The non league equivalent of the FA Charity Shield, the JC Thompson Shield was first contested by Chester City in its twenty first season of competition. That season, 2001-2002, the contest reverted to its original format of being played between the Conference League Champions and the winners of the Conference League Cup. Since 1988, a change to the competition format was administered as it was decided the Conference Champions were to take on the FA Trophy Winners.
Upon approach to Rushden & Diamonds impressive home, Nene Park, you immediately get the feel for the huge financial backing that benefactor Max Griggs has invested into this small town Northamptonshire club. After eleven years, Rushden, now in the nationwide football league have facilities that would be the envy of any a great club. Whilst walking around the perimeter of the stadium, Chester Chronicle sports reporter Ian Bedford summed it all up, "It's just like the Premiership in miniature" he said as we strolled around in awe of Rushden's growing empire.
Just 934 people braved the icy cold November conditions to see this low key challenge for the silverware with Chester performing in front of 41 dedicated travelling City supporters. Those inside the stadium saw a strong Rushden & Diamonds side pushed all the way by a spirited Chester City outfit before finally winning the Nationwide Conference Shield after a penalty shoot-out.
Gary Williams gave Chester an interval lead with a 33rd minute strike from the edge of the penalty area but Brian Talbot's side snatched an equaliser seven minutes into the second half. The manager's son, Daniel, turned home Scott Partridge's cross as Chester keeper Wayne Brown struggled to reach the strike.
However, last season's Nationwide Conference champions were only level for five minutes as Mark Beesley restored Chester's lead with a great 25-yard curler that flew past on Tony Pennock in the Diamonds goal. Rushden equalised for the second time midway through the second half when Jim Rodwell heading home from close range and that was how it stayed for the remainder of normal time and the whole of extra-time.
In a dramatic penalty shoot-out Chester had the initial advantage when Talbot had Diamonds' first penalty saved but Chris Blackburn saw his effort saved and Michael Rose missed the target to ensure Diamonds clinched their first piece of silverware as a Football League Club. A very short presentation followed the shoot out which most of the 937 crowd avoided as the icy cold weather tightened its grip on the evening.
In his post match press conference, a bitterly disappointed Blues Boss Steve Mungall shared the players disappointment at falling at the final hurdle: "I feel for the boys obviously. They matched Rushden and in the end we finished the stronger at extra time. All credit to them, I spoke to the lads before the game and about the Jeckle and Hyde team we have got and it is to stop and they more than proved it that they can do it and I won't accept any more Jeckle and Hyde performances from them. They have proven they can play for ninety minutes and even through extra time, so I feel gutted for them and for the fans. It would have been nice to take a trophy home for them and obviously for the chairman."
Mungall contined: "I was pleased with a lot of things that happened in the game, and there's a few little things that we can pick up on but overall I was pleased with the way the boys went about the game and we were very unfortunate not to take anything away from it."
13 November 2001
|JC Thompson Championship Shield Roll of Honour|
|1989||Maidstone United||Telford United|
|1992||Wycombe Wanderers||Colchester United|
|1993||Wycombe Wanderers||Northwich Victoria|
|1996||Macclesfield Town||Stevenage Borough|
|1998||Halifax Town||Cheltenham Town|
|2001||Rushden & Diamonds||Chester City|