Rochdale

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 – 26-01-52

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.

 

26-01-52

Rochdale v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Spotland

Rochdale: Nicholls, Watson, Radford, Lynn, Downes, Buchan, Whitworth, Tomlinson, Middlebrough, Foulds, Betts

Goalscorer: Buchan

Wrexham: Connor, Wynn, Fisher, Jones, Spruce, Tapscott, Lawrence, Hewitt, Bannan, Hope, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Hope (3), Hewitt, Bannan

Attendance: 4,244

Season 1951/52 started in a nightmare fashion with the Town losing all of their opening six matches, including an opening day defeat at Sealand Road against Chester (2-1). This awful start to the season continued with defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0). We finally won our seventh match of the campaign after beating Halifax Town (2-1) at the Racecourse. There was only a slight improvement as the season went on with the team lifting themselves to a disappointing 18th position.

Our last game of January 1952 actually came on the back of two successive home victories against Grimsby Town (2-0) and Mansfield Town (3-1), but we had yet to win on the road all season. The only glimmer of hope was that Rochdale were also enduring a season of struggle in the lower reaches of the league table.

This contest was played in atrocious conditions as the afternoon saw dense freezing fog and the pitch at Spotland was covered with snow, which frost had hardened. Writing in the Leader, the “Wanderer” said that these conditions actually paved the way to Wrexham’s success as they passed the ball around well and adapted to the conditions much better than Rochdale. Once the Reds took an early lead they never looked back.

After six minutes play, Eric Hope drove home the opening goal from a George Jones free kick. Rochdale had their moments and equalised after 20 minute when Alistair Buchan fired home a long-range drive. Robert Connor dived and appeared to have the ball covered, but it was deflected into the other corner of the net by Ron Wynn. Our custodian Connor was largely a spectator for the remainder of the afternoon as he was only really tested from a second half corner, from which Alan Middlebrough struck the crossbar.

Wrexham were back in the lead after a Billy Tunnicliffe cross was parried by a defender and the ball fell into the path of the ruthless Hope. More was to follow before half time as on 37 minutes, captain Cyril Lawrence – playing against his former club – swung over a glorious corner and Hewitt converted it into the net before goalkeeper Jim Nicholls could move.

After the interval, Peter Jackson’s men continued to power forward in search of more goals. Indeed, it came as no surprise when Lawrence whipped in a cross for Hope to slam home a 25 yard thunderbolt. Lawrence was playing the game of his life and turned the Rochdale left back, Arthur Radford, inside out with his trickery.  It was a shame that he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself but he could be proud that he had a hand in three of the goals.

Hope also deserves a special mention as “he worked like a Trojan and whenever the ball came his way it was whirled away with the speed of a rocket without a second’s hesitation. It was from three such shots that he got his goals”.

Wrexham completed their third win in succession when Lawrence, once again, sent in a centre that Tommy Bannan connected with.

This remained Wrexham’s only away win of an arduous season, while Rochdale finished the campaign in 21st position – only the bottom two clubs, Workington and Darlington, had to seek re-election.

***

Unfortunately, we did not progress very far in the cup competitions. We did put Halifax Town to the sword (3-0) in the first round of the FA Cup, but we were knocked out at the second round stage by Leyton Orient (3-2), after a replay.

After beating Colwyn Bay and Chester in the Welsh Cup, we were beaten at the semi-final stage by Merthyr Tydfil (0-2).

Memory Match – 08-12-2007

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I 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 in this blog. We have now reached the end of the season and my final look back is to a game in 2007 against Dagenham & Redbridge.

I have now written this column for the past two seasons and hope to continue with the feature next season. 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.

08-12-2007

Dagenham & Redbridge v Wrexham

Football League 2

Victoria Road

Result: 3-0

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Uddin, Patterson, Huke, Okuonghae, Boardman, Green (Strevens), Southam, Benson, Nurse (Taylor), Sloma

Goalscorers: Evans (24 og), Strevens (86), Taylor (90)

Wrexham: Williams, Pejic, Baynes (Aiston), Garrett, Evans, Hope, Llewellyn, Williams (Johnson), Roberts (Done), Proctor, Valentine

Attendance: 1,520

Our first-ever League meeting with Dagenham and Redbridge came during our last campaign in the Football League. The Daggers were trying to adapt to life as newcomers to this stage, but Wrexham were also struggling to keep their heads above water and had recently parted company with manager Brian Carey following six games without a win.

