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Racecourse Stories | Thriller in the Mist

Our first match at Alltincham led to a very unusual tale.

27 December 2021

In our near-160 year history, many remarkable players and characters have been associated with the club. Some of their stories will always be remembered; other tales naturally fade as time passes. Let’s look back at some of those incredible characters whose lives became intertwined with our club.

Ernie Phythian was a fine centre forward for Wrexham in the 1960s, scoring 56 goals in 161 games over 4 seasons, 28 of which came in 1964 when he was our top scorer. He had big boots to follow at The Racecourse because he was swapped for Wyn "The Leap" Davies straight after the giant Welshman had scored a hat trick in a 10-1 win against Hartlepool.

Phythian would end up at Hartlepool himself under Brian Clough, and he wasn't scared to confront his charismatic manager in what would turn out to be a tempestuous relationship.

However, it was a foggy night in Altrincham which would single him out as the subject of a peculiar Racecourse story!  

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The match was an FA Cup first roud tie and, surprisingly, the first between the Robins of Altrincham and the Robins of Wrexham despite their close proximity.

It kicked off at Moss Lane with freezing mist making it difficult to see from one side of the pitch to the other, and it looked like Wrexham might not survive the ordeal, as shortly before half time goalkeeper Albert Dunlop injured his knee ligaments and had to be stretchered off.

Of course, there were no substitutes in those days, so Wrexham were forced to put centre forward Ernie Phythian in goal while Dunlop limped around on the right wing for the duration of the second half. Footballers were clearly made of stern stuff then!

It had been 1-1 at the break, Mickey Metcalf’s neat finish from a Clive Colbridge cross being cancelled out just before Dunlop left the pitch when an apparently offside goal was allowed to stand; perhaps the linesman couldn’t see the scorer?

After the break Metcalf missed a sitter before he crossed for Arfon Griffiths to score, but with just thirteen minutes left we were denied victory when the referee decided to abandon the game.

Still, at least the home side were happy: for the first time in their history the Cheshire League side had got their names into the draw for the second round! The game was even featured on Match of the Day, although very little was visible to viewers through the fog!

Altrincham’s involvement in the competition would survive the rearranged game too, as when the second attempt to play it was made four days later it ended in a goalless draw. That was only half the story though; Wrexham suffered a torrid time once more at Moss Lane.

Again, we lost a player just before the break, Colbridge suffering concussion and having to be stretchered off. This time things got even worse as shortly after the resumption Alan Fox had to be carried off with a twisted ankle! He returned and apparently did better on one leg than many of his team mates did on two!  However, we held on with Alan Jones, our third choice keeper, relatively untested.

The replay saw us finally dispose of the potential giant-killers. Tecwyn Jones scored a long range shot, and we ought to have had more than that to show for our first half efforts, but two goals in seven minutes soon after the break by Metcalf ensured that we went through to the next round.

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