BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES | Wrexham AFC In The FA Cup First Round

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 09 Nov 2018

Wrexham and the FA Cup: with the Dragons set for a trip to Weston-super-Mare this weekend, the competition immediately evokes memories of famous giant killings, of Mickey Thomas and of that run to the quarter-finals in 1996/97.

Despite that, this is actually the first time Wrexham have been in the first round ‘proper’ in four seasons – the last time having been the victory against Woking at the Racecourse in 2014.

Nevertheless, victory at Weston-super-Mare would be Wrexham’s 50th in the first round of the FA Cup, compared to exiting the competition at this stage on 34 previous occasions.

And we have delved into the archives to pick out a win to remember and a defeat to forget at this stage of the FA Cup from the club’s recent history.

Best of times: Hayes 0-4 Wrexham (13/11/2004)

Denis Smith

November 2004 was a month to forget in the storied history of Wrexham AFC, and under different circumstances this could have been the last match the club played – with mounting debts, the club faced a winding up order at the High Court just days later.

A mock coffin was carried by fans to the game, mourning the club’s ‘murder by property developers’, and this was all against the backdrop of poor performances on the pitch in League One too.

Add to that, the fact Wrexham had not won an FA Cup first-round match since the last of Brian Flynn’s epic cup runs – in this instance, reaching the fourth round in 1999/2000.

Hayes were a Conference South side at the time but in red-hot form, and Wrexham looked ripe for the sort of cup upset they had become famous for inflicting themselves.

Yet the Dragons put all that aside to deliver a big performance on the pitch that, for 90 minutes at least, allowed fans to put their off-pitch worries to one side.

Hayes started brightly but – led by the excellent Darren Ferguson – Wrexham got a grip on the game and flew into a big half-time lead.

Hector Sam, just moments after being denied by an incredible Kevin Davies’ save, released Andy Holt to open the scoring on 17 minutes.

Dennis Lawrence doubled the advantage 12 minutes later, following in from close-range after heading Matt Crowell’s long ball onto the underside of the bar.

Simon Spender teed up the third, bursting forward on 37 minutes to cross for Sam to head in unmarked.

And the young wing-back assisted the final goal with eight minutes of the match remaining too, as Chris Llewellyn sealed a comprehensive 4-0 win.

It lifted the gloom temporarily, though of course Wrexham were to enter administration just days later – at least avoiding liquidation – and were ultimately relegated at the end of the season.

The campaign did include a cup final, however – the Dragons lifting the Football League Trophy at the Millennium Stadium with a 2-0 win after extra time against Southend

What they said: “Smith's side withstood an adrenalin-charged opening spell from their Conference South opponents before exerting a vice-like grip on the game” – Daily Post

Line-ups

Hayes – Davies, Collins (Goodall 73) Everitt, Yeboah, Gray, Case, Williams, Molesley, D.Warner (Scott 63), Knight (Dean 53), K.Warner.

Unused subs: Bixby, Watkins

Wrexham – Baker, Pejic, Lawrence, Roberts, Spender, Crowell (Smith 77), Ferguson, Llewellyn, Holt, Armstrong (Mark Jones 70), Sam (Ugarte 79).

Unused subs: Mackin, Michael Jones

Worst of times: Peterborough United 4-1 Wrexham (10/11/2007)

If November 2004 was a month to forget, the whole of the 2007-08 campaign should be filed in the same section – a season of lows and more lows on the pitch.

Just three days before the trip to Peterborough, just 2,805 fans – the lowest attendance in the league that season – turned up to watch a goalless draw with Wycombe.

And with Peterborough flying high in League Two, and the Dragons struggling at the other end of the table, those hoping for a cup run to lift the gloom were always likely to be left disappointed.

But the FA Cup can do funny things – the previous year, Wrexham had got as far as the third round, where they lost 3-1 to Derby County.

That game was to prove to be one of the last of Darren Ferguson’s Wrexham career, as less than a fortnight later he was handed the reigns at Peterborough United – meaning this game pitched the Dragons against their former captain too. (Incidentally, the Peterborough midfield also contained a future Wrexham captain in Dean Keates).

In the opposite dug-out was another former Wrexham captain, and now manager, but Brian Carey’s future in charge was in severe doubt given the poor league form.

If Ferguson was feeling charitable, however, neither he nor his team showed it at London Road. In fact, the only thing that could be described as charitable was Wrexham’s defending.

Just 85 seconds in, George Boyd crossed for an unmarked Craig Mackail-Smith to head in the first goal – though it appeared Boyd handballed in the build-up.

Wrexham had only themselves to blame for the striker’s second of the game on 40 minutes, however – goalkeeper Anthony Williams and captain Richard Hope colliding with each other to allow Mackail-Smith a tap-in.

Eight minutes after the break, Robbie Garrett’s wayward pass was seized upon by Boyd, who played in Mackail-Smith again, and the Posh striker did not need a second invitation to seal his hat-trick.

Wrexham did hit back – Neil Roberts racing onto a long ball and lobbing the keeper on 66 minutes to briefly spark hopes of a comeback and ignite a bright spell of possession.

But Peterborough wrapped up the win with just minutes remaining – Aaron McLean making it 4-1 in the 88th minute to cap a miserable day for Wrexham.

Carey was to be sacked just days later but that was not enough to prevent relegation out of the Football League at the end of the season.

This was therefore the last time Wrexham played in the first round of the FA Cup without having to qualify and, from Carey to Hope and Williams, there will be no Dragons looking back fondly on it.

Mackail-Smith, meanwhile, was to return to haunt Wrexham again in 2011/12 – converting the winning penalty to deny the Dragons a cup upset at Brighton. Former team-mate Keates, of course, was the man to miss for Wrexham.

What they said – “On the evidence of the 90 minutes at London Road it’s clear that too many players have abdicated their responsibilities and for that they deserve a severe kick up the backside” – Daily Post

Line-ups

Peterborough United – Tyler, Gnapka, Morgan, Westwood, Day, Whelpdale (Low 80), Hyde, Keates (Lee 83), Boyd, McLean, Mackail-Smith (Howe 83).

Unused subs – Newton, Jalal

Wrexham – A.Williams, Spender, G.Evans, Hope (Pejic 46), Valentine, Spann, Garrett, Collins (Roberts 46), Done, E.Williams (M.Williams 60), Llewellyn

Unused subs – Taylor, Proctor

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