Gresty Road

Memory Match – 30-09-31

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.

 

30-09-31

Chester v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Sealand Road

Result: 2-5

Chester: Burke, Herod, Jones, Lambie, Skitt, Reilly, Matthews, Thompson, Jennings, Cresswell, Hedley

Goalscorers: Jennings, Thompson

Wrexham: Burrows, Jones, Brown, Clayton, Burkinshaw, Donoghue, Rogers, Ferguson, Bamford, Taylor, Lewis

Goalscorers: Lewis, Bamford (4)

Attendance: 13,656

Under the tutorship of Jack Baynes, season 1931/32 began with a 3-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra, at Gresty Road. This was an interesting season in many respects –  most notably our first Football League encounter with our cross-border rivals Chester. The first contest between the clubs at this level took place at the Racecourse Ground on 2nd September 1931, when 18,750 spectators watched a 1-1 draw.

Later that month, Sealand Road hosted its first League derby match which saw the Blues – Wrexham were actually kitted out in blue shirts with a thick white bar running horizontally – well supported by a large number of fans, who made the journey by road and rail. Our travelling army were certainly rewarded for their efforts.

After a cagey opening half hour, Chester went to pieces and the visitors took full advantage. Tommy Lewis received a pass from Sam Taylor to drive the ball home for the opening goal. Before the break, Tommy Bamford struck a brace and a convincing away win was on the cards.

Wrexham picked up where they left off in the second half. Following a miss-kick by Alec Lambie it seemed that we would be profiting from an own-goal before Bamford managed to connect with the ball and claim his hat-trick.

Chester replied through Andy Thompson, but as the Wrexham Guardian reminds us, “play was mostly in the City’s half, and the Wrexhamites were superior in every department”. Much like today…

Wrexham’s fifth goal was also scored by Bamford, after a goalmouth scramble in which shots by Taylor and Chris Ferguson were somehow kept out. In the last few minutes Chester reduced the deficit, when Tommy Jennings steered the ball past Wrexham custodian Wilf Burrows following a drive by Billie Reilly.

This result saw Wrexham move up to fourth in the table and a real promotion push was on the cards. We won our next match against Tranmere Rovers at the Racecourse (2-1) before real disaster struck. Manager Jack Baynes was forced to relinquish control to captain Ralph Burkinshaw in order to start his personal battle against cancer.

He was admitted to Chester Royal Infirmary for an ‘operative treatment’ in early October. After many anxious weeks he seemed to be making steady progress, and he was able to return home. However, three weeks later he suffered a relapse and was moved to Croesnewydd Hospital in Wrexham where he passed away on December 14th 1931, aged just 43. The former Welsh international and Wrexham player, Reverend Hywel Davies led the service at Jack Baynes’s funeral. This was a sad chapter in our history.

***

Under caretaker player/manager Burkinshaw, the Blues began strongly and reached the heights of second position. However, following the sad passing of Baynes our form dipped alarmingly as the players obviously had their minds off-field matters. We lost three of the first four games, following his demise and the managerial reigns were given to Ernie Blackburn in late January 1932 – much to the disappointment of Burkinshaw. Under the guidance of Blackburn, we finished in 10th position.

***

We failed to make a mark in the FA Cup this season, as we were knocked out at the first round stage by Gateshead, 3-2 at Redheugh Park. We did do rather better in the Welsh Cup. After beating Holywell (3-0), Shrewsbury Town (4-2) and Rhyl (3-1, in a replay played at a neutral venue) we finished runners up to Swansea Town, who beat us 3-1 over two legs.

***

On October 24th we did play Wigan Borough at the Cae Ras.  We thrashed them 5-0 with goals from Taylor (2), Lewis (2) and that man Bamford. However, this game was later made void just two days later after Wigan Borough went out of business on 26 October 1931 . Was it something we said?

Memory Match – 14-03-25

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.

 

14-03-25

Wrexham v Wigan Borough

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-2

Wrexham: Connell, Jones, Pugh, Matthias, Griffiths, Savage, Longmuir, Goode, Jones, Nock, Jones

Goalscorers: Nock (3), Jimmy Jones (3).

