From The Archive: Chester Clinch Conference Title in Season 2003/04

By Oliver Osborn

The 2003/04 Nationwide Conference Premier season began with quite a line-up.

Words by Steve Whitney

It ended with Chester City as champions, Shrewsbury Town as Promotion Final winners and with no team relegated – but more of that later!

Current Football League sides Exeter City, Morecambe, Stevenage, Accrington Stanley, Burton Albion and Forest Green Rovers were also members of the Conference that season, showing its strength.

Relegation was expected for Farnborough Town, Leigh RMI and Northwich Victoria, but Telford United were declared bankrupt and disbanded later to become AFC Telford United.

Margate had ground problems and Hucknall Town turned down promotion, so the three teams who finished in a relegation spot were all reprieved.

Chester won the title after an exciting finale to the season when they pipped Hereford United by just a single point.

This was something of a surprise to all except their own fans as the Bulls had been 'the team to watch" throughout the season and looked a shoe-in to go up.

They thrilled then-intrigued Sky Sports subscribers by hammering Dagenham & Redridge 9-0 in a live game in late February and ended the season with 103 goals – champions Chester scored 83.

However, Hereford were beaten by Aldershot Town, who had only just sneaked into the top five by a point, in the play-off semi-final on penalties after 1-1 and 0-0 draws.

Shrewsbury finished third in the regular season- 17 points adrift of the top two- and were also taken to penalties by fourth-placed Barnet in their play-off semi-final before triumphing 5-3.

The final also went to a shoot-out in front of just under 20,000 at Stoke City after a 1-1 draw. The Shrews were promoted after winning 3-0 in a tense penalty competition.

Chester's triumph owed a great deal to their prolific strike partnership of Daryl Clare and Darryn Stamp.

Clare earned a second Conference winners' medal – his first coming in Boston United's success in 2002 – scoring 30 goals, while Stamp pitched in with 20.

Chester suffered just four defeats under former Liverpool and England defender Mark Wright during the campaign, winning promotion back to the Football League with a 1–0 victory over Scarborough in the penultimate match of the season.

And, appropriately given the manager's expertise, Chester's title triumph was built around a solid defence, conceding only 34 goals in their 42 league games.

The championship success came with a fantastic run from January 24th when they won eleven and drew two of their last fourteen matches – their only defeat coming on the final day of the season, ironically to Hereford at Edgar Street in front of a crowd of 7,240.

Where next?

Our National League Heroes Offer Their Services To NHS Volunteer Scheme What is it they say about times of crisis bringing out the very best in us?
National League Statement: Competition Suspended Indefinitely The National League Board met earlier today and has reviewed its prior decision to suspend the competition until at least 3rd April 2020.

Match centre

Vanarama National League North
Vanarama National League South

Latest photos