Cambridge United

Memory Match – 13-10-01

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 I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

13-10-01

Wrexham v Queen’s Park Rangers

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Rogers, Whitley, Holmes, Ferguson, Hill, Roberts, Gibson, Faulconbridge, Trundle, Blackwood, Thomas

Goalscorer: Blackwood (43)

Queen’s Park Rangers: Day, Bignot (Perry), Bruce, Palmer, Forbes, Askar, Bonnot, Connolly (Wardley), Griffiths (M’Bombo), Thomson, Rose

Attendance: 4,474

After parting company with Brian Flynn and his assistant Kevin Reeves, there was a new man in charge as we prepared to face Queen’s Park Rangers at the Racecourse Ground. Denis Smith was given the responsibility to end a dismal run of only one win in the opening 8 League games, including the 5-0 humiliation at Prenton Park that signalled the end of the Flynn era.

Smith, who had managed York, Sunderland and Oxford, was delighted with his appointment. “I think you’ve got something here to be proud of. It’s exceptional here. I’ve been at other clubs and never had training facilities like these. From a manager’s point of view, that’s where I do my day to day work and to have something like Colliers Park, and a stadium like the Racecourse, is brilliant. There’s no money, and I don’t think that’s a secret, so what we have got to do is either generate it, or I’ve got to use the contacts I’ve got. Very rarely in my career have I had money to spend. I’m here for football, and finance doesn’t come into it.”

Wrexham gave debuts to Jim Whitley and on-loan Keith Hill from Cheltenham Town, who was partnered at the heart of defence by Steven Roberts in the absence of Captain Brian Carey. Rangers included a familiar face in former Reds favourite Karl Connolly.

Both sides created few clear cut openings in the first half as Hill and Roberts looked a particularly strong unit at the heart of the defence.

Lee Trundle’s tenth minute effort was well kept out by Hoops goalkeeper Chris Day while at the other end Kristian Rogers saved from Leroy Griffiths.

The 43rd minute winner came when Blackwood ran onto Stephen Thomas’ neat through ball and he calmly side footed past Day. It was a crucial time to score and we hung on to this lead in the second half despite being reduced to 10-men just after the hour mark when Thomas was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.

Denis Smith said: “I hope the fans can match my passion. I think they would be insulted if I claimed to have more passion than them and I doubt that I have.

“I’m very pleased. I thought we deserved to win. We worked hard, we defended well, our goalkeeper had very little to do and we created chances, so you can’t ask a great deal more than that.

“But it’s just a start of a very hard battle ahead. We’ve won one little skirmish and there’s a lot of work to do in the future. We can’t say, we’ve won one game let’s retire. There’s a lot of work to be done.

“The back four were superb and Michael Blackwood, apart from scoring, had worked so hard. He did things today I didn’t think he was capable of, but he has got to go out and do it again next week.”

Referring to Steve Thomas being sent off he said: “The first booking was unlucky because it was a 50-50 ball, but for the second he was standing on the ball and you can’t do that.”

***

Wrexham finished the season in 23rd position and were relegated despite a 5-0 victory on the final day of the season against bottom of the pile Cambridge United. This was a memorable afternoon for Lee Jones who scored all five goals – only the second Wrexham player to achieve this feat. The other was Tommy Bamford against Carlisle United on 17th March 1934.

It was also a poor show in the Cups with first round defeats against Hereford United (1-0) at Edgar Street in the FA Cup and Hull City (2-3) at the Racecourse in the Worthington Cup.

Memory Match – 07-04-90

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.

07-04-90

Wrexham v Maidstone United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-2 

Wrexham: O’Keefe, Salathiel, Kennedy, Reck, Beaumont, Youds, Preece (Armstrong), Thackeray, Sertori, Worthington, Bowden

Goalscorers: Youds (4), Worthington (6, 75), Sertori (85)

Maidstone United: Johns, Barton, Rumble, Berry, Golley, Roast, Pritchard, Elsey, Charlery, Butler, Lillis (Gall)

Goalscorer: Butler (9, 57)

Attendance: 2,806

 

After the heartbreak of defeat in the 1988/89 Division Four Play-Off final, Wrexham struggled to bounce back. Preparations for the new season were difficult with Kevin Russell joining Leicester City for £175,000, and Charlton Athletic paying £100,000 for Mike Salmon.

Replacements were signed in the form of Vince O’Keefe on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers, Gary Worthington joined from Darlington at a price of £15,000, Sean Reck was snapped up from Oxford United for £35,000 and Robbie Barnes signed from Manchester City on a free transfer. However, these new arrivals failed to gel and a poor start to the season saw a frustrated Dixie McNeil resign at the end of October with the team struggling near the foot of the table.

