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23rd September 2000:

23rd September 2000: Nationwide League Division Two

Wrexham 0   Walsall 1
    (Leitao 29)

Referee Adds To Racecourse Woes

Wrexham’s horrific home start to the season continued with a fifth defeat in six games, and although, not for the first time, it was another game performance against strong opposition which hinged on a poor refereeing decision, this will be cold comfort for Brian Flynn as he tries to work a way out of this situation.

The game could be easily divided into three clear phases: for the first half hour Wrexham promised much but failed to press home their advantage; then the visitors scored a rather soft goal and dominated the last fifteen minutes of the first half, with the Robins looking desperately ragged; but in the second half they rallied and dominated the game, only to be thwarted when Craig Faulconbridge was denied just about the most blatant penalty you are ever likely to see.

To deal with the penalty shout first, as it was certainly the issue which was on the lips of the crowd as they left the Racecourse, it came ten minutes from the end of the match as Wrexham wound up their most fierce spell of pressure. Darren Ferguson chipped a diagonal ball to Faulconbridge at the far post and the striker took it neatly on his chest, beating Zigor Arenalde with the same movement to find himself clear six yards in front of goal. As he was about to pull the trigger the Spanish left back grabbed hold of the front of his shirt and hauled him to the floor. It seemed the only decision the referee had to make was whether or not to dismiss Arenalde for a professional foul, but as the game halted and the fans roared it was suddenly apparent that Mr. Pike had not even given the penalty! A momentary stunned silence followed before the crowd and players vented their fury on the official, who seemed to have a clear view of the incident, and before the protests could die down Faulconbridsge had another shout for a penalty, when he claimed Tony Barrass hauled him down – it was worth a shout but the ref again waved play on. Wrexham never got their momentum going again, and the match was lost.

It was a lively start for Wrexham, with Ferguson testing James Walker with a free kick in the first minute, which set the tone for the first twenty minutes. The Reds pressed well in midfield, with Paul Barrett again lively, Carlos Edwards showing great energy down the left and Robin Gibson troubling Arenalde. James Walker had to come to the rescue when Barrett worked a neat 1-2 with McGregor and unleashed a powerful drive from twenty five yards which was clutched spectacularly to the keeper’s right. Another chance was carved out when Gibson skinned Arenalde for the second time in as many minutes and pulled a good ball back for Faulconbridge, whose shot was bravely charged down by Barras from ten yards out.

In this time the league leaders had created little, although Byfield should have done better than shoot over from twenty yards after good work from Hall. However, the game turned in the 29th minute, when they took the lead. The ball was worked in to Jorge Leitao eight yards out, and he was able to turn with little hindrance from McGregor before hitting a shot which, although accurate, was hardly moving at great pace, but nevertheless found its way past Dearden.

The goal seemed to destroy the confidence of Wrexham’s defence, and these jitters spread their way through the side. Each Walsall attack was heavy with the potential of further damage, the midfield seemed incapable of holding on to the ball to relieve the pressure, and Sam and Faulconbridge, both of whom again worked tirelessly, were reduced to watching the carnage and hoping the ball might eventually come their way. It was only the dogged qualities of Brian Carey which held Walsall at bay as he continually battled manfully against the odds. Dearden partly redeemed himself a minute after the goal when he tipped a Byfield drive round the post, but he also fumbled two crosses and failed to come for another high ball which floated in the air for an age, just when his toiling defence needed help from behind to calm them. He also got lucky in the second half when he completely missed a corner and the ball struck a defender, hit the bar and bounced over for a corner. It was a performance which helped to illustrate Brian Flynn’s motives for starting the season with Kristian Rogers, despite a couple of sharp stops from Byfield in the second half, and the presence in the crowd of Clayton Ince, accompanying the visiting delegation from Trinidad, will have interested the fans who saw him in the Sainsbury’s Stand, especially as Crewe were playing at home today.

Wrexham held on like a tired boxer until the relief of the half time whistle, and were newly energetic on the resumption. Emad Bouanane came on as a half time replacement for Dave Ridler, who had wilted as the half wore on as a result of the virus he had been suffering with throughout the week – this was also the reason why Martyn Chalk was absent from the squad. Bouanane added a different dimension to the team with his ability to carry the ball into enemy territory and boundless enthusiasm at left back – it could be that Wrexham have unearthed the French Joey Jones! Suddenly Wrexham offered a real threat down the left as the Frenchman and Edwards combined, the Trinidadian going close with a typically tricky run which ended with shot which was pulled just wide, and he struck another drive from twenty five yards soon afterwards which beat the post with Walker scrambling across his goal. In the centre, the strikers toiled, Sam unlucky not to get a penalty for shirt pulling, although this appeal was forgotten in the context of Faulconbridge’s later disappointment.

Walsall developed as a threat on the break as the half wore on, Byfield missing badly after the neat Bukran had sent him clear, and their organisation was admirable, especially in the closing ten minutes as they shut the game down efficiently. As the full time whistle went, Wrexham’s fans were left to reflect on what might have been had the referee given Faulconbridge his due reward, and also on the worrying nature of their team’s home results.

WREXHAM (4-4-2): Dearden; Ridler (Bouanane 46), Carey (c), Roberts, McGregor; Gibson(Owen 74), Ferguson, Barrett, Edwards; Faulconbridge, Sam. UNUSED SUBS: Walsh, Morrell, Warren.

WALSALL(4-4-2): Walker; Brightwell, Barras, Tillson, Aranalde; Hall (Carter 81), Bukran, Bennett (c), Matias; Byfield (Angell 71), Leitao (Keates 89). UNUSED SUBS: Emberson, Roper.

Referee: M. S. Pike

Bookings:    
  Wrexham Walsall
  Ferguson (Accumulation of fouls, 76) Bennett (Accumulation of fouls, 27)

Attendance: 3766 Away support: 843

Reaction: Brian Flynn

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