Memory Match

Memory Match – 30-04-52

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

** This was written before the Coronavirus outbreak. But l see no reason why my opinions should change. It goes without saying that l wish everyone associated with the club the very best of health, but I remain convinced that Wrexham AFC will only prosper by being inclusive for ALL supporters. ** 

***

30/04/52

Wrexham v Stockport County

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Connor, Speed, Fisher, McCallum, Spruce, Tapscott, Wynn, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Tunnicliffe 

Stockport County: Ward, Staniforth, Kavanagh, Wilmott, Paterson, Cocker, Haddington, Connor, Black, Weigh

Attendance: 4,716

It is always important for any team to get off to a good start to the season, but the 1951/52 campaign began with six consecutive defeats for Peter Jackson’s men. An opening day defeat at Chester (2-1), was not a good omen for things to come, and our confidence obviously took a battering. Defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0) left us rock bottom of the table with little hope for the months ahead.

We didn’t manage to climb the league ladder until late December, when we whacked Southport 3-0 at the Racecourse. Although we managed to stay clear of bottom spot for the remainder of the season, it should be noted that we didn’t manage to climb above 15th, in a terribly inconsistent run of form.

Players and fans alike were probably relieved to be staging the final game of a rotten term. Expectation was low as the visitors had been pushing for promotion to Division 2, and were only denied by Lincoln City, who eventually finished ten points clear of the chasing pack. The form of the Hatters had been so impressive that Division 1 strugglers Huddersfield Town had poached their manager, Scotsman Andy Beattie, in a failed bid to prevent relegation. The joint managerial team of Alex Herd and Billy Newton arrived at the Racecourse hoping to secure a permanent position with the club.

The form book went out of the window this afternoon, as Wrexham were on top for the fist 20 minutes. A neutral would have thought it was the home side who had been challenging at the summit throughout the season.

It really was a sparkling display by the Robins and only a lack of incisive finishing kept the game goalless. Hatters keeper Denis Ward made a fine save after Tommy Bannan looked certain to score, but this was one of the only times that Ward would be called into action during the opening period. We were on top, but the pressure we were piling on to a shambolic visiting defence, did not result in any shots on goal.

At the other end, Bob Connor was largely a spectator. He was only called into action on one occasion during the first half, when he was forced to scramble away an effort by Stockport’s Jack Connor. Meanwhile, Ward was lucky not to concede when both Ron Wynn and Tommy Tilston threatened to break the deadlock.

It seemed that the second half would follow a similar pattern to the first, as Ron Hewitt struck the crossbar shortly after the restart. His effort rebounded , and signalled the start of more sustained Wrexham pressure, which was dealt with by dogged County defenders Fred Kenny and Gordon Wilmott.

Despite being in the driving seat, the Wrexham defence still had to stay alert. This was underlined when full back Les Speed made a mistake that led to an opportunity for visiting attacker Ray Weigh. His shot cannoned back off Connor’s legs. Stockport did come back in to the game from this stage onwards, but neither side really threatened to steal both points.

County finished the season in third spot, while Wrexham’s final position depends on which source you believe. According to Wrexham: A Complete Record 1872 – 1992 we achieved a fourteenth place finish at the start of the book, but the season by season data near the end of the book states that we limped to a disappointing  eighteenth. Wikipedia also shows us in eighteenth, whilst the English National Football Archive suggests we ended up seventeenth.

***

Just two days after the end of the season, Peter Jackson released his retained list. The squad was cut substantially from 35 professionals, to just 20 for the following season. Willie Jessop and Cyril Lawrence could feel particularly disappointed as according to the North Wales Guardian, both were “ninety-minute triers” and popular amongst fans. Eyebrows were also raised by those not included on the list:

“In contrast, one player who has said quite frankly more than once, that he wants a transfer is retained! That player is Archie Ferguson – a very good goalkeeper – but is it wise to keep a player who is not happy with his club? Is it fair to the player or the club?”

***

It is also interesting to note that Tommy Griffiths, who had been trainer-coach for two seasons relinquished his position. A former centre-half and captain of Wales, he had begun his playing career at Wrexham. He had taken up a role as a director at the Cae Ras three years previously, but resigned to become trainer-coach.

