• Adam Stubbings

Ray Jest's Reliving Rovers: 1969/70 Part 6B

A bite-sized instalment of Ray's trip through the archives for you this week as Lawrie McMenemy's Rovers head into FA Cup action, following on from last week's sixth part of the 1969/70 series.

Rovers would next be in action in the FA Cup on Saturday 6th December, with a trip to Sealand Road, the home to Chester City of the Fourth Division, awaiting them with Rovers hoping to overturn their lower league opponents.

Buoyed on by a crowd of 7,705, Chester began the game by taking it to Rovers and during the opening spell were by far the better team, so it was very much against the run of play when Rovers took the lead after 31 minutes.

With the ball bobbling about just outside the area, Mike Sutton tried an audacious back header to his keeper which bounced awkwardly and allowed Bob Gilfillan to nip in and steal the ball. His shot was brilliantly saved by Carling in the Chester goal but only fell to the feet of Johnson, who cheerfully put the ball into the goal after it went in off the foot of the post.

Chester's heads did not drop however and Rovers had to be thankful on more than one occasion to John Ogston, who was in superb form and kept the Rovers lead intact.

The first half drew to a close with Chester still on the attack and Rovers more than welcomed the break.

Whatever lessons Rovers had learnt from the first 45 minutes were not heeded as Chester once again began the second half on top.

Wave after wave of attacks were thwarted by the defence, but after 73 minutes Chester got the equaliser they so richly deserved.

A corner out on the right taken by Andy Provan was headed on by Draper and Tarbuck drilled the ball home.

The pressure from Chester had been intense, and the atmosphere grew to a fever pitch thanks to the fervent home crowd.

Two minutes later they had the ball in the net again and were rejoicing at taking the lead only to be dismayed as referee Mr. K. Wynn disallowed the goal. It was a contentious decision with Mr. Wynn giving a free kick for a foul on a Rovers defender.

Rovers held firm to the end and earned themselves and their travelling fans a replay at Belle Vue the following Tuesday, but with Chester in this sort of form Rovers knew they would have no easy ride.

Manager McMenemy had the players in on Sunday for extra training ahead of the replay but refuted that it was in any way due to their performance. He told reporters that he wanted to check that none of his players were nursing knocks from the previous day and in any case, "I wanted to get as much training in as possible before the game."

Take Two

On the following Tuesday, the 9th of December, Chester duly arrived for the replay with former Rovers player Keith Webber in their ranks, determined to start where they had finished off on the previous Saturday.

A crowd of 10,822 greeted the teams onto the pitch at Belle Vue with both sides knowing that the winner would have a home tie in the next round against Second Division team Bristol City.

From the outset Chester made it clear that they had not come to defend and with just two minutes on the board, Tarbuck found himself clear with just Ogston to beat but could only put his shot tamely wide.

Rovers however did not take the warning and Chester were allowed to create more and more attacks, especially down the wings.

It was from one such attack in the 23rd minute that Chester took the lead. A sixty-yard move of slick passing and movement ended with Webber running through to put the ball past a helplessly flat footed Ogston and put his former employers firmly on the back foot.

Rovers were never to recover from the goal and as half time approached it was their opponents who came closer to scoring.

Chester had given a starting berth to a young 18 year old named Nigel Edwards, who was pitted against the experienced Laurie Sheffield and was beaten in the air on several occasions when Rovers were allowed to get their attack flowing, but he was protected throughout the game by a solid back line of defenders.

The second half followed much the same pattern as the first with Rovers attacks fluffed out by a defence determined not to give an inch, in fact the second half was barely eight minutes old before first Provan and then Dearden both had the ball in the net for Chester only for both goals to be disallowed.

Rovers had a great chance to equalise in the 55th minute when Sheffield, for once given some space in the penalty area, backheeled a splendid pass to Johnson but with the goal at his mercy he could only blast the shot high and wide of the net.

That really was the full extent of Rovers’ attacking forays into their opponents half and it was no surprise when the visitors increased their lead as they had Rovers on the rack for long periods.

With minutes left, Chester were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Draper gave a short pass to Dearden whose first time effort dropped in under the bar and away from Ogston's groping fingers.

Chester had booked their place in the next round against Bristol City and sent their fans home delighted with their display.

Rovers fans left the ground with the "what if?" feeling, consoling themselves with the fact it "was only the cup" and hoping for better things in the league the following Saturday.

Thanks to Ray for his contributions and we would like to field enquiries from other Rovers fans with an interest in writing about the club if they wish to join the growing ITEN community. Please get in touch with us via our website or social media pages, or else we can be reached via e-mail at intotheemptynet@gmail.com.

All images featured in this article come courtesy of Ray's personal scrapbook, collected from various contemporary news sources.