Ron Chaloner

Memory Match – 11-09-62

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.

11-09-62

Northampton Town v Wrexham

League Division Three

County Ground

Result: 8-0

Northampton Town: Brodie, Foley, Woollard, Leck, Branston, Kurila, Sanders, Holton, Ashworth, Reid, Lines

Goalscorers: Holton (5, 20), Ashworth (32, 40), Reid (47), Lines (60, 63, 82)

Wrexham: Keelan, Peter Jones, McGowan, Ken Barnes, Fox, Tecwyn Jones, Ron Barnes, Bennion, Pythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 9,555

After winning promotion back to Division Three under Ken Barnes, the Reds adapted to life at this higher level with a very respectable ninth-placed finish. During the season though they did suffer the embarrassment of receiving their heaviest defeat in the League – to that point – losing 8-0 at eventual champions, Northampton Town.

Writing in the Leader, Ron Chaloner points to a “double disaster in the 20th minute” when Northampton’s monster of a left half, John Kurila, savagely floored Peter Jones with a hefty kick to the shin that left him writhing on the ground in agony. Kurila played on and passed the ball to Barry Lines who carved out an opportunity for Cliff Holton, who netted the home side’s second goal of the afternoon.

After the celebrations had died down, Jones was carried off and even though the player himself insisted that he had only suffered bruising and could return to the action, a doctor who examined his injury diagnosed a broken leg and subsequently ordered Jones to hospital in an ambulance. The X-ray examination proved that Jones was right. His leg was simply badly bruised, giving conspiracy theorists a field day. Northampton had increased their lead, Wrexham were disorganised without Jones and Kurila escaped any punishment.

The referee comes in for some scathing criticism from Chaloner, although he does hasten to add that this does not justify the ten-men of Wrexham from losing so heavily. Instead, the journalist points to a lack of co-ordination in a defence that was illustrated through a “foolhardy reliance” on the offside trap. It is also contended that some Wrexham players seemed so demoralised that they were resigned to a heavy defeat before the half-hour mark.

Apparently, Northampton were “tough, strong, very fast and – above all utterly merciless” although Chaloner did not have the stomach to share descriptions of all eight goals. Instead he merely concentrates on the last three goals scored by 20-year-old left winger Lines, whose speed was a constant embarrassment to Wrexham that afternoon.

His first came from a centre that would have sailed across the goalmouth if not for the needless intervention of shaky goalkeeper Kevin Keelan, who turned the ball into the far corner of the net. Lines then profited from a perfect pass from Wrexham player Tecwyn Jones for his brace. A fortunate hat-trick was confirmed after Lines crossed the ball into the danger area and watched as it deflected off both Ken Barnes and Alan Fox before rolling into the net with Aly McGowan making a valiant but vain attempt at a goal line clearance.

It was an afternoon to forget…

***

Wrexham’s 8-0 defeat at Northampton was their biggest-ever in a league match. Previous drubbings came in 1937 when they lost 1-7 at Lincoln and in 1938 when they also lost 3-8 at Lincoln. Sincil Bank was obviously not a happy hunting ground during this pre-war period.

Following the Second World War, Wrexham were thrashed 6-1 at Barnsley in 1960 and 6-2 at Mansfield in 1959.

Wrexham’s biggest defeat at this stage of their history was 9-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers in an FA Cup encounter in 1931.

***

There was mixed success in cup competitions for the Town during 1962/63. The League Cup saw Brentford of the Fourth Division beat us 3-0 at Griffin Park to knock us out at the first round stage. It was not our year in the Welsh Cup either, as Hereford United were our conquerors in a sixth round tie at Edgar Street that finished 2-1 to the Bulls.

We fared a little better in the FA Cup. The Robins overcame Southport, after a replay, and demolished Barrow 5-2 at the Racecourse to set up a home encounter with Liverpool. The match attracted 30,826 spectators who watched Bill Shankly’s men run out 3-0 winners, thanks to goals from Roger Hunt, Kevin Lewis and Jimmy Melia.

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Memory Match – 22-12-56

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.

22-12-56

Wrexham v Gateshead

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-1

Wrexham: Waters, McGowan, Parker, Green, Fox, Davis, Gren Jones, Thompson, Evans, Anderson, David Jones

Goalscorers: Davis, Evans (2), Thompson

Gateshead: Gray, Dawson, Oldham, Callender, Davis, Moran, Slater, Smith, Brown, Oliver, Lydon

Goalscorer: Brown

Attendance: 7,326

The 1956/57 season got off to a slow start with two 2-2 home draws against Chester and Hartlepools United, followed by a 4-2 defeat at Gateshead. Our chance for revenge against the Redheugh Park club came just before Christmas in the middle of 17 games without defeat.

