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DIXIE McNEIL INTERVIEW | "It was a game to remember that’s for sure!"

Club President remembers famous Blyth clash

14 October 2022

Interviews

DIXIE McNEIL INTERVIEW | "It was a game to remember that’s for sure!"

Club President remembers famous Blyth clash

14 October 2022

Honorary Club President Dixie McNeil looks ahead to this weekend's FA Cup clash against Blyth Spartans with fond memories, from when the two sides met in the fifth round back in 1978.

It’s been 44 years since Wrexham last played Spartans in the competition, with goals from Graham Whittle and McNeil proving to be the difference in the replay.

The first encounter, at the Racecourse Ground, was one for the history books, with McNeil equalising late on from a Les Cartwright corner.

It took Cartwright three attempts to take the corner due to the flag twice falling out of the ground, with the third headed in by McNeil.

Speaking on the goal, he said: “It was one of those crazy things and it was fate at the end of the day.

“Les went to take the corner, the flag fell and the linesman told him that he’d have to take it again.  He took it again and the same thing happened.

“The third time, I headed the ball in from two yards out at the back post, everyone else seemed to miss it.

“If I’m honest, I think we got out of a little bit of trouble. They played brilliantly when they came to us, but it’s ironic that a corner flag falling down twice helped us score a goal. I don’t think many people have had that.”

The replay saw the biggest attendance in the competition’s history for a non-league side, in what was another tightly-contested affair.

It was Wrexham’s second trip to St James’ Park in the FA Cup that season, having faced Newcastle in the previous round - after drawing 2-2 in the previous leg, Wrexham won the replay 2-1.

Dumped out by the North Walians, Newcastle rallied around their fellow North East side for the replay instead to make for a momentous occasion for both Blyth and Wrexham.

McNeil admitted he didn’t expect the scale of the atmosphere, adding: "When we arrived at the ground about an hour before kick-off, nobody was outside the stadium, and we thought it was going to be a bit of a let-down.

“We went into the dressing room and had a chat, but when we walked out to look at the pitch, I don’t think anyone could quite believe there were 40,000 people inside the stadium.

“They’d locked up the outside of the ground because it was full, and it was a tremendous place to play and thankfully we got the right result.

“It was one of those games as a player we thought it might be an easy job, but in reality, it was never going to be easy, especially in the FA Cup which is a competition everybody wants to win.

“It was a game to remember that’s for sure.”

Phil Parkinson’s men go into tomorrow’s game in a strong vein of form, winning eight of the last ten matches.

Last season they faced lowly Marine at this stage, who forced Wrexham to earn a replay, with a late Jordan Davies free-kick salvaging a draw.

The FA Cup is a competition engrained in the Club’s history, with the most famous victory coming against Arsenal in 1992. And with Wrexham's 2022/23 campaign kick-starting this weekend, McNeil expects to see another professional performance in the North East on Saturday.

He said: “It’s one of those games that doesn’t matter who you play against, you have to get the job done and get the result.

“Blyth have no pressure on them, they’ll give 100% as they do, but I know the Wrexham players will be composed, be professional as they are, and hopefully come away with the result.

“At the end of the day as well with us being non-league, I’m sure the players will want to get to the third round proper and face a Premier League club."

Away from the Cup, the Club currently sit second in the National League, one point behind Notts County, and McNeil is delighted with the current position.

He said: “We’re on the up, and we’ve got to look forward and get to the positions we want to be in.

“The supporters have come back in droves to watch the games; the players are doing a brilliant job on the pitch and the manager is thriving.

“I’ve got to say everything at the moment is hunky-dory and everybody has the same ambition of getting promoted.”


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