Wrexham vs Southport, Vanarama National League Premier, 26/12/15, Racecourse Ground
I am now firmly of the belief that there is something out there that takes great pleasure in trying to stop me from watching Bangor City play. I tried to go and see them at home in August, but ended up watching Colwyn Bay, I then went to watch them at Newtown in October, and ended up missing the first 5 minutes and then there is today. Today I wanted to go and watch MBI Llandudno play Bangor City, but fate had other plans, and due to flooding on the A55 meaning that Bangor couldn’t get to Llandudno, the game was postponed.
This postponement meant that I now had to find a replacement match, after checking Twitter for suitable games, I had a bit of a brain wave, remembering that I had read on the Southport Twitter that they had sold out of spaces on their coach to Wrexham. With conformation that the Wrexham vs Southport game would be on, I stopped looking for other matches, and settled on going to Wrexham.
I have lived in Wrexham on and off for around 5 years now (it’ll be 6 years in May), but I can count on one hand the amount of times I have set foot in the Racecourse Ground. During my time at Glyndwr University, I watched Celtic Crusaders lose 6-34 to Leeds Rhinos in Celtic Crusader’s first Rugby League match at the Racecourse Ground, then in August 2010 I watched Bangor City lose 2-1 to C.S. Maritimo in the Third Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League. After University I moved back to London, but in February 2012, I must have been visiting Wrexham as I watched Hayes & Yeading lose 4-1 to Wrexham. Following two years in London (2011-2013), I moved back to Wrexham, to where I currently live in Rhosddu. Since being back in Wrexham, before today, I have only seen one game at the Racecourse, which was a Wrexham (& Wales) Legends vs Soap Stars, which the Soap Stars won 5-4.
The reason why I have attended so few Wrexham games, despite living as close as I do (I can see the ground from my bedroom window), is simple. I’m a Shrewsbury Town fan, and whilst at university I was a season ticket holder at Shrewsbury, so most of my Saturdays were spent at the Meadow, and when I was free on a weekend, I didn’t have the money to spend. Funnily enough Wrexham AFC were one of the reasons why I chose to attend Glyndwr University, as I had first become aware of Glyndwr University (or NEWI as it was known back then) in 2006, when I had gone to watch Shrewsbury Town play Wrexham in a League Two clash in which Salop emerged 2-1 winners (9th April 2006). It had been my plan to see Shrewsbury play at Wrexham during my time at university, but Wrexham, rather selfishly, got themselves relegated in 2008, and haven’t gotten out of the Conference since. Every time the FA Cup is drawn I cross my fingers and hope for Wrexham vs Shrewsbury to emerge, but it hasn’t happened yet.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Racecourse Ground is a good ground, it’s a perfect mix of new and old, and I feel Wrexham have a ground to be proud of. The only shame being that the Kop is now out of use, as it was once the largest terrace in the league, but has since fallen into disrepair, there is talk of Glyndwr University, who now own the ground, renovating the Kop and turning it into a new build seated stand, but nothing has come of that yet. The rest of the ground compromises of three all seater stands. The youngest of which is the Mold Road Stand which was opened in 1999, this stand replaced the old Mold Road Stand which had stood disused for a number of years. Behind the goal, opposite the Kop, stands the Glyndwr University Stand, named as directly behind this stand is Glyndwr University, this stand holds the more vocal members of the Wrexham support, and used to be the away fans stand, until the club decided to allocate it to home fans in the 2007-2008 season. Finally, opposite the Mold Road Stand, is the oldest stand (still in use), the Yale Stand, named as it backs onto where Yale College used to be, this stand was built in 1972 in preparation for the club’s first foray into European football. The dugouts and changing rooms are housed in this stand, as well as the away fans who are allocated a section of the stand, towards the Glyndwr University stand.
Wrexham AFC were founded in 1864, and can lay claim to being the oldest football club in Wales, and the third oldest professional team in the world. The club was formed by members of the Wrexham Cricket Club, who wanted a sporting activity for the winter months. In 1878 Wrexham won the first Welsh Cup, as they beat the second oldest club in Wales, Druids FC, 1-0, in a game which took place in Acton Park. Wrexham played their home games at Rhosddu Recreation Ground between 1881-1883 following a dispute with the landlords of the Racecourse Ground, who had raised their annual rent to £10. The club moved back to the Racecourse in 1883, and have been there ever since. In 1890 the club joined the Combination League, but only played four seasons in the Combination League before they joined the Welsh League, Wrexham won the Welsh League both years they were in it, but they soon moved back to the Combination League where they remained until 1905, they won the Combination League four times, before being elected to the Birmingham and District League for the 1905-1906 season. In 1921 the club joined the newly formed Third Division North of the Football League. In 1972 Wrexham played their first match in Europe as they won 3-2 on aggregate over FC Zurich, the club had qualified for the European Cup Winner’s Cup through the Welsh Cup, they were knocked out of the Second Round by Hajduk Split. Wrexham went on to have a number of famous victories in Europe, including wins over Djurgardens, Stal Rzeszow and Porto. In 1992 Wrexham were struggling in the league, and in a poor financial state, but the FA Cup produced a magical result as they beat the previous season’s First Division champions Arsenal, 2-1.
