League Cup

Countdown to 2019

During the festive period I have been rather short staffed, which is always detrimental to my ability to type freely. It is difficult to explain the frustration of a writer who cannot actually write due to his deteriorating body and poor dexterity.

Subsequently, I have decided to set up this blog post which I will write in times of despair and creativity. It will be totally unstructured, contain random words relating to my mood, YouTube links, Tweets and ideas for future projects that I would like to work on after I have saved the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

So if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin:

This period will be updated at random intervals as we head towards 2019. Please note that there will almost certainly be lots of foul language used in this post as we focus on the frustration over life in a 21st Century Britain for a disabled person. 

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THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2019:

On 30th May 2019 I have tickets to see John Cooper Clarke at Venue Cymru, Llandudno as part of his The Luckiest Guy Alive Tour.  His book, of the same name, was published in November 2018 and I have just downloaded a copy to my Kindle.

John Cooper Clarke_900x505

Following my poetic publications during 2017, it would be great to have the opportunity to meet this Poet; Movie Star: Rock Star; TV & Radio Presenter; Comedian; Social & Cultural Commentator.  I have just lost one hero, in the form of Pete Shelley, so it would be fitting to meet another.  I will look into ways of contacting JCC in the hope that he might offer me some tips advice and inspiration for my future poetic projects.

Here is the blurb for The Luckiest Guy Alive, which is available on Amazon or other outlets who actually pay their taxes.

The godfather of British performance poetry – Daily Telegraph

The Luckiest Guy Alive is the first new book of poetry from Dr John Cooper Clarke for several decades – and a brilliant, scabrous, hilarious collection from one of our most beloved and influential writers and performers. From the ‘Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman’ to a hymn to the seductive properties of the pie – by way of hand-grenade haikus, machine-gun ballads and a meditation on the loss of Bono’s leather pants – The Luckiest Guy Alive collects stunning set pieces, tried-and-tested audience favourites and brand new poems to show Cooper Clarke still effortlessly at the top of his game.

Cooper Clarke’s status as the ‘Emperor of Punk Poetry’ is certainly confirmed here, but so is his reputation as a brilliant versifier, a poet of vicious wit and a razor-sharp social satirist. Effortlessly immediate and contemporary, full of hard-won wisdom and expert blindsidings, it’s easy to see why the good Doctor has continued to inspire several new generations of performers from Alex Turner to Plan B: The Luckiest Guy Alive shows one of the most compelling poets of the age on truly exceptional form.

‘John Cooper Clarke is one of Britain’s outstanding poets. His anarchic punk poetry has thrilled people for decades … long may his slender frame and spiky top produce words and deeds that keep us on our toes and alive to the wonders of the world.’ Sir Paul McCartney

OBJECTIVE: Contact John Cooper Clarke through his agent and try to arrange to meet him in Llandudno.

http://johncooperclarke.com/contact

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It is hard to look forward to anything while I am still in the middle of my reassessment by WCBC for Independent Living.  A Panel of Council representatives will apparently decide how many hours of support I deserve per week.  I am prepared for negative news as I am sure the hours I am offered will not match the hours I require to fulfil my ambitions and subsequently protect my mental well-being.

It is annoying to be left in a state of indecision over the festive period.  I am unable to make any long-term plans aside from my determination to take this decision over my future out of the hands of cash strapped local authorities and make sure that the Welsh Independent Living Grant is reinstated.  There are already some key dates in my diary for 2019 and believe you me, the fight to #SaveWILG is far from over.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46615328

 

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SQUARE PEG, ROUND HOLE

THIS IS WHAT I AM NOT

THE PERFECT TIME TO DIE

FOOLS DON’T TRUST WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND

DANCING ON THIN ICE

***

I am really wanting to finish my book on Wrexham AFC. I plan on restarting my Memory Match column in the New Year. All proceeds from the volume will go to the Wrexham DSA. It will be easier to get things such as this done once I have completed the reassessment programme that Wrexham Council started but failed to finish before this annoying period between Xmas and New Year when no one is working and everyone pretends that family is the most important thing in the world. It is like being trapped in an Eastenders Omnibus.

