Leader Preview: Chester FC v Wrexham FC

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

neil roberts_320

It’s time to head to our most deadly of rivals for the cross-border derby, and historically we’ve done well when we’ve made the short journey north.

Chester have the upper hand in derbies played on the English side of the border, as you might expect, having won 35 of the 75 clashes. However, Wrexham’s record on enemy turf is impressive as we’ve returned victorious 27 times.

Our last loss in Chester was a controversial 2-1 defeat away from home in April 2006, when Lee McEvilly’s goal was not enough to overcome the handicap of an extremely generous penalty award as Danny Williams was harshly judged to have committed a foul in the box.

Our biggest victory over the border came in a Welsh Cup tie in January 1949 when we won 6-0. Billy Tunnicliffe, our top scorer in the derby, got two, and the others were shared out between Eddie Beynon, Dennis Grainger, Jack Boothway and Norman Sharp, who kept his nerve to score from the spot.

We’ve also conceded six at Chester though. We travelled to Sealand Road in February 1965 hoping to complete the double after beating them 4-2 at The Racecourse earlier in the season, but received a nasty shock as we lost 6-1, Ernie Phythian’s goal turning out to be a mere consolation.

The defeat in 2006 is the only time we’ve tasted defeat at the Deva Stadium, where we’ve won four and drawn one, and the only time we’ve lost in Chester since March 1986. Our other victories at the Deva, naturally, were memorable: A Juan Ugarte goal gave us a win in the LDV Trophy, Karl Connolly scored two in an FA Cup win shown live on TV, and in August 2006 we maintained a blistering start to the season by winning 2-1, Neil Roberts scoring a penalty and Mark Jones scoring a spectacular second with a lob.

We even managed to win at The Deva during the grim reign of Brian Little! Our last win there was a 2-0 victory on our way down to the Conference, as Paul Hall scored his only Wrexham goal and Michael Proctor maintaining a fine streak of form in the derby with his third goal past Chester that season. However, it was a win which owed as much to a fine string of saves by Gavin Ward as it did to the scorers.

The previous season’s match at The Racecourse ended goalless, which is a rarity in the derby. As the subsequent goalless draw in September 2009 has been expunged from the records, that barren game in 2007 remains the only goalless league match between the sides since 1962!

Although interest in the game is high, don’t expect an attendance record this weekend! You wouldn’t be able to fit the biggest crowd to turn out to see Wrexham visit Chester, 24,500 in January 1934 into either ground these days, never mind the 29,261 who packed into the Racecourse for the derby on Boxing Day 1936!

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