Halifax Town

Memory Match – 26-01-52

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.

 

26-01-52

Rochdale v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Spotland

Rochdale: Nicholls, Watson, Radford, Lynn, Downes, Buchan, Whitworth, Tomlinson, Middlebrough, Foulds, Betts

Goalscorer: Buchan

Wrexham: Connor, Wynn, Fisher, Jones, Spruce, Tapscott, Lawrence, Hewitt, Bannan, Hope, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Hope (3), Hewitt, Bannan

Attendance: 4,244

Season 1951/52 started in a nightmare fashion with the Town losing all of their opening six matches, including an opening day defeat at Sealand Road against Chester (2-1). This awful start to the season continued with defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0). We finally won our seventh match of the campaign after beating Halifax Town (2-1) at the Racecourse. There was only a slight improvement as the season went on with the team lifting themselves to a disappointing 18th position.

Our last game of January 1952 actually came on the back of two successive home victories against Grimsby Town (2-0) and Mansfield Town (3-1), but we had yet to win on the road all season. The only glimmer of hope was that Rochdale were also enduring a season of struggle in the lower reaches of the league table.

This contest was played in atrocious conditions as the afternoon saw dense freezing fog and the pitch at Spotland was covered with snow, which frost had hardened. Writing in the Leader, the “Wanderer” said that these conditions actually paved the way to Wrexham’s success as they passed the ball around well and adapted to the conditions much better than Rochdale. Once the Reds took an early lead they never looked back.

After six minutes play, Eric Hope drove home the opening goal from a George Jones free kick. Rochdale had their moments and equalised after 20 minute when Alistair Buchan fired home a long-range drive. Robert Connor dived and appeared to have the ball covered, but it was deflected into the other corner of the net by Ron Wynn. Our custodian Connor was largely a spectator for the remainder of the afternoon as he was only really tested from a second half corner, from which Alan Middlebrough struck the crossbar.

Wrexham were back in the lead after a Billy Tunnicliffe cross was parried by a defender and the ball fell into the path of the ruthless Hope. More was to follow before half time as on 37 minutes, captain Cyril Lawrence – playing against his former club – swung over a glorious corner and Hewitt converted it into the net before goalkeeper Jim Nicholls could move.

After the interval, Peter Jackson’s men continued to power forward in search of more goals. Indeed, it came as no surprise when Lawrence whipped in a cross for Hope to slam home a 25 yard thunderbolt. Lawrence was playing the game of his life and turned the Rochdale left back, Arthur Radford, inside out with his trickery.  It was a shame that he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself but he could be proud that he had a hand in three of the goals.

Hope also deserves a special mention as “he worked like a Trojan and whenever the ball came his way it was whirled away with the speed of a rocket without a second’s hesitation. It was from three such shots that he got his goals”.

Wrexham completed their third win in succession when Lawrence, once again, sent in a centre that Tommy Bannan connected with.

This remained Wrexham’s only away win of an arduous season, while Rochdale finished the campaign in 21st position – only the bottom two clubs, Workington and Darlington, had to seek re-election.

***

Unfortunately, we did not progress very far in the cup competitions. We did put Halifax Town to the sword (3-0) in the first round of the FA Cup, but we were knocked out at the second round stage by Leyton Orient (3-2), after a replay.

After beating Colwyn Bay and Chester in the Welsh Cup, we were beaten at the semi-final stage by Merthyr Tydfil (0-2).

Memory Match – 20-08-60

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.

20-08-60

Peterborough United v Wrexham

League Division Four

London Road

Result: 3-0

Peterborough United: Walls, Stafford, Walker, Ravner, Rigby, Norris, Hails, Emery, Bly, Smith, McNamee

Goalscorers: Emery (25), McNamee (75), Bly (80)

Wrexham: Johnson, Holland, McGowan, Davis, Fox, Styles, Jones, Griffiths, Evans, Harbertson, Hunter

Attendance: 17,294

After being relegated from Division Three the previous season, Wrexham began life in the basement with a difficult fixture against Football League newcomers, Peterborough United at London Road. The Posh were famous FA Cup giantkillers and had slain a number of League clubs over the years, so a tough task was in store as Colwyn Bay-born Billy Morris took charge of the Reds for the first time.