The biggest flashpoint of the afternoon came with just four minutes left on the clock. Gateshead centre forward Bill Brown found himself in hot water when he was involved in an altercation with Wrexham wing half Billy Green. There was only one winner in this colourful tussle as Green was punched unconscious by Brown who was booed off the field after referee Mr A Jobling showed him a red card. What most spectators did not realise was that Green also received his marching orders. Apparently, Green was seen striking the Gateshead man in the chest before Brown delivered the killer blow. Speaking in the dressing room after the game, Green said “I don’t remember anything about what happened”.

Peter Thompson, who was moved to inside right in place of the injured Ron Hewitt, scored with a sensational strike to make it four and complete a resounding victory. Thompson ran half the length of the pitch, beat three men and left Bobby Gray in the Gateshead goal with no chance of picking out the ball in the thick grey fog. This was a shame for Gray who had been in remarkable from that afternoon.

Ron Chaloner of the Leader also gives a special word of praise to left half Fred Davis whose display throughout was described as an object lesson to budding wing halves. It was Davis who opened the scoring in the 36th minute with his first goal of the season. He wormed his way past two men before smashing the ball into the corner of the net.

Three minutes later, Bernard Evans rose high to head home a Grenville Jones corner and double our advantage. By the break, Wrexham could have scored double figures if it wasn’t for the heroics of Gray who even saved a penalty kick from John Anderson with a brilliant flying dive after Gordon Davis had handled.

Wrexham went further ahead in the 75th minute when Evans headed home a centre by Thompson before Brown notched a consolation effort for the away side. Unfortunately, as Green was about to find out, this did not brighten up his mood and calm his aggression…

The Robins climbed to 6th in the table after this victory, with Bob Keen and his Gateshead team looking nervously over their shoulder in 16th position.

***

Cliff Lloyd’s Wrexham finished the season in a comfortable mid–table position of 12th, but the real highlight of the season came in the cup competitions.

In the FA Cup, Wrexham beat Crewe Alexandra, Scunthorpe & Lindsey United and Reading to set up a dream fourth round home tie against Manchester United. When the “Busby Babes” ran out at the Racecourse they were faced with a record attendance of 34,445 – a record that stands to this day. United put on a spectacular show to run out 5-0 winners. Only a year later, the Munich air disaster robbed football of some exceptional talents, some of whom had played on the Racecourse that day.

The Reds also brought the Welsh Cup back to the Racecourse for the first time since 1931. After knocking out Bangor, Caernarfon and Chester, they met Swansea Town in the Final at Ninian Park. The Swans played in the Second Division and were firm favourites to lift the trophy, but Wrexham surprised everyone by winning 2-1 with goals from Tom McNab and Peter Thompson.

Memory Match – 08-01-66

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.

08-01-66

Wrexham v Barnsley

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-3

Wrexham: Beighton, Wall, Lucas, Smith, Turner, Powell, Lloyd, Griffiths, Webber, McMillan, Campbell

Goalscorers: Webber (3, 1 pen), McMillan (3)

Barnsley: Hill, Parker, Brookes, Jackson, Swallow, Addy, Hayes, Bettany, Kerr, Ferguson, Hewitt

Goalscorers: Kerr, Hewitt, Hayes

Attendance: 4,149

Jack Rowley, former Manchester United and England centre-forward and ex-manager of Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, became Wrexham’s ninth post-war manager and the third in less than 12 months. He was appointed in January 1966 after Billy Morris had been sacked in October 1965.  Cliff Lloyd had acted as caretaker manager in the interim period.

Speaking to Ron Chaloner in the Leader, Rowley said: “I am a strong one for discipline.  If the players are told to start training at 10am I want them there then – not at five minutes past.”

Rowley’s first game in charge against Barnsley looked tough on paper as the Yorkshire side were in the top ten while the Reds only had two clubs below them in the league. Subsequently, Rowley demanded “nothing less than 100% effort” and he wasn’t to be disappointed.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion over the afternoon’s goalscorers.   Our local newspaper claims that Webber scored four goals and McMillan two, our official history books suggest  that Webber only got a hat-trick,  McMillan scored twice and we profited from an own goal while the English Football Data Archive suggest that Webber and McMillan both scored hat-tricks.  It’s confusing.  What I do know for sure is that we won the game convincingly.

