Bryan Hughes

Memory Match – 15-02-97

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.

15-02-97

Birmingham City v Wrexham

FA Cup Fourth Round

St Andrews

Result: 1-3

Birmingham City: Bennett, Brown, Johnson, Bruce, Ablett (Bowen), Holland, Devlin, Legg, Furlong, Horne, Limpar (Newell)

Goalscorer: Bruce (57)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Brace, Hughes, Humes, Carey, Chalk (Brammer), Russell, Connolly, Watkin, Ward

Goalscorers: Hughes (51), Humes (61), Connolly (90)

Attendance: 21,511

Cup fever hit Wrexham during the 1996/97 season, but if you told supporters that this would be the case after 66 minutes of our first round clash with Colwyn Bay at the Racecourse, few would have believed you. At the time we where trailing 0-1 and look to be heading for a humiliating exit. Thankfully, Bryan Hughes slammed home an equaliser after 76 minutes to force a replay, which we won 2-0.

Following this fortunate victory we never looked back. The second round saw Scunthorpe United take us to a replay after a 2-2 draw at the Racecourse. We finally dispatched the Ironmen after a 2-3 thriller at Glanford Park. The third round saw us entertain West Ham United on a snow covered pitch.  The match ended 1-1 and yet again we were involved in a replay.  A large Wrexham following saw Kevin Russell strike the only goal of the game as we marched on to the fourth round. After a 2-4 victory at London Road against Peterborough United we were drawn against Birmingham City at St Andrews.

Birmingham lost 3-0 at home to Portsmouth in Division One the previous weekend while Wrexham polished off Posh for the second time in a week at London Road thanks to the only goal of the game from Bryan Hughes.  We remained the underdogs, of course, but we wanted to avoid the humiliation we suffered on our last visit to St Andrews when we lost a Second Division game 5-2, the only bright spot of that afternoon was Gary Bennett’s 100th goal for the club.

On this occasion, Wrexham were not in the mood to crash out of the Cup after coming so far. In the early stages, their confident approach play was pinning the Blues back, but Steve Bruce marshalled the opposition defence with expertise and snuffed out any danger.

Bruce pushed forward for set pieces and actually opened the scoring for the home side on 37 minutes when he volleyed home a corner.

After weathering an early storm in the second half, our white-shirted heroes levelled when Bryan Hughes thumped home a header from a Peter Ward free-kick. Soon after, Paul Devlin was sent-off after a scandalous challenge on Martyn Chalk and the Town made full use of their extra man when Tony Hughes headed home a corner on 61 minutes.

City manager Trevor Francis introduced Jason Bowen and Mike Newell to the action in an attempt to force an equaliser but Wrexham defended deeply and forced a third in the final moments when Brian Carey found Karl Connolly with a delightful through ball. Winning the race with defender Michael Johnston, King Karl shot under the advancing goalkeeper – Ian Bennett – and the ball went in off the post.

We had reached the last eight of the FA Cup for the second time in our history.

“Despite going a goal behind, the players still had great belief in their own abilities and I was still confident that we would score,” said manager Brian Flynn.

“Our performance through the full match was all I could ask for and provided we were able to continue at that level, and then the chances were going to come. Once we got that equaliser, you felt there was only going to be one winner.

“It was probably our best display during my time as manager and to happen on such a stage was very satisfying.”

***

Our Cup run finally ground to a halt at the quarter-final stage with a humdrum 1-0 defeat against Chesterfield at Saltergate. This is still to painful to discuss as it was a case of being so close, yet so far…

 

 

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.

Memory Match – 29-11-94

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.

29-11-94

Auto Windscreens Shield second round (Northern Section)

Wrexham v Bradford City

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-1

Wrexham: Marriott, Brace, Hardy, Hughes, Hunter, Jones (Phillips), Bennett, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Durkan (Cross)

Goalscorers: Bennett (2, 14, 55), Watkin (17, 42), Owen (52)

 Bradford City: Tomlinson, Huxford, Jacobs, Duxbury, Sinnott, Richards (Power), Shutt (Showler), Oliver, Taylor, Jewell, Murray

Goalscorer: Power (73)

Attendance: 1,407

Wrexham made an excellent start to the 1994/95 campaign after winning four and drawing two of their openings six matches. This was against all expectations as the team were tipped to struggle with bookmakers setting odds of 33-1 for the Robins to win the Second Division. Such steep prices were exceeded only by AFC Bournemouth ((50-1).

The three League games prior to this Auto Windscreens Shield clash had certainly been eventful and entertaining. A goal feast began with a 4-1 victory over Wycombe Wanderers – including a hat-trick from Gary Bennett – before a disastrous defeat by the same score at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park that included two own goals. Bryan Hughes and Waynne Phillips were the culprits.

This dire display was followed by a Welsh derby against Swansea City at the Racecourse. The Swans were unbeaten in seven games but were swept aside 4-1 in north Wales thanks to a brace from Steve Watkin, in between efforts from Bryan Hughes and Gareth Owen. This exceptional performance was particularly impressive as manager Brian Flynn was unable to call on his trusted central defensive partnership of Tony Humes (suspension) and Barry Hunter (illness).

It was therefore with great confidence that we went into our midweek Football League Trophy encounter with Bradford City – a match in which Flynn recorded the biggest win of his fledgling managerial career.

The game was only two minutes old when Gary Bennett accepted a pinpoint through ball from Gareth Owen to slot past Paul Tomlinson in the Bradford goal.

The same duo combined for the second goal as Bennett headed home at the near post from Owen’s corner kick.

Steve Watkin then hit home a corner by Kieron Durkan, which had been missed by Tomlinson.  This was to be Durkan’s final contribution to the evening as just minutes later he was caught by a late tackle and had to be replaced by Jonathon Cross.

Wrexham continued to outclass Bradford with long periods of attacking play and the fourth goal came when Bennett unselfishly crossed to Watkin who was left with an easy finish.

The second half was only seven minutes old when Owen continued the goal feast with a well placed effort.

Top scorer Bennett brought the season’s tally to 19 and completed his hat-trick after rifling home from a Connolly through ball.  This was Psycho’s second treble of the season – his third was to come against Leyton Orient in January.

Bradford were in tatters, their small group of travelling fans giving ironic cheers every time they managed to mount an attack on the Wrexham goal.  A double substitution by visiting boss Lennie Lawrence did improve matters slightly and with just 15 minutes left Lee Power managed a consolation.

Wrexham ruled supreme though and were given a deserved standing ovation as they left the field. Indeed, Racecourse regulars were being somewhat spoilt during this heady period as our next game was an FA Cup second round tie against Rotherham United, which we won 5-2 to set-up a third round clash against Premier League Ipswich Town.