Phil Hardy

Memory Match – 19-09-90

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.

 

19-09-90

Wrexham v Lyngby

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round, First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Phillips, Beaumont, Owen, Williams, Sertori, Copper, Flynn (Hunter), Preece, Worthington, Bowden

Lyngby: Rindom, Kuhn, Wieghorst, Gothenborg, Christiensen, Larsen, Helt, Schafer, Christensen, Rode (Andersen), Kuhn

Attendance: 3,417

Season 1990/91 saw Brian Flynn decide to give youth a chance as there was no relegation to the non-league doldrums this season. An array of young talent was waiting in the wings, with players such as Phil Hardy, Waynne Phillips, Gareth Owen and Chris Armstrong all bidding to carve out a successful career in football.

Flynn said “I am getting the praise for these youngsters,, but it is Cliff Sear and his excellent team who have brought them all on over the last four years”. The new man in charge was fairly confident of a productive season and was only looking upward before the season began.

“Every club starts equal, so at this stage it is anybody’s guess who will win promotion.”

After an appalling start to the season, with only one win in the opening ten league games it quickly became clear that we weren’t going to be challenging at the right end of the table. What we needed was a distraction and progress in the League Cup certainly provided that. After beating York City over two legs, we faced Everton in the second round. We were demolished 0-5 at the Racecourse and thumped 6-0 at Goodison Park, but in hindsight these defeats proved valuable lessons for our inexperienced squad.

Another distraction came in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where we were drawn against Danish Cup winners Lyngby. The first-leg at the Racecourse was instantly forgettable to my teenage eyes, but I do remember getting my programme signed by Chris Armstrong. That was about the sum of the excitement.

Kevin Reeves was more than happy with the goalless draw that we had earned: “The most pleasing thing is we never conceded a goal. If we get a scoring draw over there, then it’s obviously a big bonus to us.” Our defensive display was helped by the fact that Flynn chose to play Mike Williams, who had been out of action for nine months.

The Town had achieved more than expected already. It was seen as fanciful to hope that they could capitalise on this result, especially as we had to contend with the fact that we were restricted to four ‘foreign’ players thanks to a new UEFA ruling. This meant that experienced players such as Vince O’Keefe, Andy Thackeray, Nigel Beaumont, Sean Reck and Andy Preece all had to be left out of Flynn’s plans. We were given little chance and Danish newspapers predicted a landslide.

Competing in Europe for the fifth time, Lyngby included four full Danish international players on their books, and almost took the lead after only two minutes. Mark Morris managed to turn a Hasse Kuhl header onto the bar. In the resulting scramble, Morris did well to keep out Michael Gothenburg’s shot.

Only 11 minutes had passed when Wrexham won a free-kick that player-boss Flynn floated across. Jon Bowden nodded on and Chris Armstrong buried a header past Jan Rindom, to send the 400 travelling Wrexham fans into rapture.

Lyngby continued to press for the remainder of the game, but Wrexham defended gallantly and benefited from Morris being on top of his game, especially when making a one-handed save to deny John Helt. Thankfully, Fleming Christian missed a second half sitter with a wayward header.

After the match, Flynn said: “I’m very proud of all my players. They have done Wrexham and Welsh football proud, and once again we have kept up the club’s fine tradition in Europe.”

***

The second round saw the Robins drawn against Manchester United in a tie that we lost 5-0 on aggregate. The Red Devils went on to lift the trophy that season after beating Barcelona in the final.

Memory Match – 16-11-91

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.

16-11-91

Wrexham v Winsford United

FA Cup First Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-2

Wrexham: Morris, Thackeray, Hardy, Beaumont, Thomas, Jones, Setori, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Kelly

Goalscorers: Connolly 8, Watkin 71, 77, 85, Thomas 90

Winsford United: Mayfield, Lloyd, Whitney, Edey, Taylor (Hall), Esdaille, Grant (Nevis), Thomas, Cameron, Blackwood, Sheridan

Goalscorers: Esdaille (14), Blackwood (76)

Attendance: 2,933

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that Wrexham took on non-league Winsford United in the first round of the FA Cup. A couple of seasons previously we had been knocked out of the FA Cup after a first round replay by Conference side Runcorn, so tension was abound when the draw paired us with a high-flying outfit from the HFS Loans League.

Winsford had scored twenty goals during their five FA Cup preliminary rounds, including a 3-2 win over Altrincham. In addition, their league form was excellent – winning eight out of their ten opening games.  Meanwhile, Wrexham were struggling on the pitch under rookie manager Brian Flynn and off it in front of dwindling crowds.

Wrexham took the lead when Karl Connolly took full advantage of a slip by John Whitney to shoot into the roof of the net after eight minutes.   However, the underdogs did not capitulate as expected. Just six minutes later Dave Esdaille turned and shot home from eight yards following good work by Darren Sheridan and Jimmy Cameron. We certainly had a fight on our hands.

In the 22nd minute James Kelly struck a sweet volley which cannoned off the crossbar, but this was the closest that the Robins came to restoring their lead during the first half.

After the break, Winsford began to take control and went close on 54 minutes when Esdaille’s cross eluded the Wrexham defence and fell to prolific striker Bevon Blackwood. Uncharacteristically, the goal machine hesitated on the edge of the six yard box which allowed Phil Hardy to save the day with a timely tackle.

After dicing with humiliation, Steve Watkin fiercely volleyed home after 71 minutes, but we still couldn’t shake off the gutsy part-timers as five minutes later they were level – Blackwood finishing brilliantly after great work by Esdaille and Archie Lloyd.

It was a breathtaking game and Wrexham went back in front from the restart when Watkin grabbed his second after good work from Connolly and Mickey Thomas.

Watkin then completed his 15 minute hat-trick with a deft flick from a Gareth Owen cross as the Cheshire side began to tire.  Veteran midfielder Thomas then side-footed home the fifth after unselfish play by Watkin and Connolly to end the Winsford dream.

***

Unfortunately, the game was marred by a racist incident involving Winsford manager Mike McKenzie. In his regular Terrace Talk column, Les Chamberlain reports that McKenzie alleged that some Wrexham fans behind the dugout spat and hurled racist abuse at him.

However, according to Les Chamberlain’s ‘mate in the paddock’ it was McKenzie who spat at the supporters after James Kelly had been booked for a foul on a Winsford player. He admitted that the Wrexham fans were guilty of racist chants, but that McKenzie had retaliated by spitting.

Thankfully chairman Pryce Griffiths, Carroll Clarke, chairman of the Supporters Association and manager Brian Flynn all condemned the inexcusable racist abuse. Whatever actually happened certainly put a dampener on a fantastic afternoon of football that put us one step closer to a potential money spinner against a big name club in the third round of the FA Cup….