Aldershot

Memory Match – 05-11-86

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.

05-11-86

Wrexham v Real Zaragoza

European Cup Winner’s Second Round (2nd leg)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-2

Wrexham: Pearce, Salathiel, Cunnington, Williams, Cooke, Comstive, Massey, Horne, Steel, Charles, Emson, (Buxton)

Goalscorers: Massey 102, Buxton 106

Real Zaragoza: Cedrun, Casuco, Fraile, Blesa, Julia, Guerri, Senor, Herrera, Pineda, (Carlos 108), Ayneto, (Yanez 81), Sosa

Goalscorers: Yanez 98, 104

Attendance: 14,515

After securing a 0-0 draw at La Romareda, the Robins had a big opportunity to finish off the job at the Racecourse. Before moving on to focus on the second leg of this European tie, I want to underline the enormity of our achievement in Spain which is often overlooked in the history books.

Real Zaragoza had beaten Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final and had overcome AS Roma on penalties in the previous round. This was a seemingly impossible tie for Fourth Division strugglers and Dixie McNeil’s men deserve enormous credit for their performance.

McNeil said: “It was truly magnificent, and the lads responded to the occasion with a display that must rank as one of the greatest in the clubs history. They played with skill and commitment and would have been the envy of many a First Division side.”

Moving on to our mammoth task in the second leg and we knew we were in for a sterner test than we had experienced in the first round against Maltese side FC Zurrieq. We had destroyed them 0-3 in Malta and confirmed our progress with a 4-0 victory at home.

The Spanish side were low on confidence as they had experienced a bad start to their season and had sent a ‘spy’ over from Spain to watch us hammer Aldershot 3-0 in our last home encounter before the European clash. Roman Fernandez said: “A cold, wet night like this will be a tremendous advantage to Wrexham.” Wrexham supporters were praying for inclement weather.

In front of the biggest crowd since hosting West Ham United in January 1981, the Reds made a shaky start to the match but soon settled. In fact, they almost took the lead when Steel’s firm header clipped the bar. Paul Comstive came close with a flying header that forced an agile save from visiting goalkeeper Andoni Cedrun.

Shortly after half-time, Chris Pearce was also forced into action when he made a super save to deny Sosa. This apart, Pearce had an extremely quiet evening as Wrexham continued to push forward.  The visitors were grateful to Cedrun for denying Mike Williams and when Comstive did beat him with a header, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.

With the game now in extra-time the introduction of substitutes proved to be decisive as it was Yanez who broke the deadlock when Senor sent him clear to beat Pearce. This away goal meant Wrexham now needed two goals to win the tie and hopes were raised when Steve Massey equalised.

The game was now really opening up as tiredness set in, but just two minutes later the unmarked Yanez found himself room on the right to score what looked to be the decisive goal from a Sosa cross. When have you ever known Wrexham and their supporters to give up, though? Substitute Steve Buxton pulled one back moments later to set up a frantic finale that included a wonder save by Cedrun to deny Steve Massey.

Dixie McNeil put on a brave face: “I am disappointed to say the least, but not with the lads. They played magnificently and did themselves proud. It was two defensive lapses that gave them the goals, but had not been for their goalkeeper, I am sure we would have won through to the quarter-finals.”

Star man Paul Comstive said: “I thought all through the game we were in with a good chance of winning. They did everything they could to keep us out and in the end it was their keeper who beat us. Apart from their goals, they hardly troubled us all night.”

Memory Match – 07-04-90

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.

07-04-90

Wrexham v Maidstone United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-2 

Wrexham: O’Keefe, Salathiel, Kennedy, Reck, Beaumont, Youds, Preece (Armstrong), Thackeray, Sertori, Worthington, Bowden

Goalscorers: Youds (4), Worthington (6, 75), Sertori (85)

Maidstone United: Johns, Barton, Rumble, Berry, Golley, Roast, Pritchard, Elsey, Charlery, Butler, Lillis (Gall)

Goalscorer: Butler (9, 57)

Attendance: 2,806

 

After the heartbreak of defeat in the 1988/89 Division Four Play-Off final, Wrexham struggled to bounce back. Preparations for the new season were difficult with Kevin Russell joining Leicester City for £175,000, and Charlton Athletic paying £100,000 for Mike Salmon.

Replacements were signed in the form of Vince O’Keefe on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers, Gary Worthington joined from Darlington at a price of £15,000, Sean Reck was snapped up from Oxford United for £35,000 and Robbie Barnes signed from Manchester City on a free transfer. However, these new arrivals failed to gel and a poor start to the season saw a frustrated Dixie McNeil resign at the end of October with the team struggling near the foot of the table.

Enter Brian Flynn. Things got even worse before they got better as the new man in charge won only one of his opening 18 League matches. Relegation to the Conference looked a real possibility before centre-half Eddie Youds was loaned from Everton and the club stumped up £30,000 for Mark Sertori from Lincoln City to kick start a revival based on a new 3-5-2 formation.

The new-look Robins seemed to be making little progress when all of a sudden they won five games on the trot and hauled themselves off the bottom of the table. After a couple of blips on the road against Aldershot and Cambridge United that left us in 22nd position, it was time for promotion-chasing Maidstone United to visit the Racecourse.

