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Match Previews

PREVIEW | Wrexham AFC vs Stockport County

Party time at both ends of the SToK Cae Ras.

26 April 2024

Match Previews

PREVIEW | Wrexham AFC vs Stockport County

Party time at both ends of the SToK Cae Ras.

26 April 2024

When Stockport pipped Wrexham to the National League title two seasons ago, despite two superb wins for Phil Parkinson's side at the SToK Cae Ras as the campaign drew to a dramatic conclusion, an ancient rivalry was given extra spice. Notts County might have taken the role of bête noire last season, but it's County who are proving to be more persistent opponents. The story will continue next season, as County are going up as champions, and we'll accompany them into League One.


It's time to bring the curtain down on another historic season. Back-to-back promotions have been secured for the first time in our history, and we're back in the third tier of the EFL. Hats off once again to a remarkable squad, coaching staff, backroom team and owners.

Wrexham produced a supremely assured performance at Crewe last weekend, fulfilling Phil Parkinson's promise to respect the integrity of the league. There are no such issues at play on Saturday, but that doesn't mean we'll approach the game half-heartedly.

We can still finish second in the league if we get a better result than Mansfield, who travel to a Barrow side which needs a result to hold onto their play-off place after a spectacular end-of-season collapse. 


Luke Bolton confirmed to the Leader that the team will be looking to finish the season with a bang:

"I think both teams will be very happy that there is nothing on the game, if you like, and we have both secured promotion before the final game. It will still be a very competitive game because they are champions and we are third going into the game.

We want to win every game that we play. Okay, we are promoted but it doesn't mean that we down tools now. That's not the group we are and that's not the staff that we have either. We prepare for every game professionally, even now after getting promoted, and can't wait for the weekend.

-Luke Bolton

"There will be a party atmosphere, we'll have the fans behind us and we can really enjoy it. We have won four games on the bounce and got ourselves promoted.

"It's the final game against the champions. Earlier in the season we lost at their place so I think we owe them one."



County already had promotion wrapped up a fortnight ago, following a 2-0 win over Morecambe, and 4 days later they secured the title in emphatic style, winning 5-2 at Notts County. Last Saturday's home win over Accrington was the prelude to the trophy presentation as the club celebrated its remarkable rise from the National League North.

Manager Dave Challinor was full of pride as he celebrated, as he told the Manchester Evening News: "It's a special night. It's just desserts for all the work everyone has put in to get us to this point."

"I am very fortunate to have been in this situation before where I have won a title before the last game of the season and you can prepare to go out on to the pitch and pick it up in front of your home supporters.

"It's not just a group of 30-plus players, it's not just the manager: the scouting team, recruitment department, there is all sorts going on away from that - everyone plays their part.

"Saturday will be a huge celebration for everyone and we can enjoy the game without any kind of jeopardy."

Owner Mark Stott has set a target of rising to the Championship by 2027, and Challinor certainly sees it as an achievable ambition.

"You look at what you have to do to get yourself to the Championship. Of course you want to do it as quickly as possible. Do we have the infrastructure in place? Absolutely. Do we have the backing? Absolutely - in a sensible way.

"We'll do everything we can. I have finished in the play-offs every season I have managed, apart from the Covid year, so I don't want to stop that run next year.

"Is it a tough challenge? Of course, but we have given ourselves every opportunity to make sure that comes to fruition. This is why we do it.”

They will certainly carry momentum into Saturday's game, as they have earned the title by keeping their nerve while their rivals wobbled. They got their rough patch out of the way early, when heavy losses to Tranmere and Crewe in mid-February sparked a run of 1 win in 7. A 5-0 thrashing of Milton Keynes broke the pattern and began a very different run of form: that was the first of 8 consecutive wins which propelled them to the title. They have won more games than anyone else in League Two, have the joint-best defence and are top scorers with an impressive 95 goals.

Twenty of those goals have come from Isaac Oloafe, who has made a terrific impact since arriving from Millwall midway through last season.

"It was the first time I moved away from home by myself officially," he told the Daily Mirror, "that first month of living up north was a bit different, adjusting to living by myself and getting familiar with my team-mates, but I've settled in quite well.

"I literally say all the time that I feel like Manchester is almost like a smaller version of London. Everything's just closer together: the restaurants, the shops, the nightlife. It's a great place to live."

He ended last season frustrated, though, after a penalty shoot-out loss in the play-off final. Once he recovered from the disappointment he used it to drive him to new heights this season.

"I kept replaying things in my head. I got away pretty quickly after that game to be fair, but I kept thinking, 'What if we'd done this or that?' If we'd have held on for just another 10 minutes then we would have won the game.

"That pain has definitely helped fuel me this year, though. I've stayed hungry and thankfully the goals have flowed nicely since I scored a hat-trick at Wrexham. I haven't gone more than like four or five games without scoring a goal since then."

To come so close last season and then not quite get there has driven us all on. To go a whole season, the whole 10 months, and to be consistently the best team in the league is the best feeling. It's what we deserve.

-Isaac Oloafe

"With my goals this season, I've been getting into better goal-scoring areas."

"Things have been falling for me in the right place at the right time. As a striker, it's not easy to always score them tap-ins because if you're one yard or two yards to the left then the ball's not falling for you. Scoring the easy goals is probably the hardest thing to do as a striker.

"Our only objective this season, after coming so close last year, was to go up as champions. It's a huge achievement and to personally score this many goals and the fact it's coincided with the team being so consistent has been perfect. It tops everything."



Naturally, when considering a home game against Stockport our thoughts turn to that remarkable double-header at the end of the 2021-22 season

With County top of the league and Wrexham in hot pursuit, we were drawn together in the semi-final of the FA Trophy, with a vital league clash to follow 5 weeks later. A win for the visitors would have been a third in a row at the SToK Cae Ras, equalling their best run of victories in Wrexham.

