Gareth Owen

Memory Match – 19-09-90

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.

 

19-09-90

Wrexham v Lyngby

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round, First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Phillips, Beaumont, Owen, Williams, Sertori, Copper, Flynn (Hunter), Preece, Worthington, Bowden

Lyngby: Rindom, Kuhn, Wieghorst, Gothenborg, Christiensen, Larsen, Helt, Schafer, Christensen, Rode (Andersen), Kuhn

Attendance: 3,417

Season 1990/91 saw Brian Flynn decide to give youth a chance as there was no relegation to the non-league doldrums this season. An array of young talent was waiting in the wings, with players such as Phil Hardy, Waynne Phillips, Gareth Owen and Chris Armstrong all bidding to carve out a successful career in football.

Flynn said “I am getting the praise for these youngsters,, but it is Cliff Sear and his excellent team who have brought them all on over the last four years”. The new man in charge was fairly confident of a productive season and was only looking upward before the season began.

“Every club starts equal, so at this stage it is anybody’s guess who will win promotion.”

After an appalling start to the season, with only one win in the opening ten league games it quickly became clear that we weren’t going to be challenging at the right end of the table. What we needed was a distraction and progress in the League Cup certainly provided that. After beating York City over two legs, we faced Everton in the second round. We were demolished 0-5 at the Racecourse and thumped 6-0 at Goodison Park, but in hindsight these defeats proved valuable lessons for our inexperienced squad.

Another distraction came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where we were drawn against Danish Cup winners Lyngby. The first-leg at the Racecourse was instantly forgettable to my teenage eyes, but I do remember getting my programme signed by Chris Armstrong. That was about the sum of the excitement.

Kevin Reeves was more than happy with the goalless draw that we had earned: “The most pleasing thing is we never conceded a goal. If we get a scoring draw over there, then it’s obviously a big bonus to us.” Our defensive display was helped by the fact that Flynn chose to play Mike Williams, who had been out of action for nine months.

The Town had achieved more than expected already. It was seen as fanciful to hope that they could capitalise on this result, especially as we had to contend with the fact that we were restricted to four ‘foreign’ players thanks to a new UEFA ruling. This meant that experienced players such as Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackeray, Nigel Beaumont, Sean Reck and Andy Preece all had to be left out of Flynn’s plans. We were given little chance and Danish newspapers predicted a landslide.

Competing in Europe for the fifth time, Lyngby included four full Danish international players on their books, and almost took the lead after only two minutes. Mark Morris managed to turn a Hasse Kuhl header onto the bar. In the resulting scramble, Morris did well to keep out Michael Gothenburg’s shot.

Only 11 minutes had passed when Wrexham won a free-kick that player-boss Flynn floated across. Jon Bowden nodded on and Chris Armstrong buried a header past Jan Rindom, to send the 400 travelling Wrexham fans into rapture.

Lyngby continued to press for the remainder of the game, but Wrexham defended gallantly and benefited from Morris being on top of his game, especially when making a one-handed save to deny John Helt. Thankfully, Fleming Christian missed a second half sitter with a wayward header.

After the match, Flynn said: “I’m very proud of all my players. They have done Wrexham and Welsh football proud, and once again we have kept up the club’s fine tradition in Europe.”

***

The second round saw the Robins drawn against Manchester United in a tie that we lost 5-0 on aggregate. The Red Devils went on to lift the trophy that season after beating Barcelona in the final.

Memory Match – 02-05-98

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.

02-05-98

Southend United v Wrexham

League Division Two

Roots Hall

Result: 1-3

Southend United: Royce, Hails, Dublin, Roget (Harris), Coleman, Coulbault, Maher, Jones (Nielsen), Boere, Whyte, Clarke (Aldridge)

Goalscorer: Boere (12)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Hardy, Brammer (Owen), Humes, Carey, Chalk (Wainwright), Wilson, Spink, Roberts (Connolly), Ward.

Goalscorers: Ward (43, 86), Connolly (72)

Attendance: 4,247

The season hadn’t started well and only really came to life in February when improved displays earned Brian Flynn a Manager of the Month Award. After beating Millwall at the Racecourse in mid March, we entered the play off picture for the first time that season.

After two eighth placed finishes at the end of the previous two seasons, Wrexham were hoping to clinch a play-off place this time around, especially when you consider that during March they were third in the table and five points ahead of their nearest rivals.

However, the jitters then set in and we went on a disastrous run of eight league games without a victory. As a result, we needed to beat Southend United on the final day of the season, while hoping Bristol Rovers and Gillingham dropped points if we were to clinch the final play-off spot.

