Jon Bowden

Memory Match – 19-09-90

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.

 

19-09-90

Wrexham v Lyngby

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round, First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Phillips, Beaumont, Owen, Williams, Sertori, Copper, Flynn (Hunter), Preece, Worthington, Bowden

Lyngby: Rindom, Kuhn, Wieghorst, Gothenborg, Christiensen, Larsen, Helt, Schafer, Christensen, Rode (Andersen), Kuhn

Attendance: 3,417

Season 1990/91 saw Brian Flynn decide to give youth a chance as there was no relegation to the non-league doldrums this season. An array of young talent was waiting in the wings, with players such as Phil Hardy, Waynne Phillips, Gareth Owen and Chris Armstrong all bidding to carve out a successful career in football.

Flynn said “I am getting the praise for these youngsters,, but it is Cliff Sear and his excellent team who have brought them all on over the last four years”. The new man in charge was fairly confident of a productive season and was only looking upward before the season began.

“Every club starts equal, so at this stage it is anybody’s guess who will win promotion.”

After an appalling start to the season, with only one win in the opening ten league games it quickly became clear that we weren’t going to be challenging at the right end of the table. What we needed was a distraction and progress in the League Cup certainly provided that. After beating York City over two legs, we faced Everton in the second round. We were demolished 0-5 at the Racecourse and thumped 6-0 at Goodison Park, but in hindsight these defeats proved valuable lessons for our inexperienced squad.

Another distraction came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where we were drawn against Danish Cup winners Lyngby. The first-leg at the Racecourse was instantly forgettable to my teenage eyes, but I do remember getting my programme signed by Chris Armstrong. That was about the sum of the excitement.

Kevin Reeves was more than happy with the goalless draw that we had earned: “The most pleasing thing is we never conceded a goal. If we get a scoring draw over there, then it’s obviously a big bonus to us.” Our defensive display was helped by the fact that Flynn chose to play Mike Williams, who had been out of action for nine months.

The Town had achieved more than expected already. It was seen as fanciful to hope that they could capitalise on this result, especially as we had to contend with the fact that we were restricted to four ‘foreign’ players thanks to a new UEFA ruling. This meant that experienced players such as Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackeray, Nigel Beaumont, Sean Reck and Andy Preece all had to be left out of Flynn’s plans. We were given little chance and Danish newspapers predicted a landslide.

Competing in Europe for the fifth time, Lyngby included four full Danish international players on their books, and almost took the lead after only two minutes. Mark Morris managed to turn a Hasse Kuhl header onto the bar. In the resulting scramble, Morris did well to keep out Michael Gothenburg’s shot.

Only 11 minutes had passed when Wrexham won a free-kick that player-boss Flynn floated across. Jon Bowden nodded on and Chris Armstrong buried a header past Jan Rindom, to send the 400 travelling Wrexham fans into rapture.

Lyngby continued to press for the remainder of the game, but Wrexham defended gallantly and benefited from Morris being on top of his game, especially when making a one-handed save to deny John Helt. Thankfully, Fleming Christian missed a second half sitter with a wayward header.

After the match, Flynn said: “I’m very proud of all my players. They have done Wrexham and Welsh football proud, and once again we have kept up the club’s fine tradition in Europe.”

***

The second round saw the Robins drawn against Manchester United in a tie that we lost 5-0 on aggregate. The Red Devils went on to lift the trophy that season after beating Barcelona in the final.

Memory Match – 07-04-90

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.

07-04-90

Wrexham v Maidstone United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-2 

Wrexham: O’Keefe, Salathiel, Kennedy, Reck, Beaumont, Youds, Preece (Armstrong), Thackeray, Sertori, Worthington, Bowden

Goalscorers: Youds (4), Worthington (6, 75), Sertori (85)

Maidstone United: Johns, Barton, Rumble, Berry, Golley, Roast, Pritchard, Elsey, Charlery, Butler, Lillis (Gall)

Goalscorer: Butler (9, 57)

Attendance: 2,806

 

After the heartbreak of defeat in the 1988/89 Division Four Play-Off final, Wrexham struggled to bounce back. Preparations for the new season were difficult with Kevin Russell joining Leicester City for £175,000, and Charlton Athletic paying £100,000 for Mike Salmon.

Replacements were signed in the form of Vince O’Keefe on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers, Gary Worthington joined from Darlington at a price of £15,000, Sean Reck was snapped up from Oxford United for £35,000 and Robbie Barnes signed from Manchester City on a free transfer. However, these new arrivals failed to gel and a poor start to the season saw a frustrated Dixie McNeil resign at the end of October with the team struggling near the foot of the table.

Enter Brian Flynn. Things got even worse before they got better as the new man in charge won only one of his opening 18 League matches. Relegation to the Conference looked a real possibility before centre-half Eddie Youds was loaned from Everton and the club stumped up £30,000 for Mark Sertori from Lincoln City to kick start a revival based on a new 3-5-2 formation.

The new-look Robins seemed to be making little progress when all of a sudden they won five games on the trot and hauled themselves off the bottom of the table. After a couple of blips on the road against Aldershot and Cambridge United that left us in 22nd position, it was time for promotion-chasing Maidstone United to visit the Racecourse.

Wrexham profited from home advantage and made a blistering start with two goals in the opening seven minutes. Eddie Youds was first off the mark with a belter from a Sean Reck free-kick before Gary Worthington ended a fine five-man move by calmly lifting the ball over the advancing Nicky Johns in the Maidstone goal.

However, it wasn’t long before the visitors – unbeaten in five – got back into the game. Ken Charlery eased past Alan Kennedy and delivered a cross that was met by the head of Jason Lillis who saw the ball crash against the crossbar. Steve Butler reacted to the rebound before Vince O’Keefe and Youds to keep the game alive with his head.

The Stones were now in the ascendency with Warren Barton and Karl Elsey running the show. O’Keefe reacted well to keep out a deflected Charlery shot at his near post and we were lucky to maintain our lead after a speculative Reck back pass fell ideally for Butler who was denied an equaliser by an in-form O’Keefe.

It was only a matter of time though and on 57 minutes Butler got the better of our Warwickshire-born shot stopper for his second of the afternoon after good work from Elsey and Barton.

With only a handful of games remaining to decide which team would be relegated to the Conference, Wrexham could not afford to settle for a point. The Robins had to dig deep and were rewarded when Worthington restored the lead after Mark Sertori had failed to control a perfect through ball from Jon Bowden.

The high flyers were not giving up without a fight and O’Keefe was on call again to deny substitute Mark Gall before Sertori sealed a vital victory with a shot on the turn after Chris Armstrong had headed down a Reck free-kick.

***

Wrexham won a further three League games that season and finished the campaign in 21st spot. The club that fell through the trap door that season was Colchester United…

Memory match – 15-08-15

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.

15-08-87

Torquay United v Wrexham

 Barclays League Division Four

Plainmoor

 Result: 6-1

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

 Attendance: 1,817

 

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.