Les Chamberlain

Memory Match – 27-02-82

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.

27-02-82

Wrexham v Chelsea

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

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

Attendance: 3,935

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.

Memory Match – 16-11-91

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.

16-11-91

Wrexham v Winsford United

FA Cup First Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-2

Wrexham: Morris, Thackeray, Hardy, Beaumont, Thomas, Jones, Setori, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Kelly

Goalscorers: Connolly 8, Watkin 71, 77, 85, Thomas 90

Winsford United: Mayfield, Lloyd, Whitney, Edey, Taylor (Hall), Esdaille, Grant (Nevis), Thomas, Cameron, Blackwood, Sheridan

Goalscorers: Esdaille (14), Blackwood (76)

Attendance: 2,933

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that Wrexham took on non-league Winsford United in the first round of the FA Cup. A couple of seasons previously we had been knocked out of the FA Cup after a first round replay by Conference side Runcorn, so tension was abound when the draw paired us with a high-flying outfit from the HFS Loans League.

Winsford had scored twenty goals during their five FA Cup preliminary rounds, including a 3-2 win over Altrincham. In addition, their league form was excellent – winning eight out of their ten opening games.  Meanwhile, Wrexham were struggling on the pitch under rookie manager Brian Flynn and off it in front of dwindling crowds.

Wrexham took the lead when Karl Connolly took full advantage of a slip by John Whitney to shoot into the roof of the net after eight minutes.   However, the underdogs did not capitulate as expected. Just six minutes later Dave Esdaille turned and shot home from eight yards following good work by Darren Sheridan and Jimmy Cameron. We certainly had a fight on our hands.

In the 22nd minute James Kelly struck a sweet volley which cannoned off the crossbar, but this was the closest that the Robins came to restoring their lead during the first half.

After the break, Winsford began to take control and went close on 54 minutes when Esdaille’s cross eluded the Wrexham defence and fell to prolific striker Bevon Blackwood. Uncharacteristically, the goal machine hesitated on the edge of the six yard box which allowed Phil Hardy to save the day with a timely tackle.

After dicing with humiliation, Steve Watkin fiercely volleyed home after 71 minutes, but we still couldn’t shake off the gutsy part-timers as five minutes later they were level – Blackwood finishing brilliantly after great work by Esdaille and Archie Lloyd.

It was a breathtaking game and Wrexham went back in front from the restart when Watkin grabbed his second after good work from Connolly and Mickey Thomas.

Watkin then completed his 15 minute hat-trick with a deft flick from a Gareth Owen cross as the Cheshire side began to tire.  Veteran midfielder Thomas then side-footed home the fifth after unselfish play by Watkin and Connolly to end the Winsford dream.

***

Unfortunately, the game was marred by a racist incident involving Winsford manager Mike McKenzie. In his regular Terrace Talk column, Les Chamberlain reports that McKenzie alleged that some Wrexham fans behind the dugout spat and hurled racist abuse at him.

However, according to Les Chamberlain’s ‘mate in the paddock’ it was McKenzie who spat at the supporters after James Kelly had been booked for a foul on a Winsford player. He admitted that the Wrexham fans were guilty of racist chants, but that McKenzie had retaliated by spitting.

Thankfully chairman Pryce Griffiths, Carroll Clarke, chairman of the Supporters Association and manager Brian Flynn all condemned the inexcusable racist abuse. Whatever actually happened certainly put a dampener on a fantastic afternoon of football that put us one step closer to a potential money spinner against a big name club in the third round of the FA Cup….