The Reds had a fantastic travelling support as always and they roared their team on in high spirits at Roots Hall. Wrexham obviously had to throw caution to the wind, but things did not start well when Jeroen Beore headed the home side ahead after only 12 minutes. This was the wake up call that our boys needed and we buckled down to try to make sure that we didn’t suffer another near miss.

Goalkeeper Andy Marriott was in great form with Brian Carey and Tony Humes providing him with rock solid cover at the heart of the defence. Peter Ward was another important figure in our strong spine. An outstanding display by the midfielder saw him curl a free-kick with his left foot past a helpless Simon Royce in the Shrimpers’ goal. This was an important strike as it came just two minutes before the break.

If only our spine had been completed with a potent goalscorer? Without any disrespect to Dean Spink or Neil Roberts, they were unlikely to grab the goals needed to fire us to promotion.

However, after the break the Robins raised their game and took the lead through Karl Connolly on 72 minutes. At this point it looked as if Wrexham would finish in the play-off zone but our hearts were broken over at the Memorial Stadium – home to Bristol Rovers – when the home side scored the odd goal in three against Brentford.

Ward grabbed his second with 4 minutes to go, but it was all academic by then

Assistant manager Kevin Reeves said: “There are a lot of dejected lads in our dressing room. They won 3-1, but it’s like a morgue in there. At one time we heard Bristol Rovers were only drawing, but when the final results came in it was like a dagger through the heart.”

***

The headline in the Leader stated that “Cup win eases play off pain” after we beat Newtown 0-2 (4-0 on aggregate) to reach the final of the first ever FAW International Cup. The journalist who came up with this article writes that “the result went some way to soften the blow of failing to qualify for the Division 2 play offs”. This was total nonsense of course as I don’t remember any scenes of joy and jubilation at Latham Park. Everyone was still gutted at missing a golden opportunity for promotion.

Two goals in a three minute spell – scored by Dean Spink and Mark Wilson – saw off the challenge of the League of Wales runners up Newtown to leave Brian Flynn’s men just 90 minutes away from tin-pot Cup glory and a cheque for £100,000.

Wrexham did win the competition after beating Cardiff City (2-1) in the final with goals from Mark Wilson and Gareth Owen, but fans could still be heard muttering “if only”….

Memory Match – 14-08-93

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.

14-08-93

Wrexham v Rotherham United

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-3

Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Brammer (Williams), Humes, Sertori, Bennett, Phillips, Connolly, Watkin, Cross (Paskin)

Goalscorers: Bennett (2 pen, 48 pen), Phillips (88)

Rotherham United: Mercer, Pickering, Jacobs, Banks, Richardson, Law, Hazel, Goodwin, Helliwell, Goater, Wilder

Goalscorers: Banks (22), Goater (75), Goodwin (89)

Attendance: 5,707

After winning promotion from the basement division as top home goalscorers, Wrexham showed little sign of bucking their prolific Racecourse form in a pulsating Second Division encounter. Without first team regulars Mel Pejic, Gareth Owen and Mike Lake, this would be a stern test of our credentials…

The Reds made the perfect start to life at this higher level after Gary Bennett dispatched a penalty after only two minutes. It was Psycho himself who was up-ended by Millers goalkeeper Billy Mercer following an inch-perfect free-kick from Tony Humes. Bennett made no mistake from the spot as he sent Mercer the wrong way to register the fastest goal of the new Football League season.

Brian Flynn’s men proceeded to dominate the opening 20 minutes. Karl Connolly was unfortunate to see a header skim the crossbar while Steve Watkin should have done better when he found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat.

The home side were made to pay for this as United were soon on level terms. Des Hazel turned Humes inside out and crossed for Ian Banks to volley home the equaliser even though Humes protested vehemently that the ball had crossed the line before Hazel centred.

Soon after, Bennett had a header ruled out for offside, but the Scouse goal machine didn’t have to wait long to double his tally when Wrexham were awarded a second spot kick. This time, visiting defender Nicky Law was the culprit when he needlessly handled a cross from Humes immediately after the break.

Rotherham proved resilient opponents though. They would not give up the fight and proceeded to bombard the Wrexham goal for a nail biting 20 minute period. Mark Morris was our hero when he produced an awesome double save, but our desperate defending could not prevent Shaun Goater from equalising in the 75th minute.

In the closing stages, Jon Cross wasted a late opportunity by shooting straight at Mercer and substitute Scott Williams wasn’t far off with a 25 yard drive. As supporters began to head for the exits, Karl Connolly produced a moment of pure magic to beat two defenders and set up Wayne Phillips who left Mercer helpless with a stunning strike from 15 yards.

