Arfon Griffiths

Memory Match -15-10-63

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. 

15-10-63

Brentford v Wrexham

League Division Three

Griffin Park

Result: 9-0

Brentford: Cakebread, Coote, Jones, Slater, Scott, Higginson, Summers, Brooks, McAdams, Ward, Hales

Goalscorers: McAdams (3, 18), Ward (8, 89), Fox (38 og), Hales (44), Brooks (54, 72), Summers (59)

Wrexham: Fleet, Jones, Holland, Morrall, Fox, Barnes, Griffiths, Myerscough, Phythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 10,569

 

Just 17 months after racking up our record League victory against Hartlepools United, it was time to rewrite history again at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night, albeit for less auspicious reasons. Wrexham began the game with the worst defensive record in the Third Division and 90 minutes later their “goals against” column had soared to 49 in just 14 matches.

Just six days previously at the Racecourse, Brentford had hit back from being 2-0 down to win 4-2. In London, Wrexham found themselves 2-0 down after only six minutes, but there was no sign of a fight back from a team that was short on confidence.

According to a special correspondent, writing in the Leader, “Not one Wrexham defender remotely approached a satisfactory performance. The tackling was weak, the positional play was poor and the marking was almost non existent. In short it was a pathetic display”.

I found it bizarre that the journalist that put together this match report also ponders whether a seven-hour coach trip is ideal preparation for a Football League fixture? I suppose roads were not as developed as they are now, but seven hours still seems a long time to reach the Capital.

The journey was a nightmare for goalkeeper Steve Fleet in particular, who suffered from travel sickness. The coach had to stop on two separate occasions for him to presumably throw up. This what not a good omen, but even with a shot stopper at peak fitness the scoreline would have been just as embarrassing due to a lack of cover and protection from absent defenders.

Wrexham’s forwards did not deserve to have such a poor defence behind them. Hard working Arfon Griffiths never stopped trying to take off some of the pressure and, with Ernie Phythian and Mike Metcalf, produced some neat approach play. However, mid-table Brentford’s defence, which was itself pierced five times at home by Bristol Rovers just three days previously, was now rock solid.

This was a night when the ball never stopped running for the Bees and they certainly made the most of their good fortune with every forward player scoring for them. They also profited from an own goal by Wrexham centre half Alan Fox.

Welsh international Dai Ward, signed overnight by Brentford for £8,000 from Watford, was the biggest individual threat to the Robins. He scored two of the goals and played a part in three others.

Perhaps it might have been a happier story if, with the score at 2-0, Phythian had scored instead of seeing his point-blank shot saved by Gerry Cakebread when all the odds were on a goal.

The special correspondent did not have the heart to go into detail about each Brentford goal. Instead, he simply noted the time of each goal in one harrowing paragraph.

Player-manager Ken Barnes said: “I cannot begin to explain away nine goals, but we were far too casual in defence. Something has got to be done about it.”

Nothing was done about it. This embarrassment was actually our fifth straight League defeat. This form was to continue for the next four League games as Wrexham ended up losing nine in a row. Prior to this they actually smashed fellow strugglers Barnsley 7-2 in a freak result. Things did not get better after Christmas and Wrexham were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 23rd position.

***

This wasn’t the first time we had conceded nine goals in a competitive fixture. Wolverhampton Wanderers knocked us out of the FA Cup on January 1931. We lost the third round clash 9-1.

 

Memory Match – 21-12-74

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.

21-12-74

Wrexham v Watford

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Lloyd, Jones, Fogg, Evans, May, Whittle, Tinnion, Sutton, Davies, Smallman, Griffiths

Goalscorers: Smallman 25, 44, Whittle 26, 31, Davies 45

Watford:  Rankin, Craker, Williams, Joslyn, Keen, Goodeve, Bond, Jenkins, Mayes, Scullion (Bristow), Downes

Goalscorer: Joslyn 55

Attendance: 4,128

 

When writing about a John Neal side of the Seventies there are certain words that usually feature, such as “giantkillers” and “Europe”. However, neither of these words could be used in connection with 1974-75, which failed to explode into the expected promotion charge. Instead, during a season of transition we had to settle for a few sparks of hope in an ultimately disappointing campaign.

