DAVE FELGATE was once the derby day hero for Chester and believes the cross-border encounter is the game ‘nobody wants to lose’.
The former Chester City number one, who made 72 appearances in his two-year stint with the Blues, produced a memorable display in a famous derby clash at The Racecourse in February 1995, saving a late Gary Bennett penalty to deny Wrexham and secure a 2-2 draw for the visitors, who played most of the game with only nine men.
Now back at Chester as goalkeeping coach, Felgate explained how ‘losing wasn’t an option’ in derby days gone by.
“They were proper derbies in those days,” said the 57-year-old. “Big gates and the most important thing was to not lose.
“Proper games of football with local lads from both towns on each team. You don't quite get that any longer with players born nearby.
“In those days you'd have to go back to Chester or Wrexham after and you did not want to head home if you lost. It wasn't really an option.
“We were mates off the pitch but as soon as we got out on the pitch it was a different story. I was speaking to Benno before that derby five minutes before kick-off, then as soon as it gets underway you just try and kick lumps out of each other.
“It was always a great atmosphere and nobody wanted to lose, it was 100 per cent or nothing. They were tough games.”
Addressing the penalty incident itself, the ex-Lincoln City and Bolton Wanderers stopper felt Reds striker Bennett tricked the match officials into the award and vividly recounts making that crucial save.
“We went mad with Benno because we felt he played for it,” he added. “I was fuming with him, so I went and asked him where he'd put it.
“He told me one way, but with Benno of course that meant the other. So I just waited until the last possible moment, watched his run up and then managed to get my hand to it.
“He got so much grief off all the Chester lads for that because of the way he won the penalty but that was how it was back then.”
Andy Milner scored a memorable late leveller running from the halfway line to add to Eddie Bishop's first half penalty.
Bishop and Chris Lightfoot were later sent off for the Blues in a game where Karl Connolly and Bennett scored for the Reds.
Switching his attentions to tomorrow night’s latest installment of one of the country’s fiercest rivalries, Felgate stressed the importance for Chester to not let emotions ‘get the better’ of their players, after January’s derby clash at the Deva ended in a mass brawl between both teams.
The Blaenau-born keeper, who won one cap for Wales, also believes the removal of ‘bubble match restrictions’ should help improve an atmosphere which has been ‘diluted’ in recent seasons.
“It's always difficult when you have the bubble match, it dilutes the atmosphere,” he said. “But I think it'll never stop people going who want to go, because it's Wrexham v Chester at the end of the day.
“It's such a small distance between the two places that everyone works with people who support one club or the other, there's that sense of wanting the bragging rights for a Chester fan working in Wrexham and vice versa.
“Hopefully it'll be a great atmosphere on Wednesday and the fact it's on TV will hopefully give it a bit of a spice.
“We have to be careful not to let the emotions get the better of our lads.
“The gaffer is fully aware of what it means to everyone but what we don't want is it spilling over and ending like the last one did. But it's a game that'll never lose that intensity.”
See full story in the Chester Leader