Chester wrapped up the Evo-Stik Premier League title at the first available opportunity yesterday. Having stored up all the drama and excitement that should have graced the last nine wins, The Blues spat it out whole against second-placed Northwich Victoria with a mere five minutes left to play.
Northwich nearly contrived to win, but did so at the expense of being able to conscionably maintain their claim of being the better footballing side. Chester's players found themselves booted about by the vigorous visitors, whilst Vics midfielder Tom Field comfortably settled into the "referee's earpiece" role by complaining about the manner in which Michael Wilde returned a drop ball following a first half injury.
It took until the second half for the first goal to arrive, Northwich's Kyle Armstrong providing it just moments after the restart, So quickly had it come about that CFU media sniffer Jiff Bricks hadn't retaken his seat for the second period. Emerging from the ether, brushing pie crust from his lapels, Bricks made it clear to manager Neil Young that defeat would not be accepted.
"I am NOT trekking to Mickleover next weekend, Neil!" he was heard to roar.
However, it looked very much as though the Champagne would indeed be kept on ice until Saturday's trip to Derbyshire. Northwich did their most passable impression of Hednesford, ensuring that the ball
spent more time out of play than on the pitch, with several Vics players becoming enamoured with the precise placement of dead ball situations, whilst others picked up mysterious injuries.
With the situation looking desperate, Neil Young showed why he is the manager and you aren't by producing his most inexplicable substitution of the season. Removing the dangerous Antoni Sarcevic and introducing solid full back Liam Brownhill, Young carried a noticable smirk on his face as he successfully trolled the entire crowd.
"What on earth is he playing at?" said every single fan, and don't act like you didn't.
Immediately, Vics centre back and thoroughly pleasant chap Ian Kearney was sent off for a second yellow, after he tripped a clean-through Chris Simm. Kearney took his punishment willingly, by no means turning frighteningly aggressive and abusive.
Fortunately, Tom Field had seen the whole incident, and took the time to explain it to the referee - and subsequently the linesman - before the officials stuck with their decision to dismiss the Northwich skipper.
Matty McGinn wasted the resulting free kick, proving that he shouldn't be allowed another shot in the game.
However, the former Southport man - now advanced into a forward role by virtue of the Sarcevic/Brownhill interchange - clearly hadn't got the memo. Picking the ball up with five minutes remaining and driving towards goal, McGinn smashed the ball with the outside of his left foot, tearing a hole in both his boot and also in the space/time continuum.
Never has a football struck so hard taken so long to reach its target.
5,000 sets of eyes drank in every revolution of the red and white sphere as it winged its way through the air.
5,000 brains judged the power and the angle of the shot calculating that, yes, it was on target.
The full house fell quiet for the splittest of all seconds.
Then, as time caught up, the ball slammed into the corner of the net, sparking quite possibly the loudest Deva roar of all time, as relief and joy flooded forth. Nobody is quite sure what happened next, each Cestrian dancing about to his own crazed rhythm and hugging whomsoever was at hand.
With the result confirmed at 1-1, Chester's players had a brief moment to celebrate on the pitch with the fans before realising they've made a rod for their own back with consecutive championship wins.
"I imagine a a couple of draws and a defeat next season and they'll be calling for my head again," nodded Neil Young.
As the fans finally meandered away from the ground, they wore big grins as they thought up things to moan about on Devachat when they got home.
Note: given the general tone of this blog, it's hard to add that Northwich's fans were an absolute credit to the club without sounding sarcastic. But they were, and they showed a class sadly missing from other areas of their club.