Paul Smith

Memory Match – 25-08-03

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.

25-08-03

Sheffield Wednesday v Wrexham

League Division Two

Hillsborough

Result: 2-3

Sheffield Wednesday: Tidman, Geary (Owusu), Barry-Murphy, D. Smith, Lee, Evans (P. Smith), Cooke, McLaren, Holt, Kuqi, Qunn

Goalscorers: Quinn (2), P. Smith (79)

Wrexham: Dibble, C. Edwards, Pejic, Ferguson, Lawrence, Carey, Barrett, Llewellyn, Sam (Jones), Thomas, P. Edwards (Holmes)

Goalscorers: Lawrence (40), Llewellyn (53), C. Edwards (64)

Attendance: 24,478

Despite a first round exit in the League Cup – thanks to a 2-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road – we were still unbeaten in the league as we travelled to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday.  After being promoted the previous season, we continued our fine form at this higher level to extend our unbeaten run to 18 matches.

Roared on by 2,000 travelling fans, the afternoon started badly when Paul McLaren headed down for Alan Quinn to score from outside the penalty area with a dipping shot after two minutes. Maybe Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Dibble could’ve done better, but he was forgiven by supporters as it was the first goal he had conceded in seven matches. The previous Saturday had seen Dibble equal a club record of six successive clean sheets – previously held solely by Gordon Livsey.

Seemingly in control, Wednesday striker Grant Holt stuck the ball past Dibble from former Wrexham loanee Terry Cooke’s free-kick in the 28th minute, only to have his effort disallowed for a foul in a crowded penalty area. Moments later Shefki Kuqi saw a shot blocked at the expense of a corner.

Wrexham were struggling to cope with the strength and pace of the home side’s two strikers and Holt muscled himself another opportunity, his shot flashing dangerously across the face of the goal.

Minutes later, Kuqi overpowered Shaun Pejic but Dibble spread himself well to prevent what would surely have been the final nail in Wrexham’s coffin, even at such an early stage of the game, as the visitors were forced to defend desperately.

Six minutes before the break though, the visitors were back on terms. Our hero was Dennis Lawrence, who had scored the winner in our previous match against Brentford. In an almost carbon-copy re-run, he went forward to meet Ferguson’s corner and his downward header found the net.

Wrexham snatched an unlikely lead in the 53rd minute through Chris Llewellyn. The former Norwich City striker breaking from half-way before linking with Paul Edwards and taking the return pass to curl a superb shot beyond Ola Tidman from 20 yards.

Wrexham went further ahead in the 64th minute thanks to a fine solo goal from Carlos Edwards, who cut in from the right to drive the ball low into the bottom corner of the net.

Wednesday were on the ropes but they didn’t give up without a fight. The Owls suddenly regained their composure and confidence to battle on for the final gut-wrenching 11 minutes. Alan Quinn’s cross was punched away by Dibble for substitute Paul Smith, whose toe-poked effort struck a post and went in off the unfortunate Brian Carey.

This was the last significant action of an entertaining afternoon that saw the Reds gain a valuable three points.

***

Assistant manager Kevin Russell said: “We weathered the storm in the first half when they put us under a lot of pressure.

“We dug in to the game and we had our fair share of chances in the second half we controlled the game with an excellent performance.”

“We couldn’t have had a worse start, but it just shows you how much character we’ve got in the squad at the moment.

“We’ve got a very small squad, a vey young squad, but the one thing about it is that we are hard to beat. We are a tight unit and today I thought they were very, very good.”

***

The win took the Dragons up to second place in the league table – with the same number of points as leaders Barnsley and with only goal-difference separating them.  Unfortunately our early season promise did not last, although we finished the season in a respectable 13th position.