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.
Rochdale v Wrexham
League Division Three (Northern Section)
Rochdale: Nicholls, Watson, Radford, Lynn, Downes, Buchan, Whitworth, Tomlinson, Middlebrough, Foulds, Betts
Wrexham: Connor, Wynn, Fisher, Jones, Spruce, Tapscott, Lawrence, Hewitt, Bannan, Hope, Tunnicliffe
Goalscorers: Hope (3), Hewitt, Bannan
Season 1951/52 started in a nightmare fashion with the Town losing all of their opening six matches, including an opening day defeat at Sealand Road against Chester (2-1). This awful start to the season continued with defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0). We finally won our seventh match of the campaign after beating Halifax Town (2-1) at the Racecourse. There was only a slight improvement as the season went on with the team lifting themselves to a disappointing 18th position.
Our last game of January 1952 actually came on the back of two successive home victories against Grimsby Town (2-0) and Mansfield Town (3-1), but we had yet to win on the road all season. The only glimmer of hope was that Rochdale were also enduring a season of struggle in the lower reaches of the league table.
This contest was played in atrocious conditions as the afternoon saw dense freezing fog and the pitch at Spotland was covered with snow, which frost had hardened. Writing in the Leader, the “Wanderer” said that these conditions actually paved the way to Wrexham’s success as they passed the ball around well and adapted to the conditions much better than Rochdale. Once the Reds took an early lead they never looked back.
After six minutes play, Eric Hope drove home the opening goal from a George Jones free kick. Rochdale had their moments and equalised after 20 minute when Alistair Buchan fired home a long-range drive. Robert Connor dived and appeared to have the ball covered, but it was deflected into the other corner of the net by Ron Wynn. Our custodian Connor was largely a spectator for the remainder of the afternoon as he was only really tested from a second half corner, from which Alan Middlebrough struck the crossbar.
Wrexham were back in the lead after a Billy Tunnicliffe cross was parried by a defender and the ball fell into the path of the ruthless Hope. More was to follow before half time as on 37 minutes, captain Cyril Lawrence – playing against his former club – swung over a glorious corner and Hewitt converted it into the net before goalkeeper Jim Nicholls could move.
After the interval, Peter Jackson’s men continued to power forward in search of more goals. Indeed, it came as no surprise when Lawrence whipped in a cross for Hope to slam home a 25 yard thunderbolt. Lawrence was playing the game of his life and turned the Rochdale left back, Arthur Radford, inside out with his trickery. It was a shame that he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself but he could be proud that he had a hand in three of the goals.
Hope also deserves a special mention as “he worked like a Trojan and whenever the ball came his way it was whirled away with the speed of a rocket without a second’s hesitation. It was from three such shots that he got his goals”.
Wrexham completed their third win in succession when Lawrence, once again, sent in a centre that Tommy Bannan connected with.
This remained Wrexham’s only away win of an arduous season, while Rochdale finished the campaign in 21st position – only the bottom two clubs, Workington and Darlington, had to seek re-election.
Unfortunately, we did not progress very far in the cup competitions. We did put Halifax Town to the sword (3-0) in the first round of the FA Cup, but we were knocked out at the second round stage by Leyton Orient (3-2), after a replay.
After beating Colwyn Bay and Chester in the Welsh Cup, we were beaten at the semi-final stage by Merthyr Tydfil (0-2).