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.
Wrexham v Chelsea
League Division Two
Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, Jones, Bater, Davis, Dowman, Ronson, Leman, McNeil, Fox, Vinter (Hill), Carrodus
Goalscorer: Carrodus (66)
Chelsea: Francis, Locke, Hutchings, Nutton, Chivers, Pates, Rhoades-Brown, Britton (Mayes), Lee, Walker, Fillery
Star-studded Chelsea may be experiencing a season of turmoil, but it is still hard to believe that back in 1981/82 we played them five times. What’s more, the Stamford Bridge hot-seat was occupied by a certain John Neal…
It all began with a disappointing League trip to Stamford Bridge that ended in a 2-0 defeat before a trio of tussles in the FA Cup fourth round. A goalless draw in West London was followed by a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse and a second replay took place at the same venue on the toss of a coin. Home advantage did not help on this occasion though as we lost 1-2 and missed out on a lucrative fifth round home encounter with Liverpool.
The fifth meeting between the sides came at the end of February 1982 on the back of six straight defeats. The mood around the Cae Ras was one of resignation as the club were staring relegation in the face under Mel Sutton, had not won at home since their 3-1 victory over Cardiff on November 24 and had only won three home games in the League all season.
Writing in the Leader, Les Chamberlain said: “It now looks a certainty that there will be Third Division football at the Racecourse next season. Only a superhuman effort by the team and the collapse of teams above Wrexham can now save them”.
Ahead of this must-win game, Wrexham were without Wayne Cegielski through suspension but Billy Ronson and Steve Buxton, who had both been suspended, come back into the reckoning. Wrexham fans also had their first chance of seeing Denis Leman who was on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.
The match was only nine minutes old when Joey Jones brought down Clive Walker in the penalty area for what seemed a certain penalty, but fortunately the referee ignored passionate appeals from the Pensioners.
Two minutes before the interval, Mike Fillery beat Eddie Niedzwiecki with a thunderous drive, but the ball hit the side of the bar, bounced on the line and back into play. Once again Chelsea players felt aggrieved as they felt the ball had crossed the goal line.
Wrexham’s goal started from a mistake by Fillery as his under strength pass to Gary Locke was intersected by Steve Fox who took the opportunity to whip in a pinpoint cross to the unmarked Frank Carrodus who calmly drove it past a helpless Steve Francis in the Chelsea goal.
Mel Sutton said: “We played the ball about today and the goal gave them confidence. Now this has given us a lift and I think it has given the players a lift. We have now got to work on that and make it pay.”
There is no doubt that this victory gave everyone at the club a confidence boost as the Reds had still to play fellow strugglers so their fate was largely in their own hands. Unfortunately, despite an immediate upturn in fortunes that saw us undefeated in March, we conspired to win just one of our last eight games and we were relegated along with Cardiff City and Orient.
1981/82 was also the first season that the three points for a win system was introduced.
d TownThroughout 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.
Torquay United v Wrexham
Barclays League Division Four
TORQUAY UNITED: Allen, McNichol, Kelly, Haslegrave (Musker), Cole, Impey, Gardiner, Lloyd, McLoughlin, Loram (Nardiello), Dobson
Goalscorers: McLoughlin 29, 63, Dobson 38, 62, 71, Cole 58
WREXHAM: Salmon, Salathiel, Hinnigan, Williams, Cooke (Buxton), Jones, Carter, Hunter, Steel, Russell, Cunnington
Goalscorer: Carter 18
It was a new-look Wrexham side that kicked-off the 1987/88 season following a hectic close season that saw the departure of Barry Horne (£70,000 to Portsmouth), Mike Conroy (Released), Nick Hencher (Released), Steve Charles (£15,000 to Mansfield Town), Chris Pearce (£4,000 to Burnley) and Paul Comstive (£8,000 to Burnley).
Dixie McNeil worked tirelessly to sign adequate replacements and brought in Kevin Russell (£10,000 from Portsmouth), Mike Carter (Free from Hereford), Jon Bowden (£12,500 from Port Vale), Joe Hinnigan (Free from Gillingham), Mike Salmon (£18,000 from Bolton Wanderers) and Geoff Hunter (Free from Port Vale).
However, the marquee signing came a few days before the opening game of the season when McNeil re-signed Joey Jones for £7,000 from Huddersfield Town, after he’d turned down an offer to join Swansea City.
“I always wanted to come back to Wrexham, but I hope people will not think I have just returned to play out the rest of my career. I want to win things.”