I wish I could get a good nights sleep. It is impossible to do this when I am sleeping alone in my bungalow and I wake up at least twice a night to struggle with one of a number of things. Whether it is trying to grab hold of my urinal, straighten my fingers out of the clenched fist that they naturally curl into or attempting to straighten my leg after it bends at the knee and my foot ends up in my groin.

The simple solution to these problems would be to have a PA available overnight. This is not really what I want, but it is what I NEED. I haven’t had a proper nights sleep for many years and it definitely affects my mental health and well-being. I should be wearing hand-splints at night as well as using a T-bar underneath my knees to keep my legs straight. I can’t do either of these things without the support I need.

Whether or not Wrexham Council help me to find an agreeable solution to these problems remains to be seen, but I am not holding my breath and continuing my efforts to #SaveWILG.

***

OK, so I’m tired of sleeping in a half-empty bed, but a conventional relationship is the last thing I want. At £80 for a six-month subscription, is it really worth the hassle?

Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this time around? Do I really need an outside distraction with the #SaveWILG Campaign is at a crucial juncture? Maybe I should be careful what I wish for after getting my hands burnt in the past?

According to Wikipedia, Mysinglefriend.com[1] is a UK online dating site which claimed, in July 2013, to have over 200,000 users.[2] One of the original founders is Sarah Beeny, a TV presenter on Channel 4.

The site describes itself as having “a no-nonsense approach to dating”,[3] as all of the dating profiles on the site are written by friends of single people, instead of the single person themselves. The single person can approve what has been written before it goes live, and their friend can also get involved by recommending other users on MySingleFriend to them.

The site aims to match make singles through their friend’s descriptions of them, building an online community and taking away the hassle and stigma of writing your own dating profile.

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RIP Micky Metcalf.  The following article has been taken from the official Wrexham AFC website and was written by Peter Jones/Geraint Parry

It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of former Wrexham striker Mickey Metcalf, who spent almost six years at the Racecourse with a remarkable goalscoring average of a goal every other game, having scored 73 goals in 145 league and cup appearances for the then ‘Robins’.

Liverpool born (24 May 1939), upon leaving school Mickey joined Everton as a junior, and it was following Wrexham manager Cliff Lloyd’s visit to watch the Everton Youth side that he enquired about the possibility of signing Mike, and to his surprise Everton agreed to release him.

That was in May 1956, and Mike went on to make steady progress with the Wrexham reserve side in the competitive Cheshire County League.

He was eventually given his first team opportunity in October 1957, when he made his Football League debut at home to Hartlepool United in a 3-1 win and remained in the side the following match at Bradford, which Wrexham lost 2-0.

However, he then had to wait almost two years before appearing in the senior side again. His chance came in a 3-2 home defeat by Chesterfield in October 1959, and he made his mark by scoring both Wrexham goals. Mike played in the next three matches before being replaced.

Mickey Metcalf

It was the 1960/61 season that saw Mike make the inside-left position his own, as he helped Wrexham to reach the Quarter-Finals of the newly-formed Football League Cup competition, scoring a hat-trick against First Division Blackburn Rovers on the way.

His goals helped the ‘Robins’ to gain promotion in the following season, though he missed out on a Welsh Cup winners’ medal as Wrexham crashed to Bangor City in the Final. ‘A Clever ball player’, Mike’s impressive record for Wrexham averaged a goal every other game, but he was surprisingly allowed to leave the Racecourse in December 1963 to join rivals Chester.

At Sealand Road, Mike went on to make over 250 appearances for the ‘Cestrians’, scoring 86 goals in League and Cup competitions, collecting another Welsh Cup runners’-up medal in 1966, whilst forming part of Chester’s ‘Famous Five’ strike force in the mid-1960s.

That also included Gary Talbot, Jimmy Humes, Hugh Ryden and another former Wrexham player Elfed Morris, who all netted at least 20 goals each in the 1964/65 season, which included playing at Old Trafford in a FA Cup Third Round match that saw Chester come close to a shock in their 2-1 defeat.

It was following the signing of Derek Draper, that Mike decided to leave Sealand Road having scored 68 goals in 221 league appearances. In December 1968 he joined Cheshire County League side Altrincham, where he remained until the end of the season.

He then signed for Bangor City, where he spent a little under two years before being appointed player/manager of his local side, Connah’s Quay Nomads, in March 1971. However, he was on the move again at the end of the season, when he joined Welsh League side, Bethesda Athletic.