***

We failed to find any glory in the cup competitions either. A lacklustre season was summed up by a second round defeat in the FA Cup, at the hands of Leyton Orient. We did push the East Londoners all the way though. A first round triumph over Halifax Town (3-0), set up a contest with the O’s that finished 1-1 at the Racecourse. The Third Division (South) side hosted the replay, which they eventually won 3-2, after extra time. Brisbane Road has never been a happy hunting ground…

A thumping 7-2 victory over Colwyn Bay in the fifth round of the Welsh Cup promised much. Chester held us to a goalless draw at the sixth round stage, so it was off to Sealand Road to turn them over 0-2 on their own patch. The semi-final saw a clash with Merthyr Tydfil, in a game played in Cardiff. Unfortunately, we lost the match 2-0.

***

 

I was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Cyril Lawrence at the age of 99, via the Official Blackpool FC Website. 

Lawrence was on Blackpool’s books, but never made a first team start for the club before leaving for Rochdale. After 4 seasons and 44 appearances for the Dale he was transferred to the Town where he racked up 50 games in a 2 year spell.

I have just looked up Cyril’s date of birth and in a weird coincidence it is tomorrow – 12/06/1920.

My thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Memory Match – 19-03-49

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

** This was written before the Coronavirus outbreak. But l see no reason why my opinions should change. It goes without saying that l wish everyone associated with the club the very best of health, but I remain convinced that Wrexham AFC will only prosper by being inclusive for ALL supporters. ** 

***

19/03/49

Wrexham v Carlisle United

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

 Wrexham: Ferguson, Tunney, Jackson, Speed, Spruce, Wilson, Grainger, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Boothway (2), Beynon (2)

 Carlisle United: MacLaren, Simpson, Coupe, Horton, Seed, Twentyman, Turner, Lindsay, Yates, Barkas, Walshaw

Attendance: 7,340

The 1948/49 season saw plenty of changes as one chapter closed, and another began.

Everything seemed to be going to plan, with the Town competing near the top of the Third Division North table. Following a fourth successive victory, against Accrington Stanley (1-0) we found ourselves in sixth position. With everything seemingly going well, it came as a massive shock when Tom Williams was relieved of his duties, even though his contract was due to run until 1950. Two of the club’s directors also retired in protest at the dismissal.

One of these figures, Alderman William Dodman said: “Tom Williams was highly respected everywhere. He always said that his dismissal by Wrexham was an injustice, and I agree with him. If the club had been left in his hands, I think Wrexham would have been a Second Division side long ago. He managed the club during the war, without pay and he got a team together that could, and did hold its own against the best in the country. His heart was always with Wrexham FC, and he once said that he would go back for nothing.”

A committee took over team selection while a new manager was found. This committee had been in charge of the three games prior to this one, and we were still searching for our first victory. We had slid down to ninth position and it was clear that a new manager had to be appointed as soon as possible.

We had lost the reverse fixture at Brunton Park by the odd goal in five. Since that game in October, both clubs had a change of management. Ivor Broadis had been in charge of United, but had since been replaced by Bill Shankly, a man who would become legendary in his own right. This was to be Shankly’s third game in the dug-out, and prior to this game he was undefeated in club management, with a victory against Bradford City (1-2) coming before a goalless draw against Halifax Town.

They would not have everything their own way this afternoon though, as the home side dominated proceedings. Wrexham scored all of their goals in the second half of the contest, but also played some impressive football during the opening period. As ‘Wanderer’ recounts in the Wrexham Leader: “There were periods of delightful movement; there were periods of bad luck in front of goal, and the inevitable periods of erratic shooting. But for the rest it was ninety percent Wrexham’s half”.

With the game goalless at half-time, fans worried that the lads would fall away completely as they had done against Stockport County (1-0) just seven days previously. Any nerves were soon settled when Jack Boothway netted three minutes after the restart. According to Wanderer the goal was a tribute to “Beynon’s fine initiative and individualism” – the Welsh inside forward powered through the visiting defence and his resulting drive beat Jimmy MacLaren. The shot stopper was saved by the crossbar, but Boothway was on hand to nod home the opening goal.

Wrexham were now in the driving seat, much as they had been throughout, but now they had made the all-important breakthrough. After proving that they could be clinical in front of goal, the home side asserted their dominance. On 57 minutes, Billy Tunnicliffe managed to send over an inviting cross which unfortunately eluded Boothway. Thankfully, Eddie Beynon was on hand to send a left-footed drive through a crowd of players that found its way passed an un-sighted MacLaren.

The game was now effectively over as a contest and it came as no surprise when Boothway planted home a header on 73 minutes after a pinpoint cross by Tunnicliffe. Soon after, Beynon latched on to a loose ball and raced forward before dispatching a right-foot drive past the beleaguered figure of MacLaren.