Subsequently, it was with high hopes that the Robins travelled to the English Riviera to take on a Torquay side that only escaped relegation to the Conference on the final day of the previous season on goal difference. The South Coast club had since appointed a new manager in Cyril Knowles – former Spurs player and ex-Darlington boss – and were hoping that this would herald a new dawn.
“It’s a very difficult game for us. They will obviously be out to get off to a flying start, but it is essential that we also make a good start,” said manager McNeil.
“The first 10 games are vital for both the team and fans because it can give you a cushion against the odd setback. I’m very optimistic about our chances for the new season, especially with Joey Jones back at the Racecourse.
“The new lads have only played a handful of competitive games together, but there have been signs that we will have a good side once the season gets underway.”
Everything seemed to be going to plan when Mike Carter gave the visitors the lead from eight yards on 18 minutes, but that was as good it got as Torquay quickly found their stride. Goals from Alan McLoughlin (29) and Alan Dobson (38) gave the Gulls a half-time lead, but worse was to follow after the break as David Cole (58), Dobson (62) and McLoughlin (63) netted three goals in five minutes. To rub salt into the wounds, Dobson secured his hat-trick on 71 minutes.
“Without a shadow of a doubt we were a shambles,” blasted McNeil.
“We were totally overrun and never got into the game. I don’t mind getting beaten but to go down 6-1 in your first game of the season and loose three goals in five minutes is wrong. I was sick watching the goals going in; I just couldn’t believe it.”
At least the Red Army didn’t travel en masse to Plainmoor as Torquay had decided to ban all visiting fans.
A United spokesman said that they have never had any trouble from Wrexham fans in the past but had to bring in the ban to cut police costs.
“We are a holiday resort and fans tend to make a weekend of it and there has been trouble. We have a moral responsibility to local people so a membership only scheme has been introduced,” said the spokesman.
gue CupThroughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham Areil
FC 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.
Wrexham v Carlisle United
League Cup Round One First Leg
WREXHAM: Davies, Hill, Dwyer, Davis, Jones, Giles, Sutton, Whittle, McNeil, Vinter, Cartwright (J Roberts)
Goalscorer: Vinter 65
CARLISLE UNITED: Swinburne, Hoolickin, McCartney, MacDonald, Tait, Parker, Bannon, Bonnyman, Ludlam, Kemp, McAuley
Goalscorer: Kemp 60
The 1979/80 season kicked off with a League Cup clash against Third Division Carlisle United, which was seen as the ideal preparation for another tilt at life in the second tier.
During the close season, Bobby Shinton (£300,000 to Manchester City) and John Lyons (£50,000 to Millwall) both departed the Racecourse while Mick Vinter was picked up for £150,000 from Notts County by manager Arfon Griffiths.
Of equal significance was the club’s rejection of a £100,000 bid for Graham Whittle by Crystal Palace and his subsequent signing of a new two-year deal to stay in north Wales. After being plagued with cartilage problems during the previous season, Whittle’s commitment to the cause was as exciting as a new signing and he lined up alongside Vinter and Dixie McNeil.
If home fans were expecting a goal glut against lower division opponents then they were to be disappointed. Wrexham struggled to find their way though a well-organised Carlisle outfit who had one eye on the second leg. There was plenty of decent football on show but little excitement until the hour mark when David Kemp put the visitors ahead from 15 yards.
Just five minutes later the scores were level. Jones tackled goalscorer Kemp in his own half and sprayed an accurate pass to midfield maestro Mel Sutton who, in turn, set Whittle free down the right. What followed was a perfect cross for the in-rushing Vinter to score on his debut.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Wrexham were unable to turn their neat approach work into a comfortable lead, leaving cynics moaning that they’d seen it all before and optimists focussed on the potential shown by a fluent passing side.
Arfon’s men seemed to be heading for an embarrassing cup exit in the second leg at Brunton Park three days later after falling behind to a Joey Jones own-goal on 25 minutes. It didn’t seem to be Wrexham’s day as they struggled to find any rhythm at all, Jones failed to reappear for the second half due to double vision and Niedzwiecki – deputising between the sticks for the injured Dai Davies – was called upon on several occasions to keep Wrexham’s Cup hopes alive.
Indeed, it took two stunning late goals from Whittle (81) and McNeil (87) to secure their place in the second round of the League Cup and set-up a double header against Southampton.
“We needed to beat Carlisle and the way we won pleased me and perked up everyone at the club,” said Griffiths.
“It’s pleasing too that the three front runners have each scored in our opening games and they are getting a good understanding.”