CHESTER CITY successfully navigated a potential banana skin at Stafford Rangers on Saturday, and earned themselves a trip to Halifax Town in the next round of the FA Cup.
With the team arriving late, and many of the City supporters not getting to Marston Road until half-time because of horrendous travel problems on the M6, this was not the ideal preparation for an important cup tie. But City gave a thor-oughly professional performance, and deserved their success.
Stafford had their best at the beginning of the first period, and after just 50 seconds nippy striker Mark Danks took advantage of indecision by Richard Hope, and brought out an excellent save from Chris Mackenzie, who acrobatically pushed Dank's thunderbolt over the bar.
Former Wrexham midfield player Robin Gibson and Danks then found space, and both flashed efforts narrowly wide of the upright.
City's first worthwhile chance came after 17 minutes when Dormand and Daniel got into an awful mess on the edge of their area, the ball fell kindly to Daryl Clare, but with a goal at his mercy last season's leading scorer shot over.
The deadlock was broken after 32 minutes with a move that came straight from the training ground. Ben Davies floated a free-kick into the area, Hope headed the ball across the goal to Cortez Belle who volleyed it into the corner of the net from six yards.
The lead could have been doubled just before the break, but Drummond's effort went just wide of the upright.
City's superior fitness and class began to come to the fore in the second half. The industrious Paul Carden, who had another outstanding game in midfield, set Clare free but the striker's effort was easily saved by Dormand. Ellison and Drummond also got onto the action but their shots from the edge of the area went wide.
Progress to the second round was confirmed in the 71st minute when substitute Kevin Rapley, who has found scoring a rare as hen's teeth this season, registered City's second goal.
Belle turned provider, racing down the left before crossing to Rapley, the ex-Colchester United player's shot taking a deflection and wrong-footing Dormand, before apologetically entering the net.
Daniel rattled the City bar with an effort in injury time, but by this time Chester had already booked their passage into round two.
After the match City mnager Ian Rush, said: "I'm obviously pleased about the result, particularly when you consider that we arrived late and the pitch wasn't the best.
"They put pressure on us early and Chris Mackenzie made a couple of great saves, but the lads played well and took their chances when they came."
Remarking on the current position of Clare, who is out of contract at the end of the season, Rush said: "Daryl has been offered a new contract by ourselves, Carlisle United have shown interest in the player, but they are the only club to have made an official approach for him."
STAFFORD RANGERS: Dormand, Brown, Talbot, McAughtrie, Daniel, Gibson, Lovatt, Downs, Heath (Grayson, 81), Danks (Jackson, 73), Wilding. Subs: Beale, Dodd, Lindley.
CHESTER CITY: Mackenzie, Edmondson, Hessey (McIntrye, 57), Hope, Bolland, Ellison, Davies (Harris, 68), Carden, Drummond, Clare (Rapley, 65), Belle. Subs: Doyle, Booth.
Referee: Mr L Mason Att: 2,492