#7: Chester 1-1 Brighton 15/01/1999

#7 CHESTER 1-1 BRIGHTON Division Three
Friday 15th January 1999 Sky 1999

Ident 99 Chester titles

PRESENTER Marcus Buckland
COMMENTATORS Rob Hawthorne & Clive Allen REPORTER Alan Bentley
7.45pm Kick Off; Deva Stadium, Chester      7-10pm Friday Night Football on Sky Sports 2

Chester programme Chester tv

Context of the Match: The above screenshot in yellow is taken from the Brighton programme in December when the news was confirmed of the televised fixture. However the unusual kick-off time of 7.30pm was a mistake and, as confirmed by the second image taken from The Guardian website, the kick-off was actually the regular 7.45pm time. As alluded to above, Chester were suffering from severe financial problems and entered administration in October 1998 with worse still to come in the following years unfortunately. When Brighton’s difficult period intensified a few years earlier, fans of other clubs rallied around fantastically to raise funds, awareness and really help out under the ‘Fans United’ banner on two previous occasions. Tonight was labelled as a sort of ‘Fans United 3’, with supporters from the likes of Oxford, Portsmouth and Manchester United lending their support tonight using the Live TV opportunity, just like Brighton fans did at Bournemouth in 1995. Manchester United fans also had their own protest against Rupert Murdoch and Sky’s proposed takeover of their club, so they didn’t waste this opportunity to be vocal either. The deal eventually fell through later that year, whilst their players went on to win that incredible Treble. At half time a scarf featuring all 92 English League teams was paraded around the pitch as a mark of solidarity. On the field, Chester were six unbeaten whilst Brighton were doing alright in mid-table.

In contrast, Brighton had for once received some positive news a few weeks before this tie. The club would be returning to Sussex to play home games, having been tenants of Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium since the beginning of the 1997/98 season. The exile was confirmed to be coming to an end after two seasons and Withdean Stadium, an athletics ground predominantly, would be Albion’s temporary home from this coming summer. That word ‘temporary’ would provide so much of the television coverage of the club during Live games as well as news bulletins and magazine shows for the best part of the next dozen years or so however, as the journey home was a long old process. It’s never dull here!

Chester stat Chester booking

The Teams: Boss Brian Horton brought the Seagulls into the game having not won in three but were on the fringes of the Play-Off places entering the second half of the season. This wasn’t to last with Horton leaving to join higher-division Port Vale later in the month after not even a calendar year in charge. Club captain Gary Hobson was a couple of weeks away from being fully fit, having hardly played much all season. Rod Thomas, who began the season at Chester, was also a casualty after injuring his ankle when the club used Manchester City’s training ground the day before the match. Top scorer Richie Barker and midfielder Jeff Minton were the expected danger men for the Seagulls in their red away kit. Future youth team coach Ian Culverhouse featured in the defence. Amongst the names in the Chester squad were a young David Flitcroft, 18-year-old defender Martyn Lancaster and Andy Crosby, who would sign for the Albion later in the year. Kevin Ratcliffe was the manager. The match was refereed by Peter Walton, long before his Premier League duties.

Chester full time

Presentation Team: Marcus Buckland was at the helm from the Sky studio. It is unclear who the guests were as footage of this is minimal. Rob Hawthorne, Sky’s number 1 Football League commentator, was alongside Clive Allen on the gantry. As this was a Division Three match, Allen was used instead of number 1 Alan Brazil. Clive Allen was taking his first steps into regular punditry and commentary this season on Sky’s coverage, also deputising on Soccer Saturday and Soccer Special on occasions as well as appearing in studio. He would do this until 2001 when he joined ITV’s talent for their Football League and Premiership coverage and subsequently forging a long career in the media. Reporter Alan Bentley took over from George Gavin in 1997 and remained on the touchline for League and Cup until Sky lost the rights to ITV. Unlike most of the other names here, Bentley never returned to Sky and chose to go down a different route. He formed a production company specialising in sports betting programmes.

