Ernie Phythian

Memory Match -15-10-63

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. 

15-10-63

Brentford v Wrexham

League Division Three

Griffin Park

Result: 9-0

Brentford: Cakebread, Coote, Jones, Slater, Scott, Higginson, Summers, Brooks, McAdams, Ward, Hales

Goalscorers: McAdams (3, 18), Ward (8, 89), Fox (38 og), Hales (44), Brooks (54, 72), Summers (59)

Wrexham: Fleet, Jones, Holland, Morrall, Fox, Barnes, Griffiths, Myerscough, Phythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 10,569

 

Just 17 months after racking up our record League victory against Hartlepools United, it was time to rewrite history again at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night, albeit for less auspicious reasons. Wrexham began the game with the worst defensive record in the Third Division and 90 minutes later their “goals against” column had soared to 49 in just 14 matches.

Just six days previously at the Racecourse, Brentford had hit back from being 2-0 down to win 4-2. In London, Wrexham found themselves 2-0 down after only six minutes, but there was no sign of a fight back from a team that was short on confidence.

According to a special correspondent, writing in the Leader, “Not one Wrexham defender remotely approached a satisfactory performance. The tackling was weak, the positional play was poor and the marking was almost non existent. In short it was a pathetic display”.

I found it bizarre that the journalist that put together this match report also ponders whether a seven-hour coach trip is ideal preparation for a Football League fixture? I suppose roads were not as developed as they are now, but seven hours still seems a long time to reach the Capital.

The journey was a nightmare for goalkeeper Steve Fleet in particular, who suffered from travel sickness. The coach had to stop on two separate occasions for him to presumably throw up. This what not a good omen, but even with a shot stopper at peak fitness the scoreline would have been just as embarrassing due to a lack of cover and protection from absent defenders.

Wrexham’s forwards did not deserve to have such a poor defence behind them. Hard working Arfon Griffiths never stopped trying to take off some of the pressure and, with Ernie Phythian and Mike Metcalf, produced some neat approach play. However, mid-table Brentford’s defence, which was itself pierced five times at home by Bristol Rovers just three days previously, was now rock solid.

This was a night when the ball never stopped running for the Bees and they certainly made the most of their good fortune with every forward player scoring for them. They also profited from an own goal by Wrexham centre half Alan Fox.

Welsh international Dai Ward, signed overnight by Brentford for £8,000 from Watford, was the biggest individual threat to the Robins. He scored two of the goals and played a part in three others.

Perhaps it might have been a happier story if, with the score at 2-0, Phythian had scored instead of seeing his point-blank shot saved by Gerry Cakebread when all the odds were on a goal.

The special correspondent did not have the heart to go into detail about each Brentford goal. Instead, he simply noted the time of each goal in one harrowing paragraph.

Player-manager Ken Barnes said: “I cannot begin to explain away nine goals, but we were far too casual in defence. Something has got to be done about it.”

Nothing was done about it. This embarrassment was actually our fifth straight League defeat. This form was to continue for the next four League games as Wrexham ended up losing nine in a row. Prior to this they actually smashed fellow strugglers Barnsley 7-2 in a freak result. Things did not get better after Christmas and Wrexham were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 23rd position.

***

This wasn’t the first time we had conceded nine goals in a competitive fixture. Wolverhampton Wanderers knocked us out of the FA Cup on January 1931. We lost the third round clash 9-1.

 

Memory Match – 03-03-62

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.

03-03-62

Wrexham v Hartlepools United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 10-1

Wrexham: Keelan, Jones (Peter), McGowan, Jones (Tec), Fox, Barnes (Ken), Barnes (Ron), Bennion, Davies, Ambler, Roberts

Goalscorers: Davies (3), Barnes (Ron) (3), Ambler (3), Bennion

Hartlepools United: Wilkinson, Bilcliff, Jones, Hinchcliffe, Lackenby, Burlison, Bircham, McLean, Folland, Edgar, Godbold

Goalscorer: Folland

Attendance: 6,546

 

Ken Barnes was appointed Wrexham player-manager on 4 May 1961 to replace Billy Morris, who coincidentally replaced Barnes when he left the club in March 1965. The new man in charge had an instant galvanising effect on his charges and a successful season was to follow.

The campaign began with four wins from the opening five games and this consistent form was to carry on throughout a season that ended in promotion to Division Three. The Reds finished in third position and climbed the League ladder with champions Millwall, second-placed Colchester United and fourth-placed Carlisle United.

The highlight of the season though was undoubtedly the record 10-1 victory over Hartlepools United – a victory that actually came at the end of a lean spell for the team. Indeed, it was Wrexham’s first home win of 1962 as they hadn’t won at home since defeating Aldershot on November 18, 1961. Mind you, five successive home draws meant they hadn’t lost either.

Ironically, clinical Wrexham equalled the record Fourth Division win – by Hartlepools against Barrow in 1958/59 – and completed a remarkable “double” over the visitors of 14 goals to two during 1961/62.

The afternoon was sparked into life by 19-year-old centre forward Wyn Davies who impressed watching scouts from Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers by notching a hat-trick after only 24 minutes. It all began after six minutes when Hartlepools goalkeeper, Joe Wilkinson, mis-hit a goal kick straight to Davies who didn’t need asking twice to open the scoring.

Davies doubled his tally after ten minutes when he received a pass from Ken Barnes and smashed an angled drive into the net from ten yards. On 24 minutes his treble was complete when he shot home a deflected cross from Ron Barnes. Unfortunately, this was to be Davies’ last game for the club as he was snapped up by Bolton Wanderers, who paid £20,000 plus Ernie Phythian for his services.

