BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES: Wrexham AFC vs Chesterfield

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 01 Mar 2019

Wrexham face Chesterfield for only the second time at National League level at the weekend, but this fixture is rich with history – with Saturday’s game the 115th time we have faced the Spireites.

The match at Chesterfield earlier this season, in which the Spireites snatched a late point when Jonathan Smith cancelled out Brad Walker’s penalty, was the 26th draw between the two teams.

Chesterfield have won 51 of the other 88, with Wrexham recording their most recent victory back at Saltergate in 2005.

We have revisited that day – when a certain Basque forward lit up a cold January afternoon – for our best of times.

We have also delved a little deeper into the archives for our game to forget – sorry, but we could not avoid it…

Best of times: Chesterfield 2-4 Wrexham (22/01/2005)

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The winter of 2004/05 was not a good time to be a Wrexham AFC supporter; the club were struggling on and off the pitch, having been hit by a ten-point deduction for going into administration in the December.

Though they beat Chesterfield 3-1 at home in their final game of 2004 – Steve Roberts, Mark Jones and Chris Llewellyn scoring – the Dragons lost three and drew one before the two teams met again at Saltergate.

A week earlier, Denis Smith’s side had been taken apart by Tranmere Rovers in a 5-1 thrashing at the Racecourse, just 12 days after a 4-0 defeat at Hillsborough to Sheffield Wednesday.

Goals were lacking at one end, while too many were being shipped at the other and Wrexham were staring down the barrel.

It initially looked like it was going to get worse too, when Spanish goalkeeper Xavi Valero made his second goalkeeping gaffe in as many games – failing to collect Shane Nicholson’s 40th-minute free-kick to leave Ian Evatt to head into an empty net.

It was another Spanish acquisition who turned the match on its head, however. Three goals in 18 previous appearances – albeit including a winner against Chester – had hardly marked Juan Ugarte as prolific but that all changed in one afternoon.

On the stroke of half-time, Ugarte headed the Dragons level – outjumping Alex Bailey to meet Edwards’ cross with a looping header into the net.

In a lengthy period of first-half stoppage time, as a result of Chesterfield’s Mark Innes being stretchered off earlier on, he then fired Wrexham in front – beating the offside trap to race onto Craig Morgan’s headed clearance and smash in his second.

At half-time, Denis Smith made a bold reshuffle after consulting with defenders Dennis Lawrence and Steve Roberts – replacing Valero with 17-year-old debutant Michael Jones.

Injecting greater confidence into the defence, who Smith admitted had been struggling with Valero behind them, Wrexham withstood a spell of Chesterfield pressure after the restart.

Then, at the other end, Ugarte completed his hat-trick on 59 minutes – the Spaniard firing in from Edwards’ cross, after brilliant work from Chris Llewellyn to keep the ball alive in the corner.

No Wrexham player had scored more than three at Saltergate since Billy Ashcroft’s four-goal haul in 1976, but the Basque striker matched the Wrexham legend five minutes later.

Picked out by Llewellyn, Ugarte fired in to make it 4-1 to Wrexham with a nice finish from inside the area.

Chesterfield did fight back, and Shane Nicholson made it 4-2 from the penalty spot on 75 minutes after Morgan fouled Zoe Tcham N’Toya, but Wrexham stood firm to record an overdue win.

It proved a turning point for Ugarte and Wrexham; the Dragons lost just one of their next nine matches, with the Basque hotshot scoring three at Oldham in the Football League Trophy and five in a 6-4 win at Hartlepool in that time.

Ugarte would also go on to score in the Football League Trophy final at the Millennium Stadium, against Southend, and fired a hat-trick against Stockport before the season was out.

It was not enough to stave off relegation – the ten-point deduction ultimately proving the difference between a bottom-four finish and survival.

And yet, for many Wrexham fans, Ugarte’s goals and the cup-final win in Cardiff remain the stand-out memories from an otherwise difficult season.

What they said: “The 24-year-old Basque striker was inspired and the impact of his performance on Wrexham's season could be huge.” (Wales Online)

Line-ups

Chesterfield: Muggleton, Bailey, Nicholson, Evatt, O'Hare, Allott, Hudson (N'Toya 58), Innes (Davies 33), Niven, Folan, De Bolla (Allison 83).

Subs Not Used: Dawson, Richmond.

Wrexham: Valero (Michael Jones 45), Morgan, Roberts, Lawrence, Edwards, Crowell (Green 80), Williams (Whitley 80), Mark Jones, Holt, Llewellyn, Ugarte.

Subs Not Used: Smith, Pejic.

Worst of times: Chesterfield 1-0 Wrexham (09/03/1997)

Now reunited at the Racecourse, the last time manager Bryan Hughes and new assistant Brian Flynn were together at Wrexham was for the incredible cup run in the 1996/97 season.

Young attacking midfielder Hughes was Wrexham’s star player as Flynn’s side saw off Colwyn Bay and Scunthorpe after replays before his goal earned a replay against Premier League West Ham.

At Upton Park, Kevin Russell’s last-minute winner earned Wrexham a shock win, and he scored twice more to help see off Peterborough in the fourth round.

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More was to follow – Hughes, Tony Humes and Karl Connolly completing a remarkable turnaround in the fifth round against Birmingham City to set up a quarter-final at Saltergate.

Chesterfield had 8,800 packed in for the game, for which Humes and Spireites skipper Sean Dyche had posed with the FA Cup trophy beforehand.

Hughes went close early on in that game – his lofted shot cleared off the line after Peter Ward’s excellent pass.

But Chesterfield grew into the game and were denied a penalty when Andy Morris’ effort hit Humes’ hand in the area in the first-half.

The key moment arrived 13 minutes into the second-half, however – Morris hooking a long ball forward, which Deryn Brace and Chris Beaumont chased.

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Brace beckoned for Andy Marriott to come and claim him, and looked to shepherd the ball back but, with the keeper in no-man’s land, Beaumont stole in with a deft lob to open the scoring.

Beaumont then hit the post, before Marriott redeemed himself a little with two fine saves to deny Jonathan Howard – the second a gilt-edged chance with Beaumont waiting for a tap-in in the middle.

At the other end, Gareth Owen’s deflected strike dropped just wide for Flynn’s side but there was to be no way through – Spireites fans spilling onto the pitch to celebrate victory.

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It meant Chesterfield advanced to the semi-finals at Old Trafford, where they stormed into a 2-0 lead against Middlesbrough.

Howard thought he had added a third, when his rasping strike struck the underside of the bar and bounced clearly over the line, but none of the officials saw it and the match was eventually drawn 3-3. Boro won the replay 3-0, before losing in the final to Chelsea – Roberto di Matteo famously scoring after just 42 seconds.

For Wrexham, though they enjoyed cup runs in each of the next three seasons too, the quarter-finals remain the furthest they have advanced in the competition.

Hughes left Wrexham for close to one million pounds two days later, joining Birmingham - it was to be nearly 22 years before he returned to the Racecourse as manager.

What they said: “Wrexham, one rung below Chesterfield in the League, had come from behind eight times during their Cup run, but finally met opponents with even greater resilience.” (Independent)

Line-ups

Chesterfield: Mercer; Hewitt, Williams, Dyche, Jules; Perkins, Beaumont (Dunn 9), Curtis, Howard; Morris, Holland (Gaughan 81).
Substitute not used: Lund.

Wrexham: Marriott; McGregor, Carey, Humes, Brace; Chalk (Bennett 65), Hughes, Ward (Owen 72), Russell; Connolly, Watkin.
Substitute not used: Jones.

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