Shaun Pejic

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.

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Memory Match – 10-04-05

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.

10-04-05

Wrexham v Southend United

Football League Trophy Final

Millennium Stadium

Result: 2-0 (after extra time)

Wrexham: Foster, Edwards, Morgan, Ferguson, Lawrence, Roberts (Pejic), Crowell (Bennett), Jones (Williams), Ugarte, Llewellyn, Holt

Goalscorers: Ugarte (99), Ferguson (118)

Southend United: Flahavan, Jupp, Wilson, Pettefer (Guttridge), Prior, Barrett, Maher, Gower (McCormack), Eastwood (Dudfield), Gray, Bentley

Attendance: 36,216

It had been a depressing season, both on and off the pitch. This is not the time, nor place for a lengthy analysis of the turmoil caused by Alex Hamilton, but I must provide some context.

On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration by the High Court as we owed £2,600,000, including £800,000 to the Inland Revenue. Wrexham became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction for being placed in administration, causing them to drop from mid-table to the League One relegation zone.

Despite their financial turmoil, Wrexham reached the LDV Vans Trophy final against Southend United at the Millennium Stadium after beating Notts County (2-3), Stockport County (2-0), Chester City (0-1), Hereford United (1-2) and Oldham Athletic (6-3 on aggregate) on route to the Cardiff showpiece. It was Southend’s second consecutive appearance in the Football League Trophy final after losing to Blackpool (0-2) in 2004.

There were no surprises in Wrexham’s line up with Mark Jones, Carlos Edwards and Craig Morgan, all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Danny Williams was named as one of the five substitutes having overcome back problems, while Alex Smith, Chris Armstrong, Scott Green and Levi Mackin were the unlucky players not to make the final sixteen.

Wrexham began brightly and would have taken an early lead if Juan Ugarte’s goalscoring instincts not prevented him from passing to the unmarked Chris Llewellyn in the 11th minute.

Unfortunately, Steve Roberts had to hobble off on 14 minutes. He was replaced by Shaun Pejic, but this did not disrupt our flow as Ugarte proved when he curled a shot just wide.

It was not all one-way traffic though as Southend’s Freddy Eastwood threatened fleetingly, and Mark Bentley produced fine saves from Ben Foster both sides of the interval.

Twenty minutes from time Bentley’s header hit his own bar. The ball bounced back into play and Bentley challenged Ugarte for the rebound, with the Wrexham player winning only to see his header hit the post and eventually fall into Darryl Flahavan’s arms. Southend had escaped and forced the game into extra-time.

The contest turned on a disputed corner from the left by Darren Ferguson in the ninth minute of extra-time. The ball was headed goalwards by Dennis Lawrence for Ugarte to flick home from close range for his sixth goal of the competition. We had one hand on the prize…

Two minutes from the end, Flahavan could only palm Llewellyn’s shot into Ferguson’s path and he coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards to send the best-part of 20,000 travelling Reds into raptures.

This vital victory brought with it up to £500,000 cash which helped keep the clubs future alive while administrators worked to find a new owner.

Supporters Trust representative, Lindsey Jones said: “It was a fantastic day. There were so many people there, and a lot of people we don’t see every week. If they didn’t have the bug before, they will now.

“Long term I hope this will attract more supporters, and in turn make north Wales as a whole support the club.”

***

Wrexham still retained an outside chance of escaping the drop with six league games left. They were only eight points from safety, but it was a case of after the Lord Mayors show as Denis Smith’s men slumped to two defeats – Bristol City (1-0) and Luton Town (1-2) –   following the excitement of Cardiff. Brief excitement and belief began to grow after victories on the road against Port Vale (0-2) and Stockport County (1-4), but relegation was confirmed with a 1-2 home defeat against Brentford on 3 May 2005.

 

Memory Match – 05-05-07

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.

05-05-07

Wrexham v Boston United

Coca-Cola Football League Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-1

Wrexham: Williams, Spender, Williams, Pejic, Evans, Jones, Llewellyn, Roberts (McEvilly), Proctor, Done

Goalscorers: Valentine 56 (pen), Llewellyn 87, Proctor 90

Boston United: Marriott, Stevens, Clarke, Greaves, Ellender, Cryan, Farrell, Cooksey, Broughton, Green, Galbraith (Maylett)

Goalscorer: Green 39

Attendance: 12,374

 

A dramatic fight against relegation to the non-League doldrums was not on the radar of even the most pessimistic Wrexham fan as we started the season without defeat in the opening seven matches, including an impressive 1-4 win against Championship-side Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in the first round of the League Cup.

However, a trip to the Crown Ground to take on Accrington Stanley ended in a crushing 5-0 defeat and all confidence went out of the window. The rot quickly set-in and we slumped from play-off contenders at the beginning of September to relegation strugglers by October 21, when Mansfield Town beat us 3-0 at Field Mill to leave us in 20th position.

Denis Smith just could not turn things around and following our FA Cup third round defeat at Derby County (3-1) he lost his job. Surprisingly, Brian Carey was handed the role of caretaker manager and tried in vein to inspire his new charges. Indeed, Carey did not record his first managerial win until his tenth match at the helm – a 1-2 win at Barnet’s Underhill in March.

This result didn’t give us the impetus we needed though and with just five games remaining we needed a minor miracle to avoid the drop. Cue three straight wins – Lincoln City (0-3), Torquay United (1-0) and Shrewsbury Town (0-1) – before a 1-0 defeat at eventual champions Walsall in our penultimate match set-up a winner-takes-all clash against Boston United at the Racecourse. A point was all we needed to reach safety while the Pilgrims needed a win.

