THE WREXHAM ANGLE
Why, it feels like it was only yesterday that we were playing a cup tie at the STōK Cae Ras, and here we are again!
The extremely tight turn-around between Sunday's win against Yeovil and this Bristol Street Motors Trophy tie means, of course, that Phil Parkinson will continue his approach to the tournament and heavily rotate his side. For the last two group stage matches, he made 11 changes to his starting 11 (we only made 9 alterations for the game against Newcastle United Under-21s)
Aaron Hayden's early injury might force Parkinson to reshuffle his plans, as James Jones had to play 75 minutes as his replacement, so the manager might have to alter his planned midfield trio.
Sunday's impressive victory over Yeovil Town in the FA Cup doesn't really hold any great relevance to this match, as the team selected is likely to be totally different, but it will have shaken off some of the squad's frustrated at the loss of a 2-0 lead at Harrogate in midweek..
THE OPPOSING VIEW
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup in a 1st Round replay by Port Vale, the Brewers had last Saturday off to prepare for this match, and Burton's need to get back to winning ways means manager Dino Maamria has promised not to rotate his team.
We will get some training in and hopefully get John Brayford back for Wrexham on Tuesday.
We will pick our strongest team and go and look to win the game as we did against Mansfield.
Albion's form can best be described as streaky. Their season so far can be divided into three sections, each of which has been incredibly extreme: their opening eight games returned six defeats and two draws; they then spectacularly reversed their form, winning six and drawing two; but they've only won one game since, in the Britol Street Motors Trophy, drawing two and losing six.
That burst of wins in October means The Brewers are four points clear of the relegation zone in 17th place, and their statistics reflect their peculiar form: on the worrying side with some spectacular exceptions. For example, they've failed to score in 13 of their 25 games, but put four past play-off chasers Bristol Rovers. They also scored three at Port Vale, half the six they've managed on the road. In away games they're the fourth-lowest scorers in League One, and with the fourth-worst defence too.
Albion's most recent game was an undortunate 2-0 home loss to promotion contenders Portsmouth. They gave as good as they got until a 37th minute penalty gave Pompey the lead, and a strong start to the second half was stymied when they went 2-0 down 18 minutes into the second half. Steve Seddon picked up a second yellow card, but will be available for this game as the Bristol Street Motors Trophy has a separate disciplinary system.
Maamria told his club website: “The result was very harsh on us. For 37 minutes we were well on top of the game; asked them questions and their keeper made an unbelievable save from Kwadwo Baah and then we made a bad decision and gave them a penalty.
“That changed the game and when you give a team like Portsmouth a leg up it makes life very difficult.
“Then we started the second half on the front foot, parked in their half but we couldn’t get a goal and then they scored from transition. That’s game over against these teams when you give them goals like we have tonight.
“But I can’t complain about the performance which was excellent.
“The story of tonight was that we shot ourselves in the foot twice. It was one of those nights where we fell short but not through lack of effort. We needed a goal but weren’t clinical enough in the final third. They defended their goal well, but we should have asked their keeper more questions.”
HEAD TO HEAD
Burton-on-Trent was a significant spot on the football map in the early days of the game, and boasted two clubs in the Football League during the 1890s. Wrexham being an ancient club, we encountered some of the town's clubs around the turn of the 20th Century, facing Burton Swifts in the Combination League and Burton All Saints in the FA Cup. However, our history against Albion is limited to a cup tie in the 1970s and one season in the National League.
Our first clash was the start of one of the most memorable cup runs in our history. The remarkable run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the 1977-78 season began in the first round at home to Albion, who were then in the Southern League Division One, three divisions below us. We were top of the Third Division, and the Sports Argus was remarkably dismissive of Albion's chances, suggesting "against such formidable opposition, the best they can hope for is a big crowd to boost their share of the cash receipts." Burton were not to be under-estimated, and put up a real fight, but Graham Whittle won a penalty which Bobby Shinton converted in the 33rd minute, and the scoring was completed four minutes after the break when Dixie McNeil headed Mel Sutton's cross home to begin his remarkable streak, scoring in each round of the competition.
Albion keeper Barry Alcock pulled off a string of fine saves, and his team earned the praise of assistant manager Sutton, who told the Sunday Mercury, "They made it very tough going for us. We were not allowed to play our usual game and we were very glad to win at the end."
Our subsequent clashes with The Brewers came in the 2008-09 season, our first in the National League. In September The Brewers came to the Stok Cae Ras and won 1-0 through a goal by future Red Dragon Shaun Harrad. The return match was a pivotal, high stakes affair as Albion led the table but Wrexham were still in with an outside shot of challenging for the title if we were able to take advantage of our games in hand. The Brewers held a towering 19-point lead over second placed Histon, but Wrexham were on a three-game winning streak and if we could snatch victory at the Pirelli Stadium and win our three extra matches, we'd close the gap to seven points with 14 games left to play.
Optimism was further boosted by the eye-catching arrival of Andrew Crofts, who was in the Wales squad, on loan. He made his debut at Burton, and spirits were lifted further when Jeff Louis spectacularly opened the scoring with his 14th goal of the season half way through the first half. However, a sharp finish by Martin Butler, making his debut as a half time substitute in the 57th minute levelled the match, and Lee Morris hit the winner with 11 minutes left before being sent off for a wild challenge on Ashley Westwood. Albion would go on to win the league, while Wrexham fell away spectacularly, winning just one of our next 12 games. The Burton loss would be the first of 11 defeats in our last 20 games as we collapsed to finish in 10th place.