Racecourse Ground

Memory Match – 27-04-93

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I have contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I shared on this blog.

This was 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.

 

27-04-93

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 0-2

Northampton Town: Richardson, Parsons, Burnham, Harrison, Chard, Terry, Wilkin, Aldridge, Gavin, Brown, Bell

Wrexham: Morris, Jones, Hardy, Owen, Humes, Pejic, Bennett, Lake, Connelly, Watkin, Cross

 Goalscorers: Bennett (13, 42 pen).

Attendance: 7,504

We all know that history only tells a story, but I can assure you that stories from our past are much more interesting than the dreadful football that we have had to sit through this season. It is important to realise that things haven’t always been this bad and there is certainly the potential for things to improve…

Back in 1992/93, Brian Flynn’s blend of homegrown talent and experienced campaigners set our pulses racing. Few would have predicted that after a 1-1 draw at Hereford United at the beginning of October left us floundering in 18th position. We were beaten at the first round stage of both the League and FA Cup by Bury (5-4 on aggregate) and Crewe Alexandra (6-1) respectively, while Leyton Orient hammered us at Brisbane Road in the second round of the Football League Trophy (4-1).

We had already conceded four goals at Bury, York and Gillingham as our season threatened to implode. The heavy Cup defeat at Crewe was a genuine turning point though as Brian Flynn entered the loan market to sign Mike Lake following the dismissal of Mickey Thomas. With our new midfielder pulling the strings we proceeded to loose only one of the next 10 games, including five consecutive victories.

The confidence was flowing and before we knew it, we were in a promotion battle. Instead of under-performing and disappointing we actually dug deep and maintained our impressive form up to the end of the season.

With two games of the season remaining, Wrexham went into the game against relegation threatened Northampton Town knowing that a win would earn them promotion for the first time in 15 years. Approximately 3,000 Wrexham fans descended on the County Ground to watch their heroes in action, but the early stages suggested that the Cobblers were intent on spoiling our party. Indeed, the home side forced four corners in as many minutes in the opening period, but Mark Morris proved a safe pair of hands as he caught every one of Darren Harmon’s vicious in-swinging corners.

The Red’s quickly settled and in the ninth minute Mike Lake should have at least hit the target after he was presented with a glorious opportunity by Steve Watkin. Four minutes later and we took the lead when Gary Bennett smashed home his 22nd goal of the season. Watkin’s tame effort was surprisingly fumbled by Barry Richardson and our ace marksman didn’t need asking twice to put us ahead.

All memories from this point on are a little hazy, but according to match reports Morris then made an unbelievable save as he tipped over Steve Brown’s bullet header after 25 minutes.

There was only one team that was ever going to win this game though and we made the evening comfortable when Watkin was pulled down in the area by Phil Chard and Bennett smashed home the resulting penalty. Referee Trevor West decided that Bennett was celebrating rather too wildly and added him to his notebook, but Wrexham fans really couldn’t have cared less. Before the half-time whistle, Watkin hit the post with a diving header.

Wrexham were in control during the second half and pushed forward in search of more goals apparently. At the final whistle, Reds fans poured onto the pitch to create joyous scenes of celebration.

“When I came here my aim was to help get the club promoted and now we’ve done that we’ll be looking to take the second division by storm”, said Gary Bennett.

Club captain Mickey Thomas, who was kicking and heading every ball from the bench said: “They’ve deserved it and so have the fans. What a season and what a team.”

It’s nice to remember the good times…

***

Lining up at number seven for Northampton Town that evening was future Dragons’ boss Kevin Wilkin.

Memory Match – 13-11-26

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.

 

13-11-26

Wrexham v Accrington Stanley

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

Wrexham: Robson, Jones, Blew, Matthias, Griffiths, Graham, Miles, Longmuir, Regan, Smith, Gunson

Goalscorers: Longmuir (3), Regan (2)

Accrington Stanley: Hayes, Bell, Whittaker, Field, Hughes, Wilson, Gee, Jepson, Powell, Martin

Attendance: 3,099

At the end of 1925/26, Alfred McAlpine took over as our new chairman after previously holding a position as director at Manchester City. This move spelt the end of Charlie Hewitt’s reign as manager. Training sessions were taken by former player Tommy Gordon and Secretary Ted Robinson, with the team being chosen by a selection committee once again.

