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.
Wrexham v Chelsea
League Division Two
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
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.