After losing to Stourbridge in the previous season’s Welsh Cup semi-final, there were no memorable European encounters while Fourth Division sides Crewe Alexandra (1-2) and Mansfield Town (3-1) knocked us out of the League and FA Cups respectively – both at the first round stage.

Prior to this featured game against mid-table rivals Watford, the Leader spoke about how victory was vital for 12th placed Wrexham to keep in touch with the promotion-chasing pack. Manager Neal was in an optimistic frame of mind: “What we need is a good run. We have dropped a few silly points which would have put us among the front runners, but we have been working hard on trying to sort out one or two little problems we have had.”

Goals were what we needed and the players responded to their pep talk by putting on their shooting boots. Wrexham scored five goals in a remarkable first half. The avalanche started in the 25th minute when Dave Smallman sent a glancing header past Watford goalkeeper Andy Rankin after Arfon Griffiths floated a free kick into the box.

Less than a minute later, Wrexham doubled their lead. Griffiths sent Smallman away down the left and his cross was knocked back across the box by Brian Tinnion for Graham Whittle to turn on a sixpence and shoot low into the corner of the goal.

Watford were all over the place. Whittle grabbed the third after good work from Smallman and Geoff Davies allowed him to score from 12 yards. The rampant Reds were in awesome form and Smallman almost notched another soon after, but he headed a Tinnion cross onto the bar. Not to be denied, Smallman nodded home the fourth after a Griffiths header from a Tinnion corner had bounced off the bar.

On the stroke of half-time, Wrexham completed their five-star show when Smallman ran free of the beleaguered Watford defence and crossed for Davies to slot home.

The Robins eased up in the second half and allowed the Hornets to score a consolation goal after 55 minutes when Roger Joslyn followed up after a shot by Bobby Downes had been blocked.

A jubilant John Neal said: “We hadn’t been putting away a big enough percentage of our chances in previous matches, but on Saturday we really tucked them in.”

***

After such a resounding victory our topsy-turvy season took a turn for the worse as we lost five and drew one of the next six games. In March, we beat Aldershot 4-0 thanks to a Dave Smallman hat-trick, but shortly after this treble the club – £50,000 in the red – accepted a club record fee of £75,000 from Everton manager Billy Bingham for the young marksman.

A distraught Neal said: “Wrexham have won, Everton have won, and the boy was won. I’m the loser because I hated to see him go.”

The campaign concluded with a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park against champions Blackburn Rovers that left us floating in 13th position.

Still, we managed to finish a largely forgettable season on a high after beating Cardiff City 5-2 over two legs to lift the Welsh Cup and earn another crack at European opposition.

Memory Match – 08-01-66

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.

08-01-66

Wrexham v Barnsley

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-3

Wrexham: Beighton, Wall, Lucas, Smith, Turner, Powell, Lloyd, Griffiths, Webber, McMillan, Campbell

Goalscorers: Webber (3, 1 pen), McMillan (3)

Barnsley: Hill, Parker, Brookes, Jackson, Swallow, Addy, Hayes, Bettany, Kerr, Ferguson, Hewitt

Goalscorers: Kerr, Hewitt, Hayes

Attendance: 4,149

Jack Rowley, former Manchester United and England centre-forward and ex-manager of Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, became Wrexham’s ninth post-war manager and the third in less than 12 months. He was appointed in January 1966 after Billy Morris had been sacked in October 1965.  Cliff Lloyd had acted as caretaker manager in the interim period.

Speaking to Ron Chaloner in the Leader, Rowley said: “I am a strong one for discipline.  If the players are told to start training at 10am I want them there then – not at five minutes past.”

Rowley’s first game in charge against Barnsley looked tough on paper as the Yorkshire side were in the top ten while the Reds only had two clubs below them in the league. Subsequently, Rowley demanded “nothing less than 100% effort” and he wasn’t to be disappointed.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion over the afternoon’s goalscorers.   Our local newspaper claims that Webber scored four goals and McMillan two, our official history books suggest  that Webber only got a hat-trick,  McMillan scored twice and we profited from an own goal while the English Football Data Archive suggest that Webber and McMillan both scored hat-tricks.  It’s confusing.  What I do know for sure is that we won the game convincingly.