After recording their lowest position since joining the Football League during the previous season (19th), surely things could only get better? We started the season in moderate fashion, in and around the top ten, despite only winning four of our opening 12 matches.

Ahead of this fixture we had lost our previous three games, beginning with a 6-0 drubbing at Haig Avenue against Southport. We then had to stomach a 0-1 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers and a 1-0 reverse to Durham City at Holiday Park. Subsequently, not a lot was expected from our boys on this November afternoon, even though Accrington were struggling at the foot of the table. Memories were fresh from the previous season’s meeting with Stanley at the Racecourse, where despite scoring five, including an Archie Longmuir hat-trick, we lost the match by conceding six goals.

This contest was played in appalling conditions thanks to torrential rain and gale-force winds. This helps to account for the disappointing attendance of just over 3,000, but those who stayed away lived to regret it as they missed some spectacular goals in our biggest home win of the season.

The conditions did not allow for free-flowing football, and the game descended in to a scrappy affair, although Wrexham adapted themselves with greater purpose and took the lead after only three minutes. It was Longmuir who opened the scoring, after he accepted a pass from the left and drove the ball wide of the advancing Billy Hayes as he left his goal.

John Jepson was unfortunate to see his header rebound off the crossbar as the visitors immediately tried to pull one back, but it wasn’t long before Longmuir secured a brace. The ubiquitous wide-man took up a delightful pass by Griffiths, to race forward and score with a clever cross-drive.

To their credit, the Lancashire side kept their heads up and attempted to get back in to the game with plenty of encouraging approach work. Despite this, we remained two goals to the good when the half-time whistle was blown.

There were no thoughts of protecting our lead and merely snuffing out our opponents, as the match resumed. Wrexham put Stanley under immediate pressure, as Uriah Miles just failed to find the target with a flying drive, before James Smith made ground on the left and played the ball in to the danger area. Ted Regan slashed at the ball and missed it, but Longmuir was on hand to rattle the ball home past a helpless Hayes. Cue angry protests from the Accrington players, who were adamant that Regan was in an offside position, and badgered the referee in to consulting with his linesman. After brief deliberation, the goal stood and Longmuir could celebrate another treble against Accrington.

The visitors still refused to give up, and peppered the goal with a number of long-range drives that were easily dealt with by Ed Robson between the sticks. Five minutes from the end, Regan netted a fourth when he guided home a Gordon Gunson cross. In the final stages, Regan hammered the final nail in the Accrington coffin with a low shot that eluded Hayes.

Although this was a convincing win, it did not signal a real upturn in our inconsistent fortunes and we finished the season in 13th position.

***

After suffering humiliation in the FA Cup second round, when we were knocked out by Rhyl Athletic (3-1) at Belle Vue, we did reach the semi-final stage of the Welsh Cup only to be knocked out by Cardiff City (2-1).

Memory Match – 11-01-30

hroughout 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.

11-01-30

Wrexham v West Bromwich Albion

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Finnigan, Jones, Lumberg, Dickie, Ross, Graham, Longmuir, Woodhouse, Mays, Bamford, Bell

Goalscorer: Mays

West Bromwich Albion: Ashmore, Finch, Shaw, Richardson, Evans, Darnell, Glidden, Carter, Cookson, Cresswell, Wood

Attendance: 16,600

Since the departure of our first manager Charlie Hewitt at the end of the 1925/26 season, our team had been selected by a committee. This was the case right up to October 1929, when Jack Baynes took over the reins.

The season had started badly, with only two wins from our opening ten games. This had left the team languishing in 15th position after ending the previous season in third position – our highest position since joining the Football League.

Baynes was chosen as our new manager from over 80 applicants, and the remainder of the season proved to be a struggle. Players such as George Bell and William Dickie were brought in, but it proved impossible to improve things after such a dismal start. We eventually limped home in a disappointing 17th place.

There were some bright spots in this campaign though, such as our 8-0 drubbing of Rochdale at the Racecourse which was our biggest-ever victory in the League at the time. Tommy Bamford scored four of the goals, with the others being netted by John Ascroft (2), Archie Longmuir and Roland Woodhouse.