Wigan Borough: Goodwin, Jennings, Fare, Fenner, Brown, Welsby, Simpson, Mercer, Ormston, Glover, Kettle

Goalscorers: Ormston, Fenner

Attendance: 5,223

On November 10th 1924, Charlie Hewitt was appointed as Wrexham’s first-ever manager after luring him from Mold Town. The team had previously been chosen by a selection committee. Something had to be done as the Town were underperforming and had just endured a run of six defeats in eight games, culminating in a 5-0 defeat at Springfield Park, home of Wigan Borough – our heaviest defeat of the season.

Hewitt – known as the Captain because of his days as a naval skipper – did not have all the answers though, with just one win in his first 14 games in charge. It wasn’t until March that things began to improve when we beat Crewe Alexandra 2-1 at Gresty Road to set us up for a home encounter with Wigan Borough. Could we take our chance for revenge?

Jack Nock gave Wrexham the lead after only six minutes and we never looked back with the forwards running the show. Writing in the Leader, a journalist with the pseudonym ‘Tee’ says that all of the goals “were the result of clever midfield work coupled with fine opportunism”. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of that this evening …

The home side were aided by a strong wind and when Jimmy Jones put the Blues further ahead it seemed too good to be true. Indeed, we had only won six games at the Racecourse Ground all season, so when Wigan got one back through Arthur Ormston following a defensive mishap, the cynics were expecting the worst

Fortunately, their bitter bile did not have time to ferment as Jones scored his second almost immediately. Jones received a pass from Archie Longmuir and powered forward, skipping past a challenge from Harry Fare with ease before sending in a low shot which goalkeeper John Goodwin completely misjudged and the ball squeezed through his legs.

The fourth goal came after a flowing movement between Goode, Longmuir, Jones and goal-scorer Nock. The race was now on to see who could be the first player to register a hat-trick between Jones and Nock who had both scored a brace. The winner of this contest was Nock who scored after a free-kick delivered by Jimmy Pugh.

Wrexham’s final goal of the afternoon came courtesy of Jimmy Jones after sterling work from Frank Jones who fended off three opponents before finding the unmarked Jones.

The last action of a breathtaking match came when Tom Fenner scored a consolation goal for the visitors, thanks to a mistake from Wrexham custodian Billy Connell. A speculative effort from Fenner was mis-calculated by Connell who allowed the ball to slip under his body and in to the net.

After this game we moved up to 20th position in the league table while Wigan Borough dropped one place to 15th.

Our leading goal-scorer in the league that season was centre-forward Jimmy Jones who scored 11 times. He just pipped Jack Nock to the post as the Stourbridge-born inside-forward had 10 goals to his name.

***

At the end of a difficult season, Wrexham finished in a disappointing 16th spot.

Despite a poor showing in the League, the Welsh Cup gave us a reason to be cheerful. We managed to retain the trophy after beating Llanelli, Newport County and Swansea Town before finally overcoming Flint Town (3-1) in front of 6,565 spectators.

We did not enjoy any success in the FA Cup as we were demolished 4-0 by Barrow at Holker Street at the fifth-qualifying round stage.

 

 

Memory Match – 25-08-03

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.

25-08-03

Sheffield Wednesday v Wrexham

League Division Two

Hillsborough

Result: 2-3

Sheffield Wednesday: Tidman, Geary (Owusu), Barry-Murphy, D. Smith, Lee, Evans (P. Smith), Cooke, McLaren, Holt, Kuqi, Qunn

Goalscorers: Quinn (2), P. Smith (79)

Wrexham: Dibble, C. Edwards, Pejic, Ferguson, Lawrence, Carey, Barrett, Llewellyn, Sam (Jones), Thomas, P. Edwards (Holmes)

Goalscorers: Lawrence (40), Llewellyn (53), C. Edwards (64)

Attendance: 24,478

Despite a first round exit in the League Cup – thanks to a 2-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road – we were still unbeaten in the league as we travelled to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday.  After being promoted the previous season, we continued our fine form at this higher level to extend our unbeaten run to 18 matches.

Roared on by 2,000 travelling fans, the afternoon started badly when Paul McLaren headed down for Alan Quinn to score from outside the penalty area with a dipping shot after two minutes. Maybe Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Dibble could’ve done better, but he was forgiven by supporters as it was the first goal he had conceded in seven matches. The previous Saturday had seen Dibble equal a club record of six successive clean sheets – previously held solely by Gordon Livsey.

