Neil Roberts

Memory Match – 02-05-98

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.

02-05-98

Southend United v Wrexham

League Division Two

Roots Hall

Result: 1-3

Southend United: Royce, Hails, Dublin, Roget (Harris), Coleman, Coulbault, Maher, Jones (Nielsen), Boere, Whyte, Clarke (Aldridge)

Goalscorer: Boere (12)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Hardy, Brammer (Owen), Humes, Carey, Chalk (Wainwright), Wilson, Spink, Roberts (Connolly), Ward.

Goalscorers: Ward (43, 86), Connolly (72)

Attendance: 4,247

The season hadn’t started well and only really came to life in February when improved displays earned Brian Flynn a Manager of the Month Award. After beating Millwall at the Racecourse in mid March, we entered the play off picture for the first time that season.

After two eighth placed finishes at the end of the previous two seasons, Wrexham were hoping to clinch a play-off place this time around, especially when you consider that during March they were third in the table and five points ahead of their nearest rivals.

However, the jitters then set in and we went on a disastrous run of eight league games without a victory. As a result, we needed to beat Southend United on the final day of the season, while hoping Bristol Rovers and Gillingham dropped points if we were to clinch the final play-off spot.

The Reds had a fantastic travelling support as always and they roared their team on in high spirits at Roots Hall. Wrexham obviously had to throw caution to the wind, but things did not start well when Jeroen Beore headed the home side ahead after only 12 minutes. This was the wake up call that our boys needed and we buckled down to try to make sure that we didn’t suffer another near miss.

Goalkeeper Andy Marriott was in great form with Brian Carey and Tony Humes providing him with rock solid cover at the heart of the defence. Peter Ward was another important figure in our strong spine. An outstanding display by the midfielder saw him curl a free-kick with his left foot past a helpless Simon Royce in the Shrimpers’ goal. This was an important strike as it came just two minutes before the break.

If only our spine had been completed with a potent goalscorer? Without any disrespect to Dean Spink or Neil Roberts, they were unlikely to grab the goals needed to fire us to promotion.

However, after the break the Robins raised their game and took the lead through Karl Connolly on 72 minutes. At this point it looked as if Wrexham would finish in the play-off zone but our hearts were broken over at the Memorial Stadium – home to Bristol Rovers – when the home side scored the odd goal in three against Brentford.

Ward grabbed his second with 4 minutes to go, but it was all academic by then

Assistant manager Kevin Reeves said: “There are a lot of dejected lads in our dressing room. They won 3-1, but it’s like a morgue in there. At one time we heard Bristol Rovers were only drawing, but when the final results came in it was like a dagger through the heart.”

***

The headline in the Leader stated that “Cup win eases play off pain” after we beat Newtown 0-2 (4-0 on aggregate) to reach the final of the first ever FAW International Cup. The journalist who came up with this article writes that “the result went some way to soften the blow of failing to qualify for the Division 2 play offs”. This was total nonsense of course as I don’t remember any scenes of joy and jubilation at Latham Park. Everyone was still gutted at missing a golden opportunity for promotion.

Two goals in a three minute spell – scored by Dean Spink and Mark Wilson – saw off the challenge of the League of Wales runners up Newtown to leave Brian Flynn’s men just 90 minutes away from tin-pot Cup glory and a cheque for £100,000.

Wrexham did win the competition after beating Cardiff City (2-1) in the final with goals from Mark Wilson and Gareth Owen, but fans could still be heard muttering “if only”….

Memory Match – 08-12-2007

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I 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 in this blog. We have now reached the end of the season and my final look back is to a game in 2007 against Dagenham & Redbridge.

I have now written this column for the past two seasons and hope to continue with the feature next season. 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.

08-12-2007

Dagenham & Redbridge v Wrexham

Football League 2

Victoria Road

Result: 3-0

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Uddin, Patterson, Huke, Okuonghae, Boardman, Green (Strevens), Southam, Benson, Nurse (Taylor), Sloma

Goalscorers: Evans (24 og), Strevens (86), Taylor (90)

Wrexham: Williams, Pejic, Baynes (Aiston), Garrett, Evans, Hope, Llewellyn, Williams (Johnson), Roberts (Done), Proctor, Valentine

Attendance: 1,520

Our first-ever League meeting with Dagenham and Redbridge came during our last campaign in the Football League. The Daggers were trying to adapt to life as newcomers to this stage, but Wrexham were also struggling to keep their heads above water and had recently parted company with manager Brian Carey following six games without a win.

Enter Brian Little. He was appointed to kick start a revival that would lead us to safety using his wealth of experience. What could go wrong?

Three games into his reign and the signs were encouraging. Draws against Chester City and Rochdale, plus a 0-1 win at Bury meant that we arrived at Victoria Road in 20th position. Meanwhile the home side were on a dismal run of nine league games without a win that had left them in 23rd spot.

Little was forced to make one change to the side that had won at Gigg Lane as Eifion Williams was injured whilst scoring what turned out to be the winning goal. Marc Williams replaced him.

Dagenham adapted to the wet conditions better, caused problems with their breaks and dominated the first half. Goalkeeper Anthony Williams was on-call to deal with efforts from Dominic Green and Jon Nurse, but the boggy pitch was causing problems for Wrexham at the other end as Chris Llewellyn and Michael Proctor failed to make the most of potential openings.

