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.
Wrexham v Rotherham United
League Division Three
Wrexham: Davies, Evans, Dwyer, Davis (Cegielski), Roberts, Thomas, Shinton, Sutton, Lyons, Whittle, Cartwright
Goalscorers: Thomas, Lyons, Whittle (3, 2 pens), Shinton, Cartwright
Rotherham United: McAlister, Forrest, Breckin, Rhodes, Spencer, Green, Finney, Phillips, Gwyther, Goodfellow, Crawford
I wasn’t there. Almost four decades later I only have a dog-eared programme and a video cassette of poor quality images – that seem to have been shot from the moon – to remind me that the game really did happen.
After the heartbreak of the previous season, we had lost manager John Neal to the bright lights of Middlesbrough, star striker Billy Ashcroft joined him and a flood of transfer requests resulted. Arfon Griffiths stepped-up as player-manager, but the Robins recorded just one win in their first seven games and found themselves languishing in eighteenth position in the Third Division table. Griffiths took decisive action by signing Dixie McNeil for £60,000 from Hereford United and goalkeeper Dai Davies was recruited for a bargain £8,000 from Everton. “I am not a Welsh nationalist, but the little girl was beginning to get a Liverpool accent,” said the Welsh-speaking keeper.
‘Deadshot’ Dixie scored on his debut and Wrexham went on a thirteen game unbeaten run to top the league table for the first time in four years. However, it was the cup exploits of Arfon’s men that really made the nation sit up and take notice. It took Liverpool and Arsenal to knock the Welshmen out of the League and FA Cup competitions, both at the quarter-final stage.
Thankfully these cup shenanigans did not interfere with the Town’s league form and seven straight victories in March helped earn Griffiths his fourth manager of the month award of the season.
As the season drew to a close, Wrexham faced relegation-threatened Rotherham United on the back of five games without a win. Nevertheless, if Wrexham could win this match they would ensure promotion to the second tier for the first time in their history. In preparation for this massive game Arfon took his players to the Costa del Llandudno for a ride on the donkeys and a tram ride up the Great Orme. Whatever happened on the north Wales coast certainly helped to quash the tension and banish the jitters as Wrexham returned to the Racecourse to destroy Rotherham in emphatic fashion and finally escape from the Third Division.
16,586 fans crammed into the Cae Ras and saw Mickey Thomas fire us ahead on 12 minutes. Following a return pass with John Lyons, the magic little man fired past United goalkeeper Tom McAlister and celebrated with a somersault. Only three minutes later Lyons doubled our advantage after Les Cartwright clipped the ball back from the by line. Wrexham had the bit between their teeth and added a third after a penalty was awarded following a clumsy challenge on Cartwright by visiting defender Mark Rhodes. The spot-kick was blasted home by Graham Whittle.
Bobby Shinton got his name on the score sheet after he turned a defender inside out before jabbing the ball into the far corner. Before the half time whistle, the Reds made it five as Whittle headed home Cartwright’s cross. It was such a fine display that even the referee – Mr Bert Newsome – joined the rest of the ground in a standing ovation.
Battling Rotherham pulled one back after the break when Wayne Cegielski’s header dropped invitingly for Trevor Phillips to promptly smash the ball past Dai Davies.
Wrexham restored their five-goal advantage from the penalty spot as Whittle completed his hat-trick. Cartwright made a spectacular run to fire in a seven. At the final whistle, the crowd erupted and spilled onto the pitch in never-to-be-forgotten scenes — at least for those who were there.
The result did not help Rotherham’s cause, but they stayed up by one place.