A staggering 12,374 fans – the biggest Racecourse attendance for 27 years – gathered to watch Wrexham try to preserve their unbroken 86-year stay in the Football League. It was a tense afternoon that started with an appalling opening period with the only action of note coming when Francis Green ran on to a Mark Greaves pass, held-off Shaun Pejic and fired home a low shot that beat Anthony Williams between the sticks. We were staring relegation in the face.

Carey said the occasion had affected his team, who were “absolutely dreadful” in the first 45 minutes of a game he called “the biggest in the club’s history”. Thankfully, Carey delivered a spectacular half-time team-talk that worked wonders. Neil Roberts remembers it as the “hairdryer treatment”.

It took just 11 minutes for the boys to get on level terms when Danny Williams was pushed over by Boston’s Drewe Broughton who was actually on-loan from Chester. Chirk-born Ryan Valentine converted the subsequent spot-kick past ex-Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Marriott.

Paul Ellender went close for Boston, but the Reds finally settled their nerves in the 87th minute when Chris Llewellyn played a clever one-two with Mark Jones before cutting inside and letting fly with an unstoppable left-footed drive. The celebrations were complete in injury time when Llewellyn produced a back-heeled cross for Michael Proctor to head home in front of a delirious Kop.

Police and stewards stood no chance of stopping home supporters rushing onto the pitch at the final whistle. The mood had transformed from gloom to jubilation in just 45 minutes.

Wrexham finished 19th in the table, a comfortable four places above the last relegation spot with 51 points, five clear of Boston.

***

The Pilgrims’ directors, knowing relegation was all but certain in the closing stages of the match, swiftly entered the club into a Company Voluntary Arrangement [CVA] before the game had ended.

The financial rescue package is similar to administration and safeguarded the club’s immediate future despite being deducted ten points and suffering a double demotion by League chiefs.

 

Memory Match – 10-09-05

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.

10-09-05

Wrexham v Cheltenham Town

Coca-Cola League Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-0

Wrexham: Ingham, Linwood (Spender), Smith, Ferguson, Bennett, Warhurst, Jones (Mackin), Williams, Walters, Foy (McEvilly), Holt

Goalscorers: Holt 8, Walters 69

Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Victory, Taylor, Townsend (Caines), Wilson, Melligan, Finnigan (Bird), Spencer (Vincent), Odejayi, McCann

Attendance: 3,671

Wrexham actually had to postpone the previous match against Lincoln City as they had three players on international duty. Michael Ingham (Northern Ireland) and Simon Spender (Wales) both reported back for duty in time for the Cheltenham game, but Dennis Lawrence (Trinidad and Tobago) was not so lucky.

The club captain had been playing for his country in Costa Rica, but his flight home had to be diverted after smoke was smelt in the cabin. This meant that our defensive lynchpin missed his connecting flight and did not return to Manchester until shortly before kick-off.

This was another headache for Wrexham manager Denis Smith as the start of the 2005/06 season had already been ravaged by injury and suspension. Lee Roche, Shaun Pejic, Dean Bennett and Lee McEvilly had all crowded the treatment room while Simon Spender and Dave Bayliss had both seen red in the opening matches.

Smith had subsequently been forced to bleed a number of youngsters and make some emergency loan signings such as Paul Linwood from Tranmere Rovers who replaced the absent Lawrence for the visit of unbeaten Cheltenham Town. Despite being promoted from the Conference in 1999, this was actually the first League meeting between the clubs.

Our patched up team certainly proved their worth with a magnificent performance full of slick passing and attacking intent to record their third home win of the season. The Red Dragons were fiery from the first whistle with Paul Warhurst and Jon Walters – whatever happened to him? – both having shots blocked inside the box.

After only eight minutes Andy Holt scored the goal we’d been threatening from the outset when he met Darren Ferguson’s corner with a bullet header that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

It was all one-way traffic as the midfield trio of Ferguson, Danny Williams and Mark Jones dictated play. In a hectic four minute period we had four chances to double our lead. Walters headed over from Holt’s cross, Robbie Foy – on-loan from Liverpool – had a shot saved by Town goalkeeper Shane Higgs, Walters was then denied by Jamie Victory’s block and his next attempt was well-dealt with by Higgs.

Wrexham’s passing and movement was exceptional, but on the stroke of half-time they were almost made to pay for not extending their lead when Kayode Odejayi saw his shot turned around the post by Ingham. The fleet-footed Odejayi also threatened early in the second-half when he raced past Linwood only to see his shot hit the side netting.

At the other end of the pitch, Walters had a penalty appeal turned down following a challenge by JJ Melligan. He was promptly booked for diving.

Warhurst, Dean Bennett and Foy all had opportunities to increase our advantage, but it was left to Walters to do the damage on 69 minutes with his first competitive goal for the club. Smith found Jones who played a superb ball through for Walter’s to dispatch beyond Higgs.

Reflecting on the game, Smith said: “I think it was a performance which deserved a better crowd than we had and people who didn’t come today missed an absolute treat. That’s as good a football game as you’ll see at most levels, never mind this level. I thought some of the football was outstanding.”

Cheltenham manager John Ward said: “I said before the game that Wrexham shouldn’t be in this League, but because of administration they are. This is a good side and anyone who gets a point or three here will have to be very lucky or play very well.”