Mike took up another managerial appointment in 1972, as player/manager of Cheshire County League side Witton Albion. However, by October 1972 he had joined Hawarden, which was followed by playing for a number of local sides in the Chester district until well into his fifties.

After retiring from professional football Mike became a qualified chemist, later running his own highly successful laboratory supplies firm based on Deeside, where he was to live in retirement until passing away on Boxing Day aged 79.

He is survived by his widow Denise and sons Ian, Barry and David. A grandfather of seven, he died following a long illness.

Everyone at Wrexham Football Club would like to pass on their condolences to Mickey’s family.
 

Mickey’s impressive Wrexham record:

Season       League      FA Cup    Welsh Cup   League Cup   Total

                  apps gls      apps gls      apps gls      apps gls     apps  gls

1957/58       2    0             –   –              –   –                –   –              2    0

1959/60       4    2            1   0             –   –                –   –              5    2

1960/61      40   16         1   0           3   0              5   6            49   22

1961/62      28   17         3   3           1   0              1   0            33   20

1962/63      29   13         –   –             1   0              1   0            31   13

1963/64      18   10         3   2            –   –               4   4            25   16

                    121   58         8   5           5   0          11   10         145   73

 

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Taken from the Disabled People Against Cuts website with thanks:

Sick of rising rail fares and chaotic commuting?Tired of the endless tinkering with our broken privatised railway system?

It’s time for a #RailRevolution.

Bring Back British Rail

Join our New Year Protests

On Wednesday 2 January 2019, as our rail fares rise again by 3.1%, we’re joining forces with our friends at We Own It, the Association of British Commutersand NOR4NOR to organise the Rail Revolution: National Day of Action calling for radical reform.

Coinciding with the public consultation for the government’s new ‘root and branch’ review of our railways: the Williams Rail Review, we’re calling on passengers all over the country to respond in favour of a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit.

On Wednesday 2 January 2019, protests will take place at stations across the country (see list below), with a central one at London King’s Cross from 7:30-9:00am. See the Facebook event page for details, print a Bring Back British Rail placard and come join us!

Then on Friday 18 January 2019, to mark the deadline of the Williams Rail Review public consultation, we’ll be delivering our Care2 Petition to Re-nationalise our Railways signed by 118,039 people to the Department for Transport to demonstrate the sheer weight of public support for public ownership. Make sure you add your name before then: www.bringbackbritishrail.org/care2

Join Protests at Stations across the Country

Wednesday 2 January 2019:

06:45-09:00 Kings Lynn Station

07:00-10:00 Levenshulme Railway Station

07:30-09:30 London King’s Cross Station

07:30-09:00 Cardiff Central Station

07:30-09:00 Liverpool Lime Street

07:30-09:00 Birmingham New Street

07:30-09:00 Manchester Piccadilly

07:30-09:00 Lewisham Railway Station

07:30-09:30 Whitehaven Railway Station

07:30-09:00 Warrington Central Station

08:00-09:00 Bristol Temple Meads

08:00-10:00 Leeds Railway Station

08:00-09:00 Watford Junction

08:00-10:00 Doncaster Railway Station

08:00-09:00 Newcastle Central Station

09:30-11:30 Sheffield Meadowhall Interchange

10:00-12:00 Norwich Railway Station

10:00-12:00 Stratford Railway Station

16:00-18:00 Millom Railway Station

16:00-18:00 Birmingham Snow Hill

16:30-18:30 Hastings Railway Station

16:30-18:00 Clapham Junction

Thursday 3 January 2019:

09:00-11:00 Edinburgh Waverley (Market Street)

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 – 22-04-78

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.

22-04-78

Wrexham v Rotherham United

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-1

Wrexham: Davies, Evans, Dwyer, Davis (Cegielski), Roberts, Thomas, Shinton, Sutton, Lyons, Whittle, Cartwright

Goalscorers: Thomas, Lyons, Whittle (3, 2 pens), Shinton, Cartwright

Rotherham United: McAlister, Forrest, Breckin, Rhodes, Spencer, Green, Finney, Phillips, Gwyther, Goodfellow, Crawford

Goalscorer: Phillips

Attendance: 16,586

I wasn’t there. Almost four decades later I only have a dog-eared programme and a video cassette of poor quality images – that seem to have been shot from the moon – to remind me that the game really did happen.

