Following weeks of tiresome posturing and smack talk, from the boardrooms down, Northwich and Chester finally locked horns yesterday, yielding a dramatic, if low quality, 1-1 draw.
Chester were missing George Horan and Matty McGinn, but took the lead early on, following a comically deliberate handball by the Vics goalkeeper. He was dispatched and replaced in goal by an outfielder, who immediately demonstrated that he was not an appropriate deputy by letting the resulting Wes Baynes free kick slither through his mate's gloves, and into the back of the net. The Chester fans' roar of delight was tempered slightly by the audible "awww" that followed it, as the Blues faithful took pity on the hapless stand-in.
Meanwhile, a few really cool Chester fans ran on the pitch in celebration, 'cos that's dead ace and not at all the kind of thing you should grow out of wanting to do at five years old.
If Chester had thought that this would signal the start of a rout, they were mistaken - the new keeper found his feet, and Vics shut up shop, only attacking on the counter. However, Michael Powell, who had already been haring about the place like a violent and hungry dog, clearly still considered the game to be too uneven.
Having failed to get himself banned for the occasion, Powell decided he could at least cut his day's work short, taking umbrage at an innocuous tackle by the Northwich right back and needlessly raising his arms. The Vics number two also waved his arms aboutat head height like a nervous windmill, before hitting the deck clutching his face. Given that there was minimal to no contact between the two, one can only imagine that this was a ploy by the player to conceal his identity, given that he was acting like both a girly-girl and a heinous cheat.
Though neither the referee nor his assistant, who had been two centimetres from the incident saw any reason to produce a card, the ref took a trip over to the assistant referee on the other side, who, despite having been about 80 yards away from what had happened, took it upon himself to advocate Powell's dismissal. Meanwhile, the Northwich man returned to the field without so much as a yellow, and the kids in the stadium who were just yesterday enjoying festive cheer, were treated to the harsh life lesson, that sometimes, in the short term, cheats can prosper.
Northwich switched keepers at the break, and despite the new guy seeming even less suitable than the first one, Chester refused to test him, maybe through decency, lack of interest or possibly just plain bad tactics. At one point the new goalie had a go at lobbing himself, and that was as close as Chester came for the rest of the match.
And so, inevitably, Vics got their equaliser. Substitute Ryan Wade lashed the ball home at the back post in a crowded area, and the entire team ran and celebrated in front of the Chester bench. There was no reaction from Neil Young and company however, as they were all perplexed as to why a supposedly title-challenging side would celebrate an equaliser at home against a team shorn of its captain, top scorer and set-piece specialist quite so exuberantly.
Having proven themselves an unpleasant, petty, tinpot club playing in their cup final, Northwich then went on to prove themselves incapable of winning against nine men after Wes Baynes got himself ejected from the field by flying in for a horrible tackle that had so many things wrong with it that, if it was a horse, it would have been shot.
As the full time whistle blew, the Jestrian considered how much there was to say about the game, and placing this against Neil Young's tendency to talk for hours on the blandest of games, bolted before the manager could do his press conference.