***

 Despite this pleasing victory, we were still without a manager who could provide stability and guidance for the future. We played another couple of games under the committee, in which we continued to show a lack of consistency. A 2-0 defeat at Gateshead was followed by a single-goal victory over Hartlepools United.

Thankfully, prior to our next game against Darlington at Feethams, we appointed Les McDowall as our new manager. The Manchester City wing-half became Wrexham’s first player-manager. It was an inauspicious start to his managerial career, as Wrexham only recorded two victories in the last seven games of the season.

***

It wasn’t a memorable season in the cup competitions. Oldham Athletic dumped us out of the FA Cup at the first round stage. They managed to beat us 0-3 at the Racecourse in front of 15,228 supporters.

It was a similar story in the Welsh Cup, but not before we hammered Chester 0-6 at Sealand Road. Those dreaming of further Welsh Cup glory would be disappointed in the sixth round when Rhyl beat us 1-0 at Belle Vue.

Memory Match – 13-09-37

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

13/09/37

Wrexham v Hartlepools United

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-3

Wrexham: McMahon, Evans, Bellamy, Smith, Lewis, Odell, Jones, Fraser, Lapham, Phillips, Burgon

Goalscorer: Fraser (2), Jones, Lapham (3)

Hartlepools United: Taylor, Proctor, Allison, Thomas, Reid, Telling, Scott, Curtis, English, West, Self

Goalscorer: Curtis, English, West

Attendance: 2,752

It had been a dreadful start to the 1937/38 season – Jimmy Logan’s first full term in charge. The opening five games produced three defeats, one draw and only one victory – at home to Lincoln City with the only goal of the game coming from a player making his debut, Sidney Barnard. Nevertheless, our inconsistent run in form had left us floundering near the foot of the table. Ahead of the Hartlepools match we were in 19th position.

This game was originally scheduled for a Wednesday evening, but due to a carnival in town it was moved to a Monday evening. This, along with the atrocious weather, affected the attendance with only 2,752 supporters turning up to enjoy the goal fest. It is reported in the North Wales Guardian, that the game was due to kick off at 18:15, but began five minutes earlier because of poor visibility, which made it more likely that the game would end in semi-darkness.

Wrexham opened strongly with Archie Burgon, Ronnie Jones and Harold Lapham all threatening the visitors’ goal. It had been a good start on a slippery pitch, but it was Pools who took the lead after 14. Ernie Curtis swung the ball over from the right, and Norman West shot first time in to the bottom corner of the net. Surely another defeat was not on the cards?

The Blues retaliated almost immediately, and Dai Phillips forced Hartlepool goalkeeper Allan Taylor to make a superb save from his rasping, low drive. We would not have to wait long to celebrate parity though, as the equaliser was scored on 17 minutes through Lapham just three minutes later. According to the Wrexham Leader, this was “one of the finest goals seen on the Racecourse for some time”. Lapham received a throw in from Walter Odell, that he stylishly flicked over his own head. A defender cleared the danger, but only returned the ball to the feet of Lapham who rattled the ball home with pure force.

United could not cope with the dazzling work of the Wrexham forwards, and Jones scored a second just three minutes later. Phillips lofted the ball in to the penalty box, but surely the danger would be snuffed out by the advancing figure of Taylor. However, Jones took advantage of hesitation from the man between the sticks, raced in, robbed his opponent and tapped the ball home.

The game was fast and entertaining, despite the ice-rink of a surface, which frequently caused the visiting defence to miss-kick. Unbelievably though, Hartlepools found themselves on level terms at the interval. Curtis again found himself in a threatening position, after good work down the left flank. The Welsh inside-forward obviously felt at home on the Cae Ras, and slammed the ball high in the roof of the net over a despairing Pat McMahon.

Straight from the restart, Nathan Fraser restored our lead when he skipped past a challenging defender, and hammered an unstoppable ball past Taylor “from an angle which would have puzzled Pythagoras”. Fraser quickly grabbed his second, following a well placed free-kick by Walter Odell.

Jimmy Hamilton’s men still hadn’t had chance to catch their breath, when Lapham made it five with a great solo effort. There had been some great goals for the crowd to enjoy, but Lapham’s third of the match was the cream of the crop. According to the Guardian scribe, “he whipped in a terrific shot, of which the goalkeeper could hardly have caught a glimpse”.

Hartlepools refused to admit defeat though, despite trailing 6-2. Amidst the gathering gloom, the visitors pulled one back when Sam English headed home a perfectly judged corner kick.