Enter Brian Little. He was appointed to kick start a revival that would lead us to safety using his wealth of experience. What could go wrong?

Three games into his reign and the signs were encouraging. Draws against Chester City and Rochdale, plus a 0-1 win at Bury meant that we arrived at Victoria Road in 20th position. Meanwhile the home side were on a dismal run of nine league games without a win that had left them in 23rd spot.

Little was forced to make one change to the side that had won at Gigg Lane as Eifion Williams was injured whilst scoring what turned out to be the winning goal. Marc Williams replaced him.

Dagenham adapted to the wet conditions better, caused problems with their breaks and dominated the first half. Goalkeeper Anthony Williams was on-call to deal with efforts from Dominic Green and Jon Nurse, but the boggy pitch was causing problems for Wrexham at the other end as Chris Llewellyn and Michael Proctor failed to make the most of potential openings.

After 24 minutes the Red Dragons were made to pay. The ball reached Nurse on the right wing and his teasing cross was turned in to his own net by Steve Evans from close range.

Dagenham were not content to sit back on their slender advantage as they continued to create chances before the break. Green made an audacious chip that just cleared the bar, Glen Southam cracked a powerful drive that was turned behind for a corner by Williams and Green got around the back of the Wrexham defence to cross from the by-line, but Southam failed to connect.

We were lucky to only be one goal in arrears at half-time after a lacklustre opening period in which we did not manage a single shot at goal. Little decided to replace Wes Baynes with Sam Aiston as Wrexham switched to a 4-4-2 formation for the second half. The rain was hammering down when Ryan Valentine saw his 67th minute drive deflected wide for a corner. Evans connected with the resulting corner and Neil Roberts tried to convert from close range but his effort was bravely saved on the goal-line by Tony Roberts.

Evans was called upon to make some crucial interceptions at the other end, but Proctor should have done better in the 74th minute when his weak shot was saved by Roberts. Robbie Garrett was wide of the mark with a drive from yet another Wrexham corner, but four minutes from time Dagenham doubled their lead.

Substitute Ben Strevens was allowed to run at goal unchallenged and let lose a ferocious drive from 25 yards that flew past Williams. There was no way back from this, but to rub salt in the wounds Jamie Taylor fired past Williams from a narrow angle in the second minute of injury time.

***

By the time the teams met for the return fixture at the Racecourse, Wrexham were in dire straits at the foot of the table and Dagenham were scrapping for points just four places above. Consequently, it was not a classic encounter as toothless Wrexham missed a succession of chances and were held to a 0-0 draw. Another golden opportunity had been wasted in the battle to avoid relegation and with only nine games left we were now seven points from safety…

 

Memory Match – 17-03-23

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.

17-03-23

Wrexham v Tranmere Rovers

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Finnigan, Holmes, Cope, Regan, Savage, Roberts, Warburton, Cotton, Jackson, Jones, Sheldon

Goalscorers: Jackson, Warburton

Tranmere Rovers: Bradshaw, Thompson, Stuart, Campbell, Halstead, Sewell, Cook, Sayer, Crowther, Hilton, Evans

Goalscorer: Sayer

Attendance: 6,150

Our second season in the Football League and we were still looking to beat Tranmere Rovers for the first time in this competition, following a goalless draw at Prenton Park and a comprehensive 1-3 defeat at the Racecourse in 1921/22.

Despite a poor start to season 1922/23 and some heavy defeats – 0-4 at Grimsby, 0-5 at Rochdale – things improved after the festive season. Wrexham went into this derby match in 12th position in the 20 team league on the back of three successive wins against Yorkshire opposition – Halifax Town were beaten 2-1 at the Cae Ras before we recorded a double over Bradford Park Avenue.

Rovers, who were also playing their second season at this elevated level after being elected alongside Wrexham and sixteen other clubs to form the Third Division (North) in 1921/22, were struggling to adapt and were floundering in 18th position ahead of this game on the back of a 0-4 trouncing at Darlington.

Our poor results against relegation-haunted sides are not a modern phenomenon though and after a poor opening half we trailed 0-1 at the break. The visitors profited from winning the toss and opted to play with a stiff breeze at their backs during the first 45 minutes. As a result they dominated proceedings and forced some fine saves from Dick Finnigan in the Wrexham goal. There seemed to be no way through for Tranmere with Jabez Evans, Stan Sayer and George Crowther all wasting good opportunities. Indeed, Leader reporter E.H.K suggested that Tranmere were “particularly clever in midfield and played delightful football but the finishes were feeble”.