Seemingly in control, Wednesday striker Grant Holt stuck the ball past Dibble from former Wrexham loanee Terry Cooke’s free-kick in the 28th minute, only to have his effort disallowed for a foul in a crowded penalty area. Moments later Shefki Kuqi saw a shot blocked at the expense of a corner.

Wrexham were struggling to cope with the strength and pace of the home side’s two strikers and Holt muscled himself another opportunity, his shot flashing dangerously across the face of the goal.

Minutes later, Kuqi overpowered Shaun Pejic but Dibble spread himself well to prevent what would surely have been the final nail in Wrexham’s coffin, even at such an early stage of the game, as the visitors were forced to defend desperately.

Six minutes before the break though, the visitors were back on terms. Our hero was Dennis Lawrence, who had scored the winner in our previous match against Brentford. In an almost carbon-copy re-run, he went forward to meet Ferguson’s corner and his downward header found the net.

Wrexham snatched an unlikely lead in the 53rd minute through Chris Llewellyn. The former Norwich City striker breaking from half-way before linking with Paul Edwards and taking the return pass to curl a superb shot beyond Ola Tidman from 20 yards.

Wrexham went further ahead in the 64th minute thanks to a fine solo goal from Carlos Edwards, who cut in from the right to drive the ball low into the bottom corner of the net.

Wednesday were on the ropes but they didn’t give up without a fight. The Owls suddenly regained their composure and confidence to battle on for the final gut-wrenching 11 minutes. Alan Quinn’s cross was punched away by Dibble for substitute Paul Smith, whose toe-poked effort struck a post and went in off the unfortunate Brian Carey.

This was the last significant action of an entertaining afternoon that saw the Reds gain a valuable three points.

***

Assistant manager Kevin Russell said: “We weathered the storm in the first half when they put us under a lot of pressure.

“We dug in to the game and we had our fair share of chances in the second half we controlled the game with an excellent performance.”

“We couldn’t have had a worse start, but it just shows you how much character we’ve got in the squad at the moment.

“We’ve got a very small squad, a vey young squad, but the one thing about it is that we are hard to beat. We are a tight unit and today I thought they were very, very good.”

***

The win took the Dragons up to second place in the league table – with the same number of points as leaders Barnsley and with only goal-difference separating them.  Unfortunately our early season promise did not last, although we finished the season in a respectable 13th position.

Memory Match – 09-11-46

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.

09-11-46

Wrexham v Darlington

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-1

Wrexham: McNee, Jones, Jackson, Lloyd, Roberts, Tudor, Gardner, McLarty, Boothway, Sharp, Brown

Goalscorers: Boothway (3, 1 pen), McLarty (2), Sharp, Brown

Darlington: Barron, Kelly, Hutchinson, Parsley, Saunder, Towers, Simpson, Allison, Harrison, Varty, Sinclair

Goalscorer: Varty

Attendance: 9,033

Jack Boothway had his football career severally disrupted by World War Two. The Manchester–born centre forward made his first team debut for Manchester City in April 1941 and played for the Maine Road club up until 1944. During this period Boothway netted 57 goals in only 76 games.

Jack – he was actually named John on his birth certificate – made a guest appearance for Crewe Alexandra in 1944 and stayed at Gresty Road until the Football League resumed in 1946. His war-time career with the Cheshire club saw him net 67 goals in just 68 matches.

In October 1946, Boothway joined Wrexham for a record fee and part-exchange deal with Peter Baines moving in the opposite direction. The 6ft 2in striker played part-time for the Reds while continuing to work as a Draughtsman for a Manchester firm. Although he failed to find the net on his debut at Tranmere – a goalless draw – he certainly made up for it on his home debut against Darlington.

The score line suggests a one-sided contest, but this was far from the case as the home defence found themselves under pressure at times. Nevertheless, Wrexham took the lead in the first few minutes when Boothway headed a cross from Tommy Gardner, only for a Darlington defender to prevent a goal using his hand. The new signing converted the resulting penalty. Within a couple of minutes, Jesse McLarty snapped up a pass from Boothway to make it 2-0.

It was at this point that Darlington goalkeeper Jim Barron raced out to stem a run by Boothway and picked up an injury. Norman Parsley took his place in goal for a short while and when Barron was fit enough to return, the score remained unchanged. The shot stopper’s reappearance boosted the confidence of his team mates and the lively Tommy Varty pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Wrexham struck back before the break when Boothway scored a third goal with a shot on the run after more combination play with Gardner. Both these players were also involved in the fourth goal, which came when Barron fisted out a Gardner cross only to see Boothway return the ball into the net for his hat-trick.

