The Leader

Memory Match – 05-11-21

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.

I am particularly proud of this edition as I have set right something that has been wrongly taken for fact for many years. I am chuffed that my historical research has uncovered this information and has helped the excellent work of official club historian, Peter Jones.

Read on to find out who really scored the first hat-trick for Wrexham AFC in the Football League…

05-11-21

Wrexham v Chesterfield

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-1

Wrexham: Godding, Ellis, Simpson, Matthias, Moorwood, Roberts, Burton, Cotton, Elvidge, Regan, Lloyd

Goalscorers: Cotton (3), Regan (3)

Chesterfield: Mitchell, Stirling, Saxby, Clarke, Broome, Paltridge, Smithurst, Fisher, Cooper, Connor, Marshall

Goalscorer: Smithurst

Attendance: 6,000

Season 1921/22 was our first in the Football League and began with a 0-2 defeat against Hartlepools United at the Racecourse Ground. Our form had since been inconsistent – as you might expect from a team that was adapting to life in a new set-up – and we went into the encounter with Chesterfield in a solid, if unspectacular, mid-table position. Meanwhile, our opponents were licking their wounds at the bottom of the league after conceding 26 goals in their opening 10 games – including a 7-0 demolition at Darlington.

The Wrexham forward line had been changed for this match with Bert Goode and Reg Leck missing out. Billy Cotton came back to spearhead the attack, 21-year-old Ted Regan was moved to inside-right and Chris Elvidge was given a trial at inside-left.

The first half-hour of the game was goalless and George Godding in the Wrexham goal was by far the busiest goalkeeper as Chesterfield threatened. The Caergwrle-born shotstopper made a good save early on, but was injured in the process and had to spend some time on the sidelines. Defender Jack Ellis took over in goal and was called upon to punch clear a high dropping shot from Tommy Broome before Godding returned. At the other end of the pitch, the Wrexham attack – as originally constituted – misfired.

This new-look forward line was struggling and, according to the mysteriously named X, Y, Z in the Leader, the fact that they eventually clicked into gear was only due to the foresight of Bobby Simpson who directed Cotton and Regan to swap positions. This change certainly proved effective as the game was quickly turned on its head. Before half-time, Cotton headed home from Matt Burton’s well-placed corner and Regan added a second after good work from Elvidge.

On the hour mark, Regan added a third and Cotton was then on the end of a well-executed passage of play to head a fourth. The race was now on to see which player could score the first hat-trick for Wrexham in the Football League.

Before Wrexham could continue the goal glut, Chesterfield scored a consolation when Edgar Smithurst delivered a high centre into the Wrexham area. The flight of the ball deceived Godding who could not prevent the visitors from getting on the scoresheet.

The history books and Internet pages tell us that Ted Regan was actually the first player to land a hat-trick in this game and become the club’s first ever hat-trick hero in the Football League. However, according to match reports in the Leader and North Wales Guardian this honour belongs to Billy Cotton. Two newspaper journalists who attended the game agree that Cotton claimed our fifth by accepting a pass from Jack Moorwood and shooting with speed and power from 30 yards to electrify the crowd. Regan then completed the rout late on with his fifth goal in his first two games for the club.

I’m glad I have the opportunity to set the record straight and celebrate the achievement of Billy Cotton who deserves recognition after spending so many years in the shadow of Ted Regan.

***

In those days teams faced each other on a double-bill basis – at home and away ­– before moving on to their next opponent. Unfortunately this gave Chesterfield a chance for revenge just seven days later at the Recreation Ground. Charles Buttrell, Horace Clarke and Tommy Broome scored for the Derbyshire side in a 3-0 revenge mission.

This was only the third win of a long season for Chesterfield. Their form only improved with five straight victories in the final games of the season to lift them to 13th position in the League table. Wrexham finished the campaign just two points better off in 12th.

Advertisements

Memory Match – 28-09-68

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.

