West Ham United

Memory Match – 05-11-86

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.

05-11-86

Wrexham v Real Zaragoza

European Cup Winner’s Second Round (2nd leg)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-2

Wrexham: Pearce, Salathiel, Cunnington, Williams, Cooke, Comstive, Massey, Horne, Steel, Charles, Emson, (Buxton)

Goalscorers: Massey 102, Buxton 106

Real Zaragoza: Cedrun, Casuco, Fraile, Blesa, Julia, Guerri, Senor, Herrera, Pineda, (Carlos 108), Ayneto, (Yanez 81), Sosa

Goalscorers: Yanez 98, 104

Attendance: 14,515

After securing a 0-0 draw at La Romareda, the Robins had a big opportunity to finish off the job at the Racecourse. Before moving on to focus on the second leg of this European tie, I want to underline the enormity of our achievement in Spain which is often overlooked in the history books.

Real Zaragoza had beaten Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final and had overcome AS Roma on penalties in the previous round. This was a seemingly impossible tie for Fourth Division strugglers and Dixie McNeil’s men deserve enormous credit for their performance.

McNeil said: “It was truly magnificent, and the lads responded to the occasion with a display that must rank as one of the greatest in the clubs history. They played with skill and commitment and would have been the envy of many a First Division side.”

Moving on to our mammoth task in the second leg and we knew we were in for a sterner test than we had experienced in the first round against Maltese side FC Zurrieq. We had destroyed them 0-3 in Malta and confirmed our progress with a 4-0 victory at home.

The Spanish side were low on confidence as they had experienced a bad start to their season and had sent a ‘spy’ over from Spain to watch us hammer Aldershot 3-0 in our last home encounter before the European clash. Roman Fernandez said: “A cold, wet night like this will be a tremendous advantage to Wrexham.” Wrexham supporters were praying for inclement weather.

In front of the biggest crowd since hosting West Ham United in January 1981, the Reds made a shaky start to the match but soon settled. In fact, they almost took the lead when Steel’s firm header clipped the bar. Paul Comstive came close with a flying header that forced an agile save from visiting goalkeeper Andoni Cedrun.

Shortly after half-time, Chris Pearce was also forced into action when he made a super save to deny Sosa. This apart, Pearce had an extremely quiet evening as Wrexham continued to push forward.  The visitors were grateful to Cedrun for denying Mike Williams and when Comstive did beat him with a header, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar.

With the game now in extra-time the introduction of substitutes proved to be decisive as it was Yanez who broke the deadlock when Senor sent him clear to beat Pearce. This away goal meant Wrexham now needed two goals to win the tie and hopes were raised when Steve Massey equalised.

The game was now really opening up as tiredness set in, but just two minutes later the unmarked Yanez found himself room on the right to score what looked to be the decisive goal from a Sosa cross. When have you ever known Wrexham and their supporters to give up, though? Substitute Steve Buxton pulled one back moments later to set up a frantic finale that included a wonder save by Cedrun to deny Steve Massey.

Dixie McNeil put on a brave face: “I am disappointed to say the least, but not with the lads. They played magnificently and did themselves proud. It was two defensive lapses that gave them the goals, but had not been for their goalkeeper, I am sure we would have won through to the quarter-finals.”

Star man Paul Comstive said: “I thought all through the game we were in with a good chance of winning. They did everything they could to keep us out and in the end it was their keeper who beat us. Apart from their goals, they hardly troubled us all night.”

Memory Match – 03-01-81

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.

03/01/81

West Ham United v Wrexham

FA Cup Third Round

Upton Park

Result: 1-1 

West Ham United: Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Holland, Goddard, Cross, Brooking, Pike

Goalscorer: Stewart (57 pen)

Wrexham: Davies, Hill, Jones, Davis, Cegielski, Arkwright, Buxton (Fox), Sutton, Edwards, McNeil, Cartwright

Goalscorer: Davis (87)

Attendance: 30,137

1981 began with a tasty cup-tie against FA Cup holders West Ham United who had lifted the famous trophy the previous May, thanks to a Trevor Brooking diving header against Arsenal. The Hammers were a Second Division side when they won the Cup and were aiming to follow their Cup success with promotion back to Division One. In November 1980 they had visited the Racecourse to play out a 2-2 draw.

Our third round pairing against the league leaders looked a tough one on paper. The Upton Park club had won every home match in every competition since defeat to Luton Town on the opening day of the season.

However, Arfon Griffiths’ men had recorded three wins and a draw in their last four away games and had a good record in encounters with West Ham, who had only won one in five meetings.

Arfon Griffiths said: “I think we are in with a chance of beating them – but we must play well.

