Maine Road

Memory Match – 11-01-30

hroughout 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.

11-01-30

Wrexham v West Bromwich Albion

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Finnigan, Jones, Lumberg, Dickie, Ross, Graham, Longmuir, Woodhouse, Mays, Bamford, Bell

Goalscorer: Mays

West Bromwich Albion: Ashmore, Finch, Shaw, Richardson, Evans, Darnell, Glidden, Carter, Cookson, Cresswell, Wood

Attendance: 16,600

Since the departure of our first manager Charlie Hewitt at the end of the 1925/26 season, our team had been selected by a committee. This was the case right up to October 1929, when Jack Baynes took over the reins.

The season had started badly, with only two wins from our opening ten games. This had left the team languishing in 15th position after ending the previous season in third position – our highest position since joining the Football League.

Baynes was chosen as our new manager from over 80 applicants, and the remainder of the season proved to be a struggle. Players such as George Bell and William Dickie were brought in, but it proved impossible to improve things after such a dismal start. We eventually limped home in a disappointing 17th place.

There were some bright spots in this campaign though, such as our 8-0 drubbing of Rochdale at the Racecourse which was our biggest-ever victory in the League at the time. Tommy Bamford scored four of the goals, with the others being netted by John Ascroft (2), Archie Longmuir and Roland Woodhouse.

We also continued our fine form in the FA Cup and progressed to the third round, after beating South Shields (2-4) at Horsley Hill and non-league Manchester Central (0-1) at Maine Road.

Our prize was a third round encounter with Second Division outfit West Bromwich Albion at the Racecourse. The away side had prepared for the encounter with a week in Rhyl, but after travelling to Wrexham by coach, they arrived to find the Racecourse covered with a thin layer of snow. Encouraged by the wintery conditions, the Town were also boosted by the recovery from injury of Alf Jones.

Leader journalist ‘XYZ‘, was glowing in his praise of the home team: “Wrexham’s victory was richly deserved. Albion forwards found the Wrexham halves formidable and the backs resourceful”. Apparently, “early Albion raiders were beaten off, and, at the end of half an hour, [Tommy] Bamford took advantage of a mistake by [Bob] Finch to race forward, and then to outwit his pursuer by passing back for [Billy] Mays to score the only goal of the match.”

In the second half, Albion made desperate attempts to get back into the game, but could not find a way past our stubborn defence, with their forward- thinking determination leaving them short at the back. Indeed, Wrexham had the opportunity to increase their lead on a number of occasions n the second period, before being handicapped by a series of unfortunate incidents. Jones picked up an injury and had to move to outside-right, while the attack-minded Longmuir spent a period as right full-back.

To make things worse, this was followed by an incident that left both Jimmy Cookson of the Baggies and Longmuir, having to leave the field. Cookson soon returned, but Longmuir had to be carried off with a torn muscle. This left Wrexham with only nine fit players on the pitch, but still the Albion forwards could not take advantage. We had won our last three games before this match, so confidence was high, and we were in determined mood. We managed to hang on for the win, and received a “large cheer” from the spectators present.

In the fourth round, the mighty Blues were drawn to play another Second Division side, Bradford City. After a goalless draw at the Cae Ras in front of 22,715 – the largest-ever crowd at the ground up to that point – they were knocked out of the Cup 2-1 at Valley Parade.

***

It was also an unsatisfactory season in the Welsh Cup. We beat Connah’s Quay (2-0) and New Brighton (4-0), before being knocked out at the semi-final stage by Cardiff City (0-2).

Memory Match – 09-11-46

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.

09-11-46

Wrexham v Darlington

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-1

Wrexham: McNee, Jones, Jackson, Lloyd, Roberts, Tudor, Gardner, McLarty, Boothway, Sharp, Brown

Goalscorers: Boothway (3, 1 pen), McLarty (2), Sharp, Brown

Darlington: Barron, Kelly, Hutchinson, Parsley, Saunder, Towers, Simpson, Allison, Harrison, Varty, Sinclair

Goalscorer: Varty

Attendance: 9,033

Jack Boothway had his football career severally disrupted by World War Two. The Manchester–born centre forward made his first team debut for Manchester City in April 1941 and played for the Maine Road club up until 1944. During this period Boothway netted 57 goals in only 76 games.

Jack – he was actually named John on his birth certificate – made a guest appearance for Crewe Alexandra in 1944 and stayed at Gresty Road until the Football League resumed in 1946. His war-time career with the Cheshire club saw him net 67 goals in just 68 matches.

In October 1946, Boothway joined Wrexham for a record fee and part-exchange deal with Peter Baines moving in the opposite direction. The 6ft 2in striker played part-time for the Reds while continuing to work as a Draughtsman for a Manchester firm. Although he failed to find the net on his debut at Tranmere – a goalless draw – he certainly made up for it on his home debut against Darlington.

