The Robins

Memory Match – 15-02-83

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 that Wrexham AFC enjoyed,  I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

15-02-83

Wrexham v Doncaster Rovers

League Division Three

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-0

Wrexham: Niedzwiecki, King, Bater, Savage, Dowman, Keay, Arkwright, Buxton, Hunt, Steel, Gregory

Goalscorers: Hunt (43, 55), Savage (86), Steel (89, 90)

Doncaster Rovers: Peacock, Russell, Snodin, Snodin, Humphries, Lister, Mell (Liddell), Douglas, Austin, Mann, Robertson

Attendance: 1,899

A new era was beginning with the appointment of new manager Bobby Roberts during the close-season. An opening day victory against Cardiff City at Ninian Park was followed by a 1-0 home win in a League Cup first round, first leg clash with Shrewsbury Town. Unfortunately, this initial success was a false signifier for the turbulent season ahead as we lost the second leg of our Cup tie 2-0 at Gay Meadow and only won one of the next six League games.

Our largely inconsistent form saw us drop as low as 20th by October after a 1-1 draw at Belle Vue against Billy Bremner’s Doncaster Rovers. This match was the start of an eight game unbeaten run and was particularly noteworthy as Darren Baker became our youngest-ever League goalscorer at the ripe old age of 17 years and 115 days. The Yorkshire hosts equalised late on after a re-taken spot kick. Lister had blasted over, but Glynn Snodin made no mistake as Rovers got a second bite of the cherry. An incident-packed match saw Eddie Niedzwiecki sent-off after the final whistle.

The re-match was a Tuesday night game under the Racecourse floodlights, watched by only 1,899 spectators – the second lowest league gate of the season at that point. The stay-away fans missed Wrexham’s best win of the season thanks to three goals in the last five minutes.

The Reds were slow out of the blocks and they were fortunate to be 1-0 ahead at the interval through a Simon Hunt effort after 43 minutes. He broke through on the right and pushed the ball to David Gregory who shot. Doncaster goalkeeper Dennis Peacock could only parry the shot and Hunt was on hand to slam home the rebound.

In the 54th minute, Steve Buxton hit a shot from the left across goal, the ball was deflected up by a defender and Hunt dived in to head his second and double our lead.

This seemed to drain the visitors of any confidence as they played out the remainder of the game without displaying any positive ideas or imagination what so ever. Niedzwiecki was a mere spectator for the majority of the second half.

Hunt just missed out on his hat-trick when he agonisingly failed to connect with a Steve Buxton cross, but Robbie Savage made no mistake with a superb strike in the 85th minute. Gregory squared the ball to Savage from the right and the man who proved a revolution while at the Racecourse, picked his spot and lashed the ball passed Peacock for the 11th goal of his on-loan spell from Liverpool.

Jim Steel – who was also on-loan from Oldham Athletic – struck twice with two fine headers in the last two minutes to put the icing on the cake for Wrexham.

Despite being Wrexham’s biggest win of the season, manager Bobby Roberts said afterwards: “I think we have played better this season, but we were a lot sharper in our moves and finishing. That made all the difference in the end and made it very pleasing”

***

After failing to win any of their last 11 League games, Wrexham suffered their second successive relegation with a dire 22nd placed finish. Only Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield finished below the Robins. In a disastrous campaign, we had been humiliated by Worcester City of the Alliance Premier League in the FA Cup second round, lost the Welsh Cup final to Swansea City and were forced to sell Joey Jones, Mick Vinter, Steve Fox and Billy Ronson in a vain attempt to balance the books. To cap it all Dixie McNeil was released.

This was a season to forget…

 

Introducing Robyn

I have decided to name my mannequin Robyn. This was decided on after asking my friends on Facebook to come up with their own suggestions. There were a whole host of suggestions from Roxanne to Gertrude, but in the end I decided to follow the advice given by my friend, Ted Eames.

His suggestion was Rita Racecourse as he thought I should keep with the Wrexham AFC theme that is prevalent throughout my bungalow. I totally agree with the Football connection, but I could not name my new friend after an ageing newsagent in Coronation Street. All that was left to do was to think of an alternative name that is associated with the club I love.

Commercial manager Christian Smith came up with the idea of changing the club’s nickname to enhance it’s marketing potential in 2001.  The club had been called the Robins – not because of the red and white kit – but after Ted Robinson, who had given 50 years service to Wrexham Football Club as player coach and secretary.  Smith explained the change: “The Robins doesn’t say a great deal about Wrexham AFC.  We should trade more on our Welsh identity”  The new nickname that was eventually was the Red Dragons.