The 2000s weren’t kind to Wrexham, and even as a rival fan, I am glad that the club pulled through this troubling period. At the start of the 21st century Wrexham chairman Alex Hamilton attempted to get the club evicted from the Racecourse so that he could sell it for his own development purposes, the saga involved the sale of the Racecourse to a separate company owned by Hamilton. In 2004 he gave the club a year’s notice to quit the ground. In the same year, in December 2004 the club were placed in financial administration with debts of £2,600,000. Wrexham became the first club to suffer a ten point deduction under the new role for being placed in administration, which subsequently condemned Wrexham to relegation down to League Two. In October 2005, Birmingham High Court ruled that Hamilton’s company CrucialMove had improperly acquired the freehold of the ground, and following an appeal, it was ruled in March 2006 that the stadium must remain in the hands of the club’s administrators. In April 2006 the administrators agreed a deal with Neville Dickens for him to take control of the club. The club’s 87 year stay in the Football League ended in 2008, as they were relegated following a 2-0 away defeat to Hereford United. In August 2011 the club became fan-owned, as the Wrexham Supporter’s Trust secured control of their club, following the club being served with a winding up order from HMRC in April 2011 due to an unpaid tax bill of around £200,000. Since then the club have been attempting to regain their league status, and have come close on a number of occasions, with the club losing the play-off final in 2013, and the play-off semifinals in 2011 and 2012.
(I know I have written a lot about Wrexham and their history, and believe me I have edited bits out, as when you are dealing with the oldest club in Wales, you have to understand that there is a lot to write about! If you are interested in reading more, then there is always Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrexham_F.C.#2001.E2.80.932010, the club’s own website: http://www.wrexhamafc.co.uk/, and there are plenty of books out there.)
I’ve written about Southport before, in last week’s blog: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/southport-fc/. However since I last saw Southport play, they have played an FA Trophy First Round replay against Worcester City, which they won 3-2 thanks to a last minute goal. Southport find themselves going into this game following a good run of form, which they would obviously be wanting to extend.
This was to be possibly the easiest game for me to get to, as I left my house in Rhosddu, and walked under the railway bridge, before heading up Crispin Lane. All in all it probably took me 10 minutes to walk to the Racecourse, and that was at a leisurely pace. I then walked down to the Mold Road, where I took some photos of the ground. I had already decided that I was going to follow Southport in this match, due to my ABW (Anyone But Wrexham) philosophy. Before I went through the turnstile I paid £3 for a very informative programme. At the turnstile I paid £19 for entry, and I have to be honest, but I winced at the price, £19 is too much for Conference football, I mean in my opinion £19 is too much for League One football. I mean the Bundesliga’s average ticket price is £23 which is for top flight football, I’m not only having a shot at Wrexham, but at English Football as a whole, as supporters we are being mugged, but that’s a debate for another day. Once in the ground, I found a seat near the front of the top tier of the stand, and bought a 50/50 draw ticket for £1, as the seller had made his way into the stand.
The Southport fans had travelled in good numbers, and ten minutes before the game they were bouncing around and singing. They were making a good level of noise even before their drummer started. Also before the game, Wrexham were presented with the Supporter’s Direct Trophy, which they share with FC United, following a draw in a pre-season friendly. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supporters_Direct#Finals_2)
As a Shrewsbury Town fan, I was hoping to see James Caton play for Wrexham, but he started the game on the bench. James is currently on loan at Wrexham, as he has found himself on the fringe of the Shrewsbury Town first team, he has also spent time on loan at Southport. There was also Andy Bishop, a former Wrexham player now at Southport. Bishop spent two years at Wrexham playing 77 times and scoring 14 goals, he also spent part of the 2012-2013 season on loan at Wrexham as he played 4 times and scored two goals before being recalled by Bury in October 2012.
Dino Maamria has worked wonders with Southport’s confidence since he took control of the side, and Southport took early control of the game, as the attacked with precision and desire, and kept Wrexham pegged back, in fact they won a corner within the first 40 seconds. Wrexham’s left back number 6 Jamal Fyfield was having a difficult time against the Southport right winger, and he was lucky not to be punished.
The first goal of the game, didn’t come from the right wing, as I had expected it to. Adam Blakeman received a cut back from Paul Rutherford on the left wing, Blakeman brought the ball forward, and cut into the box, before unleashing a beautiful angled finish from 18 yards, the ball travelled across the dive of Wrexham’s keeper and nestled in the bottom right hand corner to give Southport the lead they deserved in the 19th minute.
The Southport fans hadn’t stopped singing from the start of the game, with “Dino’s Yellow Army” getting a good couple of chants. The Wrexham fans were also beginning to get behind their team, and their first chant was greeted with “We forgot that you were here.”
There were to be two minutes added on to a half which Southport dominated, and in my honest opinion Southport were unlucky not to go into the break with a two goal lead. In the 33rd minute Southport should have doubled their lead but Manny Smith made a great goal line stop on a Mike Phenix shot.
