Football: Gradi equipped for higher grade: Third Division

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The Independent Online
Chester City 1

Lightfoot 7

Crewe Alexandra2

Naylor 29, Ward 69

Attendance: 5,550

A HANGOVER faces two talented managers after their promotion celebrations yesterday. This summer they must plan how limited resources can be stretched to avoid the yo-yo effect of immediate relegation.

In a game that ended with both sides earning promotion to the Second Division, Chester City and Crewe Alexandra demonstrated a rich passing policy on a pristine Beaver

Stadium pitch which rewarded precision. This should prove fruitful in their new surroundings.

But the grim reality is that when the drawing board is revisited, survival will be the priority. Dario Gradi's Crewe are the better equipped, built on a simple but logical philosophy. A sturdy physical backbone earns the right to play and then six little terriers party with the ball. What his side lack in inches, they make up for in grey matter, darting runs always creating options.

There is a good nucleus of spritely young players, but Gradi is realistic enough to admit that unit may have to be broken up to survive the rigours of higher divisions. And while, champagne in hand, he professed to being 'not the slightest bit interested in what next season holds in store', Gradi will soon be meeting his directors to work out the financial game-plan.

'We have lost a lot of money this year and we have to generate it again - one way is to sell players,' Gradi said.

A blessing is that he will not be short of options. Tony Naylor is a live-wire, who underlined his potential with a marvellous curling free-kick to equalise Chester's early-headed goal, Chris Lightfoot rising at the far post. As it was, the upper vertebra of the Alexandra backbone, Ashley Ward, prompted the celebrations with a dipping volley from outside the penalty area.

For Chester, Graham Barrow, the manager, a former central heating engineer who signed a new contract before the game, work starts again tomorrow morning. Chester's nucleus is the wrong side of 30 and an input of 'hungry youth' is his priority.