However, a tight match saw Wrexham’s grip increase as the second half wore on, and two sensational injury time goals by Paul Mullin propelled us to Wembley.

We improved on that result when the league game came around. Three goals in 13 minutes either side of half time, with Mullin grabbing another and Ollie Palmer scoring 2, were enough to seal a 3-0 win, although ultimately it was Stockport who claimed the title.

The Hatters had equalled their best margin of victory at The SToK Cae Ras the previous April with a spectacular 3-0 win which was particularly unusual because all the goals were scored by ex-Wrexham players: Alex Reid got two and John Rooney scored the other from the spot.

The previous season they also won at The Racecourse, taking a 2-0 lead into the break which Wrexham couldn’t make inroads into until it was too late, with Leighton McIntosh coming off the bench to score his only league goal for us from a tight angle.

Our EFL record against them needs to improve, as we suffered at their hands on the way down to the National League. We lost our last five games against them in League Two between April 2006 and December 2007, including back to back 1-0 home losses.

The Hatters are one of our most regular opponents, having met us 126 times stretching back to 1891. We have the upper hand at home, with 34 wins against 20 losses. However, overall they have a clear advantage, having won 11 more games than we have.

We achieved our biggest win over Stockport quite recently. Having drawn an FA Trophy match at Edgeley Park in January 2015, we filled our boots in the replay.

Wes York got two, including a superb curler from outside the box, Louis Moult also got a couple to add to the overhead kick which had earned the replay, and Andy Bishop and Steve Tomassen rounded off the scoring in a 6-1 win.

Before that, our biggest win over The Hatters came in chilly conditions in February 1979. An FA Cup third round tie had been postponed nine times as a particularly cold winter took a grip of The SToK Cae Ras, but the referee sprung a surprise when he gave the game the go ahead, possibly because he didn’t fancy making the long snowy drive to and from his home in Darwen again!

Despite there being a couple of inches of snow on the pitch, we were sure-footed enough to take an early lead when Wayne Cegielski headed in a corner. Despite playing two divisions below us, Stockport struck back to take the lead early in the second half, one of the goals coming from ex-Wrexham striker Stuart Lee, who hardly endeared himself to his old fans with his celebration!

However, a late blizzard of goals saw us through to a tie against Spurs. Dixie McNeil maintained his remarkable FA Cup scoring record with two goals and John Lyons, Bobby Shinton and Les Cartwright also hit the net in a 6-2 win.

Joe Clarke, Danny Wright and Rob Ogleby scored in a 3-1 win in February 2013 which completed our most recent league double against Stockport, following our tempestuous 3-2 win at Edgeley Park the previous October which saw Neil Ashton score two penalties and then get sent off. It was our fifth double over them, which means we trail far behind them: they’ve done the double over us 11 times.

The season before we walloped Dietmar Hamann’s side 4-0. Nat Knight-Percival gave us an early lead which Andy Morrell doubled within the opening twenty-five minutes. Knight-Percival then celebrated his fiftieth Wrexham appearance with a second before substitute Jake Speight completed the scoring.

Oddly, no Wrexham player has scored a hat trick at The Racecourse against Stockport, despite the fact they first visited us in September 1891 for a Combination League match, yet three of our players have achieved the feat at Edgeley Park! Benjamin Lewis, Keith Webber and Juan Ugarte all hit three past County in away wins which were spread over one hundred and thirteen years.

Lewis managed five goals in total against County, but isn’t our top scorer against them, as 1980s target man Jim Steel put six past them. Four of those goals came at The Racecourse, although there wasn’t much of a home advantage in those days: the six lowest crowds Stockport have attracted to The Racecourse were all recorded in that decade, all under two thousand!

Keith Webber, Tom Tilston, Steve Watkin and Andy Morrell are one goal behind Lewis.

Incidentally, that initial match back in 1891 ended in a 3-1 home win and set a pattern in the early days of this fixture. It took Stockport twelve matches and forty two years before they managed to come away from North Wales with a win, and they played another eight games over a further seventeen years before they won at The Racecourse again!

However, their record at Wrexham has been significantly better since then. In fact they’ve won almost half their games here since then, a percentage which improves when you take cup matches out of the equation.

Our most recent EFL win over Stockport was a 3-0 win in 2005. Mark Jones scored twice, whereas the other goal came from Jon Walters, who left for Chester at the end of that season but would soon be impressing in the Premier League for Stoke and on the international stage for Ireland.

By contrast, our worst result against The Hatters at The SToK Cae Ras came back in March 1955 when an Arthur Rowley goal was a mere consolation in a 4-1 defeat.


AFC Wimbledon v Walsall

Accrington Stanley v Tranmere Rovers

Barrow v Mansfield Town

Bradford City v Newport County

Colchester United v Crewe Alexandra

Crawley Town v Grimsby Town

Forest Green Rovers  v Notts County

Gillingham v Doncaster Rovers

Milton Keynes Dons v Sutton United

Salford City v Harrogate Town

Swindon Town v Morecambe

The automatic promotion spots might have been decided, but there's all to play for from 5th place down as a final day scrap for the play-off spots looms.

Only Milton Keynes are assured of a play-off place, with the 6 teams below them vying for the 3 remaining post-season slots. Remarkable, those 6 sides have all been kept apart for the final round of fixtures, so they'll have to focus on their own business and see how matters unfold elsewhere.

That contest overlaps with the fight for survival as bedraggled Crewe, fresh from our dominant performance in their last home game of the season and in horrible form, travel to Colchester, who need a point to guarantee their place in the EFL next season. They will survive anyway if Sutton can't pull off a shock in Milton Keynes.


Sam Dalby's 175th career match.

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