We also continued our fine form in the FA Cup and progressed to the third round, after beating South Shields (2-4) at Horsley Hill and non-league Manchester Central (0-1) at Maine Road.

Our prize was a third round encounter with Second Division outfit West Bromwich Albion at the Racecourse. The away side had prepared for the encounter with a week in Rhyl, but after travelling to Wrexham by coach, they arrived to find the Racecourse covered with a thin layer of snow. Encouraged by the wintery conditions, the Town were also boosted by the recovery from injury of Alf Jones.

Leader journalist ‘XYZ‘, was glowing in his praise of the home team: “Wrexham’s victory was richly deserved. Albion forwards found the Wrexham halves formidable and the backs resourceful”. Apparently, “early Albion raiders were beaten off, and, at the end of half an hour, [Tommy] Bamford took advantage of a mistake by [Bob] Finch to race forward, and then to outwit his pursuer by passing back for [Billy] Mays to score the only goal of the match.”

In the second half, Albion made desperate attempts to get back into the game, but could not find a way past our stubborn defence, with their forward- thinking determination leaving them short at the back. Indeed, Wrexham had the opportunity to increase their lead on a number of occasions n the second period, before being handicapped by a series of unfortunate incidents. Jones picked up an injury and had to move to outside-right, while the attack-minded Longmuir spent a period as right full-back.

To make things worse, this was followed by an incident that left both Jimmy Cookson of the Baggies and Longmuir, having to leave the field. Cookson soon returned, but Longmuir had to be carried off with a torn muscle. This left Wrexham with only nine fit players on the pitch, but still the Albion forwards could not take advantage. We had won our last three games before this match, so confidence was high, and we were in determined mood. We managed to hang on for the win, and received a “large cheer” from the spectators present.

In the fourth round, the mighty Blues were drawn to play another Second Division side, Bradford City. After a goalless draw at the Cae Ras in front of 22,715 – the largest-ever crowd at the ground up to that point – they were knocked out of the Cup 2-1 at Valley Parade.

***

It was also an unsatisfactory season in the Welsh Cup. We beat Connah’s Quay (2-0) and New Brighton (4-0), before being knocked out at the semi-final stage by Cardiff City (0-2).

Memory Match – 05-11-86

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.

05-11-86

Wrexham v Real Zaragoza

European Cup Winner’s Second Round (2nd leg)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-2

Wrexham: Pearce, Salathiel, Cunnington, Williams, Cooke, Comstive, Massey, Horne, Steel, Charles, Emson, (Buxton)

Goalscorers: Massey 102, Buxton 106

Real Zaragoza: Cedrun, Casuco, Fraile, Blesa, Julia, Guerri, Senor, Herrera, Pineda, (Carlos 108), Ayneto, (Yanez 81), Sosa

Goalscorers: Yanez 98, 104

Attendance: 14,515

After securing a 0-0 draw at La Romareda, the Robins had a big opportunity to finish off the job at the Racecourse. Before moving on to focus on the second leg of this European tie, I want to underline the enormity of our achievement in Spain which is often overlooked in the history books.

Real Zaragoza had beaten Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final and had overcome AS Roma on penalties in the previous round. This was a seemingly impossible tie for Fourth Division strugglers and Dixie McNeil’s men deserve enormous credit for their performance.

McNeil said: “It was truly magnificent, and the lads responded to the occasion with a display that must rank as one of the greatest in the clubs history. They played with skill and commitment and would have been the envy of many a First Division side.”

Moving on to our mammoth task in the second leg and we knew we were in for a sterner test than we had experienced in the first round against Maltese side FC Zurrieq. We had destroyed them 0-3 in Malta and confirmed our progress with a 4-0 victory at home.

The Spanish side were low on confidence as they had experienced a bad start to their season and had sent a ‘spy’ over from Spain to watch us hammer Aldershot 3-0 in our last home encounter before the European clash. Roman Fernandez said: “A cold, wet night like this will be a tremendous advantage to Wrexham.” Wrexham supporters were praying for inclement weather.

In front of the biggest crowd since hosting West Ham United in January 1981, the Reds made a shaky start to the match but soon settled. In fact, they almost took the lead when Steel’s firm header clipped the bar. Paul Comstive came close with a flying header that forced an agile save from visiting goalkeeper Andoni Cedrun.

