Wrexham’s FA Cup second round tie with Newport County sees the Dragons of North Wales reignite a rivalry with the Exiles of the south.
It is the first meeting between the two sides since the 2012/13 Conference play-off final, since when Wrexham have not been back in the play-offs and Newport have stayed in the Football League.
On such fine margins does football operate, but the history of the fixture has not been all doom and gloom for Wrexham – far from it in fact.
Indeed, the play-off final was Newport’s only win against Wrexham in seven games between the two teams at Conference level – Wrexham winning three and drawing three of the regular season games over the previous three seasons.
This will be the first FA Cup meeting between the sides but the two teams played each other 20 times across ten seasons in the Football League, between 1958 and 1988. Newport had the better of the earlier years, but Wrexham won six of the final eight matches between the teams in divisions three and four.
Both being Welsh clubs, of course, there have also been meetings in the Welsh Cup and FAW Premier Cup and it is the latter we are going to revisit for our delve into archives.
Best of times: Wrexham 6-1 Newport County (08/05/2003)
It is fair to say, Wrexham made the FAW Premier Cup their own during the early years of the competition’s 11 seasons in existence.
Winners in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and runners-up in 1999, only one of the first five finals did not feature Wrexham – and they were back in the final in 2003 looking to cap what had already been a fine season.
Wrexham beat Afan Lido 4-0 in the quarter-finals, with Andy Morrell smashing a hat-trick and Shaun Holmes adding the other, while Rhyl were beaten by the same score in the last four; Paul Barrett, Dennis Lawrence, Holmes and Hector Sam sealing a place in the final.
Newport, on the other hand, had to qualify from the group stage – which they did behind TNS but ahead of Bangor City and Connah’s Quay Nomads – before beating the two other league clubs.
Swansea were beaten 3-1 in the quarter-finals, before a goalless draw with Cardiff ended with Newport winning 4-2 on penalties to reach the final for the first time.
There they targeted a third giant-killing, but Wrexham quickly nipped that in the bud with a dominant display at the Racecourse.
With a £100,000 prize up for grabs and 14 of the promotion-winning squad out of contract in the summer, there was financial incentive as well as national pride on the line.
Lawrence headed Wrexham in front in the first minute, from Scott Green’s corner, and the hosts never looked back in front of a Racecourse crowd of 4,014.
Morrell then doubled the lead on 12 minutes, with the County defenders clearly not heeding the warning of the record-breaking goalscorer’s feats already that season.
With the defence backing off the Dragons marksman, Morrell drove forward and delicately chipped Wesson from the edge of the box for his 39th goal of a stunning campaign – and 19th in the competition’s history.
Carlos Edwards then raced through the County defence on 21 minutes and pulled back for Jim Whitley – who had started the lightning-fast counter-attack – to make it 3-0 on 21 minutes and there was more to come too.
Lee Trundle ensured Wrexham went in front with a four-goal lead, skilfully beating his marker before slotting a low finish into the bottom corner.
After the excitement of the first-half, the second was tame by comparison but Shaun Pejic headed in Green’s cross on 68 minutes before Trundle doubled his tally with a clever turn and shot in the 72nd minute.
Garry Shephard’s lobbed finish on 76 minutes gave non-league Newport a consolation goal, but it was Wrexham who lifted the trophy for the fourth time in six years as 6-1 winners.
What they said: “Wrexham were excellent – I’ve got no complaints.” (Peter Nicholas, Newport manager)
Wrexham: Whitfield, Pejic, Lawrence, Carey, P.Edwards (Holmes), C.Edwards, Barrett (Thomas), Green (Jones), Whitley, Trundle, Morrell.
Subs- Rogers, Morgan
Newport County: Wesson, Collins, Benton, Thomas, Perry, Eckhardt, Rose, Fowler, Davies, Shephard, Davies
Subs- Stone, Plant, Rogers, Stevenson, Dickeson
Worst of times: Wrexham 0-2 Newport County (05/05/2013)
Wrexham were back at Wembley for the second time in the 2012-13 season having reached the play-off final for the first time.
They had emerged victorious under the arch six weeks earlier in the FA Trophy final, which was won on penalties against Grimsby, and reached the play-off final after a 5-2 aggregate win against Kidderminster Harriers.
Newport, meanwhile, who had finished above Wrexham in the league table but had not beaten the Dragons in six previous matches at Conference level, had beaten Grimsby 2-0 over two legs.
With so much at stake, the all-Welsh play-off final started cautiously before Brett Ormerod missed the target with a couple of chances on 15 and 21 minutes.
In front of a Wembley crowd of 16,346, Wrexham were without injured top scorer Danny Wright – who had also missed the semi-finals – and failed to take their chances.
Newport’s in-form Christian Jolley curled narrowly over on the stroke of half-time and the Exiles improved after the break.
But Wrexham should have been in front just before the hour mark when Andy Morrell’s shot was parried to the feet of Ormerod six yards out – who somehow contrived to shoot over.
That was to be Wrexham’s chance, with Ormerod unable to replicate his play-off heroics from his Blackpool days, and the Dragons paid the ultimate price.
A superb Martin Riley block had earlier denied Jolley a certain goal but on 86 minutes the Newport man made no mistake – pouncing on Dave Artell’s misdirected header to lift the ball over Chris Maxwell and in.
Wrexham piled everyone forward in response, but the Exiles broke in the fourth minute of stoppage time and Aaron O’Connor – after his initial effort was saved – sealed promotion for Newport.
The Dragons have not been back in the play-offs since, while Newport have managed to remain a Football League club ever since, leaving Wrexham fans pondering ‘what if?’.
What they said: “Wrexham will consider themselves unlucky to lose this all-Welsh encounter […] but only have themselves to blame.” (BBC Sport)
Wrexham: Maxwell, Wright, Artell, Riley, Ashton, Harris (Adebola 89), Keates (Little 80), Clarke, Hunt, Ormerod, Morrell (Cieslewicz 69).
Unused subs: Westwood, Coughlin
Newport County: Pidgeley, James, Yakubu, Anthony, Pipe, Minshull, Gilbey, Flynn (Donnelly 74), Sandell, Jolley, Crow (O’Connor 63).
Unused subs: Julian, Hughes, Willmott