FA Cup

Memory Match – 17-03-23

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.

17-03-23

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Finnigan, Holmes, Cope, Regan, Savage, Roberts, Warburton, Cotton, Jackson, Jones, Sheldon

Goalscorers: Jackson, Warburton

Tranmere Rovers: Bradshaw, Thompson, Stuart, Campbell, Halstead, Sewell, Cook, Sayer, Crowther, Hilton, Evans

Goalscorer: Sayer

Attendance: 6,150

Our second season in the Football League and we were still looking to beat Tranmere Rovers for the first time in this competition, following a goalless draw at Prenton Park and a comprehensive 1-3 defeat at the Racecourse in 1921/22.

Despite a poor start to season 1922/23 and some heavy defeats – 0-4 at Grimsby, 0-5 at Rochdale – things improved after the festive season. Wrexham went into this derby match in 12th position in the 20 team league on the back of three successive wins against Yorkshire opposition – Halifax Town were beaten 2-1 at the Cae Ras before we recorded a double over Bradford Park Avenue.

Rovers, who were also playing their second season at this elevated level after being elected alongside Wrexham and sixteen other clubs to form the Third Division (North) in 1921/22, were struggling to adapt and were floundering in 18th position ahead of this game on the back of a 0-4 trouncing at Darlington.

Our poor results against relegation-haunted sides are not a modern phenomenon though and after a poor opening half we trailed 0-1 at the break. The visitors profited from winning the toss and opted to play with a stiff breeze at their backs during the first 45 minutes. As a result they dominated proceedings and forced some fine saves from Dick Finnigan in the Wrexham goal. There seemed to be no way through for Tranmere with Jabez Evans, Stan Sayer and George Crowther all wasting good opportunities. Indeed, Leader reporter E.H.K suggested that Tranmere were “particularly clever in midfield and played delightful football but the finishes were feeble”.

However, the home forwards were equally ineffective and shortly before half-time Sayer – a new signing from Millwall – opened the scoring from a centre from Evans.

Wrexham had it all to do in the second period and got off to a great start when Billy Jackson connected with a cross from Richard Warburton to equalise. We were now in the ascendency but failed to find the decisive goal, despite much pressure. Hopes were high when Jack Jones played a lovely ball through to Jackson, but he failed to connect properly with the ball and his tame shot was easily saved by Harry Bradshaw in the Tranmere goal.

There then followed a spell of pressure from the visitors though this was eased when Wrexham won a free-kick as Jones was brought down as he threatened to burst through on goal. Edward Roberts floated in an accurate delivery from the resulting set-piece for Warburton to thump home a header and put us on course for the two points.

It was a very pleasing victory as it was achieved without George Godding and Tommy Matthias who were away on international duty with Wales for their match against Scotland in Paisley. Finnigan and Roberts were able deputies.

***

The return match at Prenton Park was a day to forget for Wrexham fans as we lost 4-0, with Sayer and Sammy Beswick each scoring a brace in front of 8,000 spectators.

***

Wrexham finished the season in 10th position while Tranmere – revived by the goals of Stan Sayer – finished in 15th.

***

Our FA Cup campaign began at the fifth qualifying stage with a 0-2 victory against Port Vale, in a match played at the Old Recreation Ground at Hanley. Billy Jackson was the difference between the two sides and netted a brace.  In the sixth qualifying round we met Hartlepools United at the Racecourse with Tommy Matthias scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to send us into the first round proper. Bristol City of the Third Division (South) were our opponents, but our trip to Ashton Gate ended in a 5-1 defeat.

Memory Match – 22-12-56

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.

22-12-56

Wrexham v Gateshead

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-1

Wrexham: Waters, McGowan, Parker, Green, Fox, Davis, Gren Jones, Thompson, Evans, Anderson, David Jones

Goalscorers: Davis, Evans (2), Thompson

Gateshead: Gray, Dawson, Oldham, Callender, Davis, Moran, Slater, Smith, Brown, Oliver, Lydon

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 7,326

The 1956/57 season got off to a slow start with two 2-2 home draws against Chester and Hartlepools United, followed by a 4-2 defeat at Gateshead. Our chance for revenge against the Redheugh Park club came just before Christmas in the middle of 17 games without defeat.

The biggest flashpoint of the afternoon came with just four minutes left on the clock. Gateshead centre forward Bill Brown found himself in hot water when he was involved in an altercation with Wrexham wing half Billy Green. There was only one winner in this colourful tussle as Green was punched unconscious by Brown who was booed off the field after referee Mr A Jobling showed him a red card. What most spectators did not realise was that Green also received his marching orders. Apparently, Green was seen striking the Gateshead man in the chest before Brown delivered the killer blow. Speaking in the dressing room after the game, Green said “I don’t remember anything about what happened”.

