Kevin Wilkin

Memory Match – 27-04-93

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I have contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I shared on this blog.

This was 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.

 

27-04-93

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 0-2

Northampton Town: Richardson, Parsons, Burnham, Harrison, Chard, Terry, Wilkin, Aldridge, Gavin, Brown, Bell

Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Owen, Humes, Pejic, Bennett, Lake, Connelly, Watkin, Cross

 Goalscorers: Bennett (13, 42 pen).

Attendance: 7,504

We all know that history only tells a story, but I can assure you that stories from our past are much more interesting than the dreadful football that we have had to sit through this season. It is important to realise that things haven’t always been this bad and there is certainly the potential for things to improve…

Back in 1992/93, Brian Flynn’s blend of homegrown talent and experienced campaigners set our pulses racing. Few would have predicted that after a 1-1 draw at Hereford United at the beginning of October left us floundering in 18th position. We were beaten at the first round stage of both the League and FA Cup by Bury (5-4 on aggregate) and Crewe Alexandra (6-1) respectively, while Leyton Orient hammered us at Brisbane Road in the second round of the Football League Trophy (4-1).

We had already conceded four goals at Bury, York and Gillingham as our season threatened to implode. The heavy Cup defeat at Crewe was a genuine turning point though as Brian Flynn entered the loan market to sign Mike Lake following the dismissal of Mickey Thomas. With our new midfielder pulling the strings we proceeded to loose only one of the next 10 games, including five consecutive victories.

The confidence was flowing and before we knew it, we were in a promotion battle. Instead of under-performing and disappointing we actually dug deep and maintained our impressive form up to the end of the season.

With two games of the season remaining, Wrexham went into the game against relegation threatened Northampton Town knowing that a win would earn them promotion for the first time in 15 years. Approximately 3,000 Wrexham fans descended on the County Ground to watch their heroes in action, but the early stages suggested that the Cobblers were intent on spoiling our party. Indeed, the home side forced four corners in as many minutes in the opening period, but Mark Morris proved a safe pair of hands as he caught every one of Darren Harmon’s vicious in-swinging corners.

The Red’s quickly settled and in the ninth minute Mike Lake should have at least hit the target after he was presented with a glorious opportunity by Steve Watkin. Four minutes later and we took the lead when Gary Bennett smashed home his 22nd goal of the season. Watkin’s tame effort was surprisingly fumbled by Barry Richardson and our ace marksman didn’t need asking twice to put us ahead.

All memories from this point on are a little hazy, but according to match reports Morris then made an unbelievable save as he tipped over Steve Brown’s bullet header after 25 minutes.

There was only one team that was ever going to win this game though and we made the evening comfortable when Watkin was pulled down in the area by Phil Chard and Bennett smashed home the resulting penalty. Referee Trevor West decided that Bennett was celebrating rather too wildly and added him to his notebook, but Wrexham fans really couldn’t have cared less. Before the half-time whistle, Watkin hit the post with a diving header.

Wrexham were in control during the second half and pushed forward in search of more goals apparently. At the final whistle, Reds fans poured onto the pitch to create joyous scenes of celebration.

“When I came here my aim was to help get the club promoted and now we’ve done that we’ll be looking to take the second division by storm”, said Gary Bennett.

Club captain Mickey Thomas, who was kicking and heading every ball from the bench said: “They’ve deserved it and so have the fans. What a season and what a team.”

It’s nice to remember the good times…

***

Lining up at number seven for Northampton Town that evening was future Dragons’ boss Kevin Wilkin.

Memory Match – 29-03-15

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.

29-03-15

North Ferriby United v Wrexham

FA Trophy Final

Wembley

Result: 3-3 (North Ferriby United win 5-4 on pens)

North Ferriby United: Nicklin, Toliss, Wilde, King, Wilson, Hone, Clarke, Fry, Denton, Bolder, St Juste

Goalscorers: King (76 pen), Kendall (86, 101)

Wrexham: Coughlin, Tomassen, Smith, Hudson, Ashton, Harris, Keates, Clarke, Morris, Moult, Jennings Goalscorers: Moult (11, 118), Harris (59)

Attendance: 14,585

 

Do I really have to write this? Surely, it’s best forgotten, but sometimes if we revisit nightmares we can learn lessons to prevent making the same mistakes again.

On their road to Wembley, Wrexham have beaten Southport, Stockport County, Gateshead, FC Halifax Town and Torquay United 5-1 over two legs in the semi-final. Meanwhile, our opponents, North Ferriby United of the Vanarama North, had beaten Mickleover Sports, Boston United, Hyde, Farnborough, Ebbsfleet United and Bath City (on penalties) in the semi-final, after drawing 3-3 with the Romans over two legs.

Surely Wrexham would have no trouble picking up their second FA Trophy title in two years against a team of part-timers from a Yorkshire village?

It all started so well. On the 11th minute, Louis Moult managed to put Kevin Wilkin’s men ahead when he tapped the ball in from inside the six-yard box. Joe Clarke and Connor Jennings had worked the ball well on the left wing with the latter finding Moult in the box to give the Dragons an early lead.

Billy Heath’s North Ferriby side squandered their best chance of the half on 32 minutes and Andy Coughlin was alert to save well from winger Danny Clarke.

Wrexham did make it 2-0 on 59 minutes through Jay Harris. The midfielder had just returned to the pitch after receiving treatment and he raced through from the right side to slot past Adam Nicklin at the near post.

Seemingly in control, Kevin Wilkin then made the biggest mistake of his managerial career when he substituted Dean Keates on 70 minutes. Our experienced captain had been controlling the midfield and organising his troops as usual, so to take him off when he wasn’t even injured seemed bizarre.

The Villagers were handed a lifeline on the 76th minute when Clarke was fouled in the box by Coughlin. Captain Liam King stepped up and smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-1. Things were beginning to unravel.

Seven minutes after replace Russell Fry, substitute Ryan Kendall grabbed the equaliser when he was in the right place at the right time to convert Jason St Juste’s cross and force extra time.

Just after the 100-minute mark, North Ferriby took the lead for the first time when Kendall doubled his tally. St Juste’s deflected cross found the head of Kendall who nodded past a helpless Coughlin. What was going on?

Wrexham piled the pressure in the final 15 minutes and were rewarded for their efforts when Moult smashed in the equaliser with minutes left on the clock.

The shootout went to sudden death and Steve Tomassen was the unlucky player to miss the deciding spot kick to confirm North Ferriby as 2015 FA Trophy winners.

Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin said: “I’m gutted. We had a great opportunity to put ourselves in the driving seat and to give the game away like we have, I feel we’ve left people down today.

“There were no issues, but then we started dropping off and getting deep again. We didn’t defend crosses, we didn’t get tight to people and gave them time and space. But credit to North Ferriby, they stuck to their work.

“I’m here to do a job. I’ve worked hard at it, had a couple of great cup runs but the league form hasn’t been exactly where we need it to be. There’s been a lot of changes, and we need to keep pushing that on for Wrexham.”

Wilkin was relieved of his duties the following day, but what is particularly depressing is that worse was to follow…