Throughout the 2017/18 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.
This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season that Wrexham AFC enjoyed, I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.
West Ham United v Wrexham
FA Cup Third Round
West Ham United: Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Holland, Goddard, Cross, Brooking, Pike
Goalscorer: Stewart (57 pen)
Wrexham: Davies, Hill, Jones, Davis, Cegielski, Arkwright, Buxton (Fox), Sutton, Edwards, McNeil, Cartwright
Goalscorer: Davis (87)
1981 began with a tasty cup-tie against FA Cup holders West Ham United who had lifted the famous trophy the previous May, thanks to a Trevor Brooking diving header against Arsenal. The Hammers were a Second Division side when they won the Cup and were aiming to follow their Cup success with promotion back to Division One. In November 1980 they had visited the Racecourse to play out a 2-2 draw.
Our third round pairing against the league leaders looked a tough one on paper. The Upton Park club had won every home match in every competition since defeat to Luton Town on the opening day of the season.
However, Arfon Griffiths’ men had recorded three wins and a draw in their last four away games and had a good record in encounters with West Ham, who had only won one in five meetings.
Arfon Griffiths said: “I think we are in with a chance of beating them – but we must play well.
“It will be a hell of an occasion and will be a tremendous atmosphere and a big crowd. It will be a great challenge for our lads, but they prefer that kind of environment and we’ll be looking for another good result in London to add to our collection. We shall not go there just to defend. We’ll play our normal game.”
The Reds were suffering from a long list of injuries and illness. Frank Carrodus, who had missed the last three games with an ankle ligament injury, was still missing along with Steve Kenworthy. On the plus side, Steve Buxton and Les Cartwright were re-introduced to the team after both having treatment for knee injuries.
Never write off the Town in the Cup. It is true that we were under the cosh for most of the match, but a superb defensive display restricted the home side to just one goal from the penalty spot after 59 minutes. The controversial decision to award a spot-kick came after Alan Hill was adjudged to have upended Pat Holland. Visiting defenders lead furious protests to the referee and felt that Holland had dived. These protests fell on deaf ears and Ray Stewart sent Dai Davies the wrong way to give United the lead. Davies had a superb game despite a dislocated finger. This did not stop him making fantastic saves to deny Paul Goddard and Geoff Pike.
West Ham seemed to be on course for their 17th home victory in succession, but our never-say-die efforts paid off after 87 minutes. Les Cartwright launched a long throw in into the penalty area which Ian Edwards back-headed before Dixie McNeil flicked it on for Gareth Davis to smash home a volley from eight yards.
This draw resulted in a replay at the Racecourse just three days later. This match was instantly forgettable and ended in a goalless stalemate. Cue a second replay at the Racecourse following the toss of a coin. Dixie McNeil scored the only goal of the game in the first period of extra time to finally dump John Lyall’s men out of the Cup and send us through to the fourth round, where we dispatched Wimbledon (2-1). Wolverhampton Wanderers finally ended our progress in the FA Cup after a 3-1 defeat at Molineux.
Our success in the Cup masked a disappointing league campaign, which saw us finish in 16th position. In our penultimate match of the season, we travelled to Upton Park yet again, where we were on the receiving end of a 1-0 defeat to the runaway champions of the Second Division. After all our efforts, we could not stop those pretty bubbles from floating in the air…