After the heartbreak of the previous season, we had lost manager John Neal to the bright lights of Middlesbrough, star striker Billy Ashcroft joined him and a flood of transfer requests resulted. Arfon Griffiths stepped-up as player-manager, but the Robins recorded just one win in their first seven games and found themselves languishing in eighteenth position in the Third Division table. Griffiths took decisive action by signing Dixie McNeil for £60,000 from Hereford United and goalkeeper Dai Davies was recruited for a bargain £8,000 from Everton. “I am not a Welsh nationalist, but the little girl was beginning to get a Liverpool accent,” said the Welsh-speaking keeper.

‘Deadshot’ Dixie scored on his debut and Wrexham went on a thirteen game unbeaten run to top the league table for the first time in four years. However, it was the cup exploits of Arfon’s men that really made the nation sit up and take notice. It took Liverpool and Arsenal to knock the Welshmen out of the League and FA Cup competitions, both at the quarter-final stage.

Thankfully these cup shenanigans did not interfere with the Town’s league form and seven straight victories in March helped earn Griffiths his fourth manager of the month award of the season.

As the season drew to a close, Wrexham faced relegation-threatened Rotherham United on the back of five games without a win. Nevertheless, if Wrexham could win this match they would ensure promotion to the second tier for the first time in their history. In preparation for this massive game Arfon took his players to the Costa del Llandudno for a ride on the donkeys and a tram ride up the Great Orme. Whatever happened on the north Wales coast certainly helped to quash the tension and banish the jitters as Wrexham returned to the Racecourse to destroy Rotherham in emphatic fashion and finally escape from the Third Division.

16,586 fans crammed into the Cae Ras and saw Mickey Thomas fire us ahead on 12 minutes. Following a return pass with John Lyons, the magic little man fired past United goalkeeper Tom McAlister and celebrated with a somersault. Only three minutes later Lyons doubled our advantage after Les Cartwright clipped the ball back from the by line. Wrexham had the bit between their teeth and added a third after a penalty was awarded following a clumsy challenge on Cartwright by visiting defender Mark Rhodes. The spot-kick was blasted home by Graham Whittle.

Bobby Shinton got his name on the score sheet after he turned a defender inside out before jabbing the ball into the far corner. Before the half time whistle, the Reds made it five as Whittle headed home Cartwright’s cross. It was such a fine display that even the referee – Mr Bert Newsome – joined the rest of the ground in a standing ovation.

Battling Rotherham pulled one back after the break when Wayne Cegielski’s header dropped invitingly for Trevor Phillips to promptly smash the ball past Dai Davies.

Wrexham restored their five-goal advantage from the penalty spot as Whittle completed his hat-trick. Cartwright made a spectacular run to fire in a seven. At the final whistle, the crowd erupted and spilled onto the pitch in never-to-be-forgotten scenes — at least for those who were there.

***

The result did not help Rotherham’s cause, but they stayed up by one place.

Memory Match – 15-02-83

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.

15-02-83

Wrexham v Doncaster Rovers

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, King, Bater, Savage, Dowman, Keay, Arkwright, Buxton, Hunt, Steel, Gregory

Goalscorers: Hunt (43, 55), Savage (86), Steel (89, 90)

Doncaster Rovers: Peacock, Russell, Snodin, Snodin, Humphries, Lister, Mell (Liddell), Douglas, Austin, Mann, Robertson

Attendance: 1,899

A new era was beginning with the appointment of new manager Bobby Roberts during the close-season. An opening day victory against Cardiff City at Ninian Park was followed by a 1-0 home win in a League Cup first round, first leg clash with Shrewsbury Town. Unfortunately, this initial success was a false signifier for the turbulent season ahead as we lost the second leg of our Cup tie 2-0 at Gay Meadow and only won one of the next six League games.

Our largely inconsistent form saw us drop as low as 20th by October after a 1-1 draw at Belle Vue against Billy Bremner’s Doncaster Rovers. This match was the start of an eight game unbeaten run and was particularly noteworthy as Darren Baker became our youngest-ever League goalscorer at the ripe old age of 17 years and 115 days. The Yorkshire hosts equalised late on after a re-taken spot kick. Lister had blasted over, but Glynn Snodin made no mistake as Rovers got a second bite of the cherry. An incident-packed match saw Eddie Niedzwiecki sent-off after the final whistle.