Wrexham profited from home advantage and made a blistering start with two goals in the opening seven minutes. Eddie Youds was first off the mark with a belter from a Sean Reck free-kick before Gary Worthington ended a fine five-man move by calmly lifting the ball over the advancing Nicky Johns in the Maidstone goal.

However, it wasn’t long before the visitors – unbeaten in five – got back into the game. Ken Charlery eased past Alan Kennedy and delivered a cross that was met by the head of Jason Lillis who saw the ball crash against the crossbar. Steve Butler reacted to the rebound before Vince O’Keefe and Youds to keep the game alive with his head.

The Stones were now in the ascendency with Warren Barton and Karl Elsey running the show. O’Keefe reacted well to keep out a deflected Charlery shot at his near post and we were lucky to maintain our lead after a speculative Reck back pass fell ideally for Butler who was denied an equaliser by an in-form O’Keefe.

It was only a matter of time though and on 57 minutes Butler got the better of our Warwickshire-born shot stopper for his second of the afternoon after good work from Elsey and Barton.

With only a handful of games remaining to decide which team would be relegated to the Conference, Wrexham could not afford to settle for a point. The Robins had to dig deep and were rewarded when Worthington restored the lead after Mark Sertori had failed to control a perfect through ball from Jon Bowden.

The high flyers were not giving up without a fight and O’Keefe was on call again to deny substitute Mark Gall before Sertori sealed a vital victory with a shot on the turn after Chris Armstrong had headed down a Reck free-kick.

***

Wrexham won a further three League games that season and finished the campaign in 21st spot. The club that fell through the trap door that season was Colchester United…

Memory Match – 03-03-62

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.

03-03-62

Wrexham v Hartlepools United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 10-1

Wrexham: Keelan, Jones (Peter), McGowan, Jones (Tec), Fox, Barnes (Ken), Barnes (Ron), Bennion, Davies, Ambler, Roberts

Goalscorers: Davies (3), Barnes (Ron) (3), Ambler (3), Bennion

Hartlepools United: Wilkinson, Bilcliff, Jones, Hinchcliffe, Lackenby, Burlison, Bircham, McLean, Folland, Edgar, Godbold

Goalscorer: Folland

Attendance: 6,546

 

Ken Barnes was appointed Wrexham player-manager on 4 May 1961 to replace Billy Morris, who coincidentally replaced Barnes when he left the club in March 1965. The new man in charge had an instant galvanising effect on his charges and a successful season was to follow.

The campaign began with four wins from the opening five games and this consistent form was to carry on throughout a season that ended in promotion to Division Three. The Reds finished in third position and climbed the League ladder with champions Millwall, second-placed Colchester United and fourth-placed Carlisle United.

The highlight of the season though was undoubtedly the record 10-1 victory over Hartlepools United – a victory that actually came at the end of a lean spell for the team. Indeed, it was Wrexham’s first home win of 1962 as they hadn’t won at home since defeating Aldershot on November 18, 1961. Mind you, five successive home draws meant they hadn’t lost either.

Ironically, clinical Wrexham equalled the record Fourth Division win – by Hartlepools against Barrow in 1958/59 – and completed a remarkable “double” over the visitors of 14 goals to two during 1961/62.

The afternoon was sparked into life by 19-year-old centre forward Wyn Davies who impressed watching scouts from Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers by notching a hat-trick after only 24 minutes. It all began after six minutes when Hartlepools goalkeeper, Joe Wilkinson, mis-hit a goal kick straight to Davies who didn’t need asking twice to open the scoring.

Davies doubled his tally after ten minutes when he received a pass from Ken Barnes and smashed an angled drive into the net from ten yards. On 24 minutes his treble was complete when he shot home a deflected cross from Ron Barnes. Unfortunately, this was to be Davies’ last game for the club as he was snapped up by Bolton Wanderers, who paid £20,000 plus Ernie Phythian for his services.

We were not just a one man team though, as proved on 28 minutes with a little help from the hapless Hartlepools defence. United left back Ken Jones had a rush of blood to the head and delivered a kamikaze back pass to Wilkinson. The man between the sticks had to dive at full stretch to get a hand to the ball, but he could not stop it and Ron Barnes was on hand to make it four.

Hartlepools did show some spirit and actually pulled a goal back before the break when Harry Godbold squared the ball for Bobby Folland to strike despite the best efforts of Aly McGowan to clear the danger. However, this did not signal a change in the dominant tide as Wrexham made it 5-1 at half-time after a through ball from Tecwyn Jones allowed Ron Barnes to strike home with his left foot.

There was more of the same in the second period. On 55 minutes, Ken Barnes sent a free-kick into the goalmouth for Roy Ambler to head home. To add to the fairytale atmosphere, snow was now falling heavily as Wrexham composed a brilliant move that ended with Ron Barnes getting on the end of a pass from Tecwyn Jones, exposing the space available and shooting a seventh to complete his treble.

On 64 minutes, Ambler finished off good work from Ron Barnes who seemed to be allowed the freedom of the Racecourse, and 69 minutes had gone when Stan Bennion scored a spectacular over-head kick.

The supporters chant of “we want ten” were soon silenced by Ambler who scored the most memorable goal of all. Running down the left he suddenly unleashed a vicious left foot shot from 30 yards that left Wilkinson helpless as it thudded into the roof of the net. This completed a trio of hat-tricks on a remarkable afternoon.