BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES | Wrexham AFC vs Hartlepool United

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 22 Mar 2019

Wrexham travel to the North East to face Hartlepool United on Saturday to face the Pools for the fourth time in the National League but the 107th time in all.

Since the first meeting in August 1921, up to Wrexham’s relegation in 2008, the two teams were regular opponents in the Football League.

Wrexham won 47 times in that period, drew 17 games and lost 39. Since Hartlepool’s relegation in 2017, meanwhile, Wrexham have won two and drawn one without conceding a goal.

In that rich history of fixtures between the two teams, however, it is two from the same season in fairly recent memory that perfectly sum up the ups and downs of supporting Wrexham AFC.

So, for this week’s Best of Times, Worst of Times, we’re taking a trip back to the 2004/05 season…

Best of times: Hartlepool 4-6 Wrexham (04/03/2005)

Juan Ugarte’s purple patch of goalscoring form during the latter half of the 2004/05 campaign lit up what could otherwise have been a nadir in Wrexham AFC’s history.

Perhaps no performance best summed that up than the one he delivered at Victoria Park in early March, however.

Wrexham went into the match having not won a league match since he hit all four in a 4-2 win at Chesterfield – drawing three and losing one of the four since.

He had, however, hit a hat-trick in a 5-3 win at Oldham that put Wrexham firmly in control of their LDV Vans Trophy Northern Final tie – the second leg was to be played three days after the trip to Teesside.

It would have been understandable had Wrexham been distracted by that forthcoming game but the ten-goal thriller that ensued at Victoria Park suggests otherwise.

That said, the match could not have started any worse for Denis Smith’s Dragons – Gavin Strachan curling a low free-kick in from the edge of the area, after a Steve Roberts foul, inside the fourth minute.

Ugarte hit back just seven minutes later, however – Micky Nelson’s poor defensive header allowing Chris Llewellyn to feed the Basque striker, who lobbed Dimitri Konstantopoulos.

There was an element of fortune involved when Ugarte then fired Wrexham in front in the 21st minute – initially miskicking in the area when Roberts headed Darren Ferguson’s free-kick inside, but recovering to prod in.

In what was to prove a topsy-turvy match, however, Hartlepool were level again on 31 minutes – Joel Porter racing onto Ritchie Humphreys’ flick and beating Ben Foster.

Wrexham – and Ugarte – had a third just four minutes later though – after Eifion Williams was ruled to have pushed Llewellyn, as he tried to head in the Basque striker’s cross.

Ugarte stepped up and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot for his third Wrexham hat-trick and a 3-2 half-time lead.

Hartlepool levelled just after the hour-mark, however – Matty Robson dancing through a static Wrexham defence and teeing up Adam Boyd to fire in.

Porter thought he had given Hartlepool the lead only to be denied by the offside flag, and instead Ugarte turned well on the edge of the area and rifled Wrexham’s fourth into the bottom corner on 68 minutes.

Hartlepool pushed hard for a leveller – Ben Foster saving well from a long-range free-kick – but the Pools made it 4-4 on 84 minutes when Wrexham failed to clear their lines.

Foster and Dennis Lawrence both got blocks in as Strachan’s cross caused chaos in the middle, but Porter eventually found the back of the net.

Parity lasted just two minutes, however – a fast-paced counter-attack releasing Llewellyn, who squared for Mark Jones to poke in and restore Wrexham’s lead.

And this time there was no way back for Pools, despite Llewellyn missing a sitter from a similar counter-attack – Ugarte this time turning provider.

After the Welsh winger somehow shot wide from close-range, Hartlepool took the goal-kick short, squandered possession and Llewellyn crossed for Ugarte to tap in on 89 minutes.

It meant Ugarte joined Tommy Bamford and Lee Jones as the third Wrexham player to hit five in a match – and the first away from the Racecourse.

