Tommy Bannan

Memory Match – 26-01-52

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.

 

26-01-52

Rochdale v Wrexham

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Spotland

Rochdale: Nicholls, Watson, Radford, Lynn, Downes, Buchan, Whitworth, Tomlinson, Middlebrough, Foulds, Betts

Goalscorer: Buchan

Wrexham: Connor, Wynn, Fisher, Jones, Spruce, Tapscott, Lawrence, Hewitt, Bannan, Hope, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorers: Hope (3), Hewitt, Bannan

Attendance: 4,244

Season 1951/52 started in a nightmare fashion with the Town losing all of their opening six matches, including an opening day defeat at Sealand Road against Chester (2-1). This awful start to the season continued with defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0). We finally won our seventh match of the campaign after beating Halifax Town (2-1) at the Racecourse. There was only a slight improvement as the season went on with the team lifting themselves to a disappointing 18th position.

Our last game of January 1952 actually came on the back of two successive home victories against Grimsby Town (2-0) and Mansfield Town (3-1), but we had yet to win on the road all season. The only glimmer of hope was that Rochdale were also enduring a season of struggle in the lower reaches of the league table.

This contest was played in atrocious conditions as the afternoon saw dense freezing fog and the pitch at Spotland was covered with snow, which frost had hardened. Writing in the Leader, the “Wanderer” said that these conditions actually paved the way to Wrexham’s success as they passed the ball around well and adapted to the conditions much better than Rochdale. Once the Reds took an early lead they never looked back.

After six minutes play, Eric Hope drove home the opening goal from a George Jones free kick. Rochdale had their moments and equalised after 20 minute when Alistair Buchan fired home a long-range drive. Robert Connor dived and appeared to have the ball covered, but it was deflected into the other corner of the net by Ron Wynn. Our custodian Connor was largely a spectator for the remainder of the afternoon as he was only really tested from a second half corner, from which Alan Middlebrough struck the crossbar.

Wrexham were back in the lead after a Billy Tunnicliffe cross was parried by a defender and the ball fell into the path of the ruthless Hope. More was to follow before half time as on 37 minutes, captain Cyril Lawrence – playing against his former club – swung over a glorious corner and Hewitt converted it into the net before goalkeeper Jim Nicholls could move.

After the interval, Peter Jackson’s men continued to power forward in search of more goals. Indeed, it came as no surprise when Lawrence whipped in a cross for Hope to slam home a 25 yard thunderbolt. Lawrence was playing the game of his life and turned the Rochdale left back, Arthur Radford, inside out with his trickery.  It was a shame that he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself but he could be proud that he had a hand in three of the goals.

Hope also deserves a special mention as “he worked like a Trojan and whenever the ball came his way it was whirled away with the speed of a rocket without a second’s hesitation. It was from three such shots that he got his goals”.

Wrexham completed their third win in succession when Lawrence, once again, sent in a centre that Tommy Bannan connected with.

This remained Wrexham’s only away win of an arduous season, while Rochdale finished the campaign in 21st position – only the bottom two clubs, Workington and Darlington, had to seek re-election.

***

Unfortunately, we did not progress very far in the cup competitions. We did put Halifax Town to the sword (3-0) in the first round of the FA Cup, but we were knocked out at the second round stage by Leyton Orient (3-2), after a replay.

After beating Colwyn Bay and Chester in the Welsh Cup, we were beaten at the semi-final stage by Merthyr Tydfil (0-2).

Memory Match – 28-09-57

Throughout the 2016/17 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.

28-09-57

Wrexham v Hull City

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 6-0

Wrexham: Ugolini, McGowan, Parker, Davis, Fox, McNab, Jones (Gren), Dignam, Smith, Bannan, Jones 

Goalscorers: Smith (2, 1 pen), Jones (Gren) (3), Jones (David)

Hull City: Round, Cubie, Nielson, Collinson, Fease, Bulless, Stephens, Clarke, Davidson, Bradbury, Cripsey

Attendance: 8,755

 

Season 1957/58 was to be the last in which the Third Division was split into Northern and Southern sections. The following season saw the formation of the new Third and Fourth Divisions. Wrexham therefore had to finish in the top half of the table to enter the higher division.

The season started badly with Wrexham only winning two of their opening nine league games, which just happened to be against our hapless local rivals Chester.  When mid-table Hull City came to town, we were struggling in 20th position on the back of a 0-1 home defeat against bottom-of-the-table Crewe Alexandra.

Manager Cliff Lloyd was absent from the Racecourse for this game as he was suffering from flu, but this did not adversely affect the players – quite the opposite. Wrexham sparked into life after Tommy Bannan was tackled from behind by Neil Cubie as he was racing towards goal after 20 minutes. A penalty was awarded and converted by Barry Smith to kick-start a mauling for the Tigers.

Writing in the Leader, the Sports Editor bemoans our previous performances in a few months of dreadful form, but notes that: “It was as if some wizard had waved a magic wand and transformed a side of struggling individuals into a close knit, classical combination that conjured up memories of the many brilliant performances of last season”.   In the 36th minute the Reds built on their lead when Joe Dignam galloped down the right wing to send over a perfect cross for Barry Smith to head home his fourth of the season.

