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.
I am particularly proud of this edition as I have set right something that has been wrongly taken for fact for many years. I am chuffed that my historical research has uncovered this information and has helped the excellent work of official club historian, Peter Jones.
Read on to find out who really scored the first hat-trick for Wrexham AFC in the Football League…
Wrexham v Chesterfield
League Division Three (Northern Section)
Wrexham: Godding, Ellis, Simpson, Matthias, Moorwood, Roberts, Burton, Cotton, Elvidge, Regan, Lloyd
Goalscorers: Cotton (3), Regan (3)
Chesterfield: Mitchell, Stirling, Saxby, Clarke, Broome, Paltridge, Smithurst, Fisher, Cooper, Connor, Marshall
Season 1921/22 was our first in the Football League and began with a 0-2 defeat against Hartlepools United at the Racecourse Ground. Our form had since been inconsistent – as you might expect from a team that was adapting to life in a new set-up – and we went into the encounter with Chesterfield in a solid, if unspectacular, mid-table position. Meanwhile, our opponents were licking their wounds at the bottom of the league after conceding 26 goals in their opening 10 games – including a 7-0 demolition at Darlington.
The Wrexham forward line had been changed for this match with Bert Goode and Reg Leck missing out. Billy Cotton came back to spearhead the attack, 21-year-old Ted Regan was moved to inside-right and Chris Elvidge was given a trial at inside-left.
The first half-hour of the game was goalless and George Godding in the Wrexham goal was by far the busiest goalkeeper as Chesterfield threatened. The Caergwrle-born shotstopper made a good save early on, but was injured in the process and had to spend some time on the sidelines. Defender Jack Ellis took over in goal and was called upon to punch clear a high dropping shot from Tommy Broome before Godding returned. At the other end of the pitch, the Wrexham attack – as originally constituted – misfired.
This new-look forward line was struggling and, according to the mysteriously named X, Y, Z in the Leader, the fact that they eventually clicked into gear was only due to the foresight of Bobby Simpson who directed Cotton and Regan to swap positions. This change certainly proved effective as the game was quickly turned on its head. Before half-time, Cotton headed home from Matt Burton’s well-placed corner and Regan added a second after good work from Elvidge.
On the hour mark, Regan added a third and Cotton was then on the end of a well-executed passage of play to head a fourth. The race was now on to see which player could score the first hat-trick for Wrexham in the Football League.
Before Wrexham could continue the goal glut, Chesterfield scored a consolation when Edgar Smithurst delivered a high centre into the Wrexham area. The flight of the ball deceived Godding who could not prevent the visitors from getting on the scoresheet.
The history books and Internet pages tell us that Ted Regan was actually the first player to land a hat-trick in this game and become the club’s first ever hat-trick hero in the Football League. However, according to match reports in the Leader and North Wales Guardian this honour belongs to Billy Cotton. Two newspaper journalists who attended the game agree that Cotton claimed our fifth by accepting a pass from Jack Moorwood and shooting with speed and power from 30 yards to electrify the crowd. Regan then completed the rout late on with his fifth goal in his first two games for the club.
I’m glad I have the opportunity to set the record straight and celebrate the achievement of Billy Cotton who deserves recognition after spending so many years in the shadow of Ted Regan.
In those days teams faced each other on a double-bill basis – at home and away – before moving on to their next opponent. Unfortunately this gave Chesterfield a chance for revenge just seven days later at the Recreation Ground. Charles Buttrell, Horace Clarke and Tommy Broome scored for the Derbyshire side in a 3-0 revenge mission.
This was only the third win of a long season for Chesterfield. Their form only improved with five straight victories in the final games of the season to lift them to 13th position in the League table. Wrexham finished the campaign just two points better off in 12th.