Shortly after half-time, Chris Pearce was also forced into action when he made a super save to deny Sosa. This apart, Pearce had an extremely quiet evening as Wrexham continued to push forward.  The visitors were grateful to Cedrun for denying Mike Williams and when Comstive did beat him with a header, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.

With the game now in extra-time the introduction of substitutes proved to be decisive as it was Yanez who broke the deadlock when Senor sent him clear to beat Pearce. This away goal meant Wrexham now needed two goals to win the tie and hopes were raised when Steve Massey equalised.

The game was now really opening up as tiredness set in, but just two minutes later the unmarked Yanez found himself room on the right to score what looked to be the decisive goal from a Sosa cross. When have you ever known Wrexham and their supporters to give up, though? Substitute Steve Buxton pulled one back moments later to set up a frantic finale that included a wonder save by Cedrun to deny Steve Massey.

Dixie McNeil put on a brave face: “I am disappointed to say the least, but not with the lads. They played magnificently and did themselves proud. It was two defensive lapses that gave them the goals, but had not been for their goalkeeper, I am sure we would have won through to the quarter-finals.”

Star man Paul Comstive said: “I thought all through the game we were in with a good chance of winning. They did everything they could to keep us out and in the end it was their keeper who beat us. Apart from their goals, they hardly troubled us all night.”

Memory Match – 30-09-31

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.

 

30-09-31

Chester v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Sealand Road

Result: 2-5

Chester: Burke, Herod, Jones, Lambie, Skitt, Reilly, Matthews, Thompson, Jennings, Cresswell, Hedley

Goalscorers: Jennings, Thompson

Wrexham: Burrows, Jones, Brown, Clayton, Burkinshaw, Donoghue, Rogers, Ferguson, Bamford, Taylor, Lewis

Goalscorers: Lewis, Bamford (4)

Attendance: 13,656

Under the tutorship of Jack Baynes, season 1931/32 began with a 3-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra, at Gresty Road. This was an interesting season in many respects –  most notably our first Football League encounter with our cross-border rivals Chester. The first contest between the clubs at this level took place at the Racecourse Ground on 2nd September 1931, when 18,750 spectators watched a 1-1 draw.

Later that month, Sealand Road hosted its first League derby match which saw the Blues – Wrexham were actually kitted out in blue shirts with a thick white bar running horizontally – well supported by a large number of fans, who made the journey by road and rail. Our travelling army were certainly rewarded for their efforts.

After a cagey opening half hour, Chester went to pieces and the visitors took full advantage. Tommy Lewis received a pass from Sam Taylor to drive the ball home for the opening goal. Before the break, Tommy Bamford struck a brace and a convincing away win was on the cards.

Wrexham picked up where they left off in the second half. Following a miss-kick by Alec Lambie it seemed that we would be profiting from an own-goal before Bamford managed to connect with the ball and claim his hat-trick.

Chester replied through Andy Thompson, but as the Wrexham Guardian reminds us, “play was mostly in the City’s half, and the Wrexhamites were superior in every department”. Much like today…

Wrexham’s fifth goal was also scored by Bamford, after a goalmouth scramble in which shots by Taylor and Chris Ferguson were somehow kept out. In the last few minutes Chester reduced the deficit, when Tommy Jennings steered the ball past Wrexham custodian Wilf Burrows following a drive by Billie Reilly.

This result saw Wrexham move up to fourth in the table and a real promotion push was on the cards. We won our next match against Tranmere Rovers at the Racecourse (2-1) before real disaster struck. Manager Jack Baynes was forced to relinquish control to captain Ralph Burkinshaw in order to start his personal battle against cancer.

He was admitted to Chester Royal Infirmary for an ‘operative treatment’ in early October. After many anxious weeks he seemed to be making steady progress, and he was able to return home. However, three weeks later he suffered a relapse and was moved to Croesnewydd Hospital in Wrexham where he passed away on December 14th 1931, aged just 43. The former Welsh international and Wrexham player, Reverend Hywel Davies led the service at Jack Baynes’s funeral. This was a sad chapter in our history.

