THE LONG READ | DOES A GOOD START MATTER?

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 09 Oct 2020

Our defeat at Solihull on Tuesday maintained a peculiar pattern. We’ve never won both of our first two matches in the National League. In fact, we’ve not managed that feat since 2004, when a home win over Swindon Town was followed up by a 3-2 victory over Oldham, made possible by a Hector Sam hat trick.

Perhaps the first thing I should point out is that although we’ve never taken full points from the first week of a National League season, that certainly doesn’t mean we’ve never got off to a good start in this division. Indeed, we enjoyed our best start in modern times in the last decade.

Wrexham's points total after 2 games in the National League.

In 2011 we drew our first match rather unfortunately, conceding a deflected injury time equalizer at home to Cambridge. It’s fair to say we responded well: we won our next seven games, seamlessly dealing with the loss of manager Dean Saunders, with his successor Andy Morrell going on to set a number of managerial club records.

The strange thing is that our opening day record in the National League is superb. We started as we meant to go on, by battering title favourites Stevenage Borough 5-0 in 2008, and have managed to kick off 8 of our 12 fifth tier campaigns with a win.

There have only been 2 occasions where we’ve lost the first match of a National League season: in August 2015 when, despite taking an early lead through Wes York, we lost 3-1 to Bromley, and two years later when a deflected goal allowed eventual champions Macclesfield to escape from The Racecourse with a 1-0 win.

The second match often seems to be the problem, as it was this season. This is the 7th campaign out of 13 in the National League in which we began with a win, but then lost our next game.

Wrexham's record over the first two games of the season in the National League.

The difference between our record in the opening match of a National League season and how we fare in the following midweek fixture is striking. Admittedly, the fact that we've started 10 out of 13 seasos with a home game has helped us to get off to a good start, but it doesn't explain why we so consistently fail to put two wins together.

The good news is that you don’t need to get off to a flying start to succeed. Indeed, we’ve tended to start our promotion campaigns slowly.

In 2002-3 we had 4 points after 2 games, but a couple of defeats, including a 5-2 battering at home to Rochdale, left us on just 8 points after 6 games.

Brian Flynn’s promotion side got off to an even slower start in 1992. The opening league match of the season saw us beat Rochdale, but we lost the next two, conceding 4 on both occasions, and after 8 games we had just 2 wins and 9 points to our name.

It’s not as if we then hit a turning point. After 16 games we had 5 wins and 21 points – hardly scintillating stuff!

The famous 1977-8 season saw us get off to an awful start! By the end of it we’d claimed promotion to the second tier of the pyramid for the first time, won the Third Division championship and the Welsh Cup, and reached the last 8 of both the FA and League Cups.

Yet you wouldn’t have though so at the start of the season: after 4 league games we were still waiting for a win, having lost our first match to Shrewsbury and drawn the next three.

By mid-September things had hardly improved: we’d managed 1 win in our first 7 games, losing 3. However we then set off on a 13-match unbeaten run which contained 10 wins.

Our first promotion, in 1969, saw us get off to a stuttering start, with 2 wins and 2 defeats in our first 5 games.

So our failure to get off to a perfect start shouldn't matter. If anything, our history tells us that erly perfection is over-rated!

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