d TownThroughout 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.
Torquay United v Wrexham
Barclays League Division Four
TORQUAY UNITED: Allen, McNichol, Kelly, Haslegrave (Musker), Cole, Impey, Gardiner, Lloyd, McLoughlin, Loram (Nardiello), Dobson
Goalscorers: McLoughlin 29, 63, Dobson 38, 62, 71, Cole 58
WREXHAM: Salmon, Salathiel, Hinnigan, Williams, Cooke (Buxton), Jones, Carter, Hunter, Steel, Russell, Cunnington
Goalscorer: Carter 18
It was a new-look Wrexham side that kicked-off the 1987/88 season following a hectic close season that saw the departure of Barry Horne (£70,000 to Portsmouth), Mike Conroy (Released), Nick Hencher (Released), Steve Charles (£15,000 to Mansfield Town), Chris Pearce (£4,000 to Burnley) and Paul Comstive (£8,000 to Burnley).
Dixie McNeil worked tirelessly to sign adequate replacements and brought in Kevin Russell (£10,000 from Portsmouth), Mike Carter (Free from Hereford), Jon Bowden (£12,500 from Port Vale), Joe Hinnigan (Free from Gillingham), Mike Salmon (£18,000 from Bolton Wanderers) and Geoff Hunter (Free from Port Vale).
However, the marquee signing came a few days before the opening game of the season when McNeil re-signed Joey Jones for £7,000 from Huddersfield Town, after he’d turned down an offer to join Swansea City.
“I always wanted to come back to Wrexham, but I hope people will not think I have just returned to play out the rest of my career. I want to win things.”
Subsequently, it was with high hopes that the Robins travelled to the English Riviera to take on a Torquay side that only escaped relegation to the Conference on the final day of the previous season on goal difference. The South Coast club had since appointed a new manager in Cyril Knowles – former Spurs player and ex-Darlington boss – and were hoping that this would herald a new dawn.
“It’s a very difficult game for us. They will obviously be out to get off to a flying start, but it is essential that we also make a good start,” said manager McNeil.
“The first 10 games are vital for both the team and fans because it can give you a cushion against the odd setback. I’m very optimistic about our chances for the new season, especially with Joey Jones back at the Racecourse.
“The new lads have only played a handful of competitive games together, but there have been signs that we will have a good side once the season gets underway.”
Everything seemed to be going to plan when Mike Carter gave the visitors the lead from eight yards on 18 minutes, but that was as good it got as Torquay quickly found their stride. Goals from Alan McLoughlin (29) and Alan Dobson (38) gave the Gulls a half-time lead, but worse was to follow after the break as David Cole (58), Dobson (62) and McLoughlin (63) netted three goals in five minutes. To rub salt into the wounds, Dobson secured his hat-trick on 71 minutes.
“Without a shadow of a doubt we were a shambles,” blasted McNeil.
“We were totally overrun and never got into the game. I don’t mind getting beaten but to go down 6-1 in your first game of the season and loose three goals in five minutes is wrong. I was sick watching the goals going in; I just couldn’t believe it.”
At least the Red Army didn’t travel en masse to Plainmoor as Torquay had decided to ban all visiting fans.
A United spokesman said that they have never had any trouble from Wrexham fans in the past but had to bring in the ban to cut police costs.
“We are a holiday resort and fans tend to make a weekend of it and there has been trouble. We have a moral responsibility to local people so a membership only scheme has been introduced,” said the spokesman.