***

Under caretaker player/manager Burkinshaw, the Blues began strongly and reached the heights of second position. However, following the sad passing of Baynes our form dipped alarmingly as the players obviously had their minds off-field matters. We lost three of the first four games, following his demise and the managerial reigns were given to Ernie Blackburn in late January 1932 – much to the disappointment of Burkinshaw. Under the guidance of Blackburn, we finished in 10th position.

***

We failed to make a mark in the FA Cup this season, as we were knocked out at the first round stage by Gateshead, 3-2 at Redheugh Park. We did do rather better in the Welsh Cup. After beating Holywell (3-0), Shrewsbury Town (4-2) and Rhyl (3-1, in a replay played at a neutral venue) we finished runners up to Swansea Town, who beat us 3-1 over two legs.

***

On October 24th we did play Wigan Borough at the Cae Ras.  We thrashed them 5-0 with goals from Taylor (2), Lewis (2) and that man Bamford. However, this game was later made void just two days later after Wigan Borough went out of business on 26 October 1931 . Was it something we said?

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 – 03-01-81

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.

03/01/81

West Ham United v Wrexham

FA Cup Third Round

Upton Park

Result: 1-1 

West Ham United: Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Holland, Goddard, Cross, Brooking, Pike

Goalscorer: Stewart (57 pen)

Wrexham: Davies, Hill, Jones, Davis, Cegielski, Arkwright, Buxton (Fox), Sutton, Edwards, McNeil, Cartwright

Goalscorer: Davis (87)

Attendance: 30,137

1981 began with a tasty cup-tie against FA Cup holders West Ham United who had lifted the famous trophy the previous May, thanks to a Trevor Brooking diving header against Arsenal. The Hammers were a Second Division side when they won the Cup and were aiming to follow their Cup success with promotion back to Division One. In November 1980 they had visited the Racecourse to play out a 2-2 draw.

Our third round pairing against the league leaders looked a tough one on paper. The Upton Park club had won every home match in every competition since defeat to Luton Town on the opening day of the season.

However, Arfon Griffiths’ men had recorded three wins and a draw in their last four away games and had a good record in encounters with West Ham, who had only won one in five meetings.

Arfon Griffiths said: “I think we are in with a chance of beating them – but we must play well.

“It will be a hell of an occasion and will be a tremendous atmosphere and a big crowd. It will be a great challenge for our lads, but they prefer that kind of environment and we’ll be looking for another good result in London to add to our collection. We shall not go there just to defend. We’ll play our normal game.”

The Reds were suffering from a long list of injuries and illness. Frank Carrodus, who had missed the last three games with an ankle ligament injury, was still missing along with Steve Kenworthy. On the plus side, Steve Buxton and Les Cartwright were re-introduced to the team after both having treatment for knee injuries.

Never write off the Town in the Cup. It is true that we were under the cosh for most of the match, but a superb defensive display restricted the home side to just one goal from the penalty spot after 59 minutes. The controversial decision to award a spot-kick came after Alan Hill was adjudged to have upended Pat Holland. Visiting defenders lead furious protests to the referee and felt that Holland had dived. These protests fell on deaf ears and Ray Stewart sent Dai Davies the wrong way to give United the lead. Davies had a superb game despite a dislocated finger. This did not stop him making fantastic saves to deny Paul Goddard and Geoff Pike.

West Ham seemed to be on course for their 17th home victory in succession, but our never-say-die efforts paid off after 87 minutes. Les Cartwright launched a long throw in into the penalty area which Ian Edwards back-headed before Dixie McNeil flicked it on for Gareth Davis to smash home a volley from eight yards.

***

This draw resulted in a replay at the Racecourse just three days later. This match was instantly forgettable and ended in a goalless stalemate. Cue a second replay at the Racecourse following the toss of a coin. Dixie McNeil scored the only goal of the game in the first period of extra time to finally dump John Lyall’s men out of the Cup and send us through to the fourth round, where we dispatched Wimbledon (2-1). Wolverhampton Wanderers finally ended our progress in the FA Cup after a 3-1 defeat at Molineux.

***

Our success in the Cup masked a disappointing league campaign, which saw us finish in 16th position. In our penultimate match of the season, we travelled to Upton Park yet again, where we were on the receiving end of a 1-0 defeat to the runaway champions of the Second Division. After all our efforts, we could not stop those pretty bubbles from floating in the air…