The re-match was a Tuesday night game under the Racecourse floodlights, watched by only 1,899 spectators – the second lowest league gate of the season at that point. The stay-away fans missed Wrexham’s best win of the season thanks to three goals in the last five minutes.

The Reds were slow out of the blocks and they were fortunate to be 1-0 ahead at the interval through a Simon Hunt effort after 43 minutes. He broke through on the right and pushed the ball to David Gregory who shot. Doncaster goalkeeper Dennis Peacock could only parry the shot and Hunt was on hand to slam home the rebound.

In the 54th minute, Steve Buxton hit a shot from the left across goal, the ball was deflected up by a defender and Hunt dived in to head his second and double our lead.

This seemed to drain the visitors of any confidence as they played out the remainder of the game without displaying any positive ideas or imagination what so ever. Niedzwiecki was a mere spectator for the majority of the second half.

Hunt just missed out on his hat-trick when he agonisingly failed to connect with a Steve Buxton cross, but Robbie Savage made no mistake with a superb strike in the 85th minute. Gregory squared the ball to Savage from the right and the man who proved a revolution while at the Racecourse, picked his spot and lashed the ball passed Peacock for the 11th goal of his on-loan spell from Liverpool.

Jim Steel – who was also on-loan from Oldham Athletic – struck twice with two fine headers in the last two minutes to put the icing on the cake for Wrexham.

Despite being Wrexham’s biggest win of the season, manager Bobby Roberts said afterwards: “I think we have played better this season, but we were a lot sharper in our moves and finishing. That made all the difference in the end and made it very pleasing”

***

After failing to win any of their last 11 League games, Wrexham suffered their second successive relegation with a dire 22nd placed finish. Only Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield finished below the Robins. In a disastrous campaign, we had been humiliated by Worcester City of the Alliance Premier League in the FA Cup second round, lost the Welsh Cup final to Swansea City and were forced to sell Joey Jones, Mick Vinter, Steve Fox and Billy Ronson in a vain attempt to balance the books. To cap it all Dixie McNeil was released.

This was a season to forget…

 

Memory Match – 14-08-93

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.

14-08-93

Wrexham v Rotherham United

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-3

Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Brammer (Williams), Humes, Sertori, Bennett, Phillips, Connolly, Watkin, Cross (Paskin)

Goalscorers: Bennett (2 pen, 48 pen), Phillips (88)

Rotherham United: Mercer, Pickering, Jacobs, Banks, Richardson, Law, Hazel, Goodwin, Helliwell, Goater, Wilder

Goalscorers: Banks (22), Goater (75), Goodwin (89)

Attendance: 5,707

After winning promotion from the basement division as top home goalscorers, Wrexham showed little sign of bucking their prolific Racecourse form in a pulsating Second Division encounter. Without first team regulars Mel Pejic, Gareth Owen and Mike Lake, this would be a stern test of our credentials…

The Reds made the perfect start to life at this higher level after Gary Bennett dispatched a penalty after only two minutes. It was Psycho himself who was up-ended by Millers goalkeeper Billy Mercer following an inch-perfect free-kick from Tony Humes. Bennett made no mistake from the spot as he sent Mercer the wrong way to register the fastest goal of the new Football League season.

Brian Flynn’s men proceeded to dominate the opening 20 minutes. Karl Connolly was unfortunate to see a header skim the crossbar while Steve Watkin should have done better when he found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat.

The home side were made to pay for this as United were soon on level terms. Des Hazel turned Humes inside out and crossed for Ian Banks to volley home the equaliser even though Humes protested vehemently that the ball had crossed the line before Hazel centred.

Soon after, Bennett had a header ruled out for offside, but the Scouse goal machine didn’t have to wait long to double his tally when Wrexham were awarded a second spot kick. This time, visiting defender Nicky Law was the culprit when he needlessly handled a cross from Humes immediately after the break.

