Alf Jones

Memory Match – 11-01-30

hroughout 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.

11-01-30

Wrexham v West Bromwich Albion

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Finnigan, Jones, Lumberg, Dickie, Ross, Graham, Longmuir, Woodhouse, Mays, Bamford, Bell

Goalscorer: Mays

West Bromwich Albion: Ashmore, Finch, Shaw, Richardson, Evans, Darnell, Glidden, Carter, Cookson, Cresswell, Wood

Attendance: 16,600

Since the departure of our first manager Charlie Hewitt at the end of the 1925/26 season, our team had been selected by a committee. This was the case right up to October 1929, when Jack Baynes took over the reins.

The season had started badly, with only two wins from our opening ten games. This had left the team languishing in 15th position after ending the previous season in third position – our highest position since joining the Football League.

Baynes was chosen as our new manager from over 80 applicants, and the remainder of the season proved to be a struggle. Players such as George Bell and William Dickie were brought in, but it proved impossible to improve things after such a dismal start. We eventually limped home in a disappointing 17th place.

There were some bright spots in this campaign though, such as our 8-0 drubbing of Rochdale at the Racecourse which was our biggest-ever victory in the League at the time. Tommy Bamford scored four of the goals, with the others being netted by John Ascroft (2), Archie Longmuir and Roland Woodhouse.

We also continued our fine form in the FA Cup and progressed to the third round, after beating South Shields (2-4) at Horsley Hill and non-league Manchester Central (0-1) at Maine Road.

Our prize was a third round encounter with Second Division outfit West Bromwich Albion at the Racecourse. The away side had prepared for the encounter with a week in Rhyl, but after travelling to Wrexham by coach, they arrived to find the Racecourse covered with a thin layer of snow. Encouraged by the wintery conditions, the Town were also boosted by the recovery from injury of Alf Jones.

Leader journalist ‘XYZ‘, was glowing in his praise of the home team: “Wrexham’s victory was richly deserved. Albion forwards found the Wrexham halves formidable and the backs resourceful”. Apparently, “early Albion raiders were beaten off, and, at the end of half an hour, [Tommy] Bamford took advantage of a mistake by [Bob] Finch to race forward, and then to outwit his pursuer by passing back for [Billy] Mays to score the only goal of the match.”

In the second half, Albion made desperate attempts to get back into the game, but could not find a way past our stubborn defence, with their forward- thinking determination leaving them short at the back. Indeed, Wrexham had the opportunity to increase their lead on a number of occasions n the second period, before being handicapped by a series of unfortunate incidents. Jones picked up an injury and had to move to outside-right, while the attack-minded Longmuir spent a period as right full-back.

To make things worse, this was followed by an incident that left both Jimmy Cookson of the Baggies and Longmuir, having to leave the field. Cookson soon returned, but Longmuir had to be carried off with a torn muscle. This left Wrexham with only nine fit players on the pitch, but still the Albion forwards could not take advantage. We had won our last three games before this match, so confidence was high, and we were in determined mood. We managed to hang on for the win, and received a “large cheer” from the spectators present.

In the fourth round, the mighty Blues were drawn to play another Second Division side, Bradford City. After a goalless draw at the Cae Ras in front of 22,715 – the largest-ever crowd at the ground up to that point – they were knocked out of the Cup 2-1 at Valley Parade.

***

It was also an unsatisfactory season in the Welsh Cup. We beat Connah’s Quay (2-0) and New Brighton (4-0), before being knocked out at the semi-final stage by Cardiff City (0-2).

Memory Match – 14-01-33

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.

14-01-33

Wrexham v Southport

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Adams, Jones, Brown, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Hughes, Frewin, Bamford, Lewis, Waller

Goalscorers: Lewis (2), Bamford, Frewin, Bulling, Waller

Southport: Middleton, Robinson, Birkett, Taylor, Wyness, Lydon, Sellars, Bell, Appleby, Williams, Turner

Attendance: 5,915

According to the match report in the North Wales Guardian, Wrexham did not need to over-exert themselves in this contest, as Southport never really showed the form that was expected of them.  The visitors were accused of being “sadly disjointed” and the reporter wonders aloud what had caused this slump in a team that threatened at the top of the league earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, the Blues were fresh from hammering Hartlepools United 8-1 at the Cae Ras and were obviously out to prove this was not a mere flash in the pan. Apparently, they tore Southport apart by “playing spirited football and bewildering them with dashing attacks and swift defensive measures.”

