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 Macclesfield Town
Nationwide League Division Two
Wrexham: Cartwright, McGregor, Brace, Brammer, Ridler, Carey (Humes), Skinner, Owen, Spink (Rishworth), Roberts, Ward (Russell)
Goalscorers: Owen (5), Spink (61)
Macclesfield Town: Price, Tinson, Ingram, Payne (Howarth), McDonald, Sodje, Askey, Wood, Tomlinson (Barclay), Sorvel (Whittaker), Durkan
Goalscorer: Wood (55)
After five league games of the 1998/99 season, Brian Flynn’s Red and White Army were ninth in the third tier of English football – a division that also included the likes of Manchester City, Stoke City and AFC Bournemouth. Surely everything was rosy at the Racecourse, wasn’t it?
Despite winning a dour battle against Northampton Town (1-0), Wrexham Leader reporter Les Chamberlain noted that a number of fans were not happy with the way things were at the Club.
True, we were knocked out of the League Cup at the first round stage by Halifax Town and were given some hidings on the road, yet I think we can all agree that anyone who moaned while our club was sitting comfortably in the Football League with Welsh legend Ian Rush leading the attack is a little bit stupid – myself included. Hindsight is a wonderful thing…
After the embarrassment of a 4-0 defeat at Gillingham, we entertained Macclesfield Town at the Racecourse. It was the first time the clubs had met since the Cheshire club gained promotion from the Conference with an eight-point margin in 1996/97.
A disappointing attendance of 3,384 can be explained by the fact that Wales were playing Italy in a Euro 2000 qualifier at Anfield later that evening, but those supporters who put club before country were rewarded in the fifth minute when Gareth Owen fired home a looping effort that seemed to wrong foot Ryan Price in the visitor’s goal.
It was not long before the Silkmen hit back, with former Wrexham winger Kieron Durkan involved in a move that put Graeme Tomlinson into the danger area. Dave Ridler reacted quickly to clear while John Askey also had a great chance to equalise.
An angled drive by Craig Skinner crashed against the upright, although Macclesfield could claim to have been the dominant side in the first period, leading 7-2 on the corner count.
The visitors finally drew level on 55 minutes when a Durkan cross was headed on by Tomlinson and Steve Wood had time to steady himself before netting with an eight yard drive.
The 561 away fans were still celebrating when Owen swept the ball out to the left wing. After good work by Neil Roberts, Dean Spink was able to take his time and despatch the winner past Price.
Commenting on the winning goal, Flynn said: “There was good movement. Neil [Roberts] did well on the far post peeling away from the defenders and I know it sounds simple and looks easy but you have to finish it and I was pleased for Dean that he got a goal.”
Shortly afterwards, Steve Rishworth made his League debut for the club when he came on for the injured Spink. The Professor, as he was known to his teammates, had just made the bold decision to put his professional football career on hold while taking the opportunity to dive into the world of academia with a three-year course at Oxford. In total, he made four substitute appearances before leaving the club to start university.
The Red’s reached the Auto Windscreens Northern final against Wigan Athletic only to lose 5-3 on aggregate. Back in the league things hadn’t been going to plan and with five games to go the club were just five points above the trap-door. Fortunately, the results from other games saw the Robins safe with two games remaining
Wrexham finished the season with an FAW Premier Cup final against Barry Town. The League of Wales champions beat the Robins at the Racecourse by the odd goal in three. This game was to be the last that Ian Rush ever played after an illustrious career. He had made just twelve League starts for Wrexham, and never scored a goal.