We were not just a one man team though, as proved on 28 minutes with a little help from the hapless Hartlepools defence. United left back Ken Jones had a rush of blood to the head and delivered a kamikaze back pass to Wilkinson. The man between the sticks had to dive at full stretch to get a hand to the ball, but he could not stop it and Ron Barnes was on hand to make it four.

Hartlepools did show some spirit and actually pulled a goal back before the break when Harry Godbold squared the ball for Bobby Folland to strike despite the best efforts of Aly McGowan to clear the danger. However, this did not signal a change in the dominant tide as Wrexham made it 5-1 at half-time after a through ball from Tecwyn Jones allowed Ron Barnes to strike home with his left foot.

There was more of the same in the second period. On 55 minutes, Ken Barnes sent a free-kick into the goalmouth for Roy Ambler to head home. To add to the fairytale atmosphere, snow was now falling heavily as Wrexham composed a brilliant move that ended with Ron Barnes getting on the end of a pass from Tecwyn Jones, exposing the space available and shooting a seventh to complete his treble.

On 64 minutes, Ambler finished off good work from Ron Barnes who seemed to be allowed the freedom of the Racecourse, and 69 minutes had gone when Stan Bennion scored a spectacular over-head kick.

The supporters chant of “we want ten” were soon silenced by Ambler who scored the most memorable goal of all. Running down the left he suddenly unleashed a vicious left foot shot from 30 yards that left Wilkinson helpless as it thudded into the roof of the net. This completed a trio of hat-tricks on a remarkable afternoon.

Memory match – 22-08-64

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.

22-08-64

Wrexham v Notts County

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

WREXHAM: Dunlop, Jones, McClelland, Barnes, Morrall, Johnson, Colbridge, Griffiths, Phythian, McMillan, Williams

Goalscorers: Barnes (2 pens), McMillan, Griffiths

NOTTS COUNTY: Smith, Edwards, Agnew, Sheridan, Gibson, Carver, Kavanagh, Astle, Bly, Hannah, Barber

Attendance: 7,911

 

Both clubs were at a low-ebb as they began season 1964/65.

Wrexham found themselves back in the Fourth Division under player-manager Ken Barnes following a disastrous 1963/64 campaign, which included a record 9-0 defeat at Brentford. Our form at the Racecourse was not much better, gate receipts plummeted by more than £11,000 on the previous term and no one was surprised that the season culminated in relegation to the basement. Furthermore, according to local journalists, the club were £24,000 in the red and dependant on handouts from a well-organised Supporters’ Association.

As a result, there had been little transfer activity during the summer with the exceptions of former Welsh international Graham Williams (Swansea Town), Joe McClelland (Hibernian) and Dennis Lambourne (Llanelly). Williams and McClelland both cost nothing while 18-year-old Lambourne was signed for a “nominal” fee after impressing in a Welsh Cup tie the previous season.

“I hope this season will bring better things and, with the normal breaks, I feel that we can be back in the Third Division at the end of it,” said Barnes at his annual meeting with shareholders.

“I certainly didn’t envisage what would happen last season, but that’s football.”

Notts County were the only club to finish below Wrexham in the third tier during the disastrous 1963/64 season and were in something of a tailspin. Crowds at Meadow Lane had dwindled to around the 3,000 mark, Forest had established themselves as the dominant team in Nottingham and the County chairman had been voted off the board. It seemed as if things couldn’t get much worse for the Magpies, but as the new season dawned, any attempt to restore pride were hindered by an injury list that included no fewer than seven players.

Arthur Dunlop was selected ahead of Steve Fleet in the Wrexham goal with the opening exchanges suggesting that he would be in for a much busier afternoon than his County counterpart, George Smith.

The visitors had every reason to be hopeful after a controlled opening period saw their right-winger Eddie Kavanagh beat Joe McClelland to set-up a glorious opportunity for Mick Barber. However, the attacker then contrived to hit his shot from 10 yards against the post when it looked easier to score. This was a lucky escape that shook the Robins from their slumber.

Suddenly, after 20 minutes, Wrexham turned the tables and began to dominate proceedings. Clive Colbridge shaved a post, Graham Williams mis-hit an effort with the goal at his mercy and Sammy McMillan went close after some effective interplay between Arfon Griffiths and Ernie Phythian.

County had lost their early composure and were hanging on for dear life as they struggled to cope with wave after wave of attack. Overworked defender Dave Agnew headed a McMillan lob off the goal line and Phythian smashed a 25 yard drive against the bar before Wrexham eventually took the lead through a scrappy effort from Arfon Griffiths.

If Wrexham were good in the first half then they were simply irresistible in the second. The County defence just could not cope. The forlorn figure of Smith made excellent saves from Eric Johnson, McMillan, McClelland (twice) and Barnes, but three times he was lucky when a header by McMillan and shots by Griffiths and Johnson struck the bar.

The panic stricken away side were under so much pressure that they ended up conceding two penalties on 59 and 72 minutes. The first followed a trip by Agnew on Colbridge while the second was awarded when Dick Edwards saved Peter Jones cross-shot with both hands. Ken Barnes converted both penalties in opposite corners of the net.

Two minutes from the end, Phythian’s fine pass sent McMillan racing away to score a brilliantly taken goal.

“I am quite pleased about our display. I’m not going to go in to ecstasies, but with a little luck we could’ve scored ten,” said Barnes.