Steve Fleet

Memory Match -15-10-63

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. 

15-10-63

Brentford v Wrexham

League Division Three

Griffin Park

Result: 9-0

Brentford: Cakebread, Coote, Jones, Slater, Scott, Higginson, Summers, Brooks, McAdams, Ward, Hales

Goalscorers: McAdams (3, 18), Ward (8, 89), Fox (38 og), Hales (44), Brooks (54, 72), Summers (59)

Wrexham: Fleet, Jones, Holland, Morrall, Fox, Barnes, Griffiths, Myerscough, Phythian, Metcalf, Colbridge

Attendance: 10,569

 

Just 17 months after racking up our record League victory against Hartlepools United, it was time to rewrite history again at Griffin Park on a Tuesday night, albeit for less auspicious reasons. Wrexham began the game with the worst defensive record in the Third Division and 90 minutes later their “goals against” column had soared to 49 in just 14 matches.

Just six days previously at the Racecourse, Brentford had hit back from being 2-0 down to win 4-2. In London, Wrexham found themselves 2-0 down after only six minutes, but there was no sign of a fight back from a team that was short on confidence.

According to a special correspondent, writing in the Leader, “Not one Wrexham defender remotely approached a satisfactory performance. The tackling was weak, the positional play was poor and the marking was almost non existent. In short it was a pathetic display”.

I found it bizarre that the journalist that put together this match report also ponders whether a seven-hour coach trip is ideal preparation for a Football League fixture? I suppose roads were not as developed as they are now, but seven hours still seems a long time to reach the Capital.

The journey was a nightmare for goalkeeper Steve Fleet in particular, who suffered from travel sickness. The coach had to stop on two separate occasions for him to presumably throw up. This what not a good omen, but even with a shot stopper at peak fitness the scoreline would have been just as embarrassing due to a lack of cover and protection from absent defenders.

Wrexham’s forwards did not deserve to have such a poor defence behind them. Hard working Arfon Griffiths never stopped trying to take off some of the pressure and, with Ernie Phythian and Mike Metcalf, produced some neat approach play. However, mid-table Brentford’s defence, which was itself pierced five times at home by Bristol Rovers just three days previously, was now rock solid.

This was a night when the ball never stopped running for the Bees and they certainly made the most of their good fortune with every forward player scoring for them. They also profited from an own goal by Wrexham centre half Alan Fox.

Welsh international Dai Ward, signed overnight by Brentford for £8,000 from Watford, was the biggest individual threat to the Robins. He scored two of the goals and played a part in three others.

Perhaps it might have been a happier story if, with the score at 2-0, Phythian had scored instead of seeing his point-blank shot saved by Gerry Cakebread when all the odds were on a goal.

The special correspondent did not have the heart to go into detail about each Brentford goal. Instead, he simply noted the time of each goal in one harrowing paragraph.

Player-manager Ken Barnes said: “I cannot begin to explain away nine goals, but we were far too casual in defence. Something has got to be done about it.”

Nothing was done about it. This embarrassment was actually our fifth straight League defeat. This form was to continue for the next four League games as Wrexham ended up losing nine in a row. Prior to this they actually smashed fellow strugglers Barnsley 7-2 in a freak result. Things did not get better after Christmas and Wrexham were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 23rd position.

***

This wasn’t the first time we had conceded nine goals in a competitive fixture. Wolverhampton Wanderers knocked us out of the FA Cup on January 1931. We lost the third round clash 9-1.

 

Memory match – 22-08-64

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.

22-08-64

Wrexham v Notts County

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

WREXHAM: Dunlop, Jones, McClelland, Barnes, Morrall, Johnson, Colbridge, Griffiths, Phythian, McMillan, Williams

Goalscorers: Barnes (2 pens), McMillan, Griffiths

NOTTS COUNTY: Smith, Edwards, Agnew, Sheridan, Gibson, Carver, Kavanagh, Astle, Bly, Hannah, Barber

Attendance: 7,911

 

Both clubs were at a low-ebb as they began season 1964/65.

Wrexham found themselves back in the Fourth Division under player-manager Ken Barnes following a disastrous 1963/64 campaign, which included a record 9-0 defeat at Brentford. Our form at the Racecourse was not much better, gate receipts plummeted by more than £11,000 on the previous term and no one was surprised that the season culminated in relegation to the basement. Furthermore, according to local journalists, the club were £24,000 in the red and dependant on handouts from a well-organised Supporters’ Association.

As a result, there had been little transfer activity during the summer with the exceptions of former Welsh international Graham Williams (Swansea Town), Joe McClelland (Hibernian) and Dennis Lambourne (Llanelly). Williams and McClelland both cost nothing while 18-year-old Lambourne was signed for a “nominal” fee after impressing in a Welsh Cup tie the previous season.

“I hope this season will bring better things and, with the normal breaks, I feel that we can be back in the Third Division at the end of it,” said Barnes at his annual meeting with shareholders.

“I certainly didn’t envisage what would happen last season, but that’s football.”

Notts County were the only club to finish below Wrexham in the third tier during the disastrous 1963/64 season and were in something of a tailspin. Crowds at Meadow Lane had dwindled to around the 3,000 mark, Forest had established themselves as the dominant team in Nottingham and the County chairman had been voted off the board. It seemed as if things couldn’t get much worse for the Magpies, but as the new season dawned, any attempt to restore pride were hindered by an injury list that included no fewer than seven players.

Arthur Dunlop was selected ahead of Steve Fleet in the Wrexham goal with the opening exchanges suggesting that he would be in for a much busier afternoon than his County counterpart, George Smith.

The visitors had every reason to be hopeful after a controlled opening period saw their right-winger Eddie Kavanagh beat Joe McClelland to set-up a glorious opportunity for Mick Barber. However, the attacker then contrived to hit his shot from 10 yards against the post when it looked easier to score. This was a lucky escape that shook the Robins from their slumber.

Suddenly, after 20 minutes, Wrexham turned the tables and began to dominate proceedings. Clive Colbridge shaved a post, Graham Williams mis-hit an effort with the goal at his mercy and Sammy McMillan went close after some effective interplay between Arfon Griffiths and Ernie Phythian.

County had lost their early composure and were hanging on for dear life as they struggled to cope with wave after wave of attack. Overworked defender Dave Agnew headed a McMillan lob off the goal line and Phythian smashed a 25 yard drive against the bar before Wrexham eventually took the lead through a scrappy effort from Arfon Griffiths.

If Wrexham were good in the first half then they were simply irresistible in the second. The County defence just could not cope. The forlorn figure of Smith made excellent saves from Eric Johnson, McMillan, McClelland (twice) and Barnes, but three times he was lucky when a header by McMillan and shots by Griffiths and Johnson struck the bar.

The panic stricken away side were under so much pressure that they ended up conceding two penalties on 59 and 72 minutes. The first followed a trip by Agnew on Colbridge while the second was awarded when Dick Edwards saved Peter Jones cross-shot with both hands. Ken Barnes converted both penalties in opposite corners of the net.

Two minutes from the end, Phythian’s fine pass sent McMillan racing away to score a brilliantly taken goal.

“I am quite pleased about our display. I’m not going to go in to ecstasies, but with a little luck we could’ve scored ten,” said Barnes.