Craig Faulconbridge

Memory Match – 28-10-00

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.

28-10-00

Luton Town v Wrexham

League Division Two

Kenilworth Road

Result: 3-4

Luton Town: Abbey, Boyce, Taylor, Breitenfelder, Watts, Johnson, McLaren (Fraser), Holmes, Stein, Fotaidis (Thompson), George

Goalscorers: Stein (39), Watts (44), George (55)

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Roche, Barrett (Owen), Ridler (Mardon), Bouanane (Sam), Chalk, Faulconbridge, Edwards, Ferguson, Killen

Goalscorers: Faulconbridge (59), Killen (63), Chalk (83), Ferguson (87)

Attendance: 5,341

You would have been a fool to have regularly gambled on Wrexham matches during 2000/01, such was our unpredictability. We had just been held to a frustrating stalemate at home to Wycombe Wanderers – meaning that we had only managed to score on six occasions at the Racecourse during eight matches. Brian Flynn’s men had only won twice, drawn once and lost five times at home, including a 0-3 League Cup defeat by Mansfield Town of Division Three.

Our mid-table frustrations were actually viewed through envious eyes by crisis-club Luton Town – they were second bottom of the table after only two home wins.  They had drawn one and lost the other four League games.

Against all the odds, cue a seven-goal thriller…

After 55 minutes it looked as if the Red Army’s only hope of preserving some dignity would be to gallantly surrender. Liam George had fired home a third goal of the afternoon for the Hatters after Kevin Dearden failed to hold a Mark Stein drive. The home side had laid the foundations for a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first period with a Stein header on 39 minutes. Julian Watts doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Believe it or not, the Robins did not deserve to be three goals down. They were actually much the better team for long periods and would have taken an early lead if not for some superb saves by Luton goalkeeper Nathan Abbey. Fortune had deserted us though, as defender Dave Ridler had to hobble off with a hamstring injury after only 39 minutes and was replaced by on-loan West Bromwich Albion defender Paul Mardon.

A lesser team would have given up the ghost, but instead we dug deep to discover determination and strength of character that helped us stage a glorious resurrection. Craig Faulconbridge began the Wrexham fightback with a 59th minute header from Carlos Edwards’ cross, before on-loan Manchester City striker Chris Killen grabbed his second in three games four minutes later.

Martyn Chalk levelled the game on 83 minutes and four minutes later Darren Ferguson fired in a winner after a fine solo run to move Wrexham up to 11th place in Division Two. It was certainly a thrilling finish and, on balance, the Robins deserved to win

Wrexham boss Brian Flynn was understandably full of praise for his battling heroes after their magnificent comeback. He said: “It was certainly an eventful game and I never doubted our ability to claw back a 2-0 half-time deficit.

“We said at half-time that if we score we would have a chance. Obviously, we weren’t expecting them to score a third, but our reaction to that was as good as you would ever see.”

Luton boss, Ricky Hill said: “Unfortunately, we never got to grips with the game in the second half. I just feel very disappointed that being three up with nearly 40 minutes to go, and at home, the players should have been very, very confident, but a couple of our lads let themselves down by trying to do things in the wrong areas.”

***

The Robins were certainly proving to be prolific goalscorers on the road at the beginning of 2000/01. Following the haul at Kenilworth Road, we had the best record in the League with 18, which included four goals in victories at Bury (1-4) and Oxford United (3-4). We didn’t draw a blank away from home until November 11 when we lost 1-0 against eventual champions Millwall at the New Den. Flynn’s men totalled 32 away goals in total as we ended the season in 10th position.

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.