Steve Buxton

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 – 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…

Memory Match – 15-02-83

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.

15-02-83

Wrexham v Doncaster Rovers

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, King, Bater, Savage, Dowman, Keay, Arkwright, Buxton, Hunt, Steel, Gregory

Goalscorers: Hunt (43, 55), Savage (86), Steel (89, 90)

Doncaster Rovers: Peacock, Russell, Snodin, Snodin, Humphries, Lister, Mell (Liddell), Douglas, Austin, Mann, Robertson

Attendance: 1,899

A new era was beginning with the appointment of new manager Bobby Roberts during the close-season. An opening day victory against Cardiff City at Ninian Park was followed by a 1-0 home win in a League Cup first round, first leg clash with Shrewsbury Town. Unfortunately, this initial success was a false signifier for the turbulent season ahead as we lost the second leg of our Cup tie 2-0 at Gay Meadow and only won one of the next six League games.

Our largely inconsistent form saw us drop as low as 20th by October after a 1-1 draw at Belle Vue against Billy Bremner’s Doncaster Rovers. This match was the start of an eight game unbeaten run and was particularly noteworthy as Darren Baker became our youngest-ever League goalscorer at the ripe old age of 17 years and 115 days. The Yorkshire hosts equalised late on after a re-taken spot kick. Lister had blasted over, but Glynn Snodin made no mistake as Rovers got a second bite of the cherry. An incident-packed match saw Eddie Niedzwiecki sent-off after the final whistle.

The re-match was a Tuesday night game under the Racecourse floodlights, watched by only 1,899 spectators – the second lowest league gate of the season at that point. The stay-away fans missed Wrexham’s best win of the season thanks to three goals in the last five minutes.

The Reds were slow out of the blocks and they were fortunate to be 1-0 ahead at the interval through a Simon Hunt effort after 43 minutes. He broke through on the right and pushed the ball to David Gregory who shot. Doncaster goalkeeper Dennis Peacock could only parry the shot and Hunt was on hand to slam home the rebound.

In the 54th minute, Steve Buxton hit a shot from the left across goal, the ball was deflected up by a defender and Hunt dived in to head his second and double our lead.

This seemed to drain the visitors of any confidence as they played out the remainder of the game without displaying any positive ideas or imagination what so ever. Niedzwiecki was a mere spectator for the majority of the second half.

Hunt just missed out on his hat-trick when he agonisingly failed to connect with a Steve Buxton cross, but Robbie Savage made no mistake with a superb strike in the 85th minute. Gregory squared the ball to Savage from the right and the man who proved a revolution while at the Racecourse, picked his spot and lashed the ball passed Peacock for the 11th goal of his on-loan spell from Liverpool.

Jim Steel – who was also on-loan from Oldham Athletic – struck twice with two fine headers in the last two minutes to put the icing on the cake for Wrexham.

Despite being Wrexham’s biggest win of the season, manager Bobby Roberts said afterwards: “I think we have played better this season, but we were a lot sharper in our moves and finishing. That made all the difference in the end and made it very pleasing”

***

After failing to win any of their last 11 League games, Wrexham suffered their second successive relegation with a dire 22nd placed finish. Only Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield finished below the Robins. In a disastrous campaign, we had been humiliated by Worcester City of the Alliance Premier League in the FA Cup second round, lost the Welsh Cup final to Swansea City and were forced to sell Joey Jones, Mick Vinter, Steve Fox and Billy Ronson in a vain attempt to balance the books. To cap it all Dixie McNeil was released.

This was a season to forget…

 

Memory Match – 27-02-82

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.

27-02-82

Wrexham v Chelsea

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, Jones, Bater, Davis, Dowman, Ronson, Leman, McNeil, Fox, Vinter (Hill), Carrodus

Goalscorer: Carrodus (66)

Chelsea: Francis, Locke, Hutchings, Nutton, Chivers, Pates, Rhoades-Brown, Britton (Mayes), Lee, Walker, Fillery

Attendance: 3,935

Star-studded Chelsea may be experiencing a season of turmoil, but it is still hard to believe that back in 1981/82 we played them five times. What’s more, the Stamford Bridge hot-seat was occupied by a certain John Neal…

It all began with a disappointing League trip to Stamford Bridge that ended in a 2-0 defeat before a trio of tussles in the FA Cup fourth round. A goalless draw in West London was followed by a 1-1 draw at the Racecourse and a second replay took place at the same venue on the toss of a coin. Home advantage did not help on this occasion though as we lost 1-2 and missed out on a lucrative fifth round home encounter with Liverpool.

The fifth meeting between the sides came at the end of February 1982 on the back of six straight defeats. The mood around the Cae Ras was one of resignation as the club were staring relegation in the face under Mel Sutton, had not won at home since their 3-1 victory over Cardiff on November 24 and had only won three home games in the League all season.

Writing in the Leader, Les Chamberlain said:  “It now looks a certainty that there will be Third Division football at the Racecourse next season.  Only a superhuman effort by the team and the collapse of teams above Wrexham can now save them”.

Ahead of this must-win game, Wrexham were without Wayne Cegielski through suspension but Billy Ronson and Steve Buxton, who had both been suspended, come back into the reckoning. Wrexham fans also had their first chance of seeing Denis Leman who was on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.

The match was only nine minutes old when Joey Jones brought down Clive Walker in the penalty area for what seemed a certain penalty, but fortunately the referee ignored passionate appeals from the Pensioners.

Two minutes before the interval, Mike Fillery beat Eddie Niedzwiecki with a thunderous drive, but the ball hit the side of the bar, bounced on the line and back into play. Once again Chelsea players felt aggrieved as they felt the ball had crossed the goal line.

Wrexham’s goal started from a mistake by Fillery as his under strength pass to Gary Locke was intersected by Steve Fox who took the opportunity to whip in a pinpoint cross to the unmarked Frank Carrodus who calmly drove it past a helpless Steve Francis in the Chelsea goal.

Mel Sutton said: “We played the ball about today and the goal gave them confidence.  Now this has given us a lift and I think it has given the players a lift.  We have now got to work on that and make it pay.”

There is no doubt that this victory gave everyone at the club a confidence boost as the Reds had still to play fellow strugglers so their fate was largely in their own hands. Unfortunately, despite an immediate upturn in fortunes that saw us undefeated in March, we conspired to win just one of our last eight games and we were relegated along with Cardiff City and Orient.

***

1981/82 was also the first season that the three points for a win system was introduced.