Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.
Wrexham v Reading
League Division Three
Wrexham: Lloyd, Hill, Davis, Cegielski, Roberts, Thomas, Shinton, Sutton, Ashcroft, Whittle, Griffiths
Goalscorers: Ashcroft 23, Griffiths 33 (pen), Whittle 73
Reading: Death, Peters, Henderson, Bowman (Youlden), Bennett, Moreline, Murray, Hiron, Earles, Carnaby, Stuckey
Goalscorer: Murray 68
The Robins entered this game on a high. They were flying high in the League and three days previously they had knocked Sunderland out of the FA Cup at the second attempt – completing a memorable hat-trick of cup victories over First Division opponents that season.
Wrexham were without regular full backs Mickey Evans and Alan Dwyer. Evans was unwell and Dwyer had dislocated a shoulder during the replay against Sunderland, which seemed likely to keep him out of action for six weeks. Despite this, the Reds were far from disrupted.
It was a day to remember for Wrexham’s formidable three-pronged strike force as they brought their combined season’s goal tally to an incredible 46. Billy Ashcroft’s header gave him 17 for the season, Graham Whittle’s shot took his tally to 13 and skilful Bobby Shinton was unlucky not to add to the 16 he had netted that term.
Whittle thought he had scored after 20 minutes, but his “goal” was disallowed by the linesman. However, two minutes later the deadlock was broken when Mel Sutton’s cross was met by the head of Ashcroft and his powerful header went in off the underside of the crossbar. Steve Death in the Reading goal had no chance.
Shinton – who was mesmerising all afternoon – almost doubled the lead after displaying his sublime skills with the ball, but his shot was cleared off the goal line by Gary Peters with Death beaten.
On 33 minutes, visiting defender Paul Bennett was forced to impede the unplayable Ashcroft to prevent him from connecting with a Sutton cross. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Arfon Griffiths stepped-up to net his first goal of the season and double our lead.
Reading were chasing shadows in the first half. Their only chance of note was squandered by Pat Earles – a new £15,000 signing from Southampton – who tamely headed Ray Hiron’s centre across the face of goal.
After the break, Wrexham loss some of their momentum and Reading enjoyed a period in the ascendancy after John Roberts went close with a good header.
The warning signs were there when Brian Lloyd, a spectator for much of the game, was called upon to make a staggering full-length save from a rasping drive by Bruce Stuckey.
However, Lloyd was left helpless after 68 minutes when John Murray lashed home an unstoppable drive from 30 yards for his 13th goal of the season.
Any hopes that the Royals had of staging a comeback didn’t last for long as just five minutes later Whittle restored the two goal advantage from 12 yards after good work from Ashcroft and Griffiths.
Manager John Neal said: “I am overjoyed. This has completed a wonderful week. Now I am going to give the lads a couple of days off. They deserve a rest after their tremendous efforts, twice against Sunderland and again today in the energy-sapping mud.”
Unfortunately, following their FA Cup heroics over Sunderland, which was watched by over 16,000, the attendance dropped to a mere 5,633. This was disappointing to say the least, but it could be explained by the atrocious weather conditions – including snow – that cast some doubt on whether the game would actually go ahead.