Football League Trophy

Memory Match – 27-04-93

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.

 

27-04-93

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 0-2

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).

Attendance: 7,504

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.

Memory Match – 10-04-05

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.

10-04-05

Wrexham v Southend United

Football League Trophy Final

Millennium Stadium

Result: 2-0 (after extra time)

Wrexham: Foster, Edwards, Morgan, Ferguson, Lawrence, Roberts (Pejic), Crowell (Bennett), Jones (Williams), Ugarte, Llewellyn, Holt

Goalscorers: Ugarte (99), Ferguson (118)

Southend United: Flahavan, Jupp, Wilson, Pettefer (Guttridge), Prior, Barrett, Maher, Gower (McCormack), Eastwood (Dudfield), Gray, Bentley

Attendance: 36,216

It had been a depressing season, both on and off the pitch. This is not the time, nor place for a lengthy analysis of the turmoil caused by Alex Hamilton, but I must provide some context.

On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration by the High Court as we owed £2,600,000, including £800,000 to the Inland Revenue. Wrexham became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction for being placed in administration, causing them to drop from mid-table to the League One relegation zone.

Despite their financial turmoil, Wrexham reached the LDV Vans Trophy final against Southend United at the Millennium Stadium after beating Notts County (2-3), Stockport County (2-0), Chester City (0-1), Hereford United (1-2) and Oldham Athletic (6-3 on aggregate) on route to the Cardiff showpiece. It was Southend’s second consecutive appearance in the Football League Trophy final after losing to Blackpool (0-2) in 2004.

There were no surprises in Wrexham’s line up with Mark Jones, Carlos Edwards and Craig Morgan, all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Danny Williams was named as one of the five substitutes having overcome back problems, while Alex Smith, Chris Armstrong, Scott Green and Levi Mackin were the unlucky players not to make the final sixteen.

Wrexham began brightly and would have taken an early lead if Juan Ugarte’s goalscoring instincts not prevented him from passing to the unmarked Chris Llewellyn in the 11th minute.

Unfortunately, Steve Roberts had to hobble off on 14 minutes. He was replaced by Shaun Pejic, but this did not disrupt our flow as Ugarte proved when he curled a shot just wide.

It was not all one-way traffic though as Southend’s Freddy Eastwood threatened fleetingly, and Mark Bentley produced fine saves from Ben Foster both sides of the interval.

Twenty minutes from time Bentley’s header hit his own bar. The ball bounced back into play and Bentley challenged Ugarte for the rebound, with the Wrexham player winning only to see his header hit the post and eventually fall into Darryl Flahavan’s arms. Southend had escaped and forced the game into extra-time.

The contest turned on a disputed corner from the left by Darren Ferguson in the ninth minute of extra-time. The ball was headed goalwards by Dennis Lawrence for Ugarte to flick home from close range for his sixth goal of the competition. We had one hand on the prize…

Two minutes from the end, Flahavan could only palm Llewellyn’s shot into Ferguson’s path and he coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards to send the best-part of 20,000 travelling Reds into raptures.

This vital victory brought with it up to £500,000 cash which helped keep the clubs future alive while administrators worked to find a new owner.

Supporters Trust representative, Lindsey Jones said: “It was a fantastic day. There were so many people there, and a lot of people we don’t see every week. If they didn’t have the bug before, they will now.

“Long term I hope this will attract more supporters, and in turn make north Wales as a whole support the club.”

***

Wrexham still retained an outside chance of escaping the drop with six league games left. They were only eight points from safety, but it was a case of after the Lord Mayors show as Denis Smith’s men slumped to two defeats – Bristol City (1-0) and Luton Town (1-2) –   following the excitement of Cardiff. Brief excitement and belief began to grow after victories on the road against Port Vale (0-2) and Stockport County (1-4), but relegation was confirmed with a 1-2 home defeat against Brentford on 3 May 2005.

 

Memory Match – 29-11-94

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.

29-11-94

Auto Windscreens Shield second round (Northern Section)

Wrexham v Bradford City

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-1

Wrexham: Marriott, Brace, Hardy, Hughes, Hunter, Jones (Phillips), Bennett, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Durkan (Cross)

Goalscorers: Bennett (2, 14, 55), Watkin (17, 42), Owen (52)

 Bradford City: Tomlinson, Huxford, Jacobs, Duxbury, Sinnott, Richards (Power), Shutt (Showler), Oliver, Taylor, Jewell, Murray

Goalscorer: Power (73)

Attendance: 1,407

Wrexham made an excellent start to the 1994/95 campaign after winning four and drawing two of their openings six matches. This was against all expectations as the team were tipped to struggle with bookmakers setting odds of 33-1 for the Robins to win the Second Division. Such steep prices were exceeded only by AFC Bournemouth ((50-1).

The three League games prior to this Auto Windscreens Shield clash had certainly been eventful and entertaining. A goal feast began with a 4-1 victory over Wycombe Wanderers – including a hat-trick from Gary Bennett – before a disastrous defeat by the same score at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park that included two own goals. Bryan Hughes and Waynne Phillips were the culprits.

This dire display was followed by a Welsh derby against Swansea City at the Racecourse. The Swans were unbeaten in seven games but were swept aside 4-1 in north Wales thanks to a brace from Steve Watkin, in between efforts from Bryan Hughes and Gareth Owen. This exceptional performance was particularly impressive as manager Brian Flynn was unable to call on his trusted central defensive partnership of Tony Humes (suspension) and Barry Hunter (illness).

It was therefore with great confidence that we went into our midweek Football League Trophy encounter with Bradford City – a match in which Flynn recorded the biggest win of his fledgling managerial career.

The game was only two minutes old when Gary Bennett accepted a pinpoint through ball from Gareth Owen to slot past Paul Tomlinson in the Bradford goal.

The same duo combined for the second goal as Bennett headed home at the near post from Owen’s corner kick.

Steve Watkin then hit home a corner by Kieron Durkan, which had been missed by Tomlinson.  This was to be Durkan’s final contribution to the evening as just minutes later he was caught by a late tackle and had to be replaced by Jonathon Cross.

Wrexham continued to outclass Bradford with long periods of attacking play and the fourth goal came when Bennett unselfishly crossed to Watkin who was left with an easy finish.

The second half was only seven minutes old when Owen continued the goal feast with a well placed effort.

Top scorer Bennett brought the season’s tally to 19 and completed his hat-trick after rifling home from a Connolly through ball.  This was Psycho’s second treble of the season – his third was to come against Leyton Orient in January.

Bradford were in tatters, their small group of travelling fans giving ironic cheers every time they managed to mount an attack on the Wrexham goal.  A double substitution by visiting boss Lennie Lawrence did improve matters slightly and with just 15 minutes left Lee Power managed a consolation.

Wrexham ruled supreme though and were given a deserved standing ovation as they left the field. Indeed, Racecourse regulars were being somewhat spoilt during this heady period as our next game was an FA Cup second round tie against Rotherham United, which we won 5-2 to set-up a third round clash against Premier League Ipswich Town.