***

We finished a largely inconsistent season in a respectable 10th position. Hartlepools managed to beat us 0-2 in the reverse fixture on the final day of the campaign at Victoria Park.

The Cup competitions also provided little to shout about. We managed to beat Oldham Athletic (2-1) at the Racecourse in the first round of the FA Cup, but were knocked out after another home fixture against Bradford City (1-2) at the second round stage.

Shrewsbury Town eliminated us from the Welsh Cup at the sixth round stage, with a 1-3 victory in north Wales.

Memory Match – 30-01-37

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

30/01/37

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-1

 Wrexham: McMahon, Evans, Hamilton, Mitchell, Lewis, Snow, Barrow, White, Lapham, Lawrence, Burgon

Goalscorer: White

 Oldham Athletic: Caunce, Hilton, Price, Williamson, Milligan, Gray, Jones, McCormick, Davis, Robbins, Downes

Goalscorer: Gray

Attendance: 2,511

Season 1936/37 got off to an awful start, with a 4-1 drubbing at Chester. Under the guidance of manager Ernie Blackburn, Wrexham soon forgot this calamitous defeat and rose to a mid-table position as we entered the New Year. However, our 2-0 reverse against Stockport County at Edgeley Park on January 2nd proved to be Blackburn’s final game in charge.

Hull City tempted Blackburn away from the Racecourse and a committee was responsible for selecting our starting 11 for the next three games. This included an FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City at the Cae Ras which was witnessed by 20,600 spectators. The Division One side won the match 1-3, but Wrexham pushed them all the way and could be proud of their performance.

Ahead of our home encounter against Oldham Athletic at the end of January, the club appointed Captain James Logan as their fourth manager. We had won our previous two League games under the leadership of the selection committee, so hopes were high that we could continue this form against fifth placed Athletic.

Less than 2,500 supporters braved the wintry weather to spend a chilly afternoon watching their heroes try to play football, on a pitch that more closely resembled a skating rink, with a light dusting of snow. Subsequently, conditions threatened to spoil the game, but Wrexham adapted themselves and pursued a policy of passing that disorientated the scrappy and disjointed Latics.

The home team were on top in the early stages. According to the scribe in the North Wales Guardian: “[Archie] Burgon was like a terrier on the touchline, worrying the defence whenever the ball came anywhere near him, by his eagerness in seizing on the slightest chance”.

Oldham’s tactics seemed quite cynical, and when Burgon was brought down in the box by Billy Hilton, the crowd clambered for a penalty. However, the referee waved away these claims to the satisfaction of our friend from the North Wales Guardian, who suggests that the Nottingham-born winger simply slipped.

Alfie White got on the scoresheet after 35 minutes, following a free-kick that was given for another assault on Burgon. George Snow delivered a delightful ball from the resulting set-piece, that White headed past Lewis Caunce in the Athletic goal. Logan’s new charges then spent the final 10 minutes of the first half, bombarding the visitors’ goal, Matt Lawrence in particular had two shots in quick succession and was unfortunate to see them saved by Caunce.

The second half failed to produce as much goalmouth action, as the first 45 minutes had. The heavy cloud led to poor light, “which seemed to blur the players’ figures in to mere silhouettes, and make it difficult to distinguish individuals”. Pat McMahon was pressed in to action more often as the game progressed, but there seemed little sting to the visitors’ raids.

The Latics eventually capitalised on a mistake by McMahon late in the game. The Glasgow-born goalkeeper made a fatal mistake by punching away a threatening ball, when it seemed much easier to have gathered the ball safely in his arms. The feeble punch was insufficient to clear the danger, and landed at the feet of Matt Gray who returned a low, rasping drive past McMahon’s despairing dive.

***

 In the Leader, ‘XYZ’ highlights a number of elderly spectators who had attended the game on such a brutally cold day:

“One old player, who gained a Welsh cap fifty-nine years ago was present! Another of the old brigade, who was at Newton Heath in the eighties’, stood in the enclosure and a third sporting veteran who had seen seventy-three, or four winters – Mr T.H. Jones (‘The Artist’) – occupied his ‘box’ seat in the paddock, and smiled at the cold.”

***

I cannot move on without mentioning the other headlines that I discovered while looking through local newspapers from January/February 1937. Several articles tell of Wrexham footballers being embroiled in a licensing prosecution. It turned out that four prominent members of our playing staff – George Snow, Jack Lewis, Alfie White and Ambrose Brown – were caught consuming alcohol after permitted hours at the Horseshoe Inn, Bank Street on the evening of January 16th 1937. This was the same day that we had pushed Manchester City all the way in the third round of the FA Cup.

