Andy Marriott

Memory Match – 02-05-98

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.

02-05-98

Southend United v Wrexham

League Division Two

Roots Hall

Result: 1-3

Southend United: Royce, Hails, Dublin, Roget (Harris), Coleman, Coulbault, Maher, Jones (Nielsen), Boere, Whyte, Clarke (Aldridge)

Goalscorer: Boere (12)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Hardy, Brammer (Owen), Humes, Carey, Chalk (Wainwright), Wilson, Spink, Roberts (Connolly), Ward.

Goalscorers: Ward (43, 86), Connolly (72)

Attendance: 4,247

The season hadn’t started well and only really came to life in February when improved displays earned Brian Flynn a Manager of the Month Award. After beating Millwall at the Racecourse in mid March, we entered the play off picture for the first time that season.

After two eighth placed finishes at the end of the previous two seasons, Wrexham were hoping to clinch a play-off place this time around, especially when you consider that during March they were third in the table and five points ahead of their nearest rivals.

However, the jitters then set in and we went on a disastrous run of eight league games without a victory. As a result, we needed to beat Southend United on the final day of the season, while hoping Bristol Rovers and Gillingham dropped points if we were to clinch the final play-off spot.

The Reds had a fantastic travelling support as always and they roared their team on in high spirits at Roots Hall. Wrexham obviously had to throw caution to the wind, but things did not start well when Jeroen Beore headed the home side ahead after only 12 minutes. This was the wake up call that our boys needed and we buckled down to try to make sure that we didn’t suffer another near miss.

Goalkeeper Andy Marriott was in great form with Brian Carey and Tony Humes providing him with rock solid cover at the heart of the defence. Peter Ward was another important figure in our strong spine. An outstanding display by the midfielder saw him curl a free-kick with his left foot past a helpless Simon Royce in the Shrimpers’ goal. This was an important strike as it came just two minutes before the break.

If only our spine had been completed with a potent goalscorer? Without any disrespect to Dean Spink or Neil Roberts, they were unlikely to grab the goals needed to fire us to promotion.

However, after the break the Robins raised their game and took the lead through Karl Connolly on 72 minutes. At this point it looked as if Wrexham would finish in the play-off zone but our hearts were broken over at the Memorial Stadium – home to Bristol Rovers – when the home side scored the odd goal in three against Brentford.

Ward grabbed his second with 4 minutes to go, but it was all academic by then

Assistant manager Kevin Reeves said: “There are a lot of dejected lads in our dressing room. They won 3-1, but it’s like a morgue in there. At one time we heard Bristol Rovers were only drawing, but when the final results came in it was like a dagger through the heart.”

***

The headline in the Leader stated that “Cup win eases play off pain” after we beat Newtown 0-2 (4-0 on aggregate) to reach the final of the first ever FAW International Cup. The journalist who came up with this article writes that “the result went some way to soften the blow of failing to qualify for the Division 2 play offs”. This was total nonsense of course as I don’t remember any scenes of joy and jubilation at Latham Park. Everyone was still gutted at missing a golden opportunity for promotion.

Two goals in a three minute spell – scored by Dean Spink and Mark Wilson – saw off the challenge of the League of Wales runners up Newtown to leave Brian Flynn’s men just 90 minutes away from tin-pot Cup glory and a cheque for £100,000.

Wrexham did win the competition after beating Cardiff City (2-1) in the final with goals from Mark Wilson and Gareth Owen, but fans could still be heard muttering “if only”….

Memory Match – 10-08-95

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.

10-08-95

Wrexham v Petrolul Ploiesti

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Marriott, Brace, Hardy, Phillips, Hunter, Jones, Futcher, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Durkan

Petrolul Ploiesti: Preda, Chirita, Leahu, Balaceanu, Grigore, Rachita, Pirlog, Abaluta, Zafiris, Zmoleanu, Toader

Attendance: 4,308

 

The summer of 1995 was a particularly turbulent one at the Racecourse with plenty of transfer activity. The biggest shock was the departure of 47-goal striker Gary Bennett to Tranmere Rovers for £300,000.  There was no doubt that his predatory instincts would be missed after hitting 109 goals in 160 appearances, but manager Brian Flynn moved quickly to create a new-look outfit by signing Peter Ward from Stockport County for £60,000, former favourite Kevin Russell rejoined from Notts County for £60,000 and winger Craig Skinner was captured in a £50,000 deal from Plymouth Argyle.

After lifting the Welsh Cup at Cardiff Arms Park, this was to be Wrexham’s last-ever campaign in Europe due to the fact that the club plied its trade in the English Football League. The good folk at UEFA had suddenly decided that teams that did not play in the national league of the country of origin would no longer be able to compete for the relevant national cup – in our case the Welsh Cup.

Flynn said: “The atmosphere on European nights is always something special. This is such a shame that the politics of football looks like denying us the chance of savouring it again in the future.”

Wrexham were drawn against the little known Romanian side Petrolul Ploiesti who had qualified by beating Rapid Bucharest 5-3 on penalties in the Romanian Cup final, after a 1-1 draw. This would a tough test for the Reds as they were hampered by more red tape and bureaucracy. UEFA’s ‘four foreign players’ ruling, meant we had to play without Peter Ward, Kevin Russell, Tony Humes, Craig Skinner and Bryan Hughes.

As a matter of note, Mel Pejic made his debut as the club’s physio for this game.

Petrolul may have been technically superior and kept possession of the ball for long periods, but Wrexham matched them in endeavour and flashes of excellent football. In deed, Wrexham could easily have gone ahead after only three minutes when a Karl Connolly corner found young Stephen Futcher unmarked at the far post, but his header went just wide of the mark.

Later Waynne Phillips went close and late in the first half both Connolly and Kieron Durkan put chances just wide.

Andy Marriott was in great form making several crucial saves to keep the stalemate going into the second leg in Romania.  All we needed was an early goal over there…

***

The second leg was played in 90-degree heat at the Ilie Oana Stadium, but the Robins put this out of their minds and fought tooth and nail. However, the Welsh side’s resilience was finally broken on the hour when Zmoleanu swung over a corner kick and Mihai Pirlog powerfully headed home.

Flynn said of his team: “They were a credit to club and country, but above all they did themselves proud. It was always going to be hard against a side like Ploiesti with the restrictions that we had – I thought we were magnificent.”

Petrolul were eliminated in the next round by Rapid Vienna.

***

In 2013/14, Ploiesti were eliminated in the Europa League play-off round by Swansea City – 3-6 on aggregate.

***

In February 2015, Petrolul Ploiesti became insolvent. In the summer of 2016 the club was dissolved, but fans and club legends re-founded and enrolled it in Liga IV – the fourth level of the Romanian football league system.