Somehow, I had to solve such a glaring inconsistency, so I spoke to none other than Sammy McMillan himself. He assures me that he definitely scored a hat-trick that afternoon and tells how debutant John Lloyd – son of former caretaker Cliff Lloyd – talks about this match as a popular after dinner speaker, recounting tales of a double hat-trick in his first of only two games for Wrexham.

According to the information at my disposal from the Leader, it seems that things didn’t start well as a rare lapse by David Powell enabled Dick Kerr to strike a beauty from 20 yards after six minutes to put the visitors ahead.  However, just five minutes later Arfon Griffiths was tripped from behind in the penalty box and Webber converted the spot kick.

On 34 minutes, Barnsley re-took the lead when Dick Hewitt despatched a hard cross-shot from the left.  This was the beginning of a breathless period of play that saw Wrexham equalise on 39 minutes through McMillan.

Things got even better for the resurgent Reds in the 42nd minute when Webber ran nearly half the length of the pitch and blasted Wrexham 3-2 in front from 20 yards.  Our jubilant fans were still celebrating this spectacular goal when Webber proceeded to beat two men and slammed in the fourth goal, completing his hat-trick.

Seven minutes into the second half the home side increased their lead, though controversy surrounds this goal in particular. The Official Handbook credits this goal to Barnsley defender Eric Brookes, but the Leader states that his teammate Brian Jackson was responsible.  I believe that this is the goal that should be credited to McMillan as he and John Lloyd are both adamant that no own-goals were scored that afternoon in line with the statistics provided by the English Football Data Archive.

Such was Wrexham’s superiority at this point that Ron Chaloner believed Jack Rowley must have possessed a magic wand. However, Barnsley were by no means finished and their lively forwards continued to test Graham Beighton who was finally beaten in the 68th minute through a fine shot from Joe Hayes.

The final thrill of an action packed afternoon saw McMillan score his third with just two minutes remaining to leave the fans chanting “We want seven”.

***

Jack Rowley’s prediction that we would climb the league table before the end of term proved to be unfounded as we won only one game in the last thirteen of the season to finish rock bottom for the first time in our history. Fortunately, we were comfortably re-elected and lived to fight another day.

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 – 25-04-53

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.

25-04-53

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-0

Wrexham: Egglestone, Parker, Fisher, Jones, Capper, Tapscott, Heggie, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Richards

Goalscorers: Jones, Tilston (2), Bannan (2), Richards, Hewitt

Chester: Wright, Dickens, Gill, Hughes, Coffin, Astbury, Deakin, Moremont, Travis, Sutcliffe, Whitlock

Attendance: 10,914

 

In 1952/53, Peter Jackson almost led Wrexham to the uncharted heights of the Second Division. The Robins finished a successful season in third position, just three points behind champions Oldham Athletic. One of the main reasons behind this success was our forward line of Tommy Bannan, Glyn Hughes, Ron Hewitt, Tommy Tilston and Billy Tunnicliffe, who reaped 70 goals between them.

The undoubted highlight of the season was a staggering 7-0 victory over our cross-border rivals in the penultimate game. This was Wrexham’s biggest-ever derby win and completed a League double over Chester following a 1-2 victory at Sealand Road just ten days previously. For balance, I suppose I should also note that this double helped avenge a 4-3 defeat by the Englishmen in a Welsh Cup fifth round tie that same season.

Just three days after our heaviest defeat of the season – a promotion-denying 4-0 trouncing at relegation-threatened Workington – hopes were high that we could bounce back from such disappointment against an injury–depleted Chester side.

The Cestrians were always going to find it tough without regular outside-left Billy Windle and right-back John Molyneux. These reliable and effective regulars were replaced by Phil Whitlock and Leo Dickens. The crowning misfortune for the visitors saw centre-half Eric Hall deemed unfit meaning that centre-forward Geoff Coffin had to cover as a makeshift defender.

Conversely, Wrexham were only forced to play without Glyn Hughes (flu). This allowed Bill Heggie to get an outing at outside-right as Wrexham showed their attacking intentions from the off. George Jones wasted a free-kick that sailed yards wide before Ron Hewitt shot inches off-target. We were getting closer…

On five minutes, Chester goalkeeper Dick Wright collided with the substantial frame of Scottish-born Heggie. It took extensive use of the magic sponge to get the dazed Wright back on his feet, but it wasn’t to be his day as just minutes later the bemused ‘keeper, “flitting around his goalmouth like a fly trapped into a bottle”, collided with an unnamed Wrexham forward and had to be stretchered from the field of play. Chester were reduced to ten-men and forced to put Ralph Moremont into goal. Writing in the North Wales Guardian, Ron Chaloner noted that the defence in front of the versatile wing-half “looked about as safe as a prefab would be to an atom bomb”.