Surely this was game over – unfortunately not. Shaun Goodwin had the last laugh when he volleyed home a late leveller to ensure the points were shared on an afternoon of breathless excitement.

***

Flynn said afterwards: “We’ve got to improve on our marking. Mistakes will be really punished in this division. I’m glad we’ve got the first one under our belt and I am happy with a draw. Rotherham deserved the draw and I think they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”

Rotherham United actually finished in a lowly 15th position while Wrexham ended the season in a comfortable mid-table 12th spot.

***

It took us six games to record our first victory in the League – a 3-2 home win against league leaders Reading. There was little to celebrate in the cup competitions either as Walsall knocked us out of the FA Cup after a replay that was beamed nationwide to TV viewers.

Our fortunes in the League Cup were a little brighter as we disposed of Crewe Alexandra 4-3 on aggregate to set up a clash against Nottingham Forest. Another 3-3 draw – the second leg against Crewe also finished 3-3 – at the Racecourse saw Stan Collymore register a hat-trick, while he was also on target in the second leg which Forest won 3-1.

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.

Memory Match – 16-11-91

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.

16-11-91

Wrexham v Winsford United

FA Cup First Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-2

Wrexham: Morris, Thackeray, Hardy, Beaumont, Thomas, Jones, Setori, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Kelly

Goalscorers: Connolly 8, Watkin 71, 77, 85, Thomas 90

Winsford United: Mayfield, Lloyd, Whitney, Edey, Taylor (Hall), Esdaille, Grant (Nevis), Thomas, Cameron, Blackwood, Sheridan

Goalscorers: Esdaille (14), Blackwood (76)

Attendance: 2,933

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that Wrexham took on non-league Winsford United in the first round of the FA Cup. A couple of seasons previously we had been knocked out of the FA Cup after a first round replay by Conference side Runcorn, so tension was abound when the draw paired us with a high-flying outfit from the HFS Loans League.

Winsford had scored twenty goals during their five FA Cup preliminary rounds, including a 3-2 win over Altrincham. In addition, their league form was excellent – winning eight out of their ten opening games.  Meanwhile, Wrexham were struggling on the pitch under rookie manager Brian Flynn and off it in front of dwindling crowds.

Wrexham took the lead when Karl Connolly took full advantage of a slip by John Whitney to shoot into the roof of the net after eight minutes.   However, the underdogs did not capitulate as expected. Just six minutes later Dave Esdaille turned and shot home from eight yards following good work by Darren Sheridan and Jimmy Cameron. We certainly had a fight on our hands.

In the 22nd minute James Kelly struck a sweet volley which cannoned off the crossbar, but this was the closest that the Robins came to restoring their lead during the first half.

After the break, Winsford began to take control and went close on 54 minutes when Esdaille’s cross eluded the Wrexham defence and fell to prolific striker Bevon Blackwood. Uncharacteristically, the goal machine hesitated on the edge of the six yard box which allowed Phil Hardy to save the day with a timely tackle.

After dicing with humiliation, Steve Watkin fiercely volleyed home after 71 minutes, but we still couldn’t shake off the gutsy part-timers as five minutes later they were level – Blackwood finishing brilliantly after great work by Esdaille and Archie Lloyd.

It was a breathtaking game and Wrexham went back in front from the restart when Watkin grabbed his second after good work from Connolly and Mickey Thomas.

Watkin then completed his 15 minute hat-trick with a deft flick from a Gareth Owen cross as the Cheshire side began to tire.  Veteran midfielder Thomas then side-footed home the fifth after unselfish play by Watkin and Connolly to end the Winsford dream.

***

Unfortunately, the game was marred by a racist incident involving Winsford manager Mike McKenzie. In his regular Terrace Talk column, Les Chamberlain reports that McKenzie alleged that some Wrexham fans behind the dugout spat and hurled racist abuse at him.

However, according to Les Chamberlain’s ‘mate in the paddock’ it was McKenzie who spat at the supporters after James Kelly had been booked for a foul on a Winsford player. He admitted that the Wrexham fans were guilty of racist chants, but that McKenzie had retaliated by spitting.

Thankfully chairman Pryce Griffiths, Carroll Clarke, chairman of the Supporters Association and manager Brian Flynn all condemned the inexcusable racist abuse. Whatever actually happened certainly put a dampener on a fantastic afternoon of football that put us one step closer to a potential money spinner against a big name club in the third round of the FA Cup….