The score line suggests a one-sided contest, but this was far from the case as the home defence found themselves under pressure at times. Nevertheless, Wrexham took the lead in the first few minutes when Boothway headed a cross from Tommy Gardner, only for a Darlington defender to prevent a goal using his hand. The new signing converted the resulting penalty. Within a couple of minutes, Jesse McLarty snapped up a pass from Boothway to make it 2-0.

It was at this point that Darlington goalkeeper Jim Barron raced out to stem a run by Boothway and picked up an injury. Norman Parsley took his place in goal for a short while and when Barron was fit enough to return, the score remained unchanged. The shot stopper’s reappearance boosted the confidence of his team mates and the lively Tommy Varty pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Wrexham struck back before the break when Boothway scored a third goal with a shot on the run after more combination play with Gardner. Both these players were also involved in the fourth goal, which came when Barron fisted out a Gardner cross only to see Boothway return the ball into the net for his hat-trick.

Darlington began the second half strongly, but it was Wrexham who got on the scoresheet when Roy Brown provided McLarty with a cross which he promptly converted.

Wrexham were then reduced to ten men through injury as outside right Cyril Jones had to hobble off. Darlington continued to try to make a game of it, but despite their best efforts they failed to score. Terry McNee saved cleverly from Varty and before the end Wrexham scored through Norman Sharp and Brown to make the final score 7-1.

Writing in the Leader, X.Y.Z said: “On this form the Wrexham men should score much more freely than has been the case, in the first two months of the season. Boothway added so much strength to the attack that all the other members of the line – Gardner, McLarty, Sharp and Brown gave improved displays with Sharp catching the eye with his scintillating runs, and Gardner getting nearer to the ball he revealed at the opening of the season.”

***

Tom Williams was the man in charge as Wrexham resumed league football in 1946/47. The club finished in a respectable seventh place. This was quite an achievement when you consider that there were only four players left in the squad from 1979 – Albert Brown, Eddie Tunney, Gib Bellis and Walter Roberts.

***

Jack Boothway finished the season with 17 goals in 22 league appearances. The big striker also achieved a four-goal haul against Marine in the first round of the FA Cup. Wrexham won the match 5-0.

Memory Match – 27-08-49

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.

27-08-49

Wrexham v Lincoln City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: Ferguson, Wynn, Jackson, Spruce, Wilson, Speed, Grainger, Graham, Boothway, Rowell, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Boothway (3), Grainger

Lincoln City: Payne, Green, Stillyards, Wright, Emery, Owen, Windsor, Finch, Dodds, Eastham, Windle

Attendance: 13,162

This was our first full season under the tutorship of player-manager Les McDowall after the departure of Tom Williams in February 1949. McDowall had been at the helm for the last seven matches of a fairly successful season in which we finished ninth. However, on closer inspection McDowall’s initial impact was hardly impressive –winning two, drawing two and losing three. The jury was still out…

The only new signing in the close season was a four figure deal for outside-right John Graham from Aston Villa who scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Rotherham United. This well-earned point came against a side that had been runners-up in Division Three North for the previous three seasons and was followed by a fortunate 1-1 draw against Bill Shankly’s Carlisle United side at the Racecourse. This game saw much criticism, frustration and barracking of the team for a below par performance strewn with errors.

The catcalls and jeers must have been vociferous as they resulted in the following paragraph from match reporter “The Wanderer” in the Leader.

“Let us have a little more practical demonstration of the word “supporter” and a lot less criticism, and the team will profit by it in good games as well as in bad.”

Next up were newly relegated Lincoln City.

In their failed attempt to stave off relegation from the Second Division, the Imps spent £25,000 on players, so hopes were high that the team would bounce straight back up under the guidance of Bill Anderson. However, it was the Robins who surprised many – including their own fans – by recording such a resounding victory.

After 39 minutes of grumbling from the home fans, Wrexham clicked into gear and took the lead through Jack Boothway after good work from Fred Rowell and a pinpoint cross from Billy Tunnicliffe. A combination of defensive heroics, good goalkeeping and misfiring meant that the Reds went in at half-time with a mere one-goal advantage.

The second period was only 30 seconds old when Boothway doubled his tally after a direct dribble down the middle of the pitch. The 6ft 2in marksman ran out of options, so whipped the ball out wide to Tunnicliffe and continued his race towards goal. When Tunnicliffe eventually centred the ball it was met by the head of the in-rushing Boothway to give Frank Payne no chance in the Lincoln goal.

Boothway completed his hat-trick after an hour following a sublime dribble from Rowell that ended when he pushed the ball out to Dennis Grainger on the flank. The cross that followed was inevitably converted by Boothway who was popularly regarded as the best centre-forward at the Cae Ras since the legendary Tommy Bamford.

Four minutes later the rout was completed with a powerful header from Grainger.

***

After such a promising start to the season Wrexham quickly faded and finished a season of struggle in 20th position in the League table. Les McDowell left the hot-seat when former club Manchester City came calling for his managerial services. McDowall was an instant success at Maine Road by securing promotion to the top flight at his first attempt. This began a distinguished 13 year reign in the job after learning the ropes at Wrexham.