Wrexham were in electric form and unleashed wave after wave of attack on goalkeeper Matt Middleton. During 1931/32, the Southport custodian frustrated our forwards with a fine display in a 2-0 defeat at Haig Avenue in Ernest Blackburn’s first match in charge, but he was unsupported on this occasion and powerless against the awesome force of Tommy Bamford and company.

Wrexham had the better of the opening exchanges and it quickly became clear that this would be an afternoon of one-way traffic with Southport having to employ the offside trap to stave off danger.  However, it did not take long for Tommy Lewis to weave his way through static defenders to score the opener on 23 minutes.  A minute later Bamford netted with a neat flick from Harry Waller’s centre and a whirlwind period was complete when George Frewin notched a third with his head from a Jack Hughes cross.

It was now time for toothless Southport to have a go. They pressed forward only to find Alf Jones and Jack Brown were equal to all calls made upon them.  At least the Sandgrounders were trying to make a game of it, even though Hughes hit the woodwork with an excellent drive before Lewis completed an emphatic opening period by heading the fourth.

Southport rarely crossed the half-way line in the second half and the Blues extended their lead through Jim Bulling – who converted a Hughes corner after Ted Robinson had cleared off the line – and a simple tap-in from Waller.

***

Writing in a Supporters’ Club News column, “J.H.W” notes that the first three games in 1933 had yielded six points, with 16 goals for and only two against. Our latter day statistician also noted that, at the time, we had scored more goals at home than any other team in the English Leagues, and only Arsenal had a greater aggregate of goals, home and away, than Wrexham.

***

The 1932/33 season was to be Wrexham’s best-ever in the Third Division North when they finished runners-up to Hull City, only two points adrift of the Humberside club. So close, yet so far…

During the season, Wrexham’s home record was remarkable: they won 18 matches, drew two and lost only one, to Chester. The home wins consisted of some high-scoring victories. The 106 League goals scored that season is still a record.

***

Alas, more frustration and heartache laid in store in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat non-League Spennymoor United at home (3-0) before losing a second round replay at the Racecourse to Brighton & Hove Albion (2-3).

The Blues reached the Welsh Cup final yet again after beating Oswestry (4-1 after replay), Bangor (2-1) and Southport (3-1 after replay). In the final they met their old rivals Chester at Sealand Road in front of a 15,000 crowd who were to see the Cestrians win 2-0, thereby lifting the Welsh Cup for the second time in their laughably sparse history.

Memory Match – 26-04-24

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.

26-04-24

Durham City v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Holiday Park

Result: 4-3

Durham City: Hugall, Robson, Gallagher, Woodhouse, Hopkins, Robson, Best, Stokoe, Elliott, Bertram, Barker

Goalscorers: Bertram (3), Elliott

Wrexham: Godding, Jones, Edwards, Regan, Matthews, Savage, Bird, Cotton, Jackson, Toms, Williams

Goalscorers: Jackson, Toms, Matthews (pen)

Attendance: 3,000

 

Right-back Alf Jones made the first of his 503 League appearances in the season opener – a convincing 4-0 home win against Ashington. After winning our first three matches and being held by Walsall, we found ourselves sitting pretty at the top of the table. However, a run of only one victory in eleven matches soon killed off any title-chasing ambitions we may have harboured and a season of sporadic form ensued.

After beating Barrow at the end of November, our next League victory didn’t come until mid-March when Lincoln City lost 2-1 at the Racecourse. During this barren spell we fell as low as 17th in the newly expanded 202-team League and as the season drew to a close we were languishing in 15th position.

The season concluded with a double-header against Durham City. Before meeting at the Racecourse on the final day of the season, the two teams clashed at Holiday Park for the first time. Durham had previously entertained Wrexham at their former home of Kepier Haughs.

To write a match report of this game is quite a task when my only source of reference is a piece of journalism that was written at a time when newspapers used the English language in a rather different way to what we are used to today. For example, when learning about an early Durham attack the reader has to paint their own picture out of the following clunky language: “The City were immediately on the offensive and a handling offense by [George] Savage just outside the penalty area brought danger to the Welsh citadel, but the ball was got away.”

Anyway, as far as I can decipher the first goal was scored by Durham after half an hour when Billy Bertram received a pass from Bobby Best and proceeded to beat George Godding with ease.  With half-time fast approaching Jackson was in the right place at the right time to score an opportunist effort from close range.  Unfortunately, there was still time before the interval for Bertram to score his second and put Durham back in the driving seat.

