Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.
Porto v Wrexham
European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round Second Leg
Estadio Das Antas
PORTO: Borota, Joao Pinto, Lima Pereira, Eurico, Inacio, Magalhaes , Frasco, Quim, Gomes, Futre, Vermelhinho (Walsh 77)
Goalscorers: Gomes 5, 38 (pen), Magalhaes 18, Futre 61
WREXHAM: Parker, King, Cunnington, Salathiel, Keay, Wright, Williams (Gregory 23), Horne, Steel, Edwards (Muldoon 77), Rogers
Goalscorer: King 40, 43, Horne 89
Following our famous victory in the first leg at the Racecourse – as featured in the Altrincham programme – we continued to struggle when it came to the bread and butter of League football. Sandwiched between the two legs, a trip to Gresty Road saw Crewe Alexandra batter us 3-0 while Stockport County came out on top of a topsy-turvy battle on our own patch that we lost 3-4.
Indeed our last three League outings had seen our hapless defence concede 12 goals, although crucially Porto had been denied an away goal in north Wales. Surely the Portuguese Cup winners – who featured 14 internationals, seven of whom had been capped for Portugal against Sweden in recent weeks – would save face in front of their own fans?
After 38 minutes – played out in a ferocious storm – Porto had steamed into a 3-0 lead. Fernando Gomes scored twice, one that seemed to feature a handball in the build up and one dubious penalty given away by Parker, while Magalhaes contributed a spectacular second. The Robins were on the rack and few would’ve bet against our opponents from scoring more.
However, Wrexham had a lot riding on the result. While a modest profit was recouped from the first leg tie, this was quickly accounted for when we had to charter a special plane to Portugal costing £14,000. On top of such financial concerns we were also playing for pride, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that we refused to go down without a fight. Scottish full-back Jake King foraged forward to convert a Neil Salathiel cross on 40 minutes and just three minutes later the same player connected with a corner in a crowded area to put us ahead on the away goals rule.
In the second half it was one-way traffic with Stuart Parker being called upon to make a series of fine saves from Vermelhinho, Gomes and Magalhaes. Unfortunately, there was nothing Parker could do to stop a deflected effort from Paulo Futre on 69 minutes. Order had been restored and it seemed like plucky Wrexham were on their way out of Europe.
Parker continued to be defiant in goal as time marched on, but as the home fans began to celebrate their impending passage into the second round, Jim Steel knocked the ball out wide to substitute John Muldoon. With only 60 seconds remaining the midfielder whipped in a cross that young Barry Horne launched himself at and planted a diving header past former Chelsea goalkeeper Petar Borota.
Our tiny pocket of support – some of who had travelled on the same flight as the players at a cost of £195 per person – exploded into ecstasy.
We may have lost 4-3 on the night, but our 1-0 triumph in the first leg assured our passage on the away goals rule.
“This has to be the greatest moment of my career. I’ll tell my grandchildren about this – when I’m a grandad,” enthused captain fantastic Jake King.
Fairytales do happen.