Throughout the 2016/17 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 Boston United
Coca-Cola Football League Two
Wrexham: Williams, Spender, Williams, Pejic, Evans, Jones, Llewellyn, Roberts (McEvilly), Proctor, Done
Goalscorers: Valentine 56 (pen), Llewellyn 87, Proctor 90
Boston United: Marriott, Stevens, Clarke, Greaves, Ellender, Cryan, Farrell, Cooksey, Broughton, Green, Galbraith (Maylett)
Goalscorer: Green 39
A dramatic fight against relegation to the non-League doldrums was not on the radar of even the most pessimistic Wrexham fan as we started the season without defeat in the opening seven matches, including an impressive 1-4 win against Championship-side Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in the first round of the League Cup.
However, a trip to the Crown Ground to take on Accrington Stanley ended in a crushing 5-0 defeat and all confidence went out of the window. The rot quickly set-in and we slumped from play-off contenders at the beginning of September to relegation strugglers by October 21, when Mansfield Town beat us 3-0 at Field Mill to leave us in 20th position.
Denis Smith just could not turn things around and following our FA Cup third round defeat at Derby County (3-1) he lost his job. Surprisingly, Brian Carey was handed the role of caretaker manager and tried in vein to inspire his new charges. Indeed, Carey did not record his first managerial win until his tenth match at the helm – a 1-2 win at Barnet’s Underhill in March.
This result didn’t give us the impetus we needed though and with just five games remaining we needed a minor miracle to avoid the drop. Cue three straight wins – Lincoln City (0-3), Torquay United (1-0) and Shrewsbury Town (0-1) – before a 1-0 defeat at eventual champions Walsall in our penultimate match set-up a winner-takes-all clash against Boston United at the Racecourse. A point was all we needed to reach safety while the Pilgrims needed a win.
A staggering 12,374 fans – the biggest Racecourse attendance for 27 years – gathered to watch Wrexham try to preserve their unbroken 86-year stay in the Football League. It was a tense afternoon that started with an appalling opening period with the only action of note coming when Francis Green ran on to a Mark Greaves pass, held-off Shaun Pejic and fired home a low shot that beat Anthony Williams between the sticks. We were staring relegation in the face.
Carey said the occasion had affected his team, who were “absolutely dreadful” in the first 45 minutes of a game he called “the biggest in the club’s history”. Thankfully, Carey delivered a spectacular half-time team-talk that worked wonders. Neil Roberts remembers it as the “hairdryer treatment”.
It took just 11 minutes for the boys to get on level terms when Danny Williams was pushed over by Boston’s Drewe Broughton who was actually on-loan from Chester. Chirk-born Ryan Valentine converted the subsequent spot-kick past ex-Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Marriott.
Paul Ellender went close for Boston, but the Reds finally settled their nerves in the 87th minute when Chris Llewellyn played a clever one-two with Mark Jones before cutting inside and letting fly with an unstoppable left-footed drive. The celebrations were complete in injury time when Llewellyn produced a back-heeled cross for Michael Proctor to head home in front of a delirious Kop.
Police and stewards stood no chance of stopping home supporters rushing onto the pitch at the final whistle. The mood had transformed from gloom to jubilation in just 45 minutes.
Wrexham finished 19th in the table, a comfortable four places above the last relegation spot with 51 points, five clear of Boston.
The Pilgrims’ directors, knowing relegation was all but certain in the closing stages of the match, swiftly entered the club into a Company Voluntary Arrangement [CVA] before the game had ended.
The financial rescue package is similar to administration and safeguarded the club’s immediate future despite being deducted ten points and suffering a double demotion by League chiefs.