Rotherham proved resilient opponents though. They would not give up the fight and proceeded to bombard the Wrexham goal for a nail biting 20 minute period. Mark Morris was our hero when he produced an awesome double save, but our desperate defending could not prevent Shaun Goater from equalising in the 75th minute.

In the closing stages, Jon Cross wasted a late opportunity by shooting straight at Mercer and substitute Scott Williams wasn’t far off with a 25 yard drive. As supporters began to head for the exits, Karl Connolly produced a moment of pure magic to beat two defenders and set up Wayne Phillips who left Mercer helpless with a stunning strike from 15 yards.

Surely this was game over – unfortunately not. Shaun Goodwin had the last laugh when he volleyed home a late leveller to ensure the points were shared on an afternoon of breathless excitement.

***

Flynn said afterwards: “We’ve got to improve on our marking. Mistakes will be really punished in this division. I’m glad we’ve got the first one under our belt and I am happy with a draw. Rotherham deserved the draw and I think they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”

Rotherham United actually finished in a lowly 15th position while Wrexham ended the season in a comfortable mid-table 12th spot.

***

It took us six games to record our first victory in the League – a 3-2 home win against league leaders Reading. There was little to celebrate in the cup competitions either as Walsall knocked us out of the FA Cup after a replay that was beamed nationwide to TV viewers.

Our fortunes in the League Cup were a little brighter as we disposed of Crewe Alexandra 4-3 on aggregate to set up a clash against Nottingham Forest. Another 3-3 draw – the second leg against Crewe also finished 3-3 – at the Racecourse saw Stan Collymore register a hat-trick, while he was also on target in the second leg which Forest won 3-1.

Memory Match – 28-10-00

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.

28-10-00

Luton Town v Wrexham

League Division Two

Kenilworth Road

Result: 3-4

Luton Town: Abbey, Boyce, Taylor, Breitenfelder, Watts, Johnson, McLaren (Fraser), Holmes, Stein, Fotaidis (Thompson), George

Goalscorers: Stein (39), Watts (44), George (55)

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Roche, Barrett (Owen), Ridler (Mardon), Bouanane (Sam), Chalk, Faulconbridge, Edwards, Ferguson, Killen

Goalscorers: Faulconbridge (59), Killen (63), Chalk (83), Ferguson (87)

Attendance: 5,341

You would have been a fool to have regularly gambled on Wrexham matches during 2000/01, such was our unpredictability. We had just been held to a frustrating stalemate at home to Wycombe Wanderers – meaning that we had only managed to score on six occasions at the Racecourse during eight matches. Brian Flynn’s men had only won twice, drawn once and lost five times at home, including a 0-3 League Cup defeat by Mansfield Town of Division Three.

Our mid-table frustrations were actually viewed through envious eyes by crisis-club Luton Town – they were second bottom of the table after only two home wins.  They had drawn one and lost the other four League games.

Against all the odds, cue a seven-goal thriller…

After 55 minutes it looked as if the Red Army’s only hope of preserving some dignity would be to gallantly surrender. Liam George had fired home a third goal of the afternoon for the Hatters after Kevin Dearden failed to hold a Mark Stein drive. The home side had laid the foundations for a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first period with a Stein header on 39 minutes. Julian Watts doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Believe it or not, the Robins did not deserve to be three goals down. They were actually much the better team for long periods and would have taken an early lead if not for some superb saves by Luton goalkeeper Nathan Abbey. Fortune had deserted us though, as defender Dave Ridler had to hobble off with a hamstring injury after only 39 minutes and was replaced by on-loan West Bromwich Albion defender Paul Mardon.

A lesser team would have given up the ghost, but instead we dug deep to discover determination and strength of character that helped us stage a glorious resurrection. Craig Faulconbridge began the Wrexham fightback with a 59th minute header from Carlos Edwards’ cross, before on-loan Manchester City striker Chris Killen grabbed his second in three games four minutes later.

Martyn Chalk levelled the game on 83 minutes and four minutes later Darren Ferguson fired in a winner after a fine solo run to move Wrexham up to 11th place in Division Two. It was certainly a thrilling finish and, on balance, the Robins deserved to win

Wrexham boss Brian Flynn was understandably full of praise for his battling heroes after their magnificent comeback. He said: “It was certainly an eventful game and I never doubted our ability to claw back a 2-0 half-time deficit.