Enter Brian Flynn. Things got even worse before they got better as the new man in charge won only one of his opening 18 League matches. Relegation to the Conference looked a real possibility before centre-half Eddie Youds was loaned from Everton and the club stumped up £30,000 for Mark Sertori from Lincoln City to kick start a revival based on a new 3-5-2 formation.

The new-look Robins seemed to be making little progress when all of a sudden they won five games on the trot and hauled themselves off the bottom of the table. After a couple of blips on the road against Aldershot and Cambridge United that left us in 22nd position, it was time for promotion-chasing Maidstone United to visit the Racecourse.

Wrexham profited from home advantage and made a blistering start with two goals in the opening seven minutes. Eddie Youds was first off the mark with a belter from a Sean Reck free-kick before Gary Worthington ended a fine five-man move by calmly lifting the ball over the advancing Nicky Johns in the Maidstone goal.

However, it wasn’t long before the visitors – unbeaten in five – got back into the game. Ken Charlery eased past Alan Kennedy and delivered a cross that was met by the head of Jason Lillis who saw the ball crash against the crossbar. Steve Butler reacted to the rebound before Vince O’Keefe and Youds to keep the game alive with his head.

The Stones were now in the ascendency with Warren Barton and Karl Elsey running the show. O’Keefe reacted well to keep out a deflected Charlery shot at his near post and we were lucky to maintain our lead after a speculative Reck back pass fell ideally for Butler who was denied an equaliser by an in-form O’Keefe.

It was only a matter of time though and on 57 minutes Butler got the better of our Warwickshire-born shot stopper for his second of the afternoon after good work from Elsey and Barton.

With only a handful of games remaining to decide which team would be relegated to the Conference, Wrexham could not afford to settle for a point. The Robins had to dig deep and were rewarded when Worthington restored the lead after Mark Sertori had failed to control a perfect through ball from Jon Bowden.

The high flyers were not giving up without a fight and O’Keefe was on call again to deny substitute Mark Gall before Sertori sealed a vital victory with a shot on the turn after Chris Armstrong had headed down a Reck free-kick.

***

Wrexham won a further three League games that season and finished the campaign in 21st spot. The club that fell through the trap door that season was Colchester United…

Memory Match – 15-10-85

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.

15-10-85

Wrexham v Cambridge United

Canon League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-2

Wrexham: Hooper, Cunnington, Comstive, Jones, Keay, Edwards, Hencher, Horne, Steel, Charles, Gregory

Goalscorers: Steel 39, Edwards 43, 45, 52, Hencher 58, Charles 87

Cambridge United: Hansbury, Rayment (Lee), Bennett, Finney, McPherson, Scott, Sinton, Pyle, Massey, Comfort, Crown

Goalscorers: Comfort 84, Crown 86

Attendance: 1,651

After winning four and drawing one of their opening five League games, season 1985/86 got off to a flying start. Dixie McNeil was duly named Manager of the Month for August, but our form was soon on the decline.

Following a shambolic 4-0 defeat at Port Vale in early October, McNeil totally lambasted his players:

“For the past ten weeks I have been telling them that they are not professional enough. They played schoolboy football today and they are going to pay for it. I am very annoyed with them and that is why they are back in on Sunday morning.

“I am not that annoyed about being beaten today. You are going to get games when you are beaten three or four nil, but what made me furious is the way we lost. Their last two goals [an own goal and a penalty] were jokes.

“I am very concerned about the goals we are giving away. There is no discipline at all and the greatest need at the moment is to be more professional. We had 20 shots at Port Vale’s goal and only one of them was on target.

“Until they learn to behave in the right sort of manner they will be in trouble.

“We are so devoid of ideas it’s unbelievable. Our reactions are nil and we are not bright, we are not alert. You have got to be b*****ds in this game and that is what we are not”.

With these words still ringing in the ears of the squad, Wrexham did scrape a 2-1 home win against Halifax Town in their next League game – though their performance left a lot to be desired. With crowds declining and the club walking a financial tightrope, performances had to improve to win back stay-away fans. Cue an avalanche of goals against a shaky Cambridge defence on a Tuesday night in front of fewer than 2000 spectators.

Jim Steel had put the Robins ahead with a brave diving header in the 38th minute. This resulted with him having to have two stitches in a gash above his left eye. However, the night belonged to local boy Andy Edwards who scored a hat-trick with his strikes coming in the 43rd, 45th and 52nd minutes. The other goals came from Nick Hencher and Steve Charles.

Hat-trick hero Edwards said: “I’m pretty chuffed and it’s the first game I’ve really enjoyed this season. I’ve been troubled with an ankle injury from the start of the season and I played when I should have rested it.