Peter Thompson, who was moved to inside right in place of the injured Ron Hewitt, scored with a sensational strike to make it four and complete a resounding victory. Thompson ran half the length of the pitch, beat three men and left Bobby Gray in the Gateshead goal with no chance of picking out the ball in the thick grey fog. This was a shame for Gray who had been in remarkable from that afternoon.

Ron Chaloner of the Leader also gives a special word of praise to left half Fred Davis whose display throughout was described as an object lesson to budding wing halves. It was Davis who opened the scoring in the 36th minute with his first goal of the season. He wormed his way past two men before smashing the ball into the corner of the net.

Three minutes later, Bernard Evans rose high to head home a Grenville Jones corner and double our advantage. By the break, Wrexham could have scored double figures if it wasn’t for the heroics of Gray who even saved a penalty kick from John Anderson with a brilliant flying dive after Gordon Davis had handled.

Wrexham went further ahead in the 75th minute when Evans headed home a centre by Thompson before Brown notched a consolation effort for the away side. Unfortunately, as Green was about to find out, this did not brighten up his mood and calm his aggression…

The Robins climbed to 6th in the table after this victory, with Bob Keen and his Gateshead team looking nervously over their shoulder in 16th position.

***

Cliff Lloyd’s Wrexham finished the season in a comfortable mid–table position of 12th, but the real highlight of the season came in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Crewe Alexandra, Scunthorpe & Lindsey United and Reading to set up a dream fourth round home tie against Manchester United. When the “Busby Babes” ran out at the Racecourse they were faced with a record attendance of 34,445 – a record that stands to this day. United put on a spectacular show to run out 5-0 winners. Only a year later, the Munich air disaster robbed football of some exceptional talents, some of whom had played on the Racecourse that day.

The Reds also brought the Welsh Cup back to the Racecourse for the first time since 1931. After knocking out Bangor, Caernarfon and Chester, they met Swansea Town in the Final at Ninian Park. The Swans played in the Second Division and were firm favourites to lift the trophy, but Wrexham surprised everyone by winning 2-1 with goals from Tom McNab and Peter Thompson.

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.

 

Match of my Life

According to Wikipedia, Tanka (短歌, “short poem”?) is a genre of classical Japanese poetry and one of the major genres of Japanese literature.  Below you can read the sixth of my 2017 poems.

Twenty five years ago

A shock at the Racecourse

Saw boys become men

As the Gunners were shot down

Our fans sang in the Valleys

The poem above was written when I returned from the event described below:

On Friday, 6 January 2017, we will celebrate arguably the biggest giant-killing in FA Cup history.

It will be 25 years since that rocket from Mickey Thomas started a comeback against the Football League champions, that Steve Watkin would finish with Wrexham’s second and ultimately winning goal.

We would like to invite fans to join some of the team that were involved that day, to reminisce about what it was like to be involved, before, during and in the aftermath of a great day in our club’s history.

We will have highlights of the game to watch, along with a two-course meal.

This will be followed by a Q&A session and you will have chance to ask any questions you have.

As well as collecting signatures and pictures with our heroes from that everlasting day.

There will be some fantastic Wrexham v Arsenal prizes available to win in our raffle and you will also be able to purchase the commemorative match DVD, which you can get autographed.

So please come and join us for this historic night.

Memory Match – 14-01-33

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.

14-01-33

Wrexham v Southport

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Adams, Jones, Brown, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Hughes, Frewin, Bamford, Lewis, Waller

Goalscorers: Lewis (2), Bamford, Frewin, Bulling, Waller

Southport: Middleton, Robinson, Birkett, Taylor, Wyness, Lydon, Sellars, Bell, Appleby, Williams, Turner

Attendance: 5,915

According to the match report in the North Wales Guardian, Wrexham did not need to over-exert themselves in this contest, as Southport never really showed the form that was expected of them.  The visitors were accused of being “sadly disjointed” and the reporter wonders aloud what had caused this slump in a team that threatened at the top of the league earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, the Blues were fresh from hammering Hartlepools United 8-1 at the Cae Ras and were obviously out to prove this was not a mere flash in the pan. Apparently, they tore Southport apart by “playing spirited football and bewildering them with dashing attacks and swift defensive measures.”

