Stuart Parker

Memory Match – 03-10-84

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.

03-10-84

Porto v Wrexham

European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round Second Leg

Estadio Das Antas

Result: 4-3

PORTO: Borota, Joao Pinto, Lima Pereira, Eurico, Inacio, Magalhaes , Frasco, Quim, Gomes, Futre, Vermelhinho (Walsh 77)

Goalscorers: Gomes 5, 38 (pen), Magalhaes 18, Futre 61

WREXHAM: Parker, King, Cunnington, Salathiel, Keay, Wright, Williams (Gregory 23), Horne, Steel, Edwards (Muldoon 77), Rogers

Goalscorer: King 40, 43, Horne 89

Attendance: 30,000

Following our famous victory in the first leg at the Racecourse – as featured in the Altrincham programme – we continued to struggle when it came to the bread and butter of League football. Sandwiched between the two legs, a trip to Gresty Road saw Crewe Alexandra batter us 3-0 while Stockport County came out on top of a topsy-turvy battle on our own patch that we lost 3-4.

Indeed our last three League outings had seen our hapless defence concede 12 goals, although crucially Porto had been denied an away goal in north Wales. Surely the Portuguese Cup winners – who featured 14 internationals, seven of whom had been capped for Portugal against Sweden in recent weeks – would save face in front of their own fans?

After 38 minutes – played out in a ferocious storm – Porto had steamed into a 3-0 lead. Fernando Gomes scored twice, one that seemed to feature a handball in the build up and one dubious penalty given away by Parker, while Magalhaes contributed a spectacular second. The Robins were on the rack and few would’ve bet against our opponents from scoring more.

However, Wrexham had a lot riding on the result. While a modest profit was recouped from the first leg tie, this was quickly accounted for when we had to charter a special plane to Portugal costing £14,000. On top of such financial concerns we were also playing for pride, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that we refused to go down without a fight. Scottish full-back Jake King foraged forward to convert a Neil Salathiel cross on 40 minutes and just three minutes later the same player connected with a corner in a crowded area to put us ahead on the away goals rule.

In the second half it was one-way traffic with Stuart Parker being called upon to make a series of fine saves from Vermelhinho, Gomes and Magalhaes. Unfortunately, there was nothing Parker could do to stop a deflected effort from Paulo Futre on 69 minutes. Order had been restored and it seemed like plucky Wrexham were on their way out of Europe.

Parker continued to be defiant in goal as time marched on, but as the home fans began to celebrate their impending passage into the second round, Jim Steel knocked the ball out wide to substitute John Muldoon. With only 60 seconds remaining the midfielder whipped in a cross that young Barry Horne launched himself at and planted a diving header past former Chelsea goalkeeper Petar Borota.

Our tiny pocket of support – some of who had travelled on the same flight as the players at a cost of £195 per person – exploded into ecstasy.

We may have lost 4-3 on the night, but our 1-0 triumph in the first leg assured our passage on the away goals rule.

“This has to be the greatest moment of my career. I’ll tell my grandchildren about this – when I’m a grandad,” enthused captain fantastic Jake King.

Fairytales do happen.

Memory Match – 19-09-84

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.

19-09-84

Wrexham v Porto

European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-0

WREXHAM: Parker, King, Cunnington, Salathiel, Keay, Wright, Williams (Muldoon 71), Horne, Steel, Gregory, Rogers

Goalscorer: Steel 78

PORTO: Borota, Joao Pinto, Inacio, Eduardo Luis, Eurico, Magalhaes (Agemar 45), Frasco, Quim, Gomes, Futre (Walsh 71), Vermelhinho

Attendance: 4,935

Some stories never grow old. This is one of them.

Our beloved club was in turmoil and struggling to keep its head above water in the basement division. Dire on-field performances under the tutorship of Bobby Roberts led to calls for his head, attendances had plummeted and the club was in financial dire straits. The only glimmer of hope on the horizon was entry into the European Cup Winners’ Cup following defeat in the previous season’s Welsh Cup final to English side Shrewsbury Town.

When the European draw was made in Zurich, the Reds were paired with the illustrious FC Porto who had reached the Final of the previous seasons’ competition, losing to Juventus. After the draw, Roberts said: “It’s going to be very hard because they are a top-class side.”

The first reaction of Porto President, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, was “Where’s Wrexham?”

He was about to find out.

A confident Porto line-up began the match as if they could walk it, but after only five minutes Jim Steel rattled the crossbar with a powerful header to warn the Portuguese prima donnas that this would be no walkover.

Midway through the first-half the tables were turned when the woodwork came to our rescue – twice in four minutes. First up Fernando Gomes hit the inside of the post and could only watch helplessly as the ball rolled along the goal line before Reds defender Steve Wright headed against his own bar after a flick-on from Vermelhinho.

The match remained goalless at the break, but on 53 minutes Gomes unleashed a rocket from outside the box that whizzed past the despairing Parker. Fortunately, the crossbar saved the day yet again.

Just after the hour mark all eyes were on the linesman when Barry Horne cracked a first time shot that slammed against the underside of the bar and ricocheted down onto the line. Agonizingly the officials waved play on.

The breakthrough finally arrived with only 12 minutes remaining. Steel pushed the ball out wide to substitute John Muldoon who galloped down the wing and delivered an inviting cross for Steel to head home.

“I thought I’d scored in the first half and it was a real sickener when it hit the bar, but when I did score it was without doubt the best goal of my career. I couldn’t stop dancing when it went in.”

The Robins held on to record yet another memorable European night at the Racecourse in front of only 4,935 fans, which is less than attended our recent game against Welling United.

“The result is a very big shock for us,” said Porto boss Artur Jorge.

“Wrexham were strong and perhaps we didn’t expect them to be so strong.

We didn’t play as well as we could but we expect to recover the situation in the second leg. We can improve more than Wrexham can.”

We’ll see Arthur, we’ll see…