Somehow, I had to solve such a glaring inconsistency, so I spoke to none other than Sammy McMillan himself. He assures me that he definitely scored a hat-trick that afternoon and tells how debutant John Lloyd – son of former caretaker Cliff Lloyd – talks about this match as a popular after dinner speaker, recounting tales of a double hat-trick in his first of only two games for Wrexham.

According to the information at my disposal from the Leader, it seems that things didn’t start well as a rare lapse by David Powell enabled Dick Kerr to strike a beauty from 20 yards after six minutes to put the visitors ahead.  However, just five minutes later Arfon Griffiths was tripped from behind in the penalty box and Webber converted the spot kick.

On 34 minutes, Barnsley re-took the lead when Dick Hewitt despatched a hard cross-shot from the left.  This was the beginning of a breathless period of play that saw Wrexham equalise on 39 minutes through McMillan.

Things got even better for the resurgent Reds in the 42nd minute when Webber ran nearly half the length of the pitch and blasted Wrexham 3-2 in front from 20 yards.  Our jubilant fans were still celebrating this spectacular goal when Webber proceeded to beat two men and slammed in the fourth goal, completing his hat-trick.

Seven minutes into the second half the home side increased their lead, though controversy surrounds this goal in particular. The Official Handbook credits this goal to Barnsley defender Eric Brookes, but the Leader states that his teammate Brian Jackson was responsible.  I believe that this is the goal that should be credited to McMillan as he and John Lloyd are both adamant that no own-goals were scored that afternoon in line with the statistics provided by the English Football Data Archive.

Such was Wrexham’s superiority at this point that Ron Chaloner believed Jack Rowley must have possessed a magic wand. However, Barnsley were by no means finished and their lively forwards continued to test Graham Beighton who was finally beaten in the 68th minute through a fine shot from Joe Hayes.

The final thrill of an action packed afternoon saw McMillan score his third with just two minutes remaining to leave the fans chanting “We want seven”.

***

Jack Rowley’s prediction that we would climb the league table before the end of term proved to be unfounded as we won only one game in the last thirteen of the season to finish rock bottom for the first time in our history. Fortunately, we were comfortably re-elected and lived to fight another day.

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…

Memory Match – 15-01-77

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.

15-01-77

Wrexham v Reading

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-1

Wrexham: Lloyd, Hill, Davis, Cegielski, Roberts, Thomas, Shinton, Sutton, Ashcroft, Whittle, Griffiths

Goalscorers: Ashcroft 23, Griffiths 33 (pen), Whittle 73

Reading: Death, Peters, Henderson, Bowman (Youlden), Bennett, Moreline, Murray, Hiron, Earles, Carnaby, Stuckey

Goalscorer: Murray 68

Attendance: 5,653

 

The Robins entered this game on a high. They were flying high in the League and three days previously they had knocked Sunderland out of the FA Cup at the second attempt – completing a memorable hat-trick of cup victories over First Division opponents that season.

Wrexham were without regular full backs Mickey Evans and Alan Dwyer. Evans was unwell and Dwyer had dislocated a shoulder during the replay against Sunderland, which seemed likely to keep him out of action for six weeks.  Despite this, the Reds were far from disrupted.

It was a day to remember for Wrexham’s formidable three-pronged strike force as they brought their combined season’s goal tally to an incredible 46. Billy Ashcroft’s header gave him 17 for the season, Graham Whittle’s shot took his tally to 13 and skilful Bobby Shinton was unlucky not to add to the 16 he had netted that term.

Whittle thought he had scored after 20 minutes, but his “goal” was disallowed by the linesman. However, two minutes later the deadlock was broken when Mel Sutton’s cross was met by the head of Ashcroft and his powerful header went in off the underside of the crossbar.  Steve Death in the Reading goal had no chance.

Shinton – who was mesmerising all afternoon – almost doubled the lead after displaying his sublime skills with the ball, but his shot was cleared off the goal line by Gary Peters with Death beaten.