All the defendants pleaded not-guilty, but after a lengthy retirement the Chairman said that the bench had decided to convict in the cases of all four players. They were each fined 10s 6d for daring to enjoy a post-match pint after 22:00 following a gutsy Cup display. Heaven forbid.

Memory Match – 12-10-35

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

12-10-35

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: McMahon, Jones, Hamilton, Lawrence, McMahon, Richards, Mustard, Gardiner, McCartney, Fryer, Gunson

Goalscorers: McCartney (3), Fryer

Tranmere Rovers: Gray, Platt, Fairhurst, Curtis, Newton, Hopkinson, Eden, Macdonald, Bell, Woodward, Urmson

Attendance: 9,497

Following the previous season’s form, many Wrexham fans would have thought that the only way was up. They should have thought again…

Three wins on the bounce at the start of the season, had inspired confidence and performances were not too bad – if a little inconsistent – until the festive period. From Christmas until March, Wrexham failed to win a single game. In fact, they only recorded four more victories during the rest of the season.

Our unpredictable form was beginning to become apparent, when we welcomed Tranmere Rovers to the Racecourse in October. Since the explosive start that we had made to the season, there had been five defeats and two victories in the run up to this game. A week earlier, Gateshead beat us 2-0 at Redheugh Park, thanks to a double from Jack Allen.

Expectations must have been low, going in to this encounter with our cross-border rivals – not only due to our erratic form, but because Rovers were unbeaten in their opening nine games. During this period, they had notched 17 goals in comparison to our modest tally of seven.

Playing with a dazzling sun in their faces, Wrexham quickly got off the mark. Inside right Archie Gardiner, was a constant attacking threat and his decisive through ball left Jack Mustard with an open goal, but he somehow shot over the bar. It was an impressive start by the hosts, and Tranmere goalkeeper Bert Gray made some fine saves before Jack Fryer put the Town in front after 26 minutes.

Tranmere briefly rallied before the break, but Billy Eden’s shot went narrowly wide of the target. The away side still posed a threat, but within only two minutes of the restart Wrexham went further ahead – Charlie McCartney ran in to volley Gordon Gunson’s cross in to the net.

With a two-goal cushion the Blues dared to sit back on their lead, but within seconds Rovers ran clean through to score – only for the effort to be disallowed for an apparent infringement. Visiting players appealed strenuously against this decision, and were obviously determined to get back in the game. Pat McMahon’s goal led a charmed existence, with only the cross-bar saving him on one occasion.

A breakaway on the left led to McCartney making the issue safe, with a spectacular left-foot drive. The Stamford born centre-forward completed his hat-trick near the end of the game, following clever work by Gunson.

***

It is sometimes confusing when reading match reports from the Leader and North Wales Guardian, as they often contain conflicting accounts. According to ‘XYZ’ in the Leader, Tranmere had two goals disallowed, but only one was mentioned in the North Wales Guardian. XYZ reckoned that “twice the ball was placed in the Wrexham net, but the referee declined to award a goal. In the first case Bell… seemed to be definitely offside. In the second instance, I was not so sure where Alfred Jones was at the all-important moment. The referee Mr Isaac Caswell, however, was adamant and he brushed aside the Tranmere players who appealed for a goal, and steadfastly declined to allow it”

***

Wrexham ended the 1935/36 season in an uninspiring 18th position and our cup form was equally disappointing. Barrow dismissed us in the first round of the FA Cup after beating us 4-1 at Holker Street, while we received byes in the Welsh Cup up to the Sixth Round stage where we lost to Rhyl (2-1) at Belle Vue after a replay.

The Third Division North Cup saw us draw 2-2 at the Racecourse against Chester, who punished us in the replay by coasting to a 4-0 victory.

Memory Match – 27-04-93

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I have contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I shared on this blog.

This was 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.

 

27-04-93

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 0-2

Northampton Town: Richardson, Parsons, Burnham, Harrison, Chard, Terry, Wilkin, Aldridge, Gavin, Brown, Bell

Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Owen, Humes, Pejic, Bennett, Lake, Connelly, Watkin, Cross

 Goalscorers: Bennett (13, 42 pen).

