Canon League Division Four

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 – 06.09.83

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.

06.09.83

Wrexham v Rochdale

Canon League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Wardle, King, Cunnington, Hunt, Coleman, Keay, Arkwright, Muldoon (Edwards), Baker, Gregory, Heath

Goalscorers: Arkwright (32, 81), Hunt (44), Gregory (60), Edwards (88)

Rochdale: Conroy, Oates, Chapman, Farrell, Higgins (s/o), Williams, Thompson, Hamilton, Johnson, Allatt, Greenhoff

Goalscorer: Johnson (51)

Attendance: 1,684

Following consecutive relegations, surely this was the season that things would start to improve? One thing for sure, things couldn’t get much worse…

Our opening fixture in the basement was against Doncaster Rovers at a sweltering hot Belle Vue. Wrexham certainly received a half-time roasting and ended up losing 3-0 with a performance that was described as ‘wretched’, ‘ineffective’ and ‘an embarrassment’ by Ron Chaloner in the Leader. Oh dear. Where did we go from here?

Well, we travelled to Vale Park for the first leg of a Milk Cup clash with Port Vale and, despite an improved performance, lost 3-1. This was followed by our first home game of the season. Peterborough United were the opponents and a patchy performance ended in a 2-2 draw that was witnessed by only 1,680 fans – our lowest-ever League attendance and the smallest gate of the day in the entire League.

Things could only get better and so it proved as Jimmy Greenhoff brought his Rochdale side to the Racecourse. There was little suggestion of the treat in store for Reds fans when Shaun Cunnington misplaced a back-pass that could’ve ended in calamity but for the vigilance of new loan signing Phil Coleman.

Ian Arkwright opened the scoring spectacularly from 20 yards after 32 minutes. Things got worse for Rochdale on 41 minutes when Andy Higgins was sent off for a second bookable offence after tripping Arkwright. On the stroke of half-time, David Gregory’s superb pass put Simon Hunt clear on goal and he calmly doubled our advantage.

Rochdale rolled up their sleeves in the second half and Steve Johnson sparked a revival when he collected Peter Farrell’s pass, beat Jack Keay and fired home under Bob Wardle’s body. This was the start of a tricky period, but when Gregory headed home Shaun Cunnington’s crossed on the hour it was all over bar the shouting.

There were nine minutes remaining when Arkwright rounded Steve Conroy to score the fourth and the fifth goal was claimed by substitute Andy Edwards on 88 minutes with a neat shot.

Bobby Roberts was obviously pleased but he wasn’t getting carried away: “We played a lot better and competed a lot better. We were a wee bit rocky for a spell but sometimes you get that against ten men.

“We looked a bit nervous after Rochdale scored. Some may lack a bit of confidence at times but when we got the third goal we were comfortable. There were five cracking goals there tonight and there was some very good football.

“If we can keep knocking in goals, people will want to see us.”

***

Wrexham’s win took them to ninth place in the Fourth Division table, but this was about as good as it got. As the season dragged on it soon became clear that this performance against Rochdale was a one-off and we finished the season in a lowly 20th position.

On the bright side, we did qualify for Europe by reaching the Welsh Cup final, signed Jim Steel from Port Vale for £10,000 and escaped having to apply for re-election on the final day of the season with a 5-1 home win over Tranmere Rovers.

However on the flip side, attendances didn’t really improve, we lost 10 home games in the league to equal the club’s worst ever record from 1963/64, we lost Eddie Niedzwiecki to Chelsea for a bargain £45,000 and Bobby Roberts was forced to play in goal during a Welsh Cup tie against Worcester.

On the whole, it really was a season to forget…