Steve Roberts

Memory Match – 13-10-01

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.

13-10-01

Wrexham v Queen’s Park Rangers

League Division Two

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

Wrexham: Rogers, Whitley, Holmes, Ferguson, Hill, Roberts, Gibson, Faulconbridge, Trundle, Blackwood, Thomas

Goalscorer: Blackwood (43)

Queen’s Park Rangers: Day, Bignot (Perry), Bruce, Palmer, Forbes, Askar, Bonnot, Connolly (Wardley), Griffiths (M’Bombo), Thomson, Rose

Attendance: 4,474

After parting company with Brian Flynn and his assistant Kevin Reeves, there was a new man in charge as we prepared to face Queen’s Park Rangers at the Racecourse Ground. Denis Smith was given the responsibility to end a dismal run of only one win in the opening 8 League games, including the 5-0 humiliation at Prenton Park that signalled the end of the Flynn era.

Smith, who had managed York, Sunderland and Oxford, was delighted with his appointment. “I think you’ve got something here to be proud of. It’s exceptional here. I’ve been at other clubs and never had training facilities like these. From a manager’s point of view, that’s where I do my day to day work and to have something like Colliers Park, and a stadium like the Racecourse, is brilliant. There’s no money, and I don’t think that’s a secret, so what we have got to do is either generate it, or I’ve got to use the contacts I’ve got. Very rarely in my career have I had money to spend. I’m here for football, and finance doesn’t come into it.”

Wrexham gave debuts to Jim Whitley and on-loan Keith Hill from Cheltenham Town, who was partnered at the heart of defence by Steven Roberts in the absence of Captain Brian Carey. Rangers included a familiar face in former Reds favourite Karl Connolly.

Both sides created few clear cut openings in the first half as Hill and Roberts looked a particularly strong unit at the heart of the defence.

Lee Trundle’s tenth minute effort was well kept out by Hoops goalkeeper Chris Day while at the other end Kristian Rogers saved from Leroy Griffiths.

The 43rd minute winner came when Blackwood ran onto Stephen Thomas’ neat through ball and he calmly side footed past Day. It was a crucial time to score and we hung on to this lead in the second half despite being reduced to 10-men just after the hour mark when Thomas was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.

Denis Smith said: “I hope the fans can match my passion. I think they would be insulted if I claimed to have more passion than them and I doubt that I have.

“I’m very pleased. I thought we deserved to win. We worked hard, we defended well, our goalkeeper had very little to do and we created chances, so you can’t ask a great deal more than that.

“But it’s just a start of a very hard battle ahead. We’ve won one little skirmish and there’s a lot of work to do in the future. We can’t say, we’ve won one game let’s retire. There’s a lot of work to be done.

“The back four were superb and Michael Blackwood, apart from scoring, had worked so hard. He did things today I didn’t think he was capable of, but he has got to go out and do it again next week.”

Referring to Steve Thomas being sent off he said: “The first booking was unlucky because it was a 50-50 ball, but for the second he was standing on the ball and you can’t do that.”

***

Wrexham finished the season in 23rd position and were relegated despite a 5-0 victory on the final day of the season against bottom of the pile Cambridge United. This was a memorable afternoon for Lee Jones who scored all five goals – only the second Wrexham player to achieve this feat. The other was Tommy Bamford against Carlisle United on 17th March 1934.

It was also a poor show in the Cups with first round defeats against Hereford United (1-0) at Edgar Street in the FA Cup and Hull City (2-3) at the Racecourse in the Worthington Cup.

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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 – 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.