Attendance: 7,504

We all know that history only tells a story, but I can assure you that stories from our past are much more interesting than the dreadful football that we have had to sit through this season. It is important to realise that things haven’t always been this bad and there is certainly the potential for things to improve…

Back in 1992/93, Brian Flynn’s blend of homegrown talent and experienced campaigners set our pulses racing. Few would have predicted that after a 1-1 draw at Hereford United at the beginning of October left us floundering in 18th position. We were beaten at the first round stage of both the League and FA Cup by Bury (5-4 on aggregate) and Crewe Alexandra (6-1) respectively, while Leyton Orient hammered us at Brisbane Road in the second round of the Football League Trophy (4-1).

We had already conceded four goals at Bury, York and Gillingham as our season threatened to implode. The heavy Cup defeat at Crewe was a genuine turning point though as Brian Flynn entered the loan market to sign Mike Lake following the dismissal of Mickey Thomas. With our new midfielder pulling the strings we proceeded to loose only one of the next 10 games, including five consecutive victories.

The confidence was flowing and before we knew it, we were in a promotion battle. Instead of under-performing and disappointing we actually dug deep and maintained our impressive form up to the end of the season.

With two games of the season remaining, Wrexham went into the game against relegation threatened Northampton Town knowing that a win would earn them promotion for the first time in 15 years. Approximately 3,000 Wrexham fans descended on the County Ground to watch their heroes in action, but the early stages suggested that the Cobblers were intent on spoiling our party. Indeed, the home side forced four corners in as many minutes in the opening period, but Mark Morris proved a safe pair of hands as he caught every one of Darren Harmon’s vicious in-swinging corners.

The Red’s quickly settled and in the ninth minute Mike Lake should have at least hit the target after he was presented with a glorious opportunity by Steve Watkin. Four minutes later and we took the lead when Gary Bennett smashed home his 22nd goal of the season. Watkin’s tame effort was surprisingly fumbled by Barry Richardson and our ace marksman didn’t need asking twice to put us ahead.

All memories from this point on are a little hazy, but according to match reports Morris then made an unbelievable save as he tipped over Steve Brown’s bullet header after 25 minutes.

There was only one team that was ever going to win this game though and we made the evening comfortable when Watkin was pulled down in the area by Phil Chard and Bennett smashed home the resulting penalty. Referee Trevor West decided that Bennett was celebrating rather too wildly and added him to his notebook, but Wrexham fans really couldn’t have cared less. Before the half-time whistle, Watkin hit the post with a diving header.

Wrexham were in control during the second half and pushed forward in search of more goals apparently. At the final whistle, Reds fans poured onto the pitch to create joyous scenes of celebration.

“When I came here my aim was to help get the club promoted and now we’ve done that we’ll be looking to take the second division by storm”, said Gary Bennett.

Club captain Mickey Thomas, who was kicking and heading every ball from the bench said: “They’ve deserved it and so have the fans. What a season and what a team.”

It’s nice to remember the good times…

***

Lining up at number seven for Northampton Town that evening was future Dragons’ boss Kevin Wilkin.

Memory Match – 13-11-26

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.

 

13-11-26

Wrexham v Accrington Stanley

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

Wrexham: Robson, Jones, Blew, Matthias, Griffiths, Graham, Miles, Longmuir, Regan, Smith, Gunson

Goalscorers: Longmuir (3), Regan (2)

Accrington Stanley: Hayes, Bell, Whittaker, Field, Hughes, Wilson, Gee, Jepson, Powell, Martin

Attendance: 3,099

At the end of 1925/26, Alfred McAlpine took over as our new chairman after previously holding a position as director at Manchester City. This move spelt the end of Charlie Hewitt’s reign as manager. Training sessions were taken by former player Tommy Gordon and Secretary Ted Robinson, with the team being chosen by a selection committee once again.

After recording their lowest position since joining the Football League during the previous season (19th), surely things could only get better? We started the season in moderate fashion, in and around the top ten, despite only winning four of our opening 12 matches.

Ahead of this fixture we had lost our previous three games, beginning with a 6-0 drubbing at Haig Avenue against Southport. We then had to stomach a 0-1 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers and a 1-0 reverse to Durham City at Holiday Park. Subsequently, not a lot was expected from our boys on this November afternoon, even though Accrington were struggling at the foot of the table. Memories were fresh from the previous season’s meeting with Stanley at the Racecourse, where despite scoring five, including an Archie Longmuir hat-trick, we lost the match by conceding six goals.

This contest was played in appalling conditions thanks to torrential rain and gale-force winds. This helps to account for the disappointing attendance of just over 3,000, but those who stayed away lived to regret it as they missed some spectacular goals in our biggest home win of the season.

