Bath City

Memory Match – 02-09-39

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.

02-09-39

Halifax Town v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section) (abandoned)

The Shay

Result: 1-1

Halifax Town: Briggs, Allsop, Jackson, Green, Craig, Ruecroft, Widdowfield, Bruce, Baines, Barkas, Wood

Goalscorer: Baines

Wrexham: Bryan, Tunney, Screen, Savage, Matthias, Briggs, Williams, Snow, Woodman, Bradbury, Brown

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 6,417

When the 1939/40 season kicked off, the international situation meant that it was unlikely to proceed far. Indeed, after only three matches, war was declared on 3 September 1939 and with immediate effect the assembly of crowds was banned until further notice.

The last game Wrexham played before the suspension of football was at the Shay – home of Halifax Town. The match featured a fantastic display from the visiting goalkeeper Billy Bryan who was in inspired form for the Reds.

Halifax controlled proceedings and spent most of the game on the offensive. However, Wrexham took an early lead through former Nottingham Forest winger, Roy Brown who scored with a fast, rising shot. The Shaymen where shocked by this and retaliated swiftly with Bryan being called upon to make some spectacular saves from Reg Baines.

It was apparent that Halifax’s repeated attacks would bring reward, and it came as no surprise when Baines equalised with a fierce drive that gave Bryan no chance. Before the break the Wrexham custodian had to be on his toes to stop a shot from Tommy Barkas. Writing in the Leader, “Candidus” said that Bryan was “clapped when he left the field at half time by the sporting home crowd, and he well deserved their plaudits.”

 After the interval, Halifax maintained their pressure but could not penetrate the red wall of defenders. In the final stages it looked likely that Wrexham were to lose their hard-earned point when Baines broke through with only Bryan to beat. This was a duel between the two star performers of the game. Thankfully, it was Bryan who came out on top when he confidently ran out of his goal and smothered the centre forward’s shot.

***

Underneath the match report in the North Wales Guardian was the headline: “Welsh FA and Suspension of Football”. Ted Robbins, secretary of the FAW issued the following statement: “It will have been noticed that football has been suspended. This decision is doubtless necessary, but I feel that in a very short time the ban will be raised in certain areas so as to afford some recreation for the people, and to take their minds temporarily off sterner things.”

Robbins was correct in his forecast. The Government deemed football should continue in some format because it was good for morale. Wrexham’s next match was a friendly against Chester at the Cae Ras. They played another friendly against Chester and two against Tranmere Rovers before football was reorganised into regions. Wrexham played in the Regional League (West Division), which included the two Manchester giants as well as Liverpool and Everton.

During the war, registration regulations were relaxed to allow players who would serve in the forces to turn out for a club near to where they were stationed. These players were allowed to appear as guests and each club could field as many guests as they wanted. Indeed, without the guest player system, war time football would have collapsed.

During this period, Wrexham had their fair share of guest players. Famous names to appear for Wrexham included England internationals Stanley Matthews, Stan Cullis, John Hancocks and Ronnie Dix. Welsh internationals included Tommy G Jones, Tommy Griffiths, Ehud Rogers, Tommy Bamford and Don Dearson.

The Town’s best season during this time of conflict was in 1943/44 when they finished top of the North Regional Championship and had the same record as Bath City, who played in the Southern Regional competition. Wrexham offered to play Bath over two legs to decide the outright winner, but Bath bottled it and refused the offer because of the travelling involved. Popular opinion of the time regarded Wrexham as the outright winners because of the strength of the opponents they had overcome compared to Bath.

Memory Match – 29-03-15

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.

29-03-15

North Ferriby United v Wrexham

FA Trophy Final

Wembley

Result: 3-3 (North Ferriby United win 5-4 on pens)

North Ferriby United: Nicklin, Toliss, Wilde, King, Wilson, Hone, Clarke, Fry, Denton, Bolder, St Juste

Goalscorers: King (76 pen), Kendall (86, 101)

Wrexham: Coughlin, Tomassen, Smith, Hudson, Ashton, Harris, Keates, Clarke, Morris, Moult, Jennings Goalscorers: Moult (11, 118), Harris (59)

Attendance: 14,585

 

Do I really have to write this? Surely, it’s best forgotten, but sometimes if we revisit nightmares we can learn lessons to prevent making the same mistakes again.

On their road to Wembley, Wrexham have beaten Southport, Stockport County, Gateshead, FC Halifax Town and Torquay United 5-1 over two legs in the semi-final. Meanwhile, our opponents, North Ferriby United of the Vanarama North, had beaten Mickleover Sports, Boston United, Hyde, Farnborough, Ebbsfleet United and Bath City (on penalties) in the semi-final, after drawing 3-3 with the Romans over two legs.

Surely Wrexham would have no trouble picking up their second FA Trophy title in two years against a team of part-timers from a Yorkshire village?

It all started so well. On the 11th minute, Louis Moult managed to put Kevin Wilkin’s men ahead when he tapped the ball in from inside the six-yard box. Joe Clarke and Connor Jennings had worked the ball well on the left wing with the latter finding Moult in the box to give the Dragons an early lead.

Billy Heath’s North Ferriby side squandered their best chance of the half on 32 minutes and Andy Coughlin was alert to save well from winger Danny Clarke.

Wrexham did make it 2-0 on 59 minutes through Jay Harris. The midfielder had just returned to the pitch after receiving treatment and he raced through from the right side to slot past Adam Nicklin at the near post.

Seemingly in control, Kevin Wilkin then made the biggest mistake of his managerial career when he substituted Dean Keates on 70 minutes. Our experienced captain had been controlling the midfield and organising his troops as usual, so to take him off when he wasn’t even injured seemed bizarre.

The Villagers were handed a lifeline on the 76th minute when Clarke was fouled in the box by Coughlin. Captain Liam King stepped up and smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-1. Things were beginning to unravel.

Seven minutes after replace Russell Fry, substitute Ryan Kendall grabbed the equaliser when he was in the right place at the right time to convert Jason St Juste’s cross and force extra time.

Just after the 100-minute mark, North Ferriby took the lead for the first time when Kendall doubled his tally. St Juste’s deflected cross found the head of Kendall who nodded past a helpless Coughlin. What was going on?

Wrexham piled the pressure in the final 15 minutes and were rewarded for their efforts when Moult smashed in the equaliser with minutes left on the clock.

The shootout went to sudden death and Steve Tomassen was the unlucky player to miss the deciding spot kick to confirm North Ferriby as 2015 FA Trophy winners.

Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin said: “I’m gutted. We had a great opportunity to put ourselves in the driving seat and to give the game away like we have, I feel we’ve left people down today.

“There were no issues, but then we started dropping off and getting deep again. We didn’t defend crosses, we didn’t get tight to people and gave them time and space. But credit to North Ferriby, they stuck to their work.

“I’m here to do a job. I’ve worked hard at it, had a couple of great cup runs but the league form hasn’t been exactly where we need it to be. There’s been a lot of changes, and we need to keep pushing that on for Wrexham.”

Wilkin was relieved of his duties the following day, but what is particularly depressing is that worse was to follow…