Wrexham were in electric form and unleashed wave after wave of attack on goalkeeper Matt Middleton. During 1931/32, the Southport custodian frustrated our forwards with a fine display in a 2-0 defeat at Haig Avenue in Ernest Blackburn’s first match in charge, but he was unsupported on this occasion and powerless against the awesome force of Tommy Bamford and company.

Wrexham had the better of the opening exchanges and it quickly became clear that this would be an afternoon of one-way traffic with Southport having to employ the offside trap to stave off danger.  However, it did not take long for Tommy Lewis to weave his way through static defenders to score the opener on 23 minutes.  A minute later Bamford netted with a neat flick from Harry Waller’s centre and a whirlwind period was complete when George Frewin notched a third with his head from a Jack Hughes cross.

It was now time for toothless Southport to have a go. They pressed forward only to find Alf Jones and Jack Brown were equal to all calls made upon them.  At least the Sandgrounders were trying to make a game of it, even though Hughes hit the woodwork with an excellent drive before Lewis completed an emphatic opening period by heading the fourth.

Southport rarely crossed the half-way line in the second half and the Blues extended their lead through Jim Bulling – who converted a Hughes corner after Ted Robinson had cleared off the line – and a simple tap-in from Waller.

***

Writing in a Supporters’ Club News column, “J.H.W” notes that the first three games in 1933 had yielded six points, with 16 goals for and only two against. Our latter day statistician also noted that, at the time, we had scored more goals at home than any other team in the English Leagues, and only Arsenal had a greater aggregate of goals, home and away, than Wrexham.

***

The 1932/33 season was to be Wrexham’s best-ever in the Third Division North when they finished runners-up to Hull City, only two points adrift of the Humberside club. So close, yet so far…

During the season, Wrexham’s home record was remarkable: they won 18 matches, drew two and lost only one, to Chester. The home wins consisted of some high-scoring victories. The 106 League goals scored that season is still a record.

***

Alas, more frustration and heartache laid in store in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat non-League Spennymoor United at home (3-0) before losing a second round replay at the Racecourse to Brighton & Hove Albion (2-3).

The Blues reached the Welsh Cup final yet again after beating Oswestry (4-1 after replay), Bangor (2-1) and Southport (3-1 after replay). In the final they met their old rivals Chester at Sealand Road in front of a 15,000 crowd who were to see the Cestrians win 2-0, thereby lifting the Welsh Cup for the second time in their laughably sparse history.

Memory Match – 26-04-24

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.

26-04-24

Durham City v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Holiday Park

Result: 4-3

Durham City: Hugall, Robson, Gallagher, Woodhouse, Hopkins, Robson, Best, Stokoe, Elliott, Bertram, Barker

Goalscorers: Bertram (3), Elliott

Wrexham: Godding, Jones, Edwards, Regan, Matthews, Savage, Bird, Cotton, Jackson, Toms, Williams

Goalscorers: Jackson, Toms, Matthews (pen)

Attendance: 3,000

 

Right-back Alf Jones made the first of his 503 League appearances in the season opener – a convincing 4-0 home win against Ashington. After winning our first three matches and being held by Walsall, we found ourselves sitting pretty at the top of the table. However, a run of only one victory in eleven matches soon killed off any title-chasing ambitions we may have harboured and a season of sporadic form ensued.

After beating Barrow at the end of November, our next League victory didn’t come until mid-March when Lincoln City lost 2-1 at the Racecourse. During this barren spell we fell as low as 17th in the newly expanded 202-team League and as the season drew to a close we were languishing in 15th position.

The season concluded with a double-header against Durham City. Before meeting at the Racecourse on the final day of the season, the two teams clashed at Holiday Park for the first time. Durham had previously entertained Wrexham at their former home of Kepier Haughs.

To write a match report of this game is quite a task when my only source of reference is a piece of journalism that was written at a time when newspapers used the English language in a rather different way to what we are used to today. For example, when learning about an early Durham attack the reader has to paint their own picture out of the following clunky language: “The City were immediately on the offensive and a handling offense by [George] Savage just outside the penalty area brought danger to the Welsh citadel, but the ball was got away.”

Anyway, as far as I can decipher the first goal was scored by Durham after half an hour when Billy Bertram received a pass from Bobby Best and proceeded to beat George Godding with ease.  With half-time fast approaching Jackson was in the right place at the right time to score an opportunist effort from close range.  Unfortunately, there was still time before the interval for Bertram to score his second and put Durham back in the driving seat.

