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.
Wrexham v Bradford City
League Division Three (Northern Section)
Wrexham: Ferguson, Tunney, Jackson, Speed, Spruce, Bellis, Grainger, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe
Goalscorers: Beynon (2), Birkinshaw (og), Grainger, Boothway
Bradford City: McManus, Ferguson, Ruecroft, Conroy, Birkinshaw, Murphy, Poole, Shearer, Hardcastle, Ward, Woollett
Wrexham opened the new year with a convincing victory that raised hopes for the second half of the season. 1949 certainly promised more than 1948 had delivered as a series of poor results and performances had seen us drop in to the lower reaches of the league table before Christmas. We were also knocked out of the FA Cup at the first round stage after Oldham Athletic thumped us 3-0 at the Racecourse.
This was our chance to record a ‘double’ over the Bantams as the third game of the season saw us record a hard-fought 1-2 victory at Valley Parade thanks to two goals from Dick Yates.
Writing in the Leader, “Wanderer” said “so paltry was the exhibition put up by the City that they made Wrexham’s task infinitely easier. That they got away with no more than five goals scored against them without reply was certainly not due to their own strength but rather to the many gift chances which the Wrexham forwards let slip through their fingers.” This sounds strangely familiar.
Wrexham were well on top for 90% of the game as it quickly became clear why our Yorkshire opposition were rock-bottom of the league. The visiting defence were unable to cope with the Wrexham frontline and only former Wrexham ‘guest’ player George Birkinshaw finished the game with any credit. The visitors were not helped by a shaky performance from goalkeeper Brendan McManus who had a tendency to wander from his goal and was fortunate not to concede as a result.
It should also be noted that the weather was atrocious and affected the playing conditions. The reporter writing for the North Wales Guardian commented “that the treacherous, rain-soaked surface proved anything but conducive to good ball control and accurate shooting on both sides.”
“Wanderer” was particularly impressed with the deployment of five Wrexham forwards instead of the usual three. There are special mentions for Norman Sharp and Eddie Beynon. The latter opened the scoring on 38 minutes when he beat McManus with a low shot. This was the only goal of the first half when Wrexham were particularly wasteful in front of goal. Things did improve following our opener, but McManus did well to dispose of powerful drives from Jack Boothway and Dennis Grainger.
After the interval, Bradford’s attacks were more frequent but were never a menace to the Wrexham defence. Gradually, Wrexham took control of the game again and some “fine wing work” was a constant source of worry to the opposition.
Six minutes after the restart, Grainger sent the ball into the middle and Birkinshaw – threatened by the Wrexham midfielder – attempted a lofted back-pass to McManus, but his kick looped over the head of the advancing custodian to double our lead.
A host of chances went begging before Wrexham got their third goal in the 79th minute from Beynon who left McManus helpless. Five minutes later, Beynon provided Grainger with a pass and opened a way for him to net a fourth. Three minutes from the end Grainger’s centre was snapped up by Boothway whose shot seemed to curl clear of the goal, but it struck full-back Hugh Ferguson sufficiently to divert it in to the City net.
Wrexham finished the season in a respectable ninth position, which was quite remarkable when you consider that we had a change of manager and spent six matches being managed by a committee. Tom Williams was our boss for the game discussed above. However, following four straight victories his employment was terminated by the board of directors with 18 months of his contract remaining. A new manager was eventually installed when Manchester City wing-half Les McDowall became Wrexham’s first player- manager.