“It will be a hell of an occasion and will be a tremendous atmosphere and a big crowd. It will be a great challenge for our lads, but they prefer that kind of environment and we’ll be looking for another good result in London to add to our collection. We shall not go there just to defend. We’ll play our normal game.”

The Reds were suffering from a long list of injuries and illness. Frank Carrodus, who had missed the last three games with an ankle ligament injury, was still missing along with Steve Kenworthy. On the plus side, Steve Buxton and Les Cartwright were re-introduced to the team after both having treatment for knee injuries.

Never write off the Town in the Cup. It is true that we were under the cosh for most of the match, but a superb defensive display restricted the home side to just one goal from the penalty spot after 59 minutes. The controversial decision to award a spot-kick came after Alan Hill was adjudged to have upended Pat Holland. Visiting defenders lead furious protests to the referee and felt that Holland had dived. These protests fell on deaf ears and Ray Stewart sent Dai Davies the wrong way to give United the lead. Davies had a superb game despite a dislocated finger. This did not stop him making fantastic saves to deny Paul Goddard and Geoff Pike.

West Ham seemed to be on course for their 17th home victory in succession, but our never-say-die efforts paid off after 87 minutes. Les Cartwright launched a long throw in into the penalty area which Ian Edwards back-headed before Dixie McNeil flicked it on for Gareth Davis to smash home a volley from eight yards.

***

This draw resulted in a replay at the Racecourse just three days later. This match was instantly forgettable and ended in a goalless stalemate. Cue a second replay at the Racecourse following the toss of a coin. Dixie McNeil scored the only goal of the game in the first period of extra time to finally dump John Lyall’s men out of the Cup and send us through to the fourth round, where we dispatched Wimbledon (2-1). Wolverhampton Wanderers finally ended our progress in the FA Cup after a 3-1 defeat at Molineux.

***

Our success in the Cup masked a disappointing league campaign, which saw us finish in 16th position. In our penultimate match of the season, we travelled to Upton Park yet again, where we were on the receiving end of a 1-0 defeat to the runaway champions of the Second Division. After all our efforts, we could not stop those pretty bubbles from floating in the air…

Memory Match – 15-02-97

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.

15-02-97

Birmingham City v Wrexham

FA Cup Fourth Round

St Andrews

Result: 1-3

Birmingham City: Bennett, Brown, Johnson, Bruce, Ablett (Bowen), Holland, Devlin, Legg, Furlong, Horne, Limpar (Newell)

Goalscorer: Bruce (57)

Wrexham: Marriott, McGregor, Brace, Hughes, Humes, Carey, Chalk (Brammer), Russell, Connolly, Watkin, Ward

Goalscorers: Hughes (51), Humes (61), Connolly (90)

Attendance: 21,511

Cup fever hit Wrexham during the 1996/97 season, but if you told supporters that this would be the case after 66 minutes of our first round clash with Colwyn Bay at the Racecourse, few would have believed you. At the time we where trailing 0-1 and look to be heading for a humiliating exit. Thankfully, Bryan Hughes slammed home an equaliser after 76 minutes to force a replay, which we won 2-0.

Following this fortunate victory we never looked back. The second round saw Scunthorpe United take us to a replay after a 2-2 draw at the Racecourse. We finally dispatched the Ironmen after a 2-3 thriller at Glanford Park. The third round saw us entertain West Ham United on a snow covered pitch.  The match ended 1-1 and yet again we were involved in a replay.  A large Wrexham following saw Kevin Russell strike the only goal of the game as we marched on to the fourth round. After a 2-4 victory at London Road against Peterborough United we were drawn against Birmingham City at St Andrews.

Birmingham lost 3-0 at home to Portsmouth in Division One the previous weekend while Wrexham polished off Posh for the second time in a week at London Road thanks to the only goal of the game from Bryan Hughes.  We remained the underdogs, of course, but we wanted to avoid the humiliation we suffered on our last visit to St Andrews when we lost a Second Division game 5-2, the only bright spot of that afternoon was Gary Bennett’s 100th goal for the club.

On this occasion, Wrexham were not in the mood to crash out of the Cup after coming so far. In the early stages, their confident approach play was pinning the Blues back, but Steve Bruce marshalled the opposition defence with expertise and snuffed out any danger.

Bruce pushed forward for set pieces and actually opened the scoring for the home side on 37 minutes when he volleyed home a corner.

After weathering an early storm in the second half, our white-shirted heroes levelled when Bryan Hughes thumped home a header from a Peter Ward free-kick. Soon after, Paul Devlin was sent-off after a scandalous challenge on Martyn Chalk and the Town made full use of their extra man when Tony Hughes headed home a corner on 61 minutes.