Victory against Oldham followed to book a Millennium Stadium trip, where Ugarte scored in the LDV Vans Trophy Final win against Southend. There was also time for the Basque striker to score one more hat-trick – his fourth of the season – against Stockport too.

Ultimately, it was not enough to save Wrexham from relegation – the ten-point penalty applied earlier in the season for going into administration ultimately the difference between relegation and safety.

But Ugarte’s performances in a Wrexham shirt – and this one at Hartlepool in particular – are never to be forgotten.

What they said:
“Spanish matador Juan Ugarte gave one El of a performance to blast Wrexham to victory over promotion-chasing Hartlepool.” – Wales Online

Line-ups

Hartlepool – Konstantopoulos, Barron (Daly 82), Clark (Robson 46), Nelson, Brackstone, Williams, Strachan, Sweeney, Humphreys, Boyd, Porter.

Unused subs: Provett, Appleby, Istead.

Wrexham – Foster, Edwards, Lawrence, Roberts, Pejic, Holt, Crowell, Ferguson, Mark Jones (Green 86), Ugarte, Llewellyn (Sam 90).

Unused subs: Spender, Done, Harrison.

 

Worst of times: Wrexham 1-5 Hartlepool (18/12/2004)

On the topic of that ten-point deduction, the wounds were still very raw when Hartlepool had travelled from North East England to North East Wales earlier in the season.

The match against Pools was only their third in the league since the club were placed into administration – a 2-1 home win against Stockport having been followed by a 3-0 away defeat to MK Dons.

Hartlepool arrived at the Racecourse a week before Christmas, but there was to be no festive cheer for the Wrexham fans in among the 3,582 watching as the promotion-chasing Pools ran riot.

On the back of that defeat to MK Dons, Wrexham had Darren Ferguson and Jim Whitley back in the line-up, but Scott Green suffered a late setback and missed out.

Just a second start of the season for Craig Morgan at the back, meanwhile, turned into a nightmare for the Wales under-21 international.

He was culpable for the opening Hartlepool goal after just eight minutes – letting Adam Boyd escape him in the corner to cross for Ritchie Humphreys to open the scoring on eight minutes.

Morgan then slipped as Anthony Sweeney sliced through the Dragons’ defence and beat Andy Dibble to double the lead ten minutes later.

Juan Ugarte pulled one back – his first league goal for Wrexham – hooking in from close range when Morgan headed back across the middle.

Morgan was caught in possession for the third goal, however, as another Pools counter-attack ended with Boyd sliding Porter in to make it 3-1 on 35 minutes.

Whitley’s slip then allowed Pools to add a fourth just two minutes later – Humphreys running past the stricken Wrexham full-back and teeing up Boyd.

The second-half was less traumatic, with Hector Sam growing into the game and Wrexham creating more chances – but the Dragons still failed to take advantage of their domination of possession.

And Hartelpool put the seal on their win in the 72nd-minute – Eifion Williams getting the better of Morgan again, before laying it off for the onrushing Sweeney to slam home the fifth.

The result left Wrexham 23rd in the league table and facing up to the probability that, for all of Denis Smith’s insistence to the contrary, the Dragons were facing relegation to the fourth tier.

What they said: “Christmas came early for Hartlepool United on Saturday as they were gifted a sackful of goals at the Racecourse and repaid Wrexham's generosity by inflicting the worst home defeat of Denis Smith's three-year reign.” (Daily Post)

Line-ups

Wrexham – Dibble, Roberts, Morgan, Lawrence, Whitley (Spender 77), Mackin, Ferguson (Mark Jones 77), Llewellyn, Holt, Sam, Ugarte (Armstrong 67).

Unused subs: Smith, Michael Jones.

Hartlepool – Konstantopoulos, Ross, Westwood, Nelson, Robertson, Williams (Istead 90), Sweeney, Tinkler, Humphreys, Boyd (Strachan 89), Porter (Appleby 58).

Unused subs: Brackstone, Provett.

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