Norman Sharp

Memory Match – 01-01-49

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.

01-01-49

Wrexham v Bradford City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

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

Goalscorers: Beynon (2), Birkinshaw (og), Grainger, Boothway

Bradford City: McManus, Ferguson, Ruecroft, Conroy, Birkinshaw, Murphy, Poole, Shearer, Hardcastle, Ward, Woollett

Attendance: 4,291

Wrexham opened the new year with a convincing victory that raised hopes for the second half of the season. 1949 certainly promised more than 1948 had delivered as a series of poor results and performances had seen us drop in to the lower reaches of the league table before Christmas. We were also knocked out of the FA Cup at the first round stage after Oldham Athletic thumped us 3-0 at the Racecourse.

This was our chance to record a ‘double’ over the Bantams as the third game of the season saw us record a hard-fought 1-2 victory at Valley Parade thanks to two goals from Dick Yates.

Writing in the Leader, “Wanderer” said “so paltry was the exhibition put up by the City that they made Wrexham’s task infinitely easier. That they  got away with no more than five goals scored against them without reply was certainly not due to their own strength but rather to the many gift chances which the Wrexham forwards let slip through their fingers.” This sounds strangely familiar.

Wrexham were well on top for 90% of the game as it quickly became clear why our Yorkshire opposition were rock-bottom of the league. The visiting defence were unable to cope with the Wrexham frontline and only former Wrexham ‘guest’ player George Birkinshaw finished the game with any credit. The visitors were not helped by a shaky performance from goalkeeper Brendan McManus who had a tendency to wander from his goal and was fortunate not to concede as a result.

It should also be noted that the weather was atrocious and affected the playing conditions. The reporter writing for the North Wales Guardian commented “that the treacherous, rain-soaked surface proved anything but conducive to good ball control and accurate shooting on both sides.”

“Wanderer” was particularly impressed with the deployment of five Wrexham forwards instead of the usual three. There are special mentions for Norman Sharp and Eddie Beynon. The latter opened the scoring on 38 minutes when he beat McManus with a low shot. This was the only goal of the first half when Wrexham were particularly wasteful in front of goal. Things did improve following our opener, but McManus did well to dispose of powerful drives from Jack Boothway and Dennis Grainger.

After the interval, Bradford’s attacks were more frequent but were never a menace to the Wrexham defence. Gradually, Wrexham took control of the game again and some “fine wing work” was a constant source of worry to the opposition.

Six minutes after the restart, Grainger sent the ball into the middle and Birkinshaw – threatened by the Wrexham midfielder – attempted a lofted back-pass to McManus, but his kick looped over the head of the advancing custodian to double our lead.

A host of chances went begging before Wrexham got their third goal in the 79th minute from Beynon who left McManus helpless. Five minutes later, Beynon provided Grainger with a pass and opened a way for him to net a fourth. Three minutes from the end Grainger’s centre was snapped up by Boothway whose shot seemed to curl clear of the goal, but it struck full­­-back Hugh Ferguson sufficiently to divert it in to the City net.

***

Wrexham finished the season in a respectable ninth position, which was quite remarkable when you consider that we had a change of manager and spent six matches being managed by a committee. Tom Williams was our boss for the game discussed above. However, following four straight victories his employment was terminated by the board of directors with 18 months of his contract remaining. A new manager was eventually installed when Manchester City wing-half Les McDowall became Wrexham’s first player- manager.

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 – 11-10-47

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.

11-10-47

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Bayley, Tunney, Jackson, Roberts, Wilson, Bellis, Jones, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Tunnicliffe (2)

Chester: MacLaren, Butcher, McNeil, Marsh, Walters, Cole, Turner, Burden, Coffin, Astbury, Hamilton

Goalscorer: Marsh (pen)

Attendance: 21,131

Wrexham went into this derby clash whilst riding high at the top of the league although they had failed to win their last three matches. Defeat at eventual champions Lincoln City was followed by successive 1-1 draws against Accrington Stanley and Hull City.  Hopes were high that Tom Williams’ men could get their promotion charge back on track against our mid-table local rivals. Chester had been fairly inconsistent up until this point, but were fresh from a 4-1 home win against Carlisle United.

Goalkeeper Tom Bayley was making his home League debut, but had a fairly quiet introduction to life at the Racecourse as the home team dominated proceedings. Indeed, Wrexham took the lead after only three minutes through a Billy Tunnicliffe effort that was deflected by Chester’s Reg Butcher.

After weathering fierce Wrexham pressure to keep the scoreline respectable, Chester found their feet and went close through Tommy Burden and Geoff Coffin.  At half-time, Racecourse regulars fretted over the fact that despite their dominance they only had a one goal lead. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait much longer to increase this lead as Tunnicliffe completed his brace after 57 minutes. The outside-left accepted a through ball by Jack Boothway and beat Jimmy MacLaren with a well-placed cross shot.

Chester got back into the game late on when they were awarded a controversial penalty after Wally Roberts was deemed to have fouled Tommy Burden. Frank Marsh converted the resulting spot kick.  This was the final goal of the afternoon, but if Wrexham players had been wearing their shooting boots then the margin of victory would surely have been greater.

Norman Sharp was particularly unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet due to a fine save from MacLaren after earlier shooting over the bar. Jack Jones also warmed the hands of MacLaren with a rasping drive while Boothway, on his return from injury, could not find the form that had brought him a glut of goals following his move from Crewe Alexandra the previous season. Chester defender Trevor Walters – the backbone of a defiant defence – also deserves grudging praise for containing the dangerous Wrexham attack.

Wrexham finished the season in third position, but were lagging ten points behind Lincoln City.  Meanwhile, Chester just avoided having to seek re-election after limping to 20th position with just Halifax Town and New Brighton below them.

***

However, Wrexham did not fare so well in cup competitions. They suffered the embarrassment of losing a Welsh Cup semi-final to Lovell’s Athletic, 2-1 despite beating Rhyl and Penrhyn Quarry in earlier rounds.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Halifax Town 5-0 in the first round, but there was more heartbreak to follow.  The second round saw Wrexham travelling to non-league Colchester United and with just a few minutes remaining a shock was on the cards as we trailed 1-0.  Our desperation turned to hope when we were awarded a penalty at the death and as regular penalty-taker Billy Tunnicliffe strode forward it seemed as if we had found redemption.  Unfortunately Tunnicliffe promptly fainted, leaving Jack Boothway as the man responsible for taking the crucial spot-kick.  With the pressure on, Boothway stubbed the ground as he shot and the ball trickled into the arms of an amused Colchester goalkeeper.  Our cup dreams were over for another season…

***

At the end of this season, Wrexham travelled to Germany to play three matches against Army teams stationed on the Rhine.  They met BAOR in Celle, the Rhine Army XI in Hanover and the combined services XI in Rothesan.