North Wales Guardian

Memory Match – 02-09-39

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.

02-09-39

Halifax Town v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section) (abandoned)

The Shay

Result: 1-1

Halifax Town: Briggs, Allsop, Jackson, Green, Craig, Ruecroft, Widdowfield, Bruce, Baines, Barkas, Wood

Goalscorer: Baines

Wrexham: Bryan, Tunney, Screen, Savage, Matthias, Briggs, Williams, Snow, Woodman, Bradbury, Brown

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 6,417

When the 1939/40 season kicked off, the international situation meant that it was unlikely to proceed far. Indeed, after only three matches, war was declared on 3 September 1939 and with immediate effect the assembly of crowds was banned until further notice.

The last game Wrexham played before the suspension of football was at the Shay – home of Halifax Town. The match featured a fantastic display from the visiting goalkeeper Billy Bryan who was in inspired form for the Reds.

Halifax controlled proceedings and spent most of the game on the offensive. However, Wrexham took an early lead through former Nottingham Forest winger, Roy Brown who scored with a fast, rising shot. The Shaymen where shocked by this and retaliated swiftly with Bryan being called upon to make some spectacular saves from Reg Baines.

It was apparent that Halifax’s repeated attacks would bring reward, and it came as no surprise when Baines equalised with a fierce drive that gave Bryan no chance. Before the break the Wrexham custodian had to be on his toes to stop a shot from Tommy Barkas. Writing in the Leader, “Candidus” said that Bryan was “clapped when he left the field at half time by the sporting home crowd, and he well deserved their plaudits.”

 After the interval, Halifax maintained their pressure but could not penetrate the red wall of defenders. In the final stages it looked likely that Wrexham were to lose their hard-earned point when Baines broke through with only Bryan to beat. This was a duel between the two star performers of the game. Thankfully, it was Bryan who came out on top when he confidently ran out of his goal and smothered the centre forward’s shot.

***

Underneath the match report in the North Wales Guardian was the headline: “Welsh FA and Suspension of Football”. Ted Robbins, secretary of the FAW issued the following statement: “It will have been noticed that football has been suspended. This decision is doubtless necessary, but I feel that in a very short time the ban will be raised in certain areas so as to afford some recreation for the people, and to take their minds temporarily off sterner things.”

Robbins was correct in his forecast. The Government deemed football should continue in some format because it was good for morale. Wrexham’s next match was a friendly against Chester at the Cae Ras. They played another friendly against Chester and two against Tranmere Rovers before football was reorganised into regions. Wrexham played in the Regional League (West Division), which included the two Manchester giants as well as Liverpool and Everton.

During the war, registration regulations were relaxed to allow players who would serve in the forces to turn out for a club near to where they were stationed. These players were allowed to appear as guests and each club could field as many guests as they wanted. Indeed, without the guest player system, war time football would have collapsed.

During this period, Wrexham had their fair share of guest players. Famous names to appear for Wrexham included England internationals Stanley Matthews, Stan Cullis, John Hancocks and Ronnie Dix. Welsh internationals included Tommy G Jones, Tommy Griffiths, Ehud Rogers, Tommy Bamford and Don Dearson.

The Town’s best season during this time of conflict was in 1943/44 when they finished top of the North Regional Championship and had the same record as Bath City, who played in the Southern Regional competition. Wrexham offered to play Bath over two legs to decide the outright winner, but Bath bottled it and refused the offer because of the travelling involved. Popular opinion of the time regarded Wrexham as the outright winners because of the strength of the opponents they had overcome compared to Bath.

Memory Match – 14-01-33

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.

14-01-33

Wrexham v Southport

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Adams, Jones, Brown, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Hughes, Frewin, Bamford, Lewis, Waller

Goalscorers: Lewis (2), Bamford, Frewin, Bulling, Waller

Southport: Middleton, Robinson, Birkett, Taylor, Wyness, Lydon, Sellars, Bell, Appleby, Williams, Turner

Attendance: 5,915

According to the match report in the North Wales Guardian, Wrexham did not need to over-exert themselves in this contest, as Southport never really showed the form that was expected of them.  The visitors were accused of being “sadly disjointed” and the reporter wonders aloud what had caused this slump in a team that threatened at the top of the league earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, the Blues were fresh from hammering Hartlepools United 8-1 at the Cae Ras and were obviously out to prove this was not a mere flash in the pan. Apparently, they tore Southport apart by “playing spirited football and bewildering them with dashing attacks and swift defensive measures.”

Wrexham were in electric form and unleashed wave after wave of attack on goalkeeper Matt Middleton. During 1931/32, the Southport custodian frustrated our forwards with a fine display in a 2-0 defeat at Haig Avenue in Ernest Blackburn’s first match in charge, but he was unsupported on this occasion and powerless against the awesome force of Tommy Bamford and company.

