5th September 2000:

10th May 2001: F.A.W. Premier Cup Semi Final Second Leg

Wrexham 4   Barry Town 2
(Faulconbridge 20, Thomas 38, 57, 62)   (Staton 44, Blake 73)
(Aggregate 7-3)

Thomas Hat Trick Seals Easy Win

Stephen Thomas celebrated his successful run in the first team with a fine hat trick which sealed a comfortable progress to the final of the Premier Cup tonight. In all honesty Barry, who came into the tie with financial problems and a stand-in goalkeeper, and struggled to name three substitutes, were outclassed despite their honest efforts to play the ball on the floor and chase the tie. In fact, they ought to have been beaten by a far larger margin, but a combination of poor finishing and a sluggish performance from Kevin Dearden, making his ninety-ninth appearance for Wrexham, allowed them to emerge with a losing margin of only two goals.

From the outset Wrexham, who rested Ferguson, Carey and Morrell from Saturday, were comfortably in control. Trundle started with extreme menace, although his touch let him down as he advanced onto an inviting Gibson cross, and Craig Faulconbridge ought to have done better when he glanced a fine Thomas cross wide from six yards out. However, Faulconbridge made amends after twenty minutes – eventually! Trundle showed typical strength to hold the ball up, turn and put Faulconbridge clear on goal, but Johnson got a touch onto his shot and deflected it onto the inside of the post. He was not to be rewarded for his save, though, as McGregor picked up the clearance in midfield and spread the ball to Robin Gibson, whose far post cross was headed home with ease by Faulconbridge.

With Barry continuing to look to attack, leaving three men up front, they were leaving gaps at the back, and were further punished in the 38th minute by an unusual first goal for Thomas. Kevin Russell, captain for the night, lost the ball in midfield but had it presented back to him and volleyed a hopeful ball up to the edge of the box, where Thomas stretched and got the tiniest of touches to deceive Johnson and leave him stranded as it bounced over him and into the net.

Wrexham continued to press and only a superb tackle by Sharpe stopped Trundle from racing clear onto a flick by Faulconbridge, but the edgy Dearden, who has looked rusty in both legs of the semi-finals as he has returned from his first team lay-off, offered Town a surprising lifeline at the end of the half. He had a near miss when a terrible clearance picked out French, who hit an immediate shot straight at the relieved goalkeeper. He had no such luck in the last minute of the half, though. When Phil Hardy conceded a free kick by the right corner flag, it was curled in towards the far post bythe excellent Luke Staton, over the flapping Dearden and directly into the net. In fact, further slack defending could have let Barry in for an equaliser when Dennis Lawrence, who sadly followed up his performance at Bristol Rovers with another unconvincing ninety minutes, tried a lazy pass on the edge of his own area which was intercepted by Flynn, who couldn’t quite retrieve the ball before Roche raced back to cover for the Trinidadian.

Wrexham shrugged off these nervous moments at the resumption, and Johnson had to be quick off his line to beat Gibson to a Roche header, before Thomas added a superb second goal. A burst down the right by Roche gave the move impetus before Gibson picked the ball up, cut inside and fed Thomas on the edge of the box. Thomas‘ first intention appeared to be to thread a return ball through to Gibson as he raced on into the goalmouth, but he showed good awareness to realise that the defenders were not going to close him down quickly and, spotting Johnson off his line, used the time he was allowed to line up and deliver a sublime chip over the keeper.

Roche and Gibson linked up again to good effect down the right soon afterwards, the winger picking up a cross to turn sharply and shoot wide for close range when he should have tested the keeper. The fourth goal came from the left wing, though, at the end of an intricate move. It started when Trundle received a throw from Hardy and fed Thomas, who clipped the ball to the overlapping Hardy with typical neatness. Hardy’s immediate cross picked out Trundle in the box and he held the ball up well before turning and feeding the onrushing Thomas, who flicked it up and lashed it into the roof of the net from fifteen yards to cap a memorable hat trick. Trundle was immediately withdrawn to rapturous applause, having made another fine contribution, and Thomas was also brought off to enjoy a fine reception from a crowd who had enjoyed not only his goals, but a lively all-round performance.

Barry pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute, through a combination of sloppy defending and disappointing goalkeeping. Despite having allowed Lloyd to pick up a corner unmarked on the edge of the box, Wrexham’s defenders left him in an identical position a minute later, letting him receive a throw in and hit a shot which, although accurate, should have lacked the power to trouble Dearden from twenty five yards. However, the keeper pushed the shot weakly to Yorke, and his pull back was tapped into the empty net by Blake. Despite this second consolation goal, the tie was dead, but for one particular player, the fun and games was only just beginning!

Andy Morrell’s replacement of Trundle offered a bizarre sub-plot to the rest of the match. Morrell, of course, made his reputation at The Racecourse on the back of his goal-scoring exploits in this competition, from a first goal for the club which eliminated Cardiff in injury time of the semi final two years ago, through a remarkable fourteen goals in four games last season, culminating with those club record seven goals against Merthyr. This season, however, he has failed to score in the Premier Cup, and his 28 minute cameo was met with wry amusement from the crowd as he missed enough chances to challenge his feat in the quarter final last year!

The first chance came immediately, when he latched onto a Gibson pull-back and hit a shot which Johnson parried. His next opportunity was gilt-edged. A fierce twenty five yarder from Faulconbridge was blocked straight to him by the goalkeeper, but he almost put his attempt to drive the ball into the open goal over the Kop! Then he lashed a powerful shot over from the edge of the area, before a Gibson tackle on Sharpe set up a three-on-two break, Faulconbridge putting Morell clear only for him to drive past both the onrushing keeper and the far post.

The hapless Morrell’s next missed chance was unfortunate: Edwards’ corner was glanced on by Lawrence at the near post to Morrell, a couple of yards out, and his instinctive header hit the body of Johnson, the rebound striking Morrell and falling safely to the prostrate keeper, who knew little about either save! Johnson perhaps took pity on the striker and, in the last minute, presented him with a great chance when he carried the ball out of the box but, under pressure from Faulconbridge, kicked straight to Morrell twenty five yards out, whose hurried shot at the open goal managed to pick out the retreating keeper!

As the game entered injury time, it looked like Morrell’s cruel run had ended, but he was actually to be presented with two more chances! First Faulconbridge gave him a return pass but he shot wide from the edge of the box. Then, in the second minute of injury time, Morrell rose to plant a firm header narrowly wide from a Gibson cross, the crowd chuckling when they realised the identity of the player who had missed the chance, while Morrell stood with his head in his hands, wondering whether he got out of the wrong side of bed! At least the misses had come when the tie was already won, and Morrell had shown a wilingness to keep going which might stand him in good stead in more testing fixtures – on Monday in Swansea, perhaps!

WREXHAM (4-3-3): Dearden; Roche, McGregor, Lawrence, Hardy; D. Williams, Russell (c), Thomas (Edwards 68); Gibson, Trundle (Morrell 62), Faulconbridge. UNUSED SUBS: Rogers, Carey, Ferguson.

BARRY TOWN (3-4-3): Johnson; Sharpe, Phillips, Yorke (c); Evans, Jenkins (MacLean 65), Staton, Lloyd; French(Blake 69), Flynn, Truman (Burke 61).

Referee: K. J. Parry

Attendance: 903

Wrexham   Barry Town
    Staton (Foul on Trundle, 29)

Reaction: Brian Flynn/ Stephen Thomas

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