However, the home forwards were equally ineffective and shortly before half-time Sayer – a new signing from Millwall – opened the scoring from a centre from Evans.

Wrexham had it all to do in the second period and got off to a great start when Billy Jackson connected with a cross from Richard Warburton to equalise. We were now in the ascendency but failed to find the decisive goal, despite much pressure. Hopes were high when Jack Jones played a lovely ball through to Jackson, but he failed to connect properly with the ball and his tame shot was easily saved by Harry Bradshaw in the Tranmere goal.

There then followed a spell of pressure from the visitors though this was eased when Wrexham won a free-kick as Jones was brought down as he threatened to burst through on goal. Edward Roberts floated in an accurate delivery from the resulting set-piece for Warburton to thump home a header and put us on course for the two points.

It was a very pleasing victory as it was achieved without George Godding and Tommy Matthias who were away on international duty with Wales for their match against Scotland in Paisley. Finnigan and Roberts were able deputies.

***

The return match at Prenton Park was a day to forget for Wrexham fans as we lost 4-0, with Sayer and Sammy Beswick each scoring a brace in front of 8,000 spectators.

***

Wrexham finished the season in 10th position while Tranmere – revived by the goals of Stan Sayer – finished in 15th.

***

Our FA Cup campaign began at the fifth qualifying stage with a 0-2 victory against Port Vale, in a match played at the Old Recreation Ground at Hanley. Billy Jackson was the difference between the two sides and netted a brace.  In the sixth qualifying round we met Hartlepools United at the Racecourse with Tommy Matthias scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to send us into the first round proper. Bristol City of the Third Division (South) were our opponents, but our trip to Ashton Gate ended in a 5-1 defeat.

Memory Match – 06.09.83

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.

06.09.83

Wrexham v Rochdale

Canon League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Wardle, King, Cunnington, Hunt, Coleman, Keay, Arkwright, Muldoon (Edwards), Baker, Gregory, Heath

Goalscorers: Arkwright (32, 81), Hunt (44), Gregory (60), Edwards (88)

Rochdale: Conroy, Oates, Chapman, Farrell, Higgins (s/o), Williams, Thompson, Hamilton, Johnson, Allatt, Greenhoff

Goalscorer: Johnson (51)

Attendance: 1,684

Following consecutive relegations, surely this was the season that things would start to improve? One thing for sure, things couldn’t get much worse…

Our opening fixture in the basement was against Doncaster Rovers at a sweltering hot Belle Vue. Wrexham certainly received a half-time roasting and ended up losing 3-0 with a performance that was described as ‘wretched’, ‘ineffective’ and ‘an embarrassment’ by Ron Chaloner in the Leader. Oh dear. Where did we go from here?

Well, we travelled to Vale Park for the first leg of a Milk Cup clash with Port Vale and, despite an improved performance, lost 3-1. This was followed by our first home game of the season. Peterborough United were the opponents and a patchy performance ended in a 2-2 draw that was witnessed by only 1,680 fans – our lowest-ever League attendance and the smallest gate of the day in the entire League.

Things could only get better and so it proved as Jimmy Greenhoff brought his Rochdale side to the Racecourse. There was little suggestion of the treat in store for Reds fans when Shaun Cunnington misplaced a back-pass that could’ve ended in calamity but for the vigilance of new loan signing Phil Coleman.

Ian Arkwright opened the scoring spectacularly from 20 yards after 32 minutes. Things got worse for Rochdale on 41 minutes when Andy Higgins was sent off for a second bookable offence after tripping Arkwright. On the stroke of half-time, David Gregory’s superb pass put Simon Hunt clear on goal and he calmly doubled our advantage.

Rochdale rolled up their sleeves in the second half and Steve Johnson sparked a revival when he collected Peter Farrell’s pass, beat Jack Keay and fired home under Bob Wardle’s body. This was the start of a tricky period, but when Gregory headed home Shaun Cunnington’s crossed on the hour it was all over bar the shouting.

There were nine minutes remaining when Arkwright rounded Steve Conroy to score the fourth and the fifth goal was claimed by substitute Andy Edwards on 88 minutes with a neat shot.

Bobby Roberts was obviously pleased but he wasn’t getting carried away: “We played a lot better and competed a lot better. We were a wee bit rocky for a spell but sometimes you get that against ten men.

