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.
Luton Town v Wrexham
League Division Two
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)
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.