As the half-hour mark approached – depending which newspaper you believe – Bannan sent over a corner for Hewitt to head home the first of three goals in a nine-minute spell. Tilston was then officially credited with a brace before the break, despite the fact that watching journalists agreed that his first goal appeared to have been helped in by Chester’s Tommy Astbury.

Five minutes into the second period, Jones made it four when he headed past Moremont after Dickens had cleared off the goal-line. Bannan, who was the spearhead of a fast-moving attack, headed home the fifth from Heggie’s cross and completed his brace nine minutes from time when he sent in a high cross-shot that floated over Moremont’s hands and under the bar.

Chester’s disastrous afternoon was complete three minutes from time when Dickens handled the ball in the penalty area and conceded a clear spot-kick that was powered home by Gordon Richards.

The Wrexham Advertiser and Star moaned that the match lost all interest as a spectacle when Chester lost Wright and called for a new rule allowing substitute goalkeepers. Somehow, if something similarly unfortunate was to happen to our visitors this afternoon, I can’t see many Wrexham fans complaining…

***

Chester finished the season in a lowly 20th position – five points clear of relegation.

 

Memory Match – 27-09-58

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.

27-09-58

Southampton v Wrexham

League Division Three

The Dell

Result 1-2

Southampton: Christie, Page, Traynor, Davies, Parker, Stevens, Paine, Mulgrew, Reeves, Hoskins, Sydenham

Goalscorer: Reeves

Wrexham: Ugolini, McGowan, Jones (Ken), Davis, Fox, Evans, Jones (Gren), Murray, Bannan, Crispey, Anderson

Goalscorers: Jones (Gren), Murray

Attendance: 18,048

 

“I like Wrexham. It’s a nice town and I am sure we will be happy here.”

So said Mrs Brian Cripsey after being given a car tour of the town and giving her husband the go-ahead to leave Hull City and sign for the Robins. Manager John Love  signed the 26-year-old left-winger for the princely sum of £4,000 – probably the highest fee the club had ever paid for a player at that time – just hours before his first-team debut at Mansfield Town.gue

While the formalities were being completed, the team coach left for Field Mill leaving a mad dash for Love and Cripsey to catch up with the team coach at Macclesfield – where Cripsey met his new team mates for the first time.

The last-minute escapade did not stop Cripsey from proving his worth when he accepted a slick pass from Don Weston and smashed home from 18 yards. Unfortunately this was nothing more than a consolation as Wrexham slumped to a 3-1 defeat.

Our away record for the start of the 1958/59 season did not bare much scrutiny. We had lost all five games on our travels; conceding nine goals and scoring just two. To increase anxiety our next match was a first-ever trip to Southampton who were undefeated in their last nine home games.

However this match turned out to be a real coupon buster. It was such an impressive display that Leader reporter Ron Chaloner remarked that it was one of the finest away performances he had ever seen by Wrexham – claiming 1-5 would have been more accurate reflection of the game.

Wrexham had two goals disallowed, should’ve been awarded a penalty and Ken Murray was unlucky with a shot that hit a post. Southampton fans showered Wrexham with warm applause for their glorious football. Unfortunately, they were not so kind to their own team who were given a slow-hand clap in the second half. Serious stuff!!

Eight minutes before the interval Wrexham scored the long overdue opener that their flowing football always threatened when Gren Jones burst down the middle, beat three men in a dazzling dribble and slipped the ball to Murray. The inside-forward returned it smartly and Jones, still racing on, smashed it in.

Murray notched the second after the break when Cripsey – who levelled up a lopsided Wrexham attack that had been crying out for a left sided outlet for years – crossed a fine centre that the Geordie met to direct a powerful header into the bottom corner.

Derek Reeves scored Southampton’s consolation five minutes from the end, but Wrexham didn’t panic. They stuck to their fine football and ran out deserving winners.

According to Chalanor, if all Wrexham fans had seen this performance then they would’ve been “as happy as a dog with ten tails”.

***

I wish I could say that this victory was the dawn of an exciting period of stylish football and not a freak flash in the pan, but sadly this level of performance wasn’t repeated all season and the club finished an unforgettable season – the first in the newly reorganised national Third Division – in 18th position.