“We looked a bit nervous after Rochdale scored. Some may lack a bit of confidence at times but when we got the third goal we were comfortable. There were five cracking goals there tonight and there was some very good football.

“If we can keep knocking in goals, people will want to see us.”

***

Wrexham’s win took them to ninth place in the Fourth Division table, but this was about as good as it got. As the season dragged on it soon became clear that this performance against Rochdale was a one-off and we finished the season in a lowly 20th position.

On the bright side, we did qualify for Europe by reaching the Welsh Cup final, signed Jim Steel from Port Vale for £10,000 and escaped having to apply for re-election on the final day of the season with a 5-1 home win over Tranmere Rovers.

However on the flip side, attendances didn’t really improve, we lost 10 home games in the league to equal the club’s worst ever record from 1963/64, we lost Eddie Niedzwiecki to Chelsea for a bargain £45,000 and Bobby Roberts was forced to play in goal during a Welsh Cup tie against Worcester.

On the whole, it really was a season to forget…

Memory Match – 11-12-99

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past. I hope to continue writing this feature next season.

11-12-99

Wrexham v Middlesbrough

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Hardy, Ferguson, S. Roberts (Ridler), Carey, Williams, Gibson (Owen), Faulconbridge (Connolly), N. Roberts, Russell

Goalscorers: Gibson 50, Ferguson 68

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Stamp, Ziege, Feste, Vickers, Pallister (Gavin), Mustoe, Gascoigne, Deane, Ricard, Juninho

Goalscorer: Deane 42

Attendance: 11,755

The 1990’s saw some splendid FA Cup performances by Brian Flynn’s men. Arsenal, Ipswich Town and West Ham United were all put to the sword.

We progressed to the third round of the 1999/2000 competition despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Kettering Town in the first round at the Racecourse. First half goals by Steve Roberts and Danny Williams saw us through the replay at Rockingham Road to set-up a second round home tie against Rochdale. Progress to the third round was booked with a 2-1 victory that was only sealed by a Craig Faulconbridge strike on 88 minutes.

Our prize was a plum daw against a top-flight Middlesbrough side that was managed by Bryan Robson and featured such illustrious names as Paul Gascoigne, Christian Ziege and Juninho. Hopes of progression to the fourth round seemed outlandish, particularly given our woeful League form – since beating Oxford United on September 18 we had remained without a win for 12 matches, including hammerings at Gillingham (5-1) and Burnley (5-0)..

Brian Deane put Boro ahead three minutes before half-time with a controversial goal. Robbie Mustoe played a cutting pass to Hamilton Ricard who appeared to bring the ball under control using his arm. An untidy scramble then followed as the Reds attempted to clear the danger. Alas, the ball broke to Deane who powered home the opener from 10 yards.

However, Wrexham did not panic. We had created one or two opportunities in the first half and came out fighting for the second period in the hope that our gutsy determination would exploit a crisis of confidence in a Middlesbrough team that had gone four games without a win in the Premier League, including a 5-1 massacre at Arsenal.

Five minutes after the restart the scores were level. Darren Ferguson’s defence-splitting delivery allowed Robin Gibson to control and lash a low, left-footed drive past the despairing dive of Mark Schwarzer.

The Premier League side could have retaken the lead but Ziege’s corner was hacked off the line by Brian Carey and Kevin Dearden saved with his legs from Deane.

Moments later the ground erupted as the impressive Ferguson dribbled along the edge of the area, beating two defenders, before crashing an unstoppable drive past the stranded Schwarzer.

His father, Sir Alex Ferguson, was watching from the stands because his Manchester United team had no game following their controversial decision to sit out the FA Cup that season.

Previously under-fire manager Brian Flynn said afterwards: “That was a memorable day again, absolutely fantastic. From start to finish it was an enthralling cup tie.

“I think we deserved to win. I mean, the quality of our finishing was of the highest standard. Darren Ferguson’s ball through for Gibbo and the way he finished it and obviously Darren’s solo goal. It does take something exceptional and unexpected to win a cup-tie like that.”

He added: “It was certainly Darren’s best game for us, but all eleven of them played a part.

“In the starting line-up we had five players who have actually come through our youth policy, that’s virtually half the team. It’s a great experience for them to play against world-class players and to compete against them and obviously do well.”

***

Wrexham’s reward after taking such a scalp was a fourth round home tie against Cambridge United. Predictably, we lost this match 1-2 and bowed out of the FA Cup. In fact, we didn’t win another FA Cup match until November 2004 when we thumped Hayes 0-4.