the corner flag. Fair weather fans? The all-ticket crowd was a disappointing 476.
Chester, relegated from the Football League the previous season, scored after seven minutes, though Sky and the BBC reported that it was 1-0 to Easington. Our boys defended magnificently until the 83rd minute when Chester’s second sealed the game, though it’s possible the BBC made it 1-1.
The Sunday Express man changed his intro to recalling the last time Chester had played an FA Cup tie in the North-East, when a youngster called Ian Rush had scored against Newcastle United.
The winners drew Plymouth Argyle in the first round proper. The losers next game was away at Brandon United and at the end of the season they were relegated, third bottom above Hebburn and Crook Town.
Dunston UTS are to be wished altogether better fortune.