The Exacta Stadium – Chester FC

7 Oct

Please Note: Due to the schoolboy error of me forgetting my camera, the pictures were taken on my mobile phone, so won’t be as good as normal, or as extensive. Sorry!

Chester FC – 2

Colwyn Bay FC – 1

Football Conference North – 25th August 2012

With all due respect for the rest of the Blue Square Bet North leagues, there was one game that was looked out for before all others. The trip to Chester away was the one game that most Colwyn Bay fans looked forward to. Not least because the game was between two local teams straddling the North Wales/England border, but for the early years of The Seals seemed to be intertwined with The Seagulls, Neil Young and his management team, days after winning promotion for Colwyn Bay to the Northern Premier League, left to take the helm at the phoenix club. Players soon followed out the door as well, although many of them returned after various stints, and the business of the first ever Chester game was against Colwyn Bay (that was – admittedly – marred in trouble), meant that the first competitive game against Chester FC could be a tasty one.

Although after 3 years the bitter rivalry sweetened a bit, largely due to a great working relationship that was established between Neil Young and Dave Challinor (then Colwyn Bay manager), meaning that there were often closed door friendlies between the clubs. The fans did their bit as well, donating collectively about £200 to the Raise the Roof campaign, and I wrote for the excellent Blue and White Fanzine, a lot of the issues became water under the bridge, and many of the fans were looking forward to the first game between the two sides.

Considering that for me it was one of the more “local” games, I set off to Chester ridiculously early. I think I left my front door at about 10am, which is only an hour after I left my house to go to Bishop’s Stortford. I headed to the station and jumped on a ridiculously busy train to Chester (the train’s destination was North Wales, so full of holiday traffic). After a while though, the train began filling up with Chester fans, outnumbering my one Bay shirt to the tune of about 15 to 1. I arrived at Chester, met a friend, and headed into town.

It was only midday, so I took my friend to one of my favourite bars in the city – The Temple. Whilst still amazing, the semi-boozy night the night before meant I was struggling a bit, and probably didn’t enjoy the curry as much as I usually do. Still, after food, we headed to the Exacta.

The last time I was at the Exacta Stadium (then the Deva) was a few days before the previous club, Chester City, closed their doors for the last time. On that day, I had helped support a friend in joining a protest against the owner (and all round nasty dude) Stephen Vaughan. There couldn’t have been more than 10 people there, as Vaughan had orchestrated a scheme to cancel the protest until the next day, where he could manipulate the protest to his own needs. After a while, we left and went to the pub. Not such today, with the car park full of happy faces, we headed into the club shop and then into the club house (which required a donation of £1 to get into). It was spacious with plenty of people there, and two big screens showing the football. We were – at the beginning – the only Bay fans in the club house, yet soon after more entered and we managed to commandeer a table. It was a friendly rivalry, yet still I wanted 3 points – to continue our 100% start to the season.

We arrived into the away end for the match. Whilst there was segregation, it was fairly lax, and I could’ve walked to the home end if need be. Nevertheless, I took my seat for the encounter. One thing that surprised me was how quiet the game was, with Seagull fans making seemingly more noise, beyond the odd “City” chant every now and again.

The first thing the home fans had to sing about was a rocket of a volley from Nathan Jarman that rattled the crossbar with Sanna well beaten. Most of the play was in the middle third, with Chester resigned to long chances and Bay looking to get their forward line of Danny Lloyd, Allan Collins and Kevin Holdsgrove into the game. Jarman did get Chester the lead on 26 minutes, finishing off a clever through ball that saw him celebrate in front of the Bay fans. Sod. The lead however was to last all of 3 minutes with Kevin Holdsgrove muscling his way through the Chester defence to equalise.

After the half time interval, Danny Lloyd had the chance to put Colwyn Bay ahead when he was one-on-one with the keeper, only to fire a shot straight at the keeper. Chester made Bay pay for that mistake with Ben Mills looping a ball, seemingly impossibly over Chris Sanna to hit the side netting and in. No matter what Colwyn Bay tried, including hitting the bar from a Lee Davey free kick, Chester held onto the win.

A concern for the Bay was Chris Sanna going off injured right at the death due to a clash of heads. The Bay shotstopper spent the night in hospital with concussion, though was released early Sunday morning.

Overall, the game wasn’t quite as exciting as the build up provided (largely due to the poor officiating taking a sting out of the game), but  the crowd was large (1000 more than when I saw the old Chester City play Mansfield Town) and friendly. After the game we spent it in the clubhouse, enjoying talking to the barstaff and volunteers. A credit to their club.

All in all, a good day out, bar the result.

About Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne is the editor & creator of You're Supposed To Be At Home. For his sins, he is a Colwyn Bay & Liverpool fan, and a serial blog creator. You can follow Rhys on twitter here.