Throughout the 2017/18 football season I have contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I shared on this blog.
This was 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.
Northampton Town v Wrexham
League Division Three
Northampton Town: Richardson, Parsons, Burnham, Harrison, Chard, Terry, Wilkin, Aldridge, Gavin, Brown, Bell
Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Owen, Humes, Pejic, Bennett, Lake, Connelly, Watkin, Cross
Goalscorers: Bennett (13, 42 pen).
We all know that history only tells a story, but I can assure you that stories from our past are much more interesting than the dreadful football that we have had to sit through this season. It is important to realise that things haven’t always been this bad and there is certainly the potential for things to improve…
Back in 1992/93, Brian Flynn’s blend of homegrown talent and experienced campaigners set our pulses racing. Few would have predicted that after a 1-1 draw at Hereford United at the beginning of October left us floundering in 18th position. We were beaten at the first round stage of both the League and FA Cup by Bury (5-4 on aggregate) and Crewe Alexandra (6-1) respectively, while Leyton Orient hammered us at Brisbane Road in the second round of the Football League Trophy (4-1).
We had already conceded four goals at Bury, York and Gillingham as our season threatened to implode. The heavy Cup defeat at Crewe was a genuine turning point though as Brian Flynn entered the loan market to sign Mike Lake following the dismissal of Mickey Thomas. With our new midfielder pulling the strings we proceeded to loose only one of the next 10 games, including five consecutive victories.
The confidence was flowing and before we knew it, we were in a promotion battle. Instead of under-performing and disappointing we actually dug deep and maintained our impressive form up to the end of the season.
With two games of the season remaining, Wrexham went into the game against relegation threatened Northampton Town knowing that a win would earn them promotion for the first time in 15 years. Approximately 3,000 Wrexham fans descended on the County Ground to watch their heroes in action, but the early stages suggested that the Cobblers were intent on spoiling our party. Indeed, the home side forced four corners in as many minutes in the opening period, but Mark Morris proved a safe pair of hands as he caught every one of Darren Harmon’s vicious in-swinging corners.
The Red’s quickly settled and in the ninth minute Mike Lake should have at least hit the target after he was presented with a glorious opportunity by Steve Watkin. Four minutes later and we took the lead when Gary Bennett smashed home his 22nd goal of the season. Watkin’s tame effort was surprisingly fumbled by Barry Richardson and our ace marksman didn’t need asking twice to put us ahead.
All memories from this point on are a little hazy, but according to match reports Morris then made an unbelievable save as he tipped over Steve Brown’s bullet header after 25 minutes.
There was only one team that was ever going to win this game though and we made the evening comfortable when Watkin was pulled down in the area by Phil Chard and Bennett smashed home the resulting penalty. Referee Trevor West decided that Bennett was celebrating rather too wildly and added him to his notebook, but Wrexham fans really couldn’t have cared less. Before the half-time whistle, Watkin hit the post with a diving header.
Wrexham were in control during the second half and pushed forward in search of more goals apparently. At the final whistle, Reds fans poured onto the pitch to create joyous scenes of celebration.
“When I came here my aim was to help get the club promoted and now we’ve done that we’ll be looking to take the second division by storm”, said Gary Bennett.
Club captain Mickey Thomas, who was kicking and heading every ball from the bench said: “They’ve deserved it and so have the fans. What a season and what a team.”
It’s nice to remember the good times…
Lining up at number seven for Northampton Town that evening was future Dragons’ boss Kevin Wilkin.