League Division Three – Chester City 0 Swansea City 0 – Sunday 11th May, 1997
Match Report by Richard Major.
The referee certainly took note of the pre-match comments of both Molby and Ratcliffe which called for some tough refereeing from the man in black. Unfortunately, there seemed to be little consistency in his decisions with yellow cards being thrown out for some of the most innocuous things. I think Jones was booked for holding down a Chester player while going for a header far out on the wing and this was deemed to be punishable in the same way as the foul on Penney which scythed him down on our goal line with the ball out of play. (This tackle left him needing treatment off the pitch whilst the game continued without him.) He also made numerous decisions which probaly left many in the ground wondering exactly what play had stopped for. Of course, I’m not suggesting he was biased in any way – he was similarly crap in his decisions against either team.
The match promised so much but failed to deliver in the entertainment department. A huge 1,800 Swansea contingent travelled up (using all those routes interestingly discussed on the mailing list over the last week) and the atmosphere was superb both in the grounds and in the pubs beforehand. (I’m sure anyone who made it to the Watergate Inn had a good time!) Cheshire police seemed determined to spoil the party with a very heavy handed approach to away fans but failed in their bid to arrest everyone in a white shirt! As it turned out, the game was a fairly scrappy 0-0 draw which was not helped by the ref continually preventing the game from flowing.
Swansea started brightly and within 4 minutes Coates had a golden chance to grab a vital away goal. Torpey picked up the ball on the right wing and he knocked in a cracking cross which found Coates unmarked just inside the 18 yard box roughly in line with the penalty spot. He had time to bring the ball down, control it, turn and put a shot on target but it was painfully tame and the ex-Stoke keeper Ronnie Sinclair had more than enough time to get behind the ball and make a comfortable save.
Swansea were dominant in the goal attempts department during the first half with Chester hardly troubling Freestone. Thomas was always potentially dangerous up front and was often getting the ball in promising positions but more often than not his first touch or his attempted shots were woefully inadequate. It was a shame that someone with a bit more skill could not get into these positions as I’m sure Sinclair would have had more trouble keeping the ball out of the net.
Ampadu had a brilliant game in my opinion and was playing his best football ever in a Swans shirt. His close ball control often fooled the opposition but was often repaid for his skill with a crunching tackle which rarely made any contact with the ball. I lost count of the times he simply pulled the ball away from his opponent and swerved off in another direction leaving the other stranded.This eventually left them aiming for the ankles instead of the ball. In a game which seemed more about rough and ready tactics than flowing footie I always thought he would be the one who could potentially break the deadlock.
The first half ended with Chester actually getting the ball in the back of the net. Rod McDonald picked up the ball on the edge of the box and had just Roger to beat. He fired in a shot which was palmed away brilliantly but travelled across the face of goal to the waiting David Flitcroft who drove low into the empty right hand corner. Fortunately, the linesman had his flag up for off-side against McDonald and the score remained even.
Half-time came very quickly afterwards and I hoped that Molby could make that bit of difference in his half-time team talk to grab the important away goal. Almost immediately after the restart Penney drove a shot hard from about 18 yards which looked like it was going to just inside the near post but Sinclair did well to smother the ball and not knock himself out on the post at the same time.
Thomas was substituted fairly early on in the second half for the in-form Carl Heggs as it was clear Thomas was unlikely to add to his tally for this season. Thomas clearly didn’t agree as he threw the proffered tracksuit top away in a huff and slumped down sulking on the bench for the rest of the game. It must have been a good five minutes before Heggs even touched the ball so a Mansfield-type super substitution was unlikely! The one good thing that Thomas had done was hassle defenders into making a mistake and getting possession for himself but as this involves moving faster than walking pace it is obviously not one of Heggs’ game attributes. However, as the second half progressed Heggs came more and more into the game and was close to scoring twice and setting up a sitter for Torpey.
With about 15/20 minutes to go (my watch had died and there’s no clock in the ground so my timing could be a little out!) Heggs found himself with the ball near the centre circle. He “charged” towards goal and from about 18 yards with only the advancing Sinclair to beat he shot hard and low but pulled the ball just wide of the far post. Five minutes later, Heggs found himself in an almost identical position but played exactly the same shot and the ball hit the advertising hoardings behind the goal in the same place as his last effort. Unbelievably, the defenders hadn’t seemed to grasp Heggs’ runs and he nearly picked up the ball in the same place a third time but Woods managed to just deflect the pass from Ampadu away to safety.
The time ticked on and I expected the team to sit back and defend the draw away and hope for the best at the Vetch. However, surprisingly, the team still pushed forward and Heggs, who seemed to be in the middle of everything, ran the ball to the goal line just inside the 18 yard box before pulling the ball back to the unmarked Torpey who had an empty goal gaping in front of him. The ball seemed destined to reach Torps but somehow a Chester defender got his body in the way of the pass to put it behind for a corner. Sadly, the resulting corner was disappointing and Sinclair gathered it easily.
The second half wasn’t all one way traffic with Chester finding themselves in some excellent positions but their front line seemed incapable of putting a decent shot on target. A number of their efforts seemed like TV re-runs of the Geoff Thomas shot for England which ended up near the corner flag. And this is no exaggeration. Their two most useful moments occured when Swansea were caught pushing up. A counter attack left just Walker and Freestone to beat, but Walker mistimed his tackle just before the 18 yard box was reached. Freestone painstakingly set up his wall for the following free-kick but the shot/pass was fairly tame and easily dealt with.
Chester’s best chance came with just a few minutes left on the clock but it was up the other end and I couldn’t see it to clearly. Flitcroft knocked in a cross from the right wing which was heading straight for an unmarked Andy Milner (I think) but somehow he was unable to put the ball into the net. Shame.
The ref blew the whistle with virtually no added time played and it was the Swansea fans and players who celebrated the result. Molby made a point of sending the players over to the away end but it was unecessary as the low wall was never going to stop a friendly pitch invasion by 200-300 Jacks. Most of the players escaped down the tunnel but I saw Ampadu getting mobbed by the ecstatic army.
I reckon we’ve got a real chance of meeting Northampton* at Wembley now. We’ve lost the advantage of the away goal but so long as we win at the Vetch then that will be immaterial. The team certainly played well enough to win it (they looked nothing like the team which came out at Scunny and Colchester) and hopefully we can continue that form on Wednesday night.
* Or Card*ff of course but its not likely is it? Shame….