Darlington began the second half strongly, but it was Wrexham who got on the scoresheet when Roy Brown provided McLarty with a cross which he promptly converted.

Wrexham were then reduced to ten men through injury as outside right Cyril Jones had to hobble off. Darlington continued to try to make a game of it, but despite their best efforts they failed to score. Terry McNee saved cleverly from Varty and before the end Wrexham scored through Norman Sharp and Brown to make the final score 7-1.

Writing in the Leader, X.Y.Z said: “On this form the Wrexham men should score much more freely than has been the case, in the first two months of the season. Boothway added so much strength to the attack that all the other members of the line – Gardner, McLarty, Sharp and Brown gave improved displays with Sharp catching the eye with his scintillating runs, and Gardner getting nearer to the ball he revealed at the opening of the season.”

***

Tom Williams was the man in charge as Wrexham resumed league football in 1946/47. The club finished in a respectable seventh place. This was quite an achievement when you consider that there were only four players left in the squad from 1979 – Albert Brown, Eddie Tunney, Gib Bellis and Walter Roberts.

***

Jack Boothway finished the season with 17 goals in 22 league appearances. The big striker also achieved a four-goal haul against Marine in the first round of the FA Cup. Wrexham won the match 5-0.

Memory Match – 17-11-45

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.

17-11-45

Crewe Alexandra v Wrexham

FA Cup first round

Gresty Road

Result: 4-2

Crewe Alexandra: Mawson, Bainbridge, Still, Heyward, Cope, Hill, Kelly, Shaw, Boothway, Chandler, Roberts

Goalscorers: Heyward, Boothway (2), Shaw

Wrexham: Whitelaw, Cook, Tunney, Jones, Jackson, Bellis, Collins, Heyward, Isherwood, Lloyd, Wainwright

Goalscorers: Lloyd (2)

Attendance: 7,916

Season 1945/46 was the first peacetime football campaign since 1939/40, which was cut short due to the outbreak of World War Two. On 7 May 1945 it was announced that the FA Cup would be resumed.

All rounds from round one, up to and including the quarter-finals, were made two-legged affairs with the aggregate score determining who went through to the next round.

Wrexham were drawn against Crewe Alexandra for their first competitive post-war fixture, with Gresty Road being the venue for the first leg. Pessimists were predicting a heavy defeat for Wrexham due to a weak frontline packed full of untried reserves, while the formerly powerful defence was something of an unknown quantity.

However, as so often happens with Wrexham, this pessimism was turned on its head with an excellent display that almost compounded the critics.  Indeed, Crewe could consider themselves extremely fortunate to win by 2 clear goals.

The Railwaymen opened the scoring through Eric Heywood when he connected with a partially cleared corner to thrash home a drive from 35 yards.  Worse was to follow. After only 20 minutes Crewe doubled their lead through a dubious goal from striker Jack Boothway who appeared to be miles offside.  To rub salt into the wounds, it was clear to everyone bar the referee that the ball had been handled by a Crewe player in the build-up.  The Wrexham defence remained static as Boothway bounded forward to shoot past David Whitelaw. Protests fell on deaf ears.

With little to lose, Wrexham simply knuckled down. We had several chances to get back into the game and the breakthrough came on the stroke of half-time thanks to a dazzling move between Dennis Isherwood, Anthony Collins and Cliff Lloyd.  Isherwood launched a sweeping pass to the right wing for Collins to swing the ball towards goal with a first-time cross that was finished sweetly by Lloyd.

Dominant Wrexham were by far the more aggressive team for the first 20 minutes of the second half and equalised on 50 minutes after Lloyd was again in the right place to finish a marauding run forward from Cyril Jones.

Unfortunately, after expending all their efforts in getting back into the game, the tank of resurgence was now empty. Alex Shaw and Boothway made the game safe for the home side late on, but there was enough evidence to silence the cynics and suggest that Alexandra would have a stern test in the second leg at the Racecourse.

The attendance for this match was helped by a large travelling support which brought in gate receipts of £647.

***

Before the second leg our old friend, H Wilbraham of Maesgwyn Road, contributed another poem to the Leader, entitled Watch Your Step, Wrexham.

There’s trouble brewing, Wrexham,
So don’t play fast and loose,
For you must score three goals to none,
To cook the Crewe boys goose.