Wrexham’s sixth post-war manager was quoted by Ron Chaloner in the Leader as saying: “I’ll stand or fall by my methods.  If things don’t go right, there will be no need to ask me to go, I shall be on my way.”

He asked supporters to have patience and not to expect miracles.

“I can’t make greyhounds out of fox terriers but I can make some improvements,” said the former Burnley player who did not plunge into the transfer market, but decided to weigh up the assets he had at his disposal before spending money.  Wrexham started the season with only one new player – former Halifax Town goalkeeper Arthur Johnson who was actually signed before Morris took over at the Racecourse.

***

Fortune was not on our side that afternoon. We fell behind only 25 minutes following a Denis Emery strike. The lanky striker seemed to miss-hit his effort from 20 yards but Johnson appeared to be a fraction late making his dive and the ball nestled in the bottom corner.

The Robins stuck to their fine approach play and were clearly not beaten. An equaliser seemed inevitable, especially when Gren Jones found the ball at his feet – 3 yards from goal. Somehow, the ball struck goalkeeper Jack Wallis’ boot and cannoned clear.

For the majority of the second period, the Town were in control. After 55 minutes Johnson launched a clearance that went almost to the edge of the United penalty area and the bouncing ball panicked the opposition defence, beating centre-half Norman Rigby. Visiting forward Ron Harbetson gave chase desperately, but Wallis came out to collect and calm the situation.

The Posh found their way back into the game after Emery smacked a shot against the post to rejuvenate the home supporters. 75 minutes had been played when outside-left Peter McNamee took a glorious pass from Ray Smith who skipped past Reg Holland for the first time that afternoon. McNamee surprised everyone by dancing into the penalty area and aiming a right foot shot past the helpless Johnson.

Wrexham were now under the cosh and conceded a third in the 81st minute when Terry Ely scored an opportunistic goal with a header from Emery’s cross.

***

Peterborough manager, Jimmy Hagan said: “If Wrexham are a sample of the sort of team we are going to meet in the Fourth Division, we are going to have a very hard time indeed. Wrexham are a very good side, particularly some of their forwards and they were very unlucky not to score. We won because we took our chances while they did not take theirs.”

Billy Morris said: “What disappointed me more than anything was that our forwards did not play as a closely knit unit and seemed to forget all the moves we had planned and practiced. There was too much shooting from 30 or 40 yards which was just a waste of time.

“I am almost certain now that this is not the best team Wrexham can field and I may make a couple of changes for our next match.”

Memory Match – 17-03-23

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.

17-03-23

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Finnigan, Holmes, Cope, Regan, Savage, Roberts, Warburton, Cotton, Jackson, Jones, Sheldon

Goalscorers: Jackson, Warburton

Tranmere Rovers: Bradshaw, Thompson, Stuart, Campbell, Halstead, Sewell, Cook, Sayer, Crowther, Hilton, Evans

Goalscorer: Sayer

Attendance: 6,150

Our second season in the Football League and we were still looking to beat Tranmere Rovers for the first time in this competition, following a goalless draw at Prenton Park and a comprehensive 1-3 defeat at the Racecourse in 1921/22.

Despite a poor start to season 1922/23 and some heavy defeats – 0-4 at Grimsby, 0-5 at Rochdale – things improved after the festive season. Wrexham went into this derby match in 12th position in the 20 team league on the back of three successive wins against Yorkshire opposition – Halifax Town were beaten 2-1 at the Cae Ras before we recorded a double over Bradford Park Avenue.

Rovers, who were also playing their second season at this elevated level after being elected alongside Wrexham and sixteen other clubs to form the Third Division (North) in 1921/22, were struggling to adapt and were floundering in 18th position ahead of this game on the back of a 0-4 trouncing at Darlington.

Our poor results against relegation-haunted sides are not a modern phenomenon though and after a poor opening half we trailed 0-1 at the break. The visitors profited from winning the toss and opted to play with a stiff breeze at their backs during the first 45 minutes. As a result they dominated proceedings and forced some fine saves from Dick Finnigan in the Wrexham goal. There seemed to be no way through for Tranmere with Jabez Evans, Stan Sayer and George Crowther all wasting good opportunities. Indeed, Leader reporter E.H.K suggested that Tranmere were “particularly clever in midfield and played delightful football but the finishes were feeble”.