“We said at half-time that if we score we would have a chance. Obviously, we weren’t expecting them to score a third, but our reaction to that was as good as you would ever see.”

Luton boss, Ricky Hill said: “Unfortunately, we never got to grips with the game in the second half. I just feel very disappointed that being three up with nearly 40 minutes to go, and at home, the players should have been very, very confident, but a couple of our lads let themselves down by trying to do things in the wrong areas.”

***

The Robins were certainly proving to be prolific goalscorers on the road at the beginning of 2000/01. Following the haul at Kenilworth Road, we had the best record in the League with 18, which included four goals in victories at Bury (1-4) and Oxford United (3-4). We didn’t draw a blank away from home until November 11 when we lost 1-0 against eventual champions Millwall at the New Den. Flynn’s men totalled 32 away goals in total as we ended the season in 10th position.

Memory Match – 21-12-74

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.

21-12-74

Wrexham v Watford

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Lloyd, Jones, Fogg, Evans, May, Whittle, Tinnion, Sutton, Davies, Smallman, Griffiths

Goalscorers: Smallman 25, 44, Whittle 26, 31, Davies 45

Watford:  Rankin, Craker, Williams, Joslyn, Keen, Goodeve, Bond, Jenkins, Mayes, Scullion (Bristow), Downes

Goalscorer: Joslyn 55

Attendance: 4,128

 

When writing about a John Neal side of the Seventies there are certain words that usually feature, such as “giantkillers” and “Europe”. However, neither of these words could be used in connection with 1974-75, which failed to explode into the expected promotion charge. Instead, during a season of transition we had to settle for a few sparks of hope in an ultimately disappointing campaign.

After losing to Stourbridge in the previous season’s Welsh Cup semi-final, there were no memorable European encounters while Fourth Division sides Crewe Alexandra (1-2) and Mansfield Town (3-1) knocked us out of the League and FA Cups respectively – both at the first round stage.

Prior to this featured game against mid-table rivals Watford, the Leader spoke about how victory was vital for 12th placed Wrexham to keep in touch with the promotion-chasing pack. Manager Neal was in an optimistic frame of mind: “What we need is a good run. We have dropped a few silly points which would have put us among the front runners, but we have been working hard on trying to sort out one or two little problems we have had.”

Goals were what we needed and the players responded to their pep talk by putting on their shooting boots. Wrexham scored five goals in a remarkable first half. The avalanche started in the 25th minute when Dave Smallman sent a glancing header past Watford goalkeeper Andy Rankin after Arfon Griffiths floated a free kick into the box.

Less than a minute later, Wrexham doubled their lead. Griffiths sent Smallman away down the left and his cross was knocked back across the box by Brian Tinnion for Graham Whittle to turn on a sixpence and shoot low into the corner of the goal.

Watford were all over the place. Whittle grabbed the third after good work from Smallman and Geoff Davies allowed him to score from 12 yards. The rampant Reds were in awesome form and Smallman almost notched another soon after, but he headed a Tinnion cross onto the bar. Not to be denied, Smallman nodded home the fourth after a Griffiths header from a Tinnion corner had bounced off the bar.

On the stroke of half-time, Wrexham completed their five-star show when Smallman ran free of the beleaguered Watford defence and crossed for Davies to slot home.

The Robins eased up in the second half and allowed the Hornets to score a consolation goal after 55 minutes when Roger Joslyn followed up after a shot by Bobby Downes had been blocked.

A jubilant John Neal said: “We hadn’t been putting away a big enough percentage of our chances in previous matches, but on Saturday we really tucked them in.”

***

After such a resounding victory our topsy-turvy season took a turn for the worse as we lost five and drew one of the next six games. In March, we beat Aldershot 4-0 thanks to a Dave Smallman hat-trick, but shortly after this treble the club – £50,000 in the red – accepted a club record fee of £75,000 from Everton manager Billy Bingham for the young marksman.

A distraught Neal said: “Wrexham have won, Everton have won, and the boy was won. I’m the loser because I hated to see him go.”

The campaign concluded with a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park against champions Blackburn Rovers that left us floating in 13th position.

Still, we managed to finish a largely forgettable season on a high after beating Cardiff City 5-2 over two legs to lift the Welsh Cup and earn another crack at European opposition.