Wrexham had the better of the opening exchanges and it quickly became clear that this would be an afternoon of one-way traffic with Southport having to employ the offside trap to stave off danger.  However, it did not take long for Tommy Lewis to weave his way through static defenders to score the opener on 23 minutes.  A minute later Bamford netted with a neat flick from Harry Waller’s centre and a whirlwind period was complete when George Frewin notched a third with his head from a Jack Hughes cross.

It was now time for toothless Southport to have a go. They pressed forward only to find Alf Jones and Jack Brown were equal to all calls made upon them.  At least the Sandgrounders were trying to make a game of it, even though Hughes hit the woodwork with an excellent drive before Lewis completed an emphatic opening period by heading the fourth.

Southport rarely crossed the half-way line in the second half and the Blues extended their lead through Jim Bulling – who converted a Hughes corner after Ted Robinson had cleared off the line – and a simple tap-in from Waller.

***

Writing in a Supporters’ Club News column, “J.H.W” notes that the first three games in 1933 had yielded six points, with 16 goals for and only two against. Our latter day statistician also noted that, at the time, we had scored more goals at home than any other team in the English Leagues, and only Arsenal had a greater aggregate of goals, home and away, than Wrexham.

***

The 1932/33 season was to be Wrexham’s best-ever in the Third Division North when they finished runners-up to Hull City, only two points adrift of the Humberside club. So close, yet so far…

During the season, Wrexham’s home record was remarkable: they won 18 matches, drew two and lost only one, to Chester. The home wins consisted of some high-scoring victories. The 106 League goals scored that season is still a record.

***

Alas, more frustration and heartache laid in store in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat non-League Spennymoor United at home (3-0) before losing a second round replay at the Racecourse to Brighton & Hove Albion (2-3).

The Blues reached the Welsh Cup final yet again after beating Oswestry (4-1 after replay), Bangor (2-1) and Southport (3-1 after replay). In the final they met their old rivals Chester at Sealand Road in front of a 15,000 crowd who were to see the Cestrians win 2-0, thereby lifting the Welsh Cup for the second time in their laughably sparse history.

Memory Match – 05-11-21

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.

I am particularly proud of this edition as I have set right something that has been wrongly taken for fact for many years. I am chuffed that my historical research has uncovered this information and has helped the excellent work of official club historian, Peter Jones.

Read on to find out who really scored the first hat-trick for Wrexham AFC in the Football League…

05-11-21

Wrexham v Chesterfield

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-1

Wrexham: Godding, Ellis, Simpson, Matthias, Moorwood, Roberts, Burton, Cotton, Elvidge, Regan, Lloyd

Goalscorers: Cotton (3), Regan (3)

Chesterfield: Mitchell, Stirling, Saxby, Clarke, Broome, Paltridge, Smithurst, Fisher, Cooper, Connor, Marshall

Goalscorer: Smithurst

Attendance: 6,000

Season 1921/22 was our first in the Football League and began with a 0-2 defeat against Hartlepools United at the Racecourse Ground. Our form had since been inconsistent – as you might expect from a team that was adapting to life in a new set-up – and we went into the encounter with Chesterfield in a solid, if unspectacular, mid-table position. Meanwhile, our opponents were licking their wounds at the bottom of the league after conceding 26 goals in their opening 10 games – including a 7-0 demolition at Darlington.

The Wrexham forward line had been changed for this match with Bert Goode and Reg Leck missing out. Billy Cotton came back to spearhead the attack, 21-year-old Ted Regan was moved to inside-right and Chris Elvidge was given a trial at inside-left.

The first half-hour of the game was goalless and George Godding in the Wrexham goal was by far the busiest goalkeeper as Chesterfield threatened. The Caergwrle-born shotstopper made a good save early on, but was injured in the process and had to spend some time on the sidelines. Defender Jack Ellis took over in goal and was called upon to punch clear a high dropping shot from Tommy Broome before Godding returned. At the other end of the pitch, the Wrexham attack – as originally constituted – misfired.

This new-look forward line was struggling and, according to the mysteriously named X, Y, Z in the Leader, the fact that they eventually clicked into gear was only due to the foresight of Bobby Simpson who directed Cotton and Regan to swap positions. This change certainly proved effective as the game was quickly turned on its head. Before half-time, Cotton headed home from Matt Burton’s well-placed corner and Regan added a second after good work from Elvidge.

On the hour mark, Regan added a third and Cotton was then on the end of a well-executed passage of play to head a fourth. The race was now on to see which player could score the first hat-trick for Wrexham in the Football League.

Before Wrexham could continue the goal glut, Chesterfield scored a consolation when Edgar Smithurst delivered a high centre into the Wrexham area. The flight of the ball deceived Godding who could not prevent the visitors from getting on the scoresheet.