However, the home forwards were equally ineffective and shortly before half-time Sayer – a new signing from Millwall – opened the scoring from a centre from Evans.

Wrexham had it all to do in the second period and got off to a great start when Billy Jackson connected with a cross from Richard Warburton to equalise. We were now in the ascendency but failed to find the decisive goal, despite much pressure. Hopes were high when Jack Jones played a lovely ball through to Jackson, but he failed to connect properly with the ball and his tame shot was easily saved by Harry Bradshaw in the Tranmere goal.

There then followed a spell of pressure from the visitors though this was eased when Wrexham won a free-kick as Jones was brought down as he threatened to burst through on goal. Edward Roberts floated in an accurate delivery from the resulting set-piece for Warburton to thump home a header and put us on course for the two points.

It was a very pleasing victory as it was achieved without George Godding and Tommy Matthias who were away on international duty with Wales for their match against Scotland in Paisley. Finnigan and Roberts were able deputies.

***

The return match at Prenton Park was a day to forget for Wrexham fans as we lost 4-0, with Sayer and Sammy Beswick each scoring a brace in front of 8,000 spectators.

***

Wrexham finished the season in 10th position while Tranmere – revived by the goals of Stan Sayer – finished in 15th.

***

Our FA Cup campaign began at the fifth qualifying stage with a 0-2 victory against Port Vale, in a match played at the Old Recreation Ground at Hanley. Billy Jackson was the difference between the two sides and netted a brace.  In the sixth qualifying round we met Hartlepools United at the Racecourse with Tommy Matthias scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to send us into the first round proper. Bristol City of the Third Division (South) were our opponents, but our trip to Ashton Gate ended in a 5-1 defeat.

Memory Match – 02-09-39

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.

02-09-39

Halifax Town v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section) (abandoned)

The Shay

Result: 1-1

Halifax Town: Briggs, Allsop, Jackson, Green, Craig, Ruecroft, Widdowfield, Bruce, Baines, Barkas, Wood

Goalscorer: Baines

Wrexham: Bryan, Tunney, Screen, Savage, Matthias, Briggs, Williams, Snow, Woodman, Bradbury, Brown

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 6,417

When the 1939/40 season kicked off, the international situation meant that it was unlikely to proceed far. Indeed, after only three matches, war was declared on 3 September 1939 and with immediate effect the assembly of crowds was banned until further notice.

The last game Wrexham played before the suspension of football was at the Shay – home of Halifax Town. The match featured a fantastic display from the visiting goalkeeper Billy Bryan who was in inspired form for the Reds.

Halifax controlled proceedings and spent most of the game on the offensive. However, Wrexham took an early lead through former Nottingham Forest winger, Roy Brown who scored with a fast, rising shot. The Shaymen where shocked by this and retaliated swiftly with Bryan being called upon to make some spectacular saves from Reg Baines.

It was apparent that Halifax’s repeated attacks would bring reward, and it came as no surprise when Baines equalised with a fierce drive that gave Bryan no chance. Before the break the Wrexham custodian had to be on his toes to stop a shot from Tommy Barkas. Writing in the Leader, “Candidus” said that Bryan was “clapped when he left the field at half time by the sporting home crowd, and he well deserved their plaudits.”

 After the interval, Halifax maintained their pressure but could not penetrate the red wall of defenders. In the final stages it looked likely that Wrexham were to lose their hard-earned point when Baines broke through with only Bryan to beat. This was a duel between the two star performers of the game. Thankfully, it was Bryan who came out on top when he confidently ran out of his goal and smothered the centre forward’s shot.

***

Underneath the match report in the North Wales Guardian was the headline: “Welsh FA and Suspension of Football”. Ted Robbins, secretary of the FAW issued the following statement: “It will have been noticed that football has been suspended. This decision is doubtless necessary, but I feel that in a very short time the ban will be raised in certain areas so as to afford some recreation for the people, and to take their minds temporarily off sterner things.”

