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 Cheltenham Town
Coca-Cola League Two
Wrexham: Ingham, Linwood (Spender), Smith, Ferguson, Bennett, Warhurst, Jones (Mackin), Williams, Walters, Foy (McEvilly), Holt
Goalscorers: Holt 8, Walters 69
Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Victory, Taylor, Townsend (Caines), Wilson, Melligan, Finnigan (Bird), Spencer (Vincent), Odejayi, McCann
Wrexham actually had to postpone the previous match against Lincoln City as they had three players on international duty. Michael Ingham (Northern Ireland) and Simon Spender (Wales) both reported back for duty in time for the Cheltenham game, but Dennis Lawrence (Trinidad and Tobago) was not so lucky.
The club captain had been playing for his country in Costa Rica, but his flight home had to be diverted after smoke was smelt in the cabin. This meant that our defensive lynchpin missed his connecting flight and did not return to Manchester until shortly before kick-off.
This was another headache for Wrexham manager Denis Smith as the start of the 2005/06 season had already been ravaged by injury and suspension. Lee Roche, Shaun Pejic, Dean Bennett and Lee McEvilly had all crowded the treatment room while Simon Spender and Dave Bayliss had both seen red in the opening matches.
Smith had subsequently been forced to bleed a number of youngsters and make some emergency loan signings such as Paul Linwood from Tranmere Rovers who replaced the absent Lawrence for the visit of unbeaten Cheltenham Town. Despite being promoted from the Conference in 1999, this was actually the first League meeting between the clubs.
Our patched up team certainly proved their worth with a magnificent performance full of slick passing and attacking intent to record their third home win of the season. The Red Dragons were fiery from the first whistle with Paul Warhurst and Jon Walters – whatever happened to him? – both having shots blocked inside the box.
After only eight minutes Andy Holt scored the goal we’d been threatening from the outset when he met Darren Ferguson’s corner with a bullet header that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
It was all one-way traffic as the midfield trio of Ferguson, Danny Williams and Mark Jones dictated play. In a hectic four minute period we had four chances to double our lead. Walters headed over from Holt’s cross, Robbie Foy – on-loan from Liverpool – had a shot saved by Town goalkeeper Shane Higgs, Walters was then denied by Jamie Victory’s block and his next attempt was well-dealt with by Higgs.
Wrexham’s passing and movement was exceptional, but on the stroke of half-time they were almost made to pay for not extending their lead when Kayode Odejayi saw his shot turned around the post by Ingham. The fleet-footed Odejayi also threatened early in the second-half when he raced past Linwood only to see his shot hit the side netting.
At the other end of the pitch, Walters had a penalty appeal turned down following a challenge by JJ Melligan. He was promptly booked for diving.
Warhurst, Dean Bennett and Foy all had opportunities to increase our advantage, but it was left to Walters to do the damage on 69 minutes with his first competitive goal for the club. Smith found Jones who played a superb ball through for Walter’s to dispatch beyond Higgs.
Reflecting on the game, Smith said: “I think it was a performance which deserved a better crowd than we had and people who didn’t come today missed an absolute treat. That’s as good a football game as you’ll see at most levels, never mind this level. I thought some of the football was outstanding.”
Cheltenham manager John Ward said: “I said before the game that Wrexham shouldn’t be in this League, but because of administration they are. This is a good side and anyone who gets a point or three here will have to be very lucky or play very well.”