On 33 minutes, visiting defender Paul Bennett was forced to impede the unplayable Ashcroft to prevent him from connecting with a Sutton cross. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Arfon Griffiths stepped-up to net his first goal of the season and double our lead.

Reading were chasing shadows in the first half. Their only chance of note was squandered by Pat Earles – a new £15,000 signing from Southampton – who tamely headed Ray Hiron’s centre across the face of goal.

After the break, Wrexham loss some of their momentum and Reading enjoyed a period in the ascendancy after John Roberts went close with a good header.

The warning signs were there when Brian Lloyd, a spectator for much of the game, was called upon to make a staggering full-length save from a rasping drive by Bruce Stuckey.

However, Lloyd was left helpless after 68 minutes when John Murray lashed home an unstoppable drive from 30 yards for his 13th goal of the season.

Any hopes that the Royals had of staging a comeback didn’t last for long as just five minutes later Whittle restored the two goal advantage from 12 yards after good work from Ashcroft and Griffiths.

Manager John Neal said: “I am overjoyed.  This has completed a wonderful week.  Now I am going to give the lads a couple of days off. They deserve a rest after their tremendous efforts, twice against Sunderland and again today in the energy-sapping mud.”

***

Unfortunately, following their FA Cup heroics over Sunderland, which was watched by over 16,000, the attendance dropped to a mere 5,633.  This was disappointing to say the least, but it could be explained by the atrocious weather conditions – including snow – that cast some doubt on whether the game would actually go ahead.

Memory match – 22-08-64

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.

22-08-64

Wrexham v Notts County

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

WREXHAM: Dunlop, Jones, McClelland, Barnes, Morrall, Johnson, Colbridge, Griffiths, Phythian, McMillan, Williams

Goalscorers: Barnes (2 pens), McMillan, Griffiths

NOTTS COUNTY: Smith, Edwards, Agnew, Sheridan, Gibson, Carver, Kavanagh, Astle, Bly, Hannah, Barber

Attendance: 7,911

 

Both clubs were at a low-ebb as they began season 1964/65.

Wrexham found themselves back in the Fourth Division under player-manager Ken Barnes following a disastrous 1963/64 campaign, which included a record 9-0 defeat at Brentford. Our form at the Racecourse was not much better, gate receipts plummeted by more than £11,000 on the previous term and no one was surprised that the season culminated in relegation to the basement. Furthermore, according to local journalists, the club were £24,000 in the red and dependant on handouts from a well-organised Supporters’ Association.

As a result, there had been little transfer activity during the summer with the exceptions of former Welsh international Graham Williams (Swansea Town), Joe McClelland (Hibernian) and Dennis Lambourne (Llanelly). Williams and McClelland both cost nothing while 18-year-old Lambourne was signed for a “nominal” fee after impressing in a Welsh Cup tie the previous season.

“I hope this season will bring better things and, with the normal breaks, I feel that we can be back in the Third Division at the end of it,” said Barnes at his annual meeting with shareholders.

“I certainly didn’t envisage what would happen last season, but that’s football.”

Notts County were the only club to finish below Wrexham in the third tier during the disastrous 1963/64 season and were in something of a tailspin. Crowds at Meadow Lane had dwindled to around the 3,000 mark, Forest had established themselves as the dominant team in Nottingham and the County chairman had been voted off the board. It seemed as if things couldn’t get much worse for the Magpies, but as the new season dawned, any attempt to restore pride were hindered by an injury list that included no fewer than seven players.

Arthur Dunlop was selected ahead of Steve Fleet in the Wrexham goal with the opening exchanges suggesting that he would be in for a much busier afternoon than his County counterpart, George Smith.

The visitors had every reason to be hopeful after a controlled opening period saw their right-winger Eddie Kavanagh beat Joe McClelland to set-up a glorious opportunity for Mick Barber. However, the attacker then contrived to hit his shot from 10 yards against the post when it looked easier to score. This was a lucky escape that shook the Robins from their slumber.