Robbins was correct in his forecast. The Government deemed football should continue in some format because it was good for morale. Wrexham’s next match was a friendly against Chester at the Cae Ras. They played another friendly against Chester and two against Tranmere Rovers before football was reorganised into regions. Wrexham played in the Regional League (West Division), which included the two Manchester giants as well as Liverpool and Everton.

During the war, registration regulations were relaxed to allow players who would serve in the forces to turn out for a club near to where they were stationed. These players were allowed to appear as guests and each club could field as many guests as they wanted. Indeed, without the guest player system, war time football would have collapsed.

During this period, Wrexham had their fair share of guest players. Famous names to appear for Wrexham included England internationals Stanley Matthews, Stan Cullis, John Hancocks and Ronnie Dix. Welsh internationals included Tommy G Jones, Tommy Griffiths, Ehud Rogers, Tommy Bamford and Don Dearson.

The Town’s best season during this time of conflict was in 1943/44 when they finished top of the North Regional Championship and had the same record as Bath City, who played in the Southern Regional competition. Wrexham offered to play Bath over two legs to decide the outright winner, but Bath bottled it and refused the offer because of the travelling involved. Popular opinion of the time regarded Wrexham as the outright winners because of the strength of the opponents they had overcome compared to Bath.

Memory Match – 15-10-85

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.

15-10-85

Wrexham v Cambridge United

Canon League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-2

Wrexham: Hooper, Cunnington, Comstive, Jones, Keay, Edwards, Hencher, Horne, Steel, Charles, Gregory

Goalscorers: Steel 39, Edwards 43, 45, 52, Hencher 58, Charles 87

Cambridge United: Hansbury, Rayment (Lee), Bennett, Finney, McPherson, Scott, Sinton, Pyle, Massey, Comfort, Crown

Goalscorers: Comfort 84, Crown 86

Attendance: 1,651

After winning four and drawing one of their opening five League games, season 1985/86 got off to a flying start. Dixie McNeil was duly named Manager of the Month for August, but our form was soon on the decline.

Following a shambolic 4-0 defeat at Port Vale in early October, McNeil totally lambasted his players:

“For the past ten weeks I have been telling them that they are not professional enough. They played schoolboy football today and they are going to pay for it. I am very annoyed with them and that is why they are back in on Sunday morning.

“I am not that annoyed about being beaten today. You are going to get games when you are beaten three or four nil, but what made me furious is the way we lost. Their last two goals [an own goal and a penalty] were jokes.

“I am very concerned about the goals we are giving away. There is no discipline at all and the greatest need at the moment is to be more professional. We had 20 shots at Port Vale’s goal and only one of them was on target.

“Until they learn to behave in the right sort of manner they will be in trouble.

“We are so devoid of ideas it’s unbelievable. Our reactions are nil and we are not bright, we are not alert. You have got to be b*****ds in this game and that is what we are not”.

With these words still ringing in the ears of the squad, Wrexham did scrape a 2-1 home win against Halifax Town in their next League game – though their performance left a lot to be desired. With crowds declining and the club walking a financial tightrope, performances had to improve to win back stay-away fans. Cue an avalanche of goals against a shaky Cambridge defence on a Tuesday night in front of fewer than 2000 spectators.

Jim Steel had put the Robins ahead with a brave diving header in the 38th minute. This resulted with him having to have two stitches in a gash above his left eye. However, the night belonged to local boy Andy Edwards who scored a hat-trick with his strikes coming in the 43rd, 45th and 52nd minutes. The other goals came from Nick Hencher and Steve Charles.

Hat-trick hero Edwards said: “I’m pretty chuffed and it’s the first game I’ve really enjoyed this season. I’ve been troubled with an ankle injury from the start of the season and I played when I should have rested it.

“The boss has had me in twice to give me a telling off because he thought I wasn’t sharp enough. But I think it was due to my injury. Now that it has cleared up I hope to be amongst the goals again.”

Lack of concentration in the Wrexham defence led to Alan Comfort scoring for Cambridge in the 84th minute followed by David Crown two minutes later.