The history books and Internet pages tell us that Ted Regan was actually the first player to land a hat-trick in this game and become the club’s first ever hat-trick hero in the Football League. However, according to match reports in the Leader and North Wales Guardian this honour belongs to Billy Cotton. Two newspaper journalists who attended the game agree that Cotton claimed our fifth by accepting a pass from Jack Moorwood and shooting with speed and power from 30 yards to electrify the crowd. Regan then completed the rout late on with his fifth goal in his first two games for the club.

I’m glad I have the opportunity to set the record straight and celebrate the achievement of Billy Cotton who deserves recognition after spending so many years in the shadow of Ted Regan.

***

In those days teams faced each other on a double-bill basis – at home and away ­– before moving on to their next opponent. Unfortunately this gave Chesterfield a chance for revenge just seven days later at the Recreation Ground. Charles Buttrell, Horace Clarke and Tommy Broome scored for the Derbyshire side in a 3-0 revenge mission.

This was only the third win of a long season for Chesterfield. Their form only improved with five straight victories in the final games of the season to lift them to 13th position in the League table. Wrexham finished the campaign just two points better off in 12th.

Memory Match – 25-04-53

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.

25-04-53

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-0

Wrexham: Egglestone, Parker, Fisher, Jones, Capper, Tapscott, Heggie, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Richards

Goalscorers: Jones, Tilston (2), Bannan (2), Richards, Hewitt

Chester: Wright, Dickens, Gill, Hughes, Coffin, Astbury, Deakin, Moremont, Travis, Sutcliffe, Whitlock

Attendance: 10,914

 

In 1952/53, Peter Jackson almost led Wrexham to the uncharted heights of the Second Division. The Robins finished a successful season in third position, just three points behind champions Oldham Athletic. One of the main reasons behind this success was our forward line of Tommy Bannan, Glyn Hughes, Ron Hewitt, Tommy Tilston and Billy Tunnicliffe, who reaped 70 goals between them.

The undoubted highlight of the season was a staggering 7-0 victory over our cross-border rivals in the penultimate game. This was Wrexham’s biggest-ever derby win and completed a League double over Chester following a 1-2 victory at Sealand Road just ten days previously. For balance, I suppose I should also note that this double helped avenge a 4-3 defeat by the Englishmen in a Welsh Cup fifth round tie that same season.

Just three days after our heaviest defeat of the season – a promotion-denying 4-0 trouncing at relegation-threatened Workington – hopes were high that we could bounce back from such disappointment against an injury–depleted Chester side.

The Cestrians were always going to find it tough without regular outside-left Billy Windle and right-back John Molyneux. These reliable and effective regulars were replaced by Phil Whitlock and Leo Dickens. The crowning misfortune for the visitors saw centre-half Eric Hall deemed unfit meaning that centre-forward Geoff Coffin had to cover as a makeshift defender.

Conversely, Wrexham were only forced to play without Glyn Hughes (flu). This allowed Bill Heggie to get an outing at outside-right as Wrexham showed their attacking intentions from the off. George Jones wasted a free-kick that sailed yards wide before Ron Hewitt shot inches off-target. We were getting closer…

On five minutes, Chester goalkeeper Dick Wright collided with the substantial frame of Scottish-born Heggie. It took extensive use of the magic sponge to get the dazed Wright back on his feet, but it wasn’t to be his day as just minutes later the bemused ‘keeper, “flitting around his goalmouth like a fly trapped into a bottle”, collided with an unnamed Wrexham forward and had to be stretchered from the field of play. Chester were reduced to ten-men and forced to put Ralph Moremont into goal. Writing in the North Wales Guardian, Ron Chaloner noted that the defence in front of the versatile wing-half “looked about as safe as a prefab would be to an atom bomb”.

As the half-hour mark approached – depending which newspaper you believe – Bannan sent over a corner for Hewitt to head home the first of three goals in a nine-minute spell. Tilston was then officially credited with a brace before the break, despite the fact that watching journalists agreed that his first goal appeared to have been helped in by Chester’s Tommy Astbury.

Five minutes into the second period, Jones made it four when he headed past Moremont after Dickens had cleared off the goal-line. Bannan, who was the spearhead of a fast-moving attack, headed home the fifth from Heggie’s cross and completed his brace nine minutes from time when he sent in a high cross-shot that floated over Moremont’s hands and under the bar.

Chester’s disastrous afternoon was complete three minutes from time when Dickens handled the ball in the penalty area and conceded a clear spot-kick that was powered home by Gordon Richards.

The Wrexham Advertiser and Star moaned that the match lost all interest as a spectacle when Chester lost Wright and called for a new rule allowing substitute goalkeepers. Somehow, if something similarly unfortunate was to happen to our visitors this afternoon, I can’t see many Wrexham fans complaining…

***

Chester finished the season in a lowly 20th position – five points clear of relegation.