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.
Wrexham v Winsford United
FA Cup First Round
Wrexham: Morris, Thackeray, Hardy, Beaumont, Thomas, Jones, Setori, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Kelly
Goalscorers: Connolly 8, Watkin 71, 77, 85, Thomas 90
Winsford United: Mayfield, Lloyd, Whitney, Edey, Taylor (Hall), Esdaille, Grant (Nevis), Thomas, Cameron, Blackwood, Sheridan
Goalscorers: Esdaille (14), Blackwood (76)
It was with a certain degree of trepidation that Wrexham took on non-league Winsford United in the first round of the FA Cup. A couple of seasons previously we had been knocked out of the FA Cup after a first round replay by Conference side Runcorn, so tension was abound when the draw paired us with a high-flying outfit from the HFS Loans League.
Winsford had scored twenty goals during their five FA Cup preliminary rounds, including a 3-2 win over Altrincham. In addition, their league form was excellent – winning eight out of their ten opening games. Meanwhile, Wrexham were struggling on the pitch under rookie manager Brian Flynn and off it in front of dwindling crowds.
Wrexham took the lead when Karl Connolly took full advantage of a slip by John Whitney to shoot into the roof of the net after eight minutes. However, the underdogs did not capitulate as expected. Just six minutes later Dave Esdaille turned and shot home from eight yards following good work by Darren Sheridan and Jimmy Cameron. We certainly had a fight on our hands.
In the 22nd minute James Kelly struck a sweet volley which cannoned off the crossbar, but this was the closest that the Robins came to restoring their lead during the first half.
After the break, Winsford began to take control and went close on 54 minutes when Esdaille’s cross eluded the Wrexham defence and fell to prolific striker Bevon Blackwood. Uncharacteristically, the goal machine hesitated on the edge of the six yard box which allowed Phil Hardy to save the day with a timely tackle.
After dicing with humiliation, Steve Watkin fiercely volleyed home after 71 minutes, but we still couldn’t shake off the gutsy part-timers as five minutes later they were level – Blackwood finishing brilliantly after great work by Esdaille and Archie Lloyd.
It was a breathtaking game and Wrexham went back in front from the restart when Watkin grabbed his second after good work from Connolly and Mickey Thomas.
Watkin then completed his 15 minute hat-trick with a deft flick from a Gareth Owen cross as the Cheshire side began to tire. Veteran midfielder Thomas then side-footed home the fifth after unselfish play by Watkin and Connolly to end the Winsford dream.
Unfortunately, the game was marred by a racist incident involving Winsford manager Mike McKenzie. In his regular Terrace Talk column, Les Chamberlain reports that McKenzie alleged that some Wrexham fans behind the dugout spat and hurled racist abuse at him.
However, according to Les Chamberlain’s ‘mate in the paddock’ it was McKenzie who spat at the supporters after James Kelly had been booked for a foul on a Winsford player. He admitted that the Wrexham fans were guilty of racist chants, but that McKenzie had retaliated by spitting.
Thankfully chairman Pryce Griffiths, Carroll Clarke, chairman of the Supporters Association and manager Brian Flynn all condemned the inexcusable racist abuse. Whatever actually happened certainly put a dampener on a fantastic afternoon of football that put us one step closer to a potential money spinner against a big name club in the third round of the FA Cup….