The conditions did not allow for free-flowing football, and the game descended in to a scrappy affair, although Wrexham adapted themselves with greater purpose and took the lead after only three minutes. It was Longmuir who opened the scoring, after he accepted a pass from the left and drove the ball wide of the advancing Billy Hayes as he left his goal.

John Jepson was unfortunate to see his header rebound off the crossbar as the visitors immediately tried to pull one back, but it wasn’t long before Longmuir secured a brace. The ubiquitous wide-man took up a delightful pass by Griffiths, to race forward and score with a clever cross-drive.

To their credit, the Lancashire side kept their heads up and attempted to get back in to the game with plenty of encouraging approach work. Despite this, we remained two goals to the good when the half-time whistle was blown.

There were no thoughts of protecting our lead and merely snuffing out our opponents, as the match resumed. Wrexham put Stanley under immediate pressure, as Uriah Miles just failed to find the target with a flying drive, before James Smith made ground on the left and played the ball in to the danger area. Ted Regan slashed at the ball and missed it, but Longmuir was on hand to rattle the ball home past a helpless Hayes. Cue angry protests from the Accrington players, who were adamant that Regan was in an offside position, and badgered the referee in to consulting with his linesman. After brief deliberation, the goal stood and Longmuir could celebrate another treble against Accrington.

The visitors still refused to give up, and peppered the goal with a number of long-range drives that were easily dealt with by Ed Robson between the sticks. Five minutes from the end, Regan netted a fourth when he guided home a Gordon Gunson cross. In the final stages, Regan hammered the final nail in the Accrington coffin with a low shot that eluded Hayes.

Although this was a convincing win, it did not signal a real upturn in our inconsistent fortunes and we finished the season in 13th position.

***

After suffering humiliation in the FA Cup second round, when we were knocked out by Rhyl Athletic (3-1) at Belle Vue, we did reach the semi-final stage of the Welsh Cup only to be knocked out by Cardiff City (2-1).

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 – 05-11-86

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.

05-11-86

Wrexham v Real Zaragoza

European Cup Winner’s Second Round (2nd leg)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-2

Wrexham: Pearce, Salathiel, Cunnington, Williams, Cooke, Comstive, Massey, Horne, Steel, Charles, Emson, (Buxton)

Goalscorers: Massey 102, Buxton 106

Real Zaragoza: Cedrun, Casuco, Fraile, Blesa, Julia, Guerri, Senor, Herrera, Pineda, (Carlos 108), Ayneto, (Yanez 81), Sosa

Goalscorers: Yanez 98, 104

Attendance: 14,515

After securing a 0-0 draw at La Romareda, the Robins had a big opportunity to finish off the job at the Racecourse. Before moving on to focus on the second leg of this European tie, I want to underline the enormity of our achievement in Spain which is often overlooked in the history books.

Real Zaragoza had beaten Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final and had overcome AS Roma on penalties in the previous round. This was a seemingly impossible tie for Fourth Division strugglers and Dixie McNeil’s men deserve enormous credit for their performance.

McNeil said: “It was truly magnificent, and the lads responded to the occasion with a display that must rank as one of the greatest in the clubs history. They played with skill and commitment and would have been the envy of many a First Division side.”

Moving on to our mammoth task in the second leg and we knew we were in for a sterner test than we had experienced in the first round against Maltese side FC Zurrieq. We had destroyed them 0-3 in Malta and confirmed our progress with a 4-0 victory at home.

The Spanish side were low on confidence as they had experienced a bad start to their season and had sent a ‘spy’ over from Spain to watch us hammer Aldershot 3-0 in our last home encounter before the European clash. Roman Fernandez said: “A cold, wet night like this will be a tremendous advantage to Wrexham.” Wrexham supporters were praying for inclement weather.

In front of the biggest crowd since hosting West Ham United in January 1981, the Reds made a shaky start to the match but soon settled. In fact, they almost took the lead when Steel’s firm header clipped the bar. Paul Comstive came close with a flying header that forced an agile save from visiting goalkeeper Andoni Cedrun.

Shortly after half-time, Chris Pearce was also forced into action when he made a super save to deny Sosa. This apart, Pearce had an extremely quiet evening as Wrexham continued to push forward.  The visitors were grateful to Cedrun for denying Mike Williams and when Comstive did beat him with a header, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.

With the game now in extra-time the introduction of substitutes proved to be decisive as it was Yanez who broke the deadlock when Senor sent him clear to beat Pearce. This away goal meant Wrexham now needed two goals to win the tie and hopes were raised when Steve Massey equalised.