28-09-68

Wrexham v Notts County

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-2

Wrexham: Livsey, Ingle, Bermingham, Davis, May, Bradbury, Beanland, Moir, Charnley, Smith, Kinsey

Goalscorers: Charnley (2), Ingle

Notts County: Rose, Ball, Worthington, Oakes, Gibson, Farmer, Pring, Murphy, Bradd, Masson, Bates

Goalscorers: Bradd, Masson 

Attendance: 4,277

Reds manager Alvan Williams tended his resignation after an inconsistent start to 1968/69 that saw a League Cup exit, the sale of David Powell and Steve Stacey, to Sheffield United and Ipswich Town respectively, and subsequent bitter demonstrations from the fans.

The official line was that the departure of Williams was caused by “a disagreement with the Board of Directors over club policy”, but word on the grapevine suggested that club directors wanted to curtail his power as general manager with a demotion to the specific role of team manager only.

Despite the fact that the vacant post was not advertised, Wrexham still had 14 applications for the job, which was eventually given to John Neal. George Showell became first-team trainer. This new managerial duo certainly had their work cut out as we prepared to play bottom-of-the-table Notts County as we’d suffered five straight defeats without scoring.

The Magpies started the brighter and conspired to hit the woodwork, miss a sitter and had a penalty claim turned down before Ray Charnley ended Wrexham’s goal drought on 23 minutes. Charnley hit the ball past Mick Rose who had failed to deal with Ray Smith’s shot. Rose may still have been feeling the effects of his collision with Smith just four minutes earlier.

County equalised on the half-hour mark when Don Masson headed home from an inviting free kick. This parity only lasted for three minutes as Charnley out-jumped several defenders to connect with Alan Bermingham’s cross.

Wrexham were at their brightest during this period as Steve Ingle and Albert Kinsey tested Rose, but it was County who struck after 44 minutes with another headed goal. This time it was Les Bradd who met a centre from Ron Farmer.

From the re-start, Ingle restored the home sides lead with a fine solo effort when he collected a loose ball, raced forward and unleashed a thunderbolt from 20-yards to put us ahead at the break.

The second period promised much, but actually delivered little in terms of goalmouth action as the closest we came to adding a fourth goal was when a late effort from Eddie May went a foot wide. It also says a lot that Charnley’s only competition for man of the match was goalkeeper Gordon Livesey.

According to Reg Herbert of the Leader, the majority of our players performed under par. Apparently, Ian Moir had a “nightmare game” characterised by “erratic passing” that frustrated the fans while Kinsey and Smith were deemed to be “still struggling for form and luck”. Bermingham was criticised for “not being his usual ebullient self” and Gareth Davis was lambasted for a “first half miskick” that presented County with a chance that they should’ve scored from.

John Neal looked on the bright side: “Not having scored and won a match for so long a time the players were all tensed up.  If they had relaxed it might have been so different.  Still, we achieved our main objectives – we scored goals and we won.”

As underwhelmed Reds fans trudged home that afternoon, little did they realise that the new man in charge was sowing the seeds of a Racecourse revolution…

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.

Memory Match – 14-04-34

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.

14-04-34

Wrexham v New Brighton

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-4

Wrexham: Foster, Jones, Hamilton, Bulling, McMahon, Lawrence, Weale, Frewin, Bamford, Snow, Smallwood

Goalscorers: Bamford (2), Snow (2), Smallwood

New Brighton: Bradshaw, Bower, Carr, Smedley, Major, McPherson, Liggins, Allen, Davis, Butler, Pegg

Goalscorers: Allen (2), Davis, Pegg

Attendance: 2,936

 

The 1933/34 season was one to remember as free scoring Wrexham scored over 100 League goals for the second season in succession. It should be no surprise that Tommy Bamford topped the goal scoring charts with 44 League goals, which is still a club record.  Bamford also set another club record when he scored five goals in the 8-1 victory against Carlisle United at the Racecourse.

 

In the first round of the Third Division North Cup, Wrexham faced New Brighton and put them to the sword with an outstanding 11-1 win that included a five-goal haul for Tommy Bamford and a hat-trick for William Bryant.  In the next round Wrexham beat Chester and Crewe before losing in the semi final 3-1 at Darlington.

 

The demolition of New Brighton came on January 3. Shortly before this we had also beaten our no0w defunct rivals 1-0 at Sandheys Park with Bamford getting the only goal.  The Rakers had their chance for revenge in an end of season game that counted for little apart from jostling for inconsequential final league positions.  Manager Ernest Blackburn led his charges to a comfortable sixth position.