Smith was at it again when he beat two men and squared the ball to Bannan, who mis-kicked. Fortunately, Gren Jones had the simple task of notching the third.

Before the referee signalled half time, Smith bulldozed his way forward through despairing defenders and saw his shot palmed away by the beleaguered Len Round in the Hull City goal.  Again, Jones was on the spot to rattle the ball home.

The second half started in much the same fashion when Tommy McNab stabbed a crossfield pass to David Jones who was standing on the corner of the penalty box. The left-winger beat Neil Cubie and crashed a right-footed screamer to make it five.

The last goal came after 72 minutes when Bannan carved an opening in the Hull defence and Gren Jones lobbed the ball over Round from an acute angle to seal his hat-trick.

In October, secretary-manager Cliff Lloyd decided to resign as manager and concentrate on his secretarial duties. He was, however, to continue as manager until a new man could be found.

John Love was to be that man and took up his new duties in December. But even with a new face at the helm, the rest of the season also proved to be a struggle with Wrexham in the bottom half of the table throughout the campaign.

In their last home game, against Accrington Stanley, Wrexham needed to win to stand any chance of qualifying for the new Third Division, with a game at Tranmere to follow. Accrington also needed a win to stand any chance of promotion to the Second Division.

Tommy Bannan was to be Wrexham’s hero of the day when he scored the only goal of the match.

Then it was off to Tranmere, who also needed to win to be in the new Third Division. A large contingent of Wrexham fans formed part of the big crowd of 19, 170 and saw their side lose 2-1 which meant that Wrexham had to wait for the result of the Scunthorpe – Carlisle match which was being played the following evening.

Carlisle had to win for Wrexham to miss out and when the final score came through, it was in Wrexham’s favour with Scunthorpe wining 3-1 to leave the Welsh club in 12th place.

 

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 – 27-12-54

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.

27-12-54

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Godding, Speed, McGowan, Griffiths, Green, Tapscott, Williams, Hewitt, Bannan, Rowley, Richards.

Goalscorers: Bannan, Hewitt

Oldham Athletic: D’Arcy, Jackson, Hardwick, Hobson, Whyte, Fawley, Walker, Chaytor, Travis, Scrine, McShane.

Goalscorer: Scrine

Attendance: 10,871

Season 1954/55 started with an embarrassing 6–2 defeat at the hands of York City at the Racecourse.  It was a result that equalled our heaviest-ever home defeat.  Things didn’t improve during the course of a wretched season that ended with the team languishing in 18th place.

On the back of a 3-3 draw at York City’s Bootham Crescent in the return fixture – unquestionably our strongest performance of the season – Wrexham entered a festive double-header against Oldham Athletic.  This began with a trip to Boundary Park on Christmas Day and the match was played on a mud heap of a pitch that meant free-flowing football was at a premium.   Nevertheless, Wrexham adapted to the conditions with a forceful style of play that denied Oldham the avalanche of goals that fans of the Lancashire team might have expected against an outfit marooned at the foot of the table.

Indeed, over an hour had gone before Tommy Walker and Don Travis netted for the home side with two quick goals. Tommy Bannan pulled one back for Wrexham with ten minutes remaining, but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Two days later the teams met again at the Racecourse. Wrexham had to replace wingers Glyn Hughes and Eric Betts, both injured on Christmas Day, with young Peter Williams making his first team debut in place of Hughes and Gordon Richards replacing Betts.

In a sensational start to the afternoon there were two goals within the first 90 seconds. Frank Scrine capitalised on a Kenny Chaytor pass to put Oldham in front before Arthur Rowley cracked a thunderbolt against the bar and Bannan netted the rebound.

Mick D’Arcy in the Oldham goal made a wonder save from a powerful header from Ron Hewitt, but the Wrexham livewire was not to be denied and he put the Robins in front after a mad scramble.  Hewitt’s first effort was blocked, as were similar ones from Bannan and Williams before Hewitt made sure.

Oldham fought back and almost equalised through Travis – his shot seemed destined to roll into an empty net before Aly McGowan saved the day by hacking clear. There were also many chances in the second half but none closer than when a Rowley drive rebounded off D’Arcy’s legs.

The final whistle signalled Wrexham’s first home victory since beating Bradford City on October 16. Incidentally, it was also the first League defeat for Athletic since October 9.

***

In February 1955 manager Peter Jackson left the club to take charge at Bradford City. Jackson also took with him his twin sons, Peter junior and David, who were the first twins to have played in the same Wrexham team.

***

After the Jackson clan had departed for Yorkshire the board turned to Cliff Lloyd to take temporary charge.

The Robins were still struggling in the League and were in 21st position when Lloyd took over.  He managed to inspire another five victories before the end of the season – including two 5–0 victories over Crewe Alexandra and Grimsby Town – that helped us to escape relegation by the skin of our teeth.  As a result Lloyd was given the manager’s job on a permanent basis.