It seems that the match was finely balanced with both teams playing exciting and attacking football. This resulted in a flurry of second half goals that began when Tom Elliott connected with a Billy Barker cross to increase Durham’s advantage.  Wrexham displayed fighting qualities though and pulled one back immediately through Bill Toms.  We were not going down without a fight.

However, Durham’s fourth goal and Bertram’s hat-trick arrived just a couple of minutes later, but still we fought on.  Indeed, we were actually awarded a penalty late-on that Billy Matthews converted past the despairing dive of Jimmy Hugall.  We were even close to snatching a deserved equaliser, but man-of-the-match Toms just missed the mark with a cross-shot that flashed across the face of the goal.

We were unfortunate to lose by the odd goal in seven.

***

Just seven days later the teams played out a 0-0 draw at the Racecourse to conclude a disappointing term. Wrexham finished in 16th spot while Durham finished just one point and one place above us.

***

Wrexham lifted the Welsh Cup once again after beating Merthyr Tydfil 1-0 at the replay at the Racecourse. Billy Cotton scored the winning goal.  They drew the first match 2-2 at Pontypridd.

They didn’t fare as well in the FA Cup. Despite beating Port Vale 5-1 at home they lost their second round clash at Accrington Stanley by the only goal of the game.

Memory Match – 21-12-74

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.

21-12-74

Wrexham v Watford

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Lloyd, Jones, Fogg, Evans, May, Whittle, Tinnion, Sutton, Davies, Smallman, Griffiths

Goalscorers: Smallman 25, 44, Whittle 26, 31, Davies 45

Watford:  Rankin, Craker, Williams, Joslyn, Keen, Goodeve, Bond, Jenkins, Mayes, Scullion (Bristow), Downes

Goalscorer: Joslyn 55

Attendance: 4,128

 

When writing about a John Neal side of the Seventies there are certain words that usually feature, such as “giantkillers” and “Europe”. However, neither of these words could be used in connection with 1974-75, which failed to explode into the expected promotion charge. Instead, during a season of transition we had to settle for a few sparks of hope in an ultimately disappointing campaign.

After losing to Stourbridge in the previous season’s Welsh Cup semi-final, there were no memorable European encounters while Fourth Division sides Crewe Alexandra (1-2) and Mansfield Town (3-1) knocked us out of the League and FA Cups respectively – both at the first round stage.

Prior to this featured game against mid-table rivals Watford, the Leader spoke about how victory was vital for 12th placed Wrexham to keep in touch with the promotion-chasing pack. Manager Neal was in an optimistic frame of mind: “What we need is a good run. We have dropped a few silly points which would have put us among the front runners, but we have been working hard on trying to sort out one or two little problems we have had.”

Goals were what we needed and the players responded to their pep talk by putting on their shooting boots. Wrexham scored five goals in a remarkable first half. The avalanche started in the 25th minute when Dave Smallman sent a glancing header past Watford goalkeeper Andy Rankin after Arfon Griffiths floated a free kick into the box.

Less than a minute later, Wrexham doubled their lead. Griffiths sent Smallman away down the left and his cross was knocked back across the box by Brian Tinnion for Graham Whittle to turn on a sixpence and shoot low into the corner of the goal.

Watford were all over the place. Whittle grabbed the third after good work from Smallman and Geoff Davies allowed him to score from 12 yards. The rampant Reds were in awesome form and Smallman almost notched another soon after, but he headed a Tinnion cross onto the bar. Not to be denied, Smallman nodded home the fourth after a Griffiths header from a Tinnion corner had bounced off the bar.

On the stroke of half-time, Wrexham completed their five-star show when Smallman ran free of the beleaguered Watford defence and crossed for Davies to slot home.

The Robins eased up in the second half and allowed the Hornets to score a consolation goal after 55 minutes when Roger Joslyn followed up after a shot by Bobby Downes had been blocked.

A jubilant John Neal said: “We hadn’t been putting away a big enough percentage of our chances in previous matches, but on Saturday we really tucked them in.”

***

After such a resounding victory our topsy-turvy season took a turn for the worse as we lost five and drew one of the next six games. In March, we beat Aldershot 4-0 thanks to a Dave Smallman hat-trick, but shortly after this treble the club – £50,000 in the red – accepted a club record fee of £75,000 from Everton manager Billy Bingham for the young marksman.

A distraught Neal said: “Wrexham have won, Everton have won, and the boy was won. I’m the loser because I hated to see him go.”

The campaign concluded with a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park against champions Blackburn Rovers that left us floating in 13th position.

Still, we managed to finish a largely forgettable season on a high after beating Cardiff City 5-2 over two legs to lift the Welsh Cup and earn another crack at European opposition.