 

I chose to cover this game for the Memory Match feature as I thought a game with nine goals would be full of thrills and spills, therefore making for entertaining reading. However, according to ‘Rida’ in the Leader this was a dull and featureless derby encounter with the only redeeming feature being the quality of the forward play in the closing stages of the match.  Indeed, ‘Rida’ doesn’t supply a match report in the way we are accustomed, but simply adds his general impressions of the afternoon’s offerings.

 

Apparently, “neither side showed more than average ability in this game” and Wrexham, who were on top in the first period, faded away in the second half. This nearly proved disastrous as New Brighton were 3 goals behind at one stage and surprised many with the way they fought back and almost forced the draw.

 

Alf Jones and Jimmy Hamilton were both praised for being “good backs” while the latter’s “effective covering made up for the defensive failures of the halves”. Special mentions are also given to midfielder Jim Bulling (“the only one to play steadily throughout”), Bamford (“an excellent leader”) and Bobby Weale (“Fast and tricky, he centred well and at every opportunity”).

 

***

This was a special time for club captain Alf Jones as he was celebrating the completion of 11 seasons with the club between 1923 and 1934. ‘Our Alf’ displayed remarkable consistency and his appearance record of 503 League games for Wrexham has only ever been surpassed by Arfon Griffiths. A benefit match was arranged against his hometown club of Chester.  The match was won 2-3 by our cross border rivals. This was Jones’ second benefit match with the first coming against Everton in October 1928.

 

Wrexham fans were fortunate that Alf Jones was limited by his stature. “What a bonnie back Alf Jones is. I only wish he was two inches taller,” said former Chester manager Alex Raisbeck. If Jones was just a touch taller then he would have undoubtedly been a target for clubs in Division One and missed the opportunity to win three Welsh Cup winners medals and two runners-up medals. Swings and roundabouts…

Memory Match – 27-08-49

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.

27-08-49

Wrexham v Lincoln City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

Wrexham: Ferguson, Wynn, Jackson, Spruce, Wilson, Speed, Grainger, Graham, Boothway, Rowell, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Boothway (3), Grainger

Lincoln City: Payne, Green, Stillyards, Wright, Emery, Owen, Windsor, Finch, Dodds, Eastham, Windle

Attendance: 13,162

This was our first full season under the tutorship of player-manager Les McDowall after the departure of Tom Williams in February 1949. McDowall had been at the helm for the last seven matches of a fairly successful season in which we finished ninth. However, on closer inspection McDowall’s initial impact was hardly impressive –winning two, drawing two and losing three. The jury was still out…

The only new signing in the close season was a four figure deal for outside-right John Graham from Aston Villa who scored on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Rotherham United. This well-earned point came against a side that had been runners-up in Division Three North for the previous three seasons and was followed by a fortunate 1-1 draw against Bill Shankly’s Carlisle United side at the Racecourse. This game saw much criticism, frustration and barracking of the team for a below par performance strewn with errors.

The catcalls and jeers must have been vociferous as they resulted in the following paragraph from match reporter “The Wanderer” in the Leader.

“Let us have a little more practical demonstration of the word “supporter” and a lot less criticism, and the team will profit by it in good games as well as in bad.”

Next up were newly relegated Lincoln City.

In their failed attempt to stave off relegation from the Second Division, the Imps spent £25,000 on players, so hopes were high that the team would bounce straight back up under the guidance of Bill Anderson. However, it was the Robins who surprised many – including their own fans – by recording such a resounding victory.

After 39 minutes of grumbling from the home fans, Wrexham clicked into gear and took the lead through Jack Boothway after good work from Fred Rowell and a pinpoint cross from Billy Tunnicliffe. A combination of defensive heroics, good goalkeeping and misfiring meant that the Reds went in at half-time with a mere one-goal advantage.

The second period was only 30 seconds old when Boothway doubled his tally after a direct dribble down the middle of the pitch. The 6ft 2in marksman ran out of options, so whipped the ball out wide to Tunnicliffe and continued his race towards goal. When Tunnicliffe eventually centred the ball it was met by the head of the in-rushing Boothway to give Frank Payne no chance in the Lincoln goal.

