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.
Birmingham City v Wrexham
FA Cup Fourth Round
Birmingham City: Bennett, Brown, Johnson, Bruce, Ablett (Bowen), Holland, Devlin, Legg, Furlong, Horne, Limpar (Newell)
Goalscorer: Bruce (57)
Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Brace, Hughes, Humes, Carey, Chalk (Brammer), Russell, Connolly, Watkin, Ward
Goalscorers: Hughes (51), Humes (61), Connolly (90)
Cup fever hit Wrexham during the 1996/97 season, but if you told supporters that this would be the case after 66 minutes of our first round clash with Colwyn Bay at the Racecourse, few would have believed you. At the time we where trailing 0-1 and look to be heading for a humiliating exit. Thankfully, Bryan Hughes slammed home an equaliser after 76 minutes to force a replay, which we won 2-0.
Following this fortunate victory we never looked back. The second round saw Scunthorpe United take us to a replay after a 2-2 draw at the Racecourse. We finally dispatched the Ironmen after a 2-3 thriller at Glanford Park. The third round saw us entertain West Ham United on a snow covered pitch. The match ended 1-1 and yet again we were involved in a replay. A large Wrexham following saw Kevin Russell strike the only goal of the game as we marched on to the fourth round. After a 2-4 victory at London Road against Peterborough United we were drawn against Birmingham City at St Andrews.
Birmingham lost 3-0 at home to Portsmouth in Division One the previous weekend while Wrexham polished off Posh for the second time in a week at London Road thanks to the only goal of the game from Bryan Hughes. We remained the underdogs, of course, but we wanted to avoid the humiliation we suffered on our last visit to St Andrews when we lost a Second Division game 5-2, the only bright spot of that afternoon was Gary Bennett’s 100th goal for the club.
On this occasion, Wrexham were not in the mood to crash out of the Cup after coming so far. In the early stages, their confident approach play was pinning the Blues back, but Steve Bruce marshalled the opposition defence with expertise and snuffed out any danger.
Bruce pushed forward for set pieces and actually opened the scoring for the home side on 37 minutes when he volleyed home a corner.
After weathering an early storm in the second half, our white-shirted heroes levelled when Bryan Hughes thumped home a header from a Peter Ward free-kick. Soon after, Paul Devlin was sent-off after a scandalous challenge on Martyn Chalk and the Town made full use of their extra man when Tony Hughes headed home a corner on 61 minutes.
City manager Trevor Francis introduced Jason Bowen and Mike Newell to the action in an attempt to force an equaliser but Wrexham defended deeply and forced a third in the final moments when Brian Carey found Karl Connolly with a delightful through ball. Winning the race with defender Michael Johnston, King Karl shot under the advancing goalkeeper – Ian Bennett – and the ball went in off the post.
We had reached the last eight of the FA Cup for the second time in our history.
“Despite going a goal behind, the players still had great belief in their own abilities and I was still confident that we would score,” said manager Brian Flynn.
“Our performance through the full match was all I could ask for and provided we were able to continue at that level, and then the chances were going to come. Once we got that equaliser, you felt there was only going to be one winner.
“It was probably our best display during my time as manager and to happen on such a stage was very satisfying.”
Our Cup run finally ground to a halt at the quarter-final stage with a humdrum 1-0 defeat against Chesterfield at Saltergate. This is still to painful to discuss as it was a case of being so close, yet so far…