City manager Trevor Francis introduced Jason Bowen and Mike Newell to the action in an attempt to force an equaliser but Wrexham defended deeply and forced a third in the final moments when Brian Carey found Karl Connolly with a delightful through ball. Winning the race with defender Michael Johnston, King Karl shot under the advancing goalkeeper – Ian Bennett – and the ball went in off the post.

We had reached the last eight of the FA Cup for the second time in our history.

“Despite going a goal behind, the players still had great belief in their own abilities and I was still confident that we would score,” said manager Brian Flynn.

“Our performance through the full match was all I could ask for and provided we were able to continue at that level, and then the chances were going to come. Once we got that equaliser, you felt there was only going to be one winner.

“It was probably our best display during my time as manager and to happen on such a stage was very satisfying.”

***

Our Cup run finally ground to a halt at the quarter-final stage with a humdrum 1-0 defeat against Chesterfield at Saltergate. This is still to painful to discuss as it was a case of being so close, yet so far…

 

 

Memory Match – 11-12-99

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I contributed to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I penned a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past. I hope to continue writing this feature next season.

11-12-99

Wrexham v Middlesbrough

FA Cup Third Round

Racecourse Ground

Result: 2-1

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Hardy, Ferguson, S. Roberts (Ridler), Carey, Williams, Gibson (Owen), Faulconbridge (Connolly), N. Roberts, Russell

Goalscorers: Gibson 50, Ferguson 68

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Stamp, Ziege, Feste, Vickers, Pallister (Gavin), Mustoe, Gascoigne, Deane, Ricard, Juninho

Goalscorer: Deane 42

Attendance: 11,755

The 1990’s saw some splendid FA Cup performances by Brian Flynn’s men. Arsenal, Ipswich Town and West Ham United were all put to the sword.

We progressed to the third round of the 1999/2000 competition despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Kettering Town in the first round at the Racecourse. First half goals by Steve Roberts and Danny Williams saw us through the replay at Rockingham Road to set-up a second round home tie against Rochdale. Progress to the third round was booked with a 2-1 victory that was only sealed by a Craig Faulconbridge strike on 88 minutes.

Our prize was a plum daw against a top-flight Middlesbrough side that was managed by Bryan Robson and featured such illustrious names as Paul Gascoigne, Christian Ziege and Juninho. Hopes of progression to the fourth round seemed outlandish, particularly given our woeful League form – since beating Oxford United on September 18 we had remained without a win for 12 matches, including hammerings at Gillingham (5-1) and Burnley (5-0)..

Brian Deane put Boro ahead three minutes before half-time with a controversial goal. Robbie Mustoe played a cutting pass to Hamilton Ricard who appeared to bring the ball under control using his arm. An untidy scramble then followed as the Reds attempted to clear the danger. Alas, the ball broke to Deane who powered home the opener from 10 yards.

However, Wrexham did not panic. We had created one or two opportunities in the first half and came out fighting for the second period in the hope that our gutsy determination would exploit a crisis of confidence in a Middlesbrough team that had gone four games without a win in the Premier League, including a 5-1 massacre at Arsenal.

Five minutes after the restart the scores were level. Darren Ferguson’s defence-splitting delivery allowed Robin Gibson to control and lash a low, left-footed drive past the despairing dive of Mark Schwarzer.

The Premier League side could have retaken the lead but Ziege’s corner was hacked off the line by Brian Carey and Kevin Dearden saved with his legs from Deane.

Moments later the ground erupted as the impressive Ferguson dribbled along the edge of the area, beating two defenders, before crashing an unstoppable drive past the stranded Schwarzer.

His father, Sir Alex Ferguson, was watching from the stands because his Manchester United team had no game following their controversial decision to sit out the FA Cup that season.

Previously under-fire manager Brian Flynn said afterwards: “That was a memorable day again, absolutely fantastic. From start to finish it was an enthralling cup tie.

“I think we deserved to win. I mean, the quality of our finishing was of the highest standard. Darren Ferguson’s ball through for Gibbo and the way he finished it and obviously Darren’s solo goal. It does take something exceptional and unexpected to win a cup-tie like that.”

He added: “It was certainly Darren’s best game for us, but all eleven of them played a part.

“In the starting line-up we had five players who have actually come through our youth policy, that’s virtually half the team. It’s a great experience for them to play against world-class players and to compete against them and obviously do well.”

***

Wrexham’s reward after taking such a scalp was a fourth round home tie against Cambridge United. Predictably, we lost this match 1-2 and bowed out of the FA Cup. In fact, we didn’t win another FA Cup match until November 2004 when we thumped Hayes 0-4.