Boothway completed his hat-trick after an hour following a sublime dribble from Rowell that ended when he pushed the ball out to Dennis Grainger on the flank. The cross that followed was inevitably converted by Boothway who was popularly regarded as the best centre-forward at the Cae Ras since the legendary Tommy Bamford.

Four minutes later the rout was completed with a powerful header from Grainger.

***

After such a promising start to the season Wrexham quickly faded and finished a season of struggle in 20th position in the League table. Les McDowell left the hot-seat when former club Manchester City came calling for his managerial services. McDowall was an instant success at Maine Road by securing promotion to the top flight at his first attempt. This began a distinguished 13 year reign in the job after learning the ropes at Wrexham.

Memory Match – 29-08-25

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.

29-08-25

Wrexham v Southport

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 3-2

WREXHAM: Wilkinson, A. Jones, Lumberg, Matthias, Parker, Beever, Longmuir, Lyons, J. Jones, Nock, Bailey

Goalscorers: Nock, Bailey, Jones (Jimmy)

SOUTHPORT: Halsall, Tyler, Mulligan, Sinclair, Bellis, Bimson, Aitken, Brown, Ball, Sambrook, MacDonald

Goalscorers: Sambrook, Brown

Attendance: 10,041

It was a different era.

While researching this article at Wrexham museum, I discovered the following piece of poetry by H. Wilbraham, printed in The Leader, prior to this opening game of the 1925/26 season.

Well, Saturday, the 29th, will see our fellows out,
And Southport must be careful or we’ll put them all to rout;
You see we have the King of Beasts, a Lion, by the way,
The Southport backs, I’ll bet a bob, cant hold this man at bay.

And then we have a Bailey, but Bailey’s not a bum,
He’s just come down to show us how to make the leather hum;
Then there’s Holland comes with Bennett, from Swansea, hand in hand,
And there’s Parker, up from Portsmouth, and Wilkie play the band.

Now don’t think I’ve forgotten the boys who played last year,
They’re here, as fit as fiddles, of that you need not fear;
Last season ended gradely, we had successful tries,
And opponents stood and wondered how the dust got in their eyes.

Now all of you get ready, the time is drawing near,
And if you play together, to victory you’ll steer;
Please don’t be individualists, this game will never pay,
Be brothers on the field, my lads, this surely wins the day.

It’s a pity that we don’t see examples of poetry in the local press nowadays, but hopefully Lee Fowler et al can inspire some poetic tributes before the season is out…

The match in question was characterised by a “stiff breeze”, which aided Southport during the first half. Not only did the Wrexham defence have to contend with such conditions, but it also struggled to adapt to a change in the offside rule.

The new rule required only two defending players – as opposed to three players in tedious seasons of the past – to be in advance of the forward for him to be onside. This change made the rules more conducive to attacking football and helped reverse declining attendance figures.

It was a lively opening from Southport and they found themselves two goals to the good after only 20 minutes through wind-assisted efforts from Jack Sambrook and Ernie Brown.

The pre-match favourites seemed to be cruising when, all of a sudden, Wrexham found some composure and confidence to attack. From one of a series of corners – taken expertly by right-winger Archie Longmuir – the ball was steered into the net by Jack Nock. This goal was received with so much enthusiasm that the press reported that the cheers could be heard by traders in Charles Street!!

With Wrexham resurgent, Southport had to be warned by the referee following some over-zealous tackles, especially from right-back Jimmy Mulligan.

Just before half time, Longmuir was fouled near the corner flag and from the resultant free kick – taken by Longmuir himself – Rowland Bailey levelled the scores.

Wrexham had the wind in their favour during the second half and they made effective use of the advantage. Longmuir delivered numerous crosses and Billy Halsall made a brilliant save from Nock.

Wrexham scored the deciding goal on 71 minutes. Defender Tom Parker delivered an excellent pass to Jimmy Lyons who conjured an opportunity for Jimmy Jones to run through and score what was apparently “a capital goal”.

Wrexham were now in control and went close on three more occasions through Jones, Lyons and Longmuir, but there were no further goals for the crowd of 10,041 to enjoy.

***

The team was still being chosen by a selection committee prior to the appointment of Mold Town boss Charlie Hewitt who took up his duties on November 10th.

***

At the end of season, Wrexham finished 19th – their lowest position since joining the Football League in season 1921/22.