Chester Marcus Buckland Chester pundits Chester Alan Bentley Chester studio


The Coverage: Sky had been providing exclusively Live coverage of the Football League since 1996 and this was the third season of that deal. Personnel had changed slightly since we were last on during their first season, with Marcus Buckland now in the presenter’s chair instead of Russ Williams who was only there for the first season. Buckland joined from Radio 5 Live in 1997 and presented Sky’s entire Football League output until they lost the rights in 2001 to ITV Digital. He then moved across to host the pay-per-view matches on Premiership Plus until 2007 when he became the face of Sky’s tennis coverage. Sky still hosted the vast majority of games from their Isleworth studio, although the set design was less colourful than the Williams’ year. The theme tune remained as Black Grape – England’s Irie until 2000, when it was replaced with Primal Scream’s ‘Swastike Eyes’ for the final pre-ITV season. Matches were regularly broadcast in the Friday night and Sunday lunchtime slots still, with full build-ups incorporating goals round-ups and features alongside Sky’s weekly ‘Football League Review’ highlights programme. Graphics were uniform across Sky’s Football Output and were understated black, white and grey colours faded in and out but ones with moving text (team line ups, substitutions) did come with beeping sound effects. This came about when Sky transformed it’s look and logo at the start of this 1998/99 season.

Chester build up 1 Chester build up

Unfortunately again I do not have very many details of this particular broadcast at all, clips and footage has proved very hard to come by (thankfully this is the last Live game which I’ll need to say that). The only video I could find was 4 minutes of the goals (embedded at the bottom of this post) and a brief report on Chester’s form this season in the pre-match coverage, titled ‘Ratcliffe’s Blues?’, voiced by Buckland therefore confirming his presence. Hawthorne and Allen can be heard describing the action in the match clip. Therefore I have had to provide example images of the studio, host and reporter from a different match earlier in the season (Bristol City v Bolton). Pundits that night were Nigel Spackman and Ray Wilkins, and they were the regular Friday Night Football League pairing of this era so it could be assumed they were in situ for Chester v Brighton as well. Club-specific guests were a lot rarer during those days, with Sky opting for regular pundits Spackman, Wilkins, Allen, Brian Marwood, Alan Brazil and Dave Bassett, with Chris Kamara going on to join this pool in later seasons. The replay graphic was the same for all competitions; the video replay swooshing in from the top corner to cover the screen before flying out again, adorned with blue and red Sky Sports colours.

Chester penalty Chester Armstrong graphic

Story of the Match: The home side generally had the better of the match, as highlighted by the first half corner statistic of 8 to 1. Deep into first half stoppage time the home side got their deserved lead thanks to a speedy counter attacking break off the back of Brighton’s first corner. Alex Smith surged down the left, running most of the length of the field before getting his shot away. That was parried by Mark Ormerod and fell right to the feet of Mike Conroy to tap home from six yards out for his first home goal with virtually the last kick of the half. Brighton had a goal ruled out frustratingly for offside six minutes after the break and thought perhaps the game had gone. Deep, deep into stoppage time at the end of the ninety minutes however a lifeline was granted. Substitute Kerry Mayo clipped the ball into the box and flicked on for Jamie Moralee who was pushed to the ground. Penalty! But regular taker Jeff Minton had already gone off so the task was left for 20-year-old Paul Armstrong. “I elected myself. I just thought what the hell? I had a lot of nerves but there was no better place to score my first goal than in front of the cameras,” he commented post-match. Armstrong’s first senior goal and live on television to boot but the drama wasn’t over there. Even deeper into injury time Chester went up the other end and probably should’ve immediately had their own penalty when a long ball from the half-way line was pumped forward to be flicked on into the penalty area. Brighton’s Ian Culverhouse clumsily swung a leg to go for the ball, missed completely and did end up getting the man to bring him down. Clive Allen on co-commentary observed “Culverhouse tries to clear, I don’t think he had any intention of actually playing or tackling the player.” A slightly fortunate point gained for the Seagulls, and the first in a Live televised League game at the third attempt. This marked our final Live match of the 20th Century.

Conroy Armstrong (Penalty)

Chester replay



About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

2 Responses to #7: Chester 1-1 Brighton 15/01/1999

  1. Pingback: #6: Leyton Orient 2-0 Brighton 22/12/1996 | Mark O'MEARA

  2. Pingback: #8: Brighton 2-1 Rushden & Diamonds 08/12/2001 | Mark O'MEARA

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