We have a new old player,
I think his name is Tunney,
If he can hold the Crewe lads back,
This really would be funny.

Now a word to you three half-backs,
Don’t fail to clear your deck,
And I put my faith in Jackson,
To hold Boothway in check.

And what about you forwards,
-You must slap the goals in, or
If you don’t get enough to win,
You’ll have something to answer for.

If you fail to get in the hat next week,
The directors will lose a lot,
The manager will tear his hair
And the chairman go off his dot!

You scored two goals last week, I see,
That’s good, I have no doubt,
So just score three on Saturday,
But keep the Crewe lads out.

At the end of this epic poem, Wilbraham adds a postscript:

PS – The final scores of the two matches should be: Wrexham 5, Crewe 4.

***

Wrexham did indeed win the return tie 3-0 to progress to the second round where they faced Shrewsbury Town.  The Robins marched on after a 2-1 aggregate win, but our progress was then halted at the third round stage by First Division Blackpool who won both legs 4-1.

Derby County eventually won the Cup by beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 after extra-time at Wembley.

Lest we forget, the tournament witnessed a disaster in the sixth round when, during the second leg of the Bolton Wanderers v Stoke City tie, 33 people were crushed to death in the Burnden Park disaster.

Memory Match – 03-10-84

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.

03-10-84

Porto v Wrexham

European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round Second Leg

Estadio Das Antas

Result: 4-3

PORTO: Borota, Joao Pinto, Lima Pereira, Eurico, Inacio, Magalhaes , Frasco, Quim, Gomes, Futre, Vermelhinho (Walsh 77)

Goalscorers: Gomes 5, 38 (pen), Magalhaes 18, Futre 61

WREXHAM: Parker, King, Cunnington, Salathiel, Keay, Wright, Williams (Gregory 23), Horne, Steel, Edwards (Muldoon 77), Rogers

Goalscorer: King 40, 43, Horne 89

Attendance: 30,000

Following our famous victory in the first leg at the Racecourse – as featured in the Altrincham programme – we continued to struggle when it came to the bread and butter of League football. Sandwiched between the two legs, a trip to Gresty Road saw Crewe Alexandra batter us 3-0 while Stockport County came out on top of a topsy-turvy battle on our own patch that we lost 3-4.

Indeed our last three League outings had seen our hapless defence concede 12 goals, although crucially Porto had been denied an away goal in north Wales. Surely the Portuguese Cup winners – who featured 14 internationals, seven of whom had been capped for Portugal against Sweden in recent weeks – would save face in front of their own fans?

After 38 minutes – played out in a ferocious storm – Porto had steamed into a 3-0 lead. Fernando Gomes scored twice, one that seemed to feature a handball in the build up and one dubious penalty given away by Parker, while Magalhaes contributed a spectacular second. The Robins were on the rack and few would’ve bet against our opponents from scoring more.

However, Wrexham had a lot riding on the result. While a modest profit was recouped from the first leg tie, this was quickly accounted for when we had to charter a special plane to Portugal costing £14,000. On top of such financial concerns we were also playing for pride, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that we refused to go down without a fight. Scottish full-back Jake King foraged forward to convert a Neil Salathiel cross on 40 minutes and just three minutes later the same player connected with a corner in a crowded area to put us ahead on the away goals rule.

In the second half it was one-way traffic with Stuart Parker being called upon to make a series of fine saves from Vermelhinho, Gomes and Magalhaes. Unfortunately, there was nothing Parker could do to stop a deflected effort from Paulo Futre on 69 minutes. Order had been restored and it seemed like plucky Wrexham were on their way out of Europe.

Parker continued to be defiant in goal as time marched on, but as the home fans began to celebrate their impending passage into the second round, Jim Steel knocked the ball out wide to substitute John Muldoon. With only 60 seconds remaining the midfielder whipped in a cross that young Barry Horne launched himself at and planted a diving header past former Chelsea goalkeeper Petar Borota.

Our tiny pocket of support – some of who had travelled on the same flight as the players at a cost of £195 per person – exploded into ecstasy.

We may have lost 4-3 on the night, but our 1-0 triumph in the first leg assured our passage on the away goals rule.

“This has to be the greatest moment of my career. I’ll tell my grandchildren about this – when I’m a grandad,” enthused captain fantastic Jake King.

Fairytales do happen.