Suddenly, after 20 minutes, Wrexham turned the tables and began to dominate proceedings. Clive Colbridge shaved a post, Graham Williams mis-hit an effort with the goal at his mercy and Sammy McMillan went close after some effective interplay between Arfon Griffiths and Ernie Phythian.

County had lost their early composure and were hanging on for dear life as they struggled to cope with wave after wave of attack. Overworked defender Dave Agnew headed a McMillan lob off the goal line and Phythian smashed a 25 yard drive against the bar before Wrexham eventually took the lead through a scrappy effort from Arfon Griffiths.

If Wrexham were good in the first half then they were simply irresistible in the second. The County defence just could not cope. The forlorn figure of Smith made excellent saves from Eric Johnson, McMillan, McClelland (twice) and Barnes, but three times he was lucky when a header by McMillan and shots by Griffiths and Johnson struck the bar.

The panic stricken away side were under so much pressure that they ended up conceding two penalties on 59 and 72 minutes. The first followed a trip by Agnew on Colbridge while the second was awarded when Dick Edwards saved Peter Jones cross-shot with both hands. Ken Barnes converted both penalties in opposite corners of the net.

Two minutes from the end, Phythian’s fine pass sent McMillan racing away to score a brilliantly taken goal.

“I am quite pleased about our display. I’m not going to go in to ecstasies, but with a little luck we could’ve scored ten,” said Barnes.

Memory Match – 11-08-79

gue CupThroughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham Areil

FC 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.

11-08-79

Wrexham v Carlisle United

 League Cup Round One First Leg

Racecourse Ground

 Result: 1-1

WREXHAM: Davies, Hill, Dwyer, Davis, Jones, Giles, Sutton, Whittle, McNeil, Vinter, Cartwright (J Roberts)

Goalscorer: Vinter 65

 CARLISLE UNITED: Swinburne, Hoolickin, McCartney, MacDonald, Tait, Parker, Bannon, Bonnyman, Ludlam, Kemp, McAuley

 Goalscorer: Kemp 60

 Attendance: 5,878

 

The 1979/80 season kicked off with a League Cup clash against Third Division Carlisle United, which was seen as the ideal preparation for another tilt at life in the second tier.

During the close season, Bobby Shinton (£300,000 to Manchester City) and John Lyons (£50,000 to Millwall) both departed the Racecourse while Mick Vinter was picked up for £150,000 from Notts County by manager Arfon Griffiths.

Of equal significance was the club’s rejection of a £100,000 bid for Graham Whittle by Crystal Palace and his subsequent signing of a new two-year deal to stay in north Wales. After being plagued with cartilage problems during the previous season, Whittle’s commitment to the cause was as exciting as a new signing and he lined up alongside Vinter and Dixie McNeil.

If home fans were expecting a goal glut against lower division opponents then they were to be disappointed. Wrexham struggled to find their way though a well-organised Carlisle outfit who had one eye on the second leg. There was plenty of decent football on show but little excitement until the hour mark when David Kemp put the visitors ahead from 15 yards.

Just five minutes later the scores were level. Jones tackled goalscorer Kemp in his own half and sprayed an accurate pass to midfield maestro Mel Sutton who, in turn, set Whittle free down the right. What followed was a perfect cross for the in-rushing Vinter to score on his debut.

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Wrexham were unable to turn their neat approach work into a comfortable lead, leaving cynics moaning that they’d seen it all before and optimists focussed on the potential shown by a fluent passing side.

 

***

Arfon’s men seemed to be heading for an embarrassing cup exit in the second leg at Brunton Park three days later after falling behind to a Joey Jones own-goal on 25 minutes. It didn’t seem to be Wrexham’s day as they struggled to find any rhythm at all, Jones failed to reappear for the second half due to double vision and Niedzwiecki – deputising between the sticks for the injured Dai Davies – was called upon on several occasions to keep Wrexham’s Cup hopes alive.

Indeed, it took two stunning late goals from Whittle (81) and McNeil (87) to secure their place in the second round of the League Cup and set-up a double header against Southampton.

“We needed to beat Carlisle and the way we won pleased me and perked up everyone at the club,” said Griffiths.

“It’s pleasing too that the three front runners have each scored in our opening games and they are getting a good understanding.”