The game was now really opening up as tiredness set in, but just two minutes later the unmarked Yanez found himself room on the right to score what looked to be the decisive goal from a Sosa cross. When have you ever known Wrexham and their supporters to give up, though? Substitute Steve Buxton pulled one back moments later to set up a frantic finale that included a wonder save by Cedrun to deny Steve Massey.

Dixie McNeil put on a brave face: “I am disappointed to say the least, but not with the lads. They played magnificently and did themselves proud. It was two defensive lapses that gave them the goals, but had not been for their goalkeeper, I am sure we would have won through to the quarter-finals.”

Star man Paul Comstive said: “I thought all through the game we were in with a good chance of winning. They did everything they could to keep us out and in the end it was their keeper who beat us. Apart from their goals, they hardly troubled us all night.”

Memory Match – 30-09-31

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.

 

30-09-31

Chester v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Sealand Road

Result: 2-5

Chester: Burke, Herod, Jones, Lambie, Skitt, Reilly, Matthews, Thompson, Jennings, Cresswell, Hedley

Goalscorers: Jennings, Thompson

Wrexham: Burrows, Jones, Brown, Clayton, Burkinshaw, Donoghue, Rogers, Ferguson, Bamford, Taylor, Lewis

Goalscorers: Lewis, Bamford (4)

Attendance: 13,656

Under the tutorship of Jack Baynes, season 1931/32 began with a 3-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra, at Gresty Road. This was an interesting season in many respects –  most notably our first Football League encounter with our cross-border rivals Chester. The first contest between the clubs at this level took place at the Racecourse Ground on 2nd September 1931, when 18,750 spectators watched a 1-1 draw.

Later that month, Sealand Road hosted its first League derby match which saw the Blues – Wrexham were actually kitted out in blue shirts with a thick white bar running horizontally – well supported by a large number of fans, who made the journey by road and rail. Our travelling army were certainly rewarded for their efforts.

After a cagey opening half hour, Chester went to pieces and the visitors took full advantage. Tommy Lewis received a pass from Sam Taylor to drive the ball home for the opening goal. Before the break, Tommy Bamford struck a brace and a convincing away win was on the cards.

Wrexham picked up where they left off in the second half. Following a miss-kick by Alec Lambie it seemed that we would be profiting from an own-goal before Bamford managed to connect with the ball and claim his hat-trick.

Chester replied through Andy Thompson, but as the Wrexham Guardian reminds us, “play was mostly in the City’s half, and the Wrexhamites were superior in every department”. Much like today…

Wrexham’s fifth goal was also scored by Bamford, after a goalmouth scramble in which shots by Taylor and Chris Ferguson were somehow kept out. In the last few minutes Chester reduced the deficit, when Tommy Jennings steered the ball past Wrexham custodian Wilf Burrows following a drive by Billie Reilly.

This result saw Wrexham move up to fourth in the table and a real promotion push was on the cards. We won our next match against Tranmere Rovers at the Racecourse (2-1) before real disaster struck. Manager Jack Baynes was forced to relinquish control to captain Ralph Burkinshaw in order to start his personal battle against cancer.

He was admitted to Chester Royal Infirmary for an ‘operative treatment’ in early October. After many anxious weeks he seemed to be making steady progress, and he was able to return home. However, three weeks later he suffered a relapse and was moved to Croesnewydd Hospital in Wrexham where he passed away on December 14th 1931, aged just 43. The former Welsh international and Wrexham player, Reverend Hywel Davies led the service at Jack Baynes’s funeral. This was a sad chapter in our history.

***

Under caretaker player/manager Burkinshaw, the Blues began strongly and reached the heights of second position. However, following the sad passing of Baynes our form dipped alarmingly as the players obviously had their minds off-field matters. We lost three of the first four games, following his demise and the managerial reigns were given to Ernie Blackburn in late January 1932 – much to the disappointment of Burkinshaw. Under the guidance of Blackburn, we finished in 10th position.

***

We failed to make a mark in the FA Cup this season, as we were knocked out at the first round stage by Gateshead, 3-2 at Redheugh Park. We did do rather better in the Welsh Cup. After beating Holywell (3-0), Shrewsbury Town (4-2) and Rhyl (3-1, in a replay played at a neutral venue) we finished runners up to Swansea Town, who beat us 3-1 over two legs.

***

On October 24th we did play Wigan Borough at the Cae Ras.  We thrashed them 5-0 with goals from Taylor (2), Lewis (2) and that man Bamford. However, this game was later made void just two days later after Wigan Borough went out of business on 26 October 1931 . Was it something we said?