“The boss has had me in twice to give me a telling off because he thought I wasn’t sharp enough. But I think it was due to my injury. Now that it has cleared up I hope to be amongst the goals again.”

Lack of concentration in the Wrexham defence led to Alan Comfort scoring for Cambridge in the 84th minute followed by David Crown two minutes later.

Unfortunately, this was a flash in the pan and an inconsistent season followed that saw us finish in 13th position. To make matters worse, Chester were promoted as runners-up.

***

February 1986 saw the lowest ever crowd at the Racecourse for a League game, when just 957 turned up for the 1-0 win over Hartlepool United. The club took just £1,550 in gate receipts.

***

The lone highlight of a frustrating season of struggle was when we reached the Welsh Cup final after beating Cardiff City 6-2 on aggregate in the semi-final. Kidderminster Harriers were our opponents and held us to a 0-0 draw at the Racecourse. The Reds won the replay at Aggborough, despite Kim Casey giving Harriers an early lead. Jim Steel was our saviour with a crucial brace to ensure more European adventures.

Memory Match – 11-12-99

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past. I hope to continue writing this feature next season.

11-12-99

Wrexham v Middlesbrough

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Hardy, Ferguson, S. Roberts (Ridler), Carey, Williams, Gibson (Owen), Faulconbridge (Connolly), N. Roberts, Russell

Goalscorers: Gibson 50, Ferguson 68

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Stamp, Ziege, Feste, Vickers, Pallister (Gavin), Mustoe, Gascoigne, Deane, Ricard, Juninho

Goalscorer: Deane 42

Attendance: 11,755

The 1990’s saw some splendid FA Cup performances by Brian Flynn’s men. Arsenal, Ipswich Town and West Ham United were all put to the sword.

We progressed to the third round of the 1999/2000 competition despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Kettering Town in the first round at the Racecourse. First half goals by Steve Roberts and Danny Williams saw us through the replay at Rockingham Road to set-up a second round home tie against Rochdale. Progress to the third round was booked with a 2-1 victory that was only sealed by a Craig Faulconbridge strike on 88 minutes.

Our prize was a plum daw against a top-flight Middlesbrough side that was managed by Bryan Robson and featured such illustrious names as Paul Gascoigne, Christian Ziege and Juninho. Hopes of progression to the fourth round seemed outlandish, particularly given our woeful League form – since beating Oxford United on September 18 we had remained without a win for 12 matches, including hammerings at Gillingham (5-1) and Burnley (5-0)..

Brian Deane put Boro ahead three minutes before half-time with a controversial goal. Robbie Mustoe played a cutting pass to Hamilton Ricard who appeared to bring the ball under control using his arm. An untidy scramble then followed as the Reds attempted to clear the danger. Alas, the ball broke to Deane who powered home the opener from 10 yards.

However, Wrexham did not panic. We had created one or two opportunities in the first half and came out fighting for the second period in the hope that our gutsy determination would exploit a crisis of confidence in a Middlesbrough team that had gone four games without a win in the Premier League, including a 5-1 massacre at Arsenal.

Five minutes after the restart the scores were level. Darren Ferguson’s defence-splitting delivery allowed Robin Gibson to control and lash a low, left-footed drive past the despairing dive of Mark Schwarzer.

The Premier League side could have retaken the lead but Ziege’s corner was hacked off the line by Brian Carey and Kevin Dearden saved with his legs from Deane.

Moments later the ground erupted as the impressive Ferguson dribbled along the edge of the area, beating two defenders, before crashing an unstoppable drive past the stranded Schwarzer.

His father, Sir Alex Ferguson, was watching from the stands because his Manchester United team had no game following their controversial decision to sit out the FA Cup that season.

Previously under-fire manager Brian Flynn said afterwards: “That was a memorable day again, absolutely fantastic. From start to finish it was an enthralling cup tie.

“I think we deserved to win. I mean, the quality of our finishing was of the highest standard. Darren Ferguson’s ball through for Gibbo and the way he finished it and obviously Darren’s solo goal. It does take something exceptional and unexpected to win a cup-tie like that.”

He added: “It was certainly Darren’s best game for us, but all eleven of them played a part.

“In the starting line-up we had five players who have actually come through our youth policy, that’s virtually half the team. It’s a great experience for them to play against world-class players and to compete against them and obviously do well.”

***

Wrexham’s reward after taking such a scalp was a fourth round home tie against Cambridge United. Predictably, we lost this match 1-2 and bowed out of the FA Cup. In fact, we didn’t win another FA Cup match until November 2004 when we thumped Hayes 0-4.