Unfortunately, this was a flash in the pan and an inconsistent season followed that saw us finish in 13th position. To make matters worse, Chester were promoted as runners-up.

***

February 1986 saw the lowest ever crowd at the Racecourse for a League game, when just 957 turned up for the 1-0 win over Hartlepool United. The club took just £1,550 in gate receipts.

***

The lone highlight of a frustrating season of struggle was when we reached the Welsh Cup final after beating Cardiff City 6-2 on aggregate in the semi-final. Kidderminster Harriers were our opponents and held us to a 0-0 draw at the Racecourse. The Reds won the replay at Aggborough, despite Kim Casey giving Harriers an early lead. Jim Steel was our saviour with a crucial brace to ensure more European adventures.

Memory Match – 11-10-47

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.

11-10-47

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Bayley, Tunney, Jackson, Roberts, Wilson, Bellis, Jones, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Tunnicliffe (2)

Chester: MacLaren, Butcher, McNeil, Marsh, Walters, Cole, Turner, Burden, Coffin, Astbury, Hamilton

Goalscorer: Marsh (pen)

Attendance: 21,131

Wrexham went into this derby clash whilst riding high at the top of the league although they had failed to win their last three matches. Defeat at eventual champions Lincoln City was followed by successive 1-1 draws against Accrington Stanley and Hull City.  Hopes were high that Tom Williams’ men could get their promotion charge back on track against our mid-table local rivals. Chester had been fairly inconsistent up until this point, but were fresh from a 4-1 home win against Carlisle United.

Goalkeeper Tom Bayley was making his home League debut, but had a fairly quiet introduction to life at the Racecourse as the home team dominated proceedings. Indeed, Wrexham took the lead after only three minutes through a Billy Tunnicliffe effort that was deflected by Chester’s Reg Butcher.

After weathering fierce Wrexham pressure to keep the scoreline respectable, Chester found their feet and went close through Tommy Burden and Geoff Coffin.  At half-time, Racecourse regulars fretted over the fact that despite their dominance they only had a one goal lead. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait much longer to increase this lead as Tunnicliffe completed his brace after 57 minutes. The outside-left accepted a through ball by Jack Boothway and beat Jimmy MacLaren with a well-placed cross shot.

Chester got back into the game late on when they were awarded a controversial penalty after Wally Roberts was deemed to have fouled Tommy Burden. Frank Marsh converted the resulting spot kick.  This was the final goal of the afternoon, but if Wrexham players had been wearing their shooting boots then the margin of victory would surely have been greater.

Norman Sharp was particularly unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet due to a fine save from MacLaren after earlier shooting over the bar. Jack Jones also warmed the hands of MacLaren with a rasping drive while Boothway, on his return from injury, could not find the form that had brought him a glut of goals following his move from Crewe Alexandra the previous season. Chester defender Trevor Walters – the backbone of a defiant defence – also deserves grudging praise for containing the dangerous Wrexham attack.

Wrexham finished the season in third position, but were lagging ten points behind Lincoln City.  Meanwhile, Chester just avoided having to seek re-election after limping to 20th position with just Halifax Town and New Brighton below them.

***

However, Wrexham did not fare so well in cup competitions. They suffered the embarrassment of losing a Welsh Cup semi-final to Lovell’s Athletic, 2-1 despite beating Rhyl and Penrhyn Quarry in earlier rounds.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Halifax Town 5-0 in the first round, but there was more heartbreak to follow.  The second round saw Wrexham travelling to non-league Colchester United and with just a few minutes remaining a shock was on the cards as we trailed 1-0.  Our desperation turned to hope when we were awarded a penalty at the death and as regular penalty-taker Billy Tunnicliffe strode forward it seemed as if we had found redemption.  Unfortunately Tunnicliffe promptly fainted, leaving Jack Boothway as the man responsible for taking the crucial spot-kick.  With the pressure on, Boothway stubbed the ground as he shot and the ball trickled into the arms of an amused Colchester goalkeeper.  Our cup dreams were over for another season…

***

At the end of this season, Wrexham travelled to Germany to play three matches against Army teams stationed on the Rhine.  They met BAOR in Celle, the Rhine Army XI in Hanover and the combined services XI in Rothesan.