All this sounds too much like a cunning marketing ploy with total disregard for historical context.  It’s the type of thing I hate.  Some people would say that I am stuck in the past, but I prefer to think of myself as a traditionalist with respect for forgotten heroes.

Anyway, in my choice of name for my mannequin, the spirit of Ted Robinson lives on (albeit in a more attractive, sexier form with the ‘i’ replaced with a ‘y’ to give it a feminine touch).

 

Memory Match – 25-04-53

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.

25-04-53

Wrexham v Chester

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 7-0

Wrexham: Egglestone, Parker, Fisher, Jones, Capper, Tapscott, Heggie, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Richards

Goalscorers: Jones, Tilston (2), Bannan (2), Richards, Hewitt

Chester: Wright, Dickens, Gill, Hughes, Coffin, Astbury, Deakin, Moremont, Travis, Sutcliffe, Whitlock

Attendance: 10,914

 

In 1952/53, Peter Jackson almost led Wrexham to the uncharted heights of the Second Division. The Robins finished a successful season in third position, just three points behind champions Oldham Athletic. One of the main reasons behind this success was our forward line of Tommy Bannan, Glyn Hughes, Ron Hewitt, Tommy Tilston and Billy Tunnicliffe, who reaped 70 goals between them.

The undoubted highlight of the season was a staggering 7-0 victory over our cross-border rivals in the penultimate game. This was Wrexham’s biggest-ever derby win and completed a League double over Chester following a 1-2 victory at Sealand Road just ten days previously. For balance, I suppose I should also note that this double helped avenge a 4-3 defeat by the Englishmen in a Welsh Cup fifth round tie that same season.

Just three days after our heaviest defeat of the season – a promotion-denying 4-0 trouncing at relegation-threatened Workington – hopes were high that we could bounce back from such disappointment against an injury–depleted Chester side.

The Cestrians were always going to find it tough without regular outside-left Billy Windle and right-back John Molyneux. These reliable and effective regulars were replaced by Phil Whitlock and Leo Dickens. The crowning misfortune for the visitors saw centre-half Eric Hall deemed unfit meaning that centre-forward Geoff Coffin had to cover as a makeshift defender.

Conversely, Wrexham were only forced to play without Glyn Hughes (flu). This allowed Bill Heggie to get an outing at outside-right as Wrexham showed their attacking intentions from the off. George Jones wasted a free-kick that sailed yards wide before Ron Hewitt shot inches off-target. We were getting closer…

On five minutes, Chester goalkeeper Dick Wright collided with the substantial frame of Scottish-born Heggie. It took extensive use of the magic sponge to get the dazed Wright back on his feet, but it wasn’t to be his day as just minutes later the bemused ‘keeper, “flitting around his goalmouth like a fly trapped into a bottle”, collided with an unnamed Wrexham forward and had to be stretchered from the field of play. Chester were reduced to ten-men and forced to put Ralph Moremont into goal. Writing in the North Wales Guardian, Ron Chaloner noted that the defence in front of the versatile wing-half “looked about as safe as a prefab would be to an atom bomb”.

As the half-hour mark approached – depending which newspaper you believe – Bannan sent over a corner for Hewitt to head home the first of three goals in a nine-minute spell. Tilston was then officially credited with a brace before the break, despite the fact that watching journalists agreed that his first goal appeared to have been helped in by Chester’s Tommy Astbury.

Five minutes into the second period, Jones made it four when he headed past Moremont after Dickens had cleared off the goal-line. Bannan, who was the spearhead of a fast-moving attack, headed home the fifth from Heggie’s cross and completed his brace nine minutes from time when he sent in a high cross-shot that floated over Moremont’s hands and under the bar.

Chester’s disastrous afternoon was complete three minutes from time when Dickens handled the ball in the penalty area and conceded a clear spot-kick that was powered home by Gordon Richards.

The Wrexham Advertiser and Star moaned that the match lost all interest as a spectacle when Chester lost Wright and called for a new rule allowing substitute goalkeepers. Somehow, if something similarly unfortunate was to happen to our visitors this afternoon, I can’t see many Wrexham fans complaining…

***

Chester finished the season in a lowly 20th position – five points clear of relegation.

 

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…