It seems that the match was finely balanced with both teams playing exciting and attacking football. This resulted in a flurry of second half goals that began when Tom Elliott connected with a Billy Barker cross to increase Durham’s advantage.  Wrexham displayed fighting qualities though and pulled one back immediately through Bill Toms.  We were not going down without a fight.

However, Durham’s fourth goal and Bertram’s hat-trick arrived just a couple of minutes later, but still we fought on.  Indeed, we were actually awarded a penalty late-on that Billy Matthews converted past the despairing dive of Jimmy Hugall.  We were even close to snatching a deserved equaliser, but man-of-the-match Toms just missed the mark with a cross-shot that flashed across the face of the goal.

We were unfortunate to lose by the odd goal in seven.

***

Just seven days later the teams played out a 0-0 draw at the Racecourse to conclude a disappointing term. Wrexham finished in 16th spot while Durham finished just one point and one place above us.

***

Wrexham lifted the Welsh Cup once again after beating Merthyr Tydfil 1-0 at the replay at the Racecourse. Billy Cotton scored the winning goal.  They drew the first match 2-2 at Pontypridd.

They didn’t fare as well in the FA Cup. Despite beating Port Vale 5-1 at home they lost their second round clash at Accrington Stanley by the only goal of the game.

Memory Match – 14-04-34

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.

14-04-34

Wrexham v New Brighton

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-4

Wrexham: Foster, Jones, Hamilton, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Weale, Frewin, Bamford, Snow, Smallwood

Goalscorers: Bamford (2), Snow (2), Smallwood

New Brighton: Bradshaw, Bower, Carr, Smedley, Major, McPherson, Liggins, Allen, Davis, Butler, Pegg

Goalscorers: Allen (2), Davis, Pegg

Attendance: 2,936

 

The 1933/34 season was one to remember as free scoring Wrexham scored over 100 League goals for the second season in succession. It should be no surprise that Tommy Bamford topped the goal scoring charts with 44 League goals, which is still a club record.  Bamford also set another club record when he scored five goals in the 8-1 victory against Carlisle United at the Racecourse.

 

In the first round of the Third Division North Cup, Wrexham faced New Brighton and put them to the sword with an outstanding 11-1 win that included a five-goal haul for Tommy Bamford and a hat-trick for William Bryant.  In the next round Wrexham beat Chester and Crewe before losing in the semi final 3-1 at Darlington.

 

The demolition of New Brighton came on January 3. Shortly before this we had also beaten our no0w defunct rivals 1-0 at Sandheys Park with Bamford getting the only goal.  The Rakers had their chance for revenge in an end of season game that counted for little apart from jostling for inconsequential final league positions.  Manager Ernest Blackburn led his charges to a comfortable sixth position.

 

I chose to cover this game for the Memory Match feature as I thought a game with nine goals would be full of thrills and spills, therefore making for entertaining reading. However, according to ‘Rida’ in the Leader this was a dull and featureless derby encounter with the only redeeming feature being the quality of the forward play in the closing stages of the match.  Indeed, ‘Rida’ doesn’t supply a match report in the way we are accustomed, but simply adds his general impressions of the afternoon’s offerings.

 

Apparently, “neither side showed more than average ability in this game” and Wrexham, who were on top in the first period, faded away in the second half. This nearly proved disastrous as New Brighton were 3 goals behind at one stage and surprised many with the way they fought back and almost forced the draw.

 

Alf Jones and Jimmy Hamilton were both praised for being “good backs” while the latter’s “effective covering made up for the defensive failures of the halves”. Special mentions are also given to midfielder Jim Bulling (“the only one to play steadily throughout”), Bamford (“an excellent leader”) and Bobby Weale (“Fast and tricky, he centred well and at every opportunity”).

 

***

This was a special time for club captain Alf Jones as he was celebrating the completion of 11 seasons with the club between 1923 and 1934. ‘Our Alf’ displayed remarkable consistency and his appearance record of 503 League games for Wrexham has only ever been surpassed by Arfon Griffiths. A benefit match was arranged against his hometown club of Chester.  The match was won 2-3 by our cross border rivals. This was Jones’ second benefit match with the first coming against Everton in October 1928.

 

Wrexham fans were fortunate that Alf Jones was limited by his stature. “What a bonnie back Alf Jones is. I only wish he was two inches taller,” said former Chester manager Alex Raisbeck. If Jones was just a touch taller then he would have undoubtedly been a target for clubs in Division One and missed the opportunity to win three Welsh Cup winners medals and two runners-up medals. Swings and roundabouts…