After 24 minutes the Red Dragons were made to pay. The ball reached Nurse on the right wing and his teasing cross was turned in to his own net by Steve Evans from close range.

Dagenham were not content to sit back on their slender advantage as they continued to create chances before the break. Green made an audacious chip that just cleared the bar, Glen Southam cracked a powerful drive that was turned behind for a corner by Williams and Green got around the back of the Wrexham defence to cross from the by-line, but Southam failed to connect.

We were lucky to only be one goal in arrears at half-time after a lacklustre opening period in which we did not manage a single shot at goal. Little decided to replace Wes Baynes with Sam Aiston as Wrexham switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the second half. The rain was hammering down when Ryan Valentine saw his 67th minute drive deflected wide for a corner. Evans connected with the resulting corner and Neil Roberts tried to convert from close range but his effort was bravely saved on the goal-line by Tony Roberts.

Evans was called upon to make some crucial interceptions at the other end, but Proctor should have done better in the 74th minute when his weak shot was saved by Roberts. Robbie Garrett was wide of the mark with a drive from yet another Wrexham corner, but four minutes from time Dagenham doubled their lead.

Substitute Ben Strevens was allowed to run at goal unchallenged and let lose a ferocious drive from 25 yards that flew past Williams. There was no way back from this, but to rub salt in the wounds Jamie Taylor fired past Williams from a narrow angle in the second minute of injury time.

***

By the time the teams met for the return fixture at the Racecourse, Wrexham were in dire straits at the foot of the table and Dagenham were scrapping for points just four places above. Consequently, it was not a classic encounter as toothless Wrexham missed a succession of chances and were held to a 0-0 draw. Another golden opportunity had been wasted in the battle to avoid relegation and with only nine games left we were now seven points from safety…

 

Memory Match – 05-05-07

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.

05-05-07

Wrexham v Boston United

Coca-Cola Football League Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-1

Wrexham: Williams, Spender, Williams, Pejic, Evans, Jones, Llewellyn, Roberts (McEvilly), Proctor, Done

Goalscorers: Valentine 56 (pen), Llewellyn 87, Proctor 90

Boston United: Marriott, Stevens, Clarke, Greaves, Ellender, Cryan, Farrell, Cooksey, Broughton, Green, Galbraith (Maylett)

Goalscorer: Green 39

Attendance: 12,374

 

A dramatic fight against relegation to the non-League doldrums was not on the radar of even the most pessimistic Wrexham fan as we started the season without defeat in the opening seven matches, including an impressive 1-4 win against Championship-side Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in the first round of the League Cup.

However, a trip to the Crown Ground to take on Accrington Stanley ended in a crushing 5-0 defeat and all confidence went out of the window. The rot quickly set-in and we slumped from play-off contenders at the beginning of September to relegation strugglers by October 21, when Mansfield Town beat us 3-0 at Field Mill to leave us in 20th position.

Denis Smith just could not turn things around and following our FA Cup third round defeat at Derby County (3-1) he lost his job. Surprisingly, Brian Carey was handed the role of caretaker manager and tried in vein to inspire his new charges. Indeed, Carey did not record his first managerial win until his tenth match at the helm – a 1-2 win at Barnet’s Underhill in March.

This result didn’t give us the impetus we needed though and with just five games remaining we needed a minor miracle to avoid the drop. Cue three straight wins – Lincoln City (0-3), Torquay United (1-0) and Shrewsbury Town (0-1) – before a 1-0 defeat at eventual champions Walsall in our penultimate match set-up a winner-takes-all clash against Boston United at the Racecourse. A point was all we needed to reach safety while the Pilgrims needed a win.

A staggering 12,374 fans – the biggest Racecourse attendance for 27 years – gathered to watch Wrexham try to preserve their unbroken 86-year stay in the Football League. It was a tense afternoon that started with an appalling opening period with the only action of note coming when Francis Green ran on to a Mark Greaves pass, held-off Shaun Pejic and fired home a low shot that beat Anthony Williams between the sticks. We were staring relegation in the face.

Carey said the occasion had affected his team, who were “absolutely dreadful” in the first 45 minutes of a game he called “the biggest in the club’s history”. Thankfully, Carey delivered a spectacular half-time team-talk that worked wonders. Neil Roberts remembers it as the “hairdryer treatment”.

It took just 11 minutes for the boys to get on level terms when Danny Williams was pushed over by Boston’s Drewe Broughton who was actually on-loan from Chester. Chirk-born Ryan Valentine converted the subsequent spot-kick past ex-Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Marriott.

Paul Ellender went close for Boston, but the Reds finally settled their nerves in the 87th minute when Chris Llewellyn played a clever one-two with Mark Jones before cutting inside and letting fly with an unstoppable left-footed drive. The celebrations were complete in injury time when Llewellyn produced a back-heeled cross for Michael Proctor to head home in front of a delirious Kop.

Police and stewards stood no chance of stopping home supporters rushing onto the pitch at the final whistle. The mood had transformed from gloom to jubilation in just 45 minutes.

Wrexham finished 19th in the table, a comfortable four places above the last relegation spot with 51 points, five clear of Boston.

***

The Pilgrims’ directors, knowing relegation was all but certain in the closing stages of the match, swiftly entered the club into a Company Voluntary Arrangement [CVA] before the game had ended.

The financial rescue package is similar to administration and safeguarded the club’s immediate future despite being deducted ten points and suffering a double demotion by League chiefs.