Half time: Wrexham 0-1 Southport (Blakeman 19)
At half time I took a walk down to the concourse, where I purchased a Cheeseburger and a bottle of Diet Coke, which set me back £5, with the Cheeseburger costing £3, and the Diet Coke costing £2. With my food and drink in hand I headed back to my seat, where I listened as they announced the winners of the 50/50 draw, long story short, I didn’t win. As for the Cheeseburger, it was good, but not as good as Chirk, but then again I don’t ever think there will be a burger as good as the one from Chirk.
At half time Wrexham made a change with Rob Evans coming on to replace Blaine Hudson. Straight from the kick off, Wrexham looked to dominate the game, and Southport were being forced to defend, something they did rather well. Both sets of fans were increasing in volume, as the Southport fans urged their players to keep their lead, and the Wrexham fans urged their players to find an equalizer.
In the 62 minute, John Cofie came off to be replaced by James Caton. I was glad to see this substitution as it would give me chance to see James Caton, especially when I think about how poor Shrewsbury Town have been when going forward, I was hoping that Caton would impress, and show why he should be starting for Salop.
Southport were forced to make a change in the 69th minute, as Andy Wright went down with an injury, he was replaced by Liam Nolan. Wright had had a good game, and it was a shame to see him go off. Following this substitution Max Crocombe, the Southport keeper, was booked for time wasting, as he took his time over a free kick. From a neutral point of view, he had been time wasting, and deserved the booking. Then from the free kick he slipped as he took it, to the joy of the Wrexham fans, who had been appealing for Crocombe to be booked since the 19th minute of the first half.
Southport were now beginning to waste time at every opportunity, and it was clear to see that this was beginning to frustrate the Wrexham players. From a neutral view, I can see why it would have annoyed them, and as a Salop fan I’ve seen my fair share of teams time wasting.
The second Southport sub was made in the 75th minute, as Andrai Jones came on to replace the impressive Mike Phenix.
A minute later Wrexham made their second sub with James Gray coming on to replace Dominic Vose. I’m not sure why Wrexham didn’t make their change at the same time as Southport, as Gray had been ready at the same time as Jones.
The 77th minute saw Wrexham win a free kick in a very dangerous position on the edge of the Southport area, with Southport fans’ hearts in mouths, Sean Newton stepped up and fired the free kick at Max Crocombe and the danger was cleared.
Southport made their final sub in the 82nd minute, with former Wrexham man, Andy Bishop coming on to replace Jamie Allen. The reception for Bishop was mainly a good one, with the majority of Wrexham fans cheering their former player.
Max Crocombe was beginning to push his luck, as he continued to time waste, in the 85th minute, he was knocked into by one of the Wrexham attackers as he went to collect the ball, and to be honest he made a meal of it, as he rolled around for a bit before getting up and hoofing the ball forward. From where I was sat it did look like he had been caught late by the Wrexham player, but I can’t be too sure how much contact there actually was.
The fourth official signaled for 5 minutes of added time, and I was surprised to see some Wrexham fans leaving. I mean, they were 1-0 down, and with 5 minutes to equalize I did wonder whether those fans that were leaving would regret their choice.
Wrexham won a corner in the last minute of the game, and their keeper trotted forward. Southport had bought everyone back, and it was to be a Southport player who would get to the ball, the ball was cleared to the left wing, but the ball only reached the halfway line before it found its way back to the Southport box. The ball went out for a goal kick, which was played long up the pitch.
The sound of the final whistle, was a welcome sound for everyone sat in the Southport section. Dino Maamria made sure that his players came down to the Southport section to applaud the fans, and the fans gave their players a rousing reception.
Final score: Wrexham 0-1 Southport (Blakeman 19)
Following the final whistle, I left the ground and joined the stream of people heading down Crispin Lane. I was slightly slower on the walk home, as I got stuck behind a number of slow walkers, I left the Racecourse at 16:55 and it was 17:09 when I walked through the front door of my house.
I was impressed by both sets of fans during the game, with the fans of both sides making plenty of noise during the game. Obviously the Southport fans had more to celebrate, but the Wrexham fans matched them for noise during the game. Victory in today’s match sees Southport climb one place to 17th in the league, putting them six points above Welling who sit in 21st. Wrexham hang on to 8th place in the league, despite defeat today, and they are currently 5 points off of the play-offs. I’m sure the Wrexham fans would have expected to be in a better position in the league at this point, and I personally feel that they need to find some confidence and form if they are to make the play-offs. If Southport can keep this form up, then I feel they can avoid relegation and could potentially finish the season in a respectable position.
The Racecourse Ground is a great ground, and I can only hope that the next time I visit is with Shrewsbury Town, most likely in the FA Cup, but if Wrexham could get themselves promoted then there would be an increased chance, with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the League Cup. Hopefully Glyndwr University will do something with the Kop Stand, as it is a sad sight-seeing such an iconic terrace sitting unused.
Attendance: 5508 (161 Southport fans)
Hat-tricks seen so far: 3
Next week’s plan: MBI Llandudno vs Bangor City, Dafabet Welsh Premier League, 28/12/15 (Will I get to the rearranged game? Will it be on?)
Money spent: £29
Thanks for reading!