BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES | Wrexham AFC vs Leyton Orient

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 23 Nov 2018

Wrexham welcome Leyton Orient to the Racecourse for what could be a memorable game between the two high-flying sides in the Vanarama National League.

The third-placed Dragons were replaced at the top of the table by Orient ahead of this fixture, in which Wrexham will be defending an unbeaten home record and Orient their unbeaten away start.

It is a fixture in which both teams have a fairly even record throughout the years too, with 11 wins apiece and ten draws prior to the Dragons’ relegation from the Football League in 2008.

Since Orient joined Wrexham in the fifth tier last season, they have edged ahead overall after a 2-2 draw at the Racecourse and a 1-0 home win at the Matchroom Stadium.

We’ve delved a little deeper into the archives to pick out two classic games between the two, however – a party atmosphere for the travelling fans in 2003 and a controversial home defeat three years later.

 

Best of times: Leyton Orient 0-1 Wrexham (29/04/2003)

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Promotion was already in the bag when Wrexham travelled to Leyton Orient in April 2003, sealed in style with 11 goals across the previous two home games.

Momentum is everything in football, however, and the Dragons ensured the winning feeling continued in this mid-week kick-off despite the celebrations of the previous weekend.

Going into the match on the back of a six-match unbeaten run, Denis Smith made just two changes from the side which thrashed Cambridge 5-0 at the Racecourse the previous weekend – and both paid off.

Kristian Rogers started in goal in place of Andy Dibble, while Lee Trundle returned up front in place of Lee Jones.

It was Trundle who won the penalty from which Wrexham grabbed the only goal of the game on 23 minutes, breaking into the penalty area only to be brought down by Justin Miller.

The Orient defender received his marching orders for the professional foul and Trundle’s strike partner, Andy Morrell, did the rest – converting his 34th goal of the season from the spot.

The goal was significant from a statistical point of view too, drawing level with Alan Shearer’s best Premier League and ensuring no striker had scored more than Morrell in England’s top four divisions since 1994.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Orient then laid siege to the Wrexham goal but Rogers came to the rescue wit ha point-blank save to deny Chris Tate before the hosts saw an 82nd-minute strike ruled out for offside.

Wrexham went on to win their final game of the season too, finishing the campaign with eight straight wins, but it was to prove Morrell’s final goal of his first spell with the club – he moved to Coventry on a free in the summer.

What they said – “Wrexham showed no hangover from the celebrations of securing promotion.” (BBC Sport)

Line-ups

Leyton Orient – Morris, Joseph, Turner, Billy Jones, Lockwood, Purser, Toner (Taylor-Fletcher 63), Harris, Miller, Tate (Thorpe 72), Alexander (Forbes 76).

Subs – Harrison, Stephens

Wrexham – Rogers, Roberts, Carey (Morgan 52), Lawrence, Whitley, Paul Edwards, Barrett (Thomas 82), Ferguson, Carlos Edwards, Morrell, Trundle (Jones 68).

Unused subs – Holmes, Whitfield

 

Worst of times: Wrexham 1-2 Leyton Orient (21/01/2006)

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An expectant Racecourse crowd of 5,031 – the highest of the season at the time, other than a Boxing Day win against Rochdale – turned up to watch this January fixture against Leyton Orient.

Instead, they were made to suffer through two controversial goals and a missed Wrexham penalty before a consolation strike proved too little, too late for the Dragons.

With Denis Smith absent due to a hip replacement, Brian Carey and Kevin Russell were in the dug-out for the Dragons.

But just four minutes in, Justin Miller – sent off in the aforementioned game in 2003 – slipped in Gary Alexander and, while the Wrexham defence waited for an offside flag that never arrived, he slotted home.

Jolted by the early, controversial goal, Wrexham took some time to settle and Leton Orient could have doubled the lead but for a goal-saving tackle by Danny Williams to deny Shane Tudor.

Michael Ingham then produced a one-handed save to deny Alexander at the end of a flowing away move, but the second goal did arrive before half-time – but again not without controversy.

This time it was referee Jon Moss who earned the ire of the Racecourse faithful – punishing Simon Spender for a handball that even visiting boss Martin Ling later called dubious.

Moss had already attracted fury from Denis Smith for his performance in Wrexham’s defeat to Carlisle the previous month too.

Matt Lockwood beat Ingham from the spot and Orient took a two-goal lead into the break.

Wrexham improved after the interval, and Mark Jones and Jon Walters both missed good chances in the second-half – goalkeeper Glyn Garner at his best to stop the latter’s header on the hour.

The pressure looked to have paid off on 80 minutes, when Alexander fouled Williams in the area, but regular penalty taker Danny Williams – suffering a knock – passed up responsibility to take it.

Eventually, Dean Bennett strode up but his weak penalty was easily held by Garner down to his left.

That sucked the life out of the Dragons, though Bennett did pull a scrappy goal back on 89 minutes – prodding in from close-range after Jones and Marc Williams were denied in a goalmouth scramble.

It was too little, too late however – Wrexham paying the price for the controversial decisions and their own profligacy in front of goal.

What they said – “Wrexham missed a penalty and squandered several other decent opportunities which, if taken, would have rendered the referee's performance incidental.” (Daily Post)

Line-ups

Wrexham – Ingham, Pejic, Danny Williams, Mike Williams (Smith 87), Spender (Bennett 62), Whitley, Ferguson, Mark Jones, Holt, Walters, Marc Williams

Subs: Michael Jones, Bayliss, Crowell

Leyton Orient – Garner, Miller, Zakuani (Saah 46), Mackie, Lockwood, Tudor, Simpson, McMahon, Keith, Alexander, Ibehre (Steele 90).

Subs: Barnard, Morris, Duncan

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