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 I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.
Wrexham v Southend United
Football League Trophy Final
Result: 2-0 (after extra time)
Wrexham: Foster, Edwards, Morgan, Ferguson, Lawrence, Roberts (Pejic), Crowell (Bennett), Jones (Williams), Ugarte, Llewellyn, Holt
Goalscorers: Ugarte (99), Ferguson (118)
Southend United: Flahavan, Jupp, Wilson, Pettefer (Guttridge), Prior, Barrett, Maher, Gower (McCormack), Eastwood (Dudfield), Gray, Bentley
It had been a depressing season, both on and off the pitch. This is not the time, nor place for a lengthy analysis of the turmoil caused by Alex Hamilton, but I must provide some context.
On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration by the High Court as we owed £2,600,000, including £800,000 to the Inland Revenue. Wrexham became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction for being placed in administration, causing them to drop from mid-table to the League One relegation zone.
Despite their financial turmoil, Wrexham reached the LDV Vans Trophy final against Southend United at the Millennium Stadium after beating Notts County (2-3), Stockport County (2-0), Chester City (0-1), Hereford United (1-2) and Oldham Athletic (6-3 on aggregate) on route to the Cardiff showpiece. It was Southend’s second consecutive appearance in the Football League Trophy final after losing to Blackpool (0-2) in 2004.
There were no surprises in Wrexham’s line up with Mark Jones, Carlos Edwards and Craig Morgan, all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Danny Williams was named as one of the five substitutes having overcome back problems, while Alex Smith, Chris Armstrong, Scott Green and Levi Mackin were the unlucky players not to make the final sixteen.
Wrexham began brightly and would have taken an early lead if Juan Ugarte’s goalscoring instincts not prevented him from passing to the unmarked Chris Llewellyn in the 11th minute.
Unfortunately, Steve Roberts had to hobble off on 14 minutes. He was replaced by Shaun Pejic, but this did not disrupt our flow as Ugarte proved when he curled a shot just wide.
It was not all one-way traffic though as Southend’s Freddy Eastwood threatened fleetingly, and Mark Bentley produced fine saves from Ben Foster both sides of the interval.
Twenty minutes from time Bentley’s header hit his own bar. The ball bounced back into play and Bentley challenged Ugarte for the rebound, with the Wrexham player winning only to see his header hit the post and eventually fall into Darryl Flahavan’s arms. Southend had escaped and forced the game into extra-time.
The contest turned on a disputed corner from the left by Darren Ferguson in the ninth minute of extra-time. The ball was headed goalwards by Dennis Lawrence for Ugarte to flick home from close range for his sixth goal of the competition. We had one hand on the prize…
Two minutes from the end, Flahavan could only palm Llewellyn’s shot into Ferguson’s path and he coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards to send the best-part of 20,000 travelling Reds into raptures.
This vital victory brought with it up to £500,000 cash which helped keep the clubs future alive while administrators worked to find a new owner.
Supporters Trust representative, Lindsey Jones said: “It was a fantastic day. There were so many people there, and a lot of people we don’t see every week. If they didn’t have the bug before, they will now.
“Long term I hope this will attract more supporters, and in turn make north Wales as a whole support the club.”
Wrexham still retained an outside chance of escaping the drop with six league games left. They were only eight points from safety, but it was a case of after the Lord Mayors show as Denis Smith’s men slumped to two defeats – Bristol City (1-0) and Luton Town (1-2) – following the excitement of Cardiff. Brief excitement and belief began to grow after victories on the road against Port Vale (0-2) and Stockport County (1-4), but relegation was confirmed with a 1-2 home defeat against Brentford on 3 May 2005.