1st October 2002: Worthington Cup Round 2
|Wrexham 0||Everton 3|
|(Kevin Campbell 26, Wayne Rooney 83, 89)|
Gulf in Class: But Everton Still Won!
There’s an episode of “Frasier” in which a perfect meal is described as one which has one tiny fault which you can pick at. Given the reputation Everton’s fans have for complaining, they must have loved this game: they won it, but God, they were awful. Wrexham can be very proud of their efforts; there was only one team passing the ball around and looking to play football, and they weren’t from the Premiership! Rooney’s two late goals gave the game an unfair complexion, as Wrexham were unfortunate not to come through the ninety minutes on level terms at least.
Wrexham suffered terrible problems with defensive injuries before the game, a cruel irony considering the fact that they got through all of September without having to make a change through necessity. With third choice keeper Paul Whitfield thrown into the side for his debut and Brian Carey and Dennis Lawrence returning at centre back, only Shaun Pejic remained from the defensive unit which had done so well for the last six matches. They were hardly tested early on, though, as Wrexham dominated. After five minutes a Morrell flick would have put Sam clear had Weifeng not intercepted – Morrell claimed he had used his hand in the box, but the referee was not interested – and seconds later Hibbert made a terrific header to stop Morrell getting in the end of a cross.
The best opportunity of the opening stages came when a Ferguson put in a cross from the left which should have been a straightforward take for Wright, but Le Weifeng stepped in and sliced the ball up in the air, Paul Edwards attacking the dropping ball and prodding it towards goal where Andy Morrell, six yards out, managed to flick the ball on but couldn’t get enough contact to take it beyond Wright’s leap. Within moments Carlos Edwards was running at the heart of Everton’s defence, laying off a pass which again saw Weifeng pull off a terrific tackle, this time to deny Morrell the chance to run clear, but in the of passing the ball Edwards was tripped, so Ferguson got an early opportunity, but he lifted his free kick over the bar, and did the same in the second half from almost the same position.
Everton found it difficult to relive the pressure as their passing was appalling. While Li Tie showed incredible energy, Gemmill’s play was of a very low quality, and the trio of Darren Ferguson, Paul Barrett and Jim Whitley dominated midfield. One area where Everton had got it right was down the flanks, where they rarely threatened, but managed to keep the Edwardses quiet, robbing Wrexham of a key part of their attacking machine.
It took twenty minutes for Everton to show anything, Whitfield having his only nervous moment when he failed to attack a Hibbert cross with confidence, Gemmill sneaking in ahead of him to head the ball against the bar from close range. Five minutes later, they took the lead against the run of play. While most of their play lacked quality, there was always the possibility that the dangerous front two would take a chance if it was presented to them, and so it proved: Pejic gave the ball away, Li Tie broke through the centre and looked set to shoot from twenty five yards as the defenders backed off, but instead slipped a neat ball down the left channel for Kevin Campbell to latch onto, delay his shot until Whitfield could stand no longer, and chip it neatly over him.
The goal knocked the wind out of Wrexham’s sails, and the Premiership side enjoyed their best spell of the match, without managing to creae any real chances. Lee Trundle came on after the break for Hector Sam and immediately set about troubing the Everton defenders as Wrexham started the half well. Whitfield made a good catch and launched a big kick which Morrell latched onto, Yobo doing well to block his shot. Whitley, whose cool command of possession made him stand out in midfield, then accelerated out of his own half and planted a shot from the edge of the area which Wright held onto.
As the half wore on, Wrexham took total command, penning Everton back into their own area. With quarter of an hour left, Duncan Ferguson gave the ball straight to Morrell, who did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the area before laying it off to Carlos Edwards, who smashed in a powerful shot which Wright parried well. Three minutes later he went close again, breaking round the outside of Rooney and slamming in a shot from the wing which lacked nothing in venom but did not catch Wright out, as he tipped the shot over. Another three minutes on, Everton enjoyed another close shave: Trundle, playing against the team he supports, did brilliantly to chase the ball down the right, cut inside, and curl a magnificent shot from the edge of the area which rattled the bar.
Having ridden their luck, Everton were able to break and kill the game off. A long ball down the middle by Wright skimmed off the head of Carey as he jumped with Duncan Ferguson and fell to Rooney, who accelerated clear and slotted the ball home to register his first goal for Everton. He did not have to wait long for his second, but he hardly covered himself in glory with his reaction to it. A group of idiots, purporting to support Everton, held the game up for three minutes as they ran out of The Kop and across the pitch, the Everton fans hardly correcting their boorish behaviour by applauding them! The game resumed, and in the last minute Rooney broke through once again and slid the ball home, before running to the Wrexham fans and baiting them. Sixteen-years-old or not, he should have enough sense not to provoke when a crowd disturbance has just taken place, and ought to have that point made to him.
Rooney could have got more in injury time as Wrexham’s heads dropped. He headed over from close range and then showed great skill to dribble through the defence only to have his shot well blocked by Whitfield, who did well to prod it away with his right foot. His late burst gave an unfair slant to the scoreline, though. Wrexham had done themselves proud, and the fact that Alan Stubbs was thrown on in the centre of midfield to win the ball said everything about how that area of the pitch was being dominated by Wrexham as the match wore on. They might have lost their heads in the frantic conclusion, but they could still hold them high after a brave effort to pull off another shock.
|Pejic 6||Carey 6||Lawrence 6|
|C Edwards 6||P Edwards 6|
|(Holmes 79) –|
|Barrett 7||Ferguson (c) 8||Whitley 8|
|(Thomas 81) –|
|(Trundle 46) 7|
|UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Rogers, Morgan.|
|Whitfield||A sound debut: kicked well, made a fine late save from Rooney as he ran clear.|
|Pejic||Solid, but gave the ball away for the first goal|
|Carey||Battled hard, but troubled by Campbell in the air|
|Lawrence||Did alright, but couldn’t carry the ball forward as wel as was required|
|C Edwards||Well handled, although he had a couple of dangerous moments, drawing two good saves from Wright|
|P Edwards||Did quite well, although he wasted a few good positions, letting the ball get away from him when behiond the defence.|
|Barrett||Another energetic display.|
|Whitley||Never wasted the ball and carried it smoothly.|
|Ferguson||Looked to pull the strings from the start.|
|Morrell||Worked energetically, but lacked a good supply.|
|Sam||Couldn’t hurt the defence.|
|Holmes||Did a solid job.|
|Trundle||Caused problems with his work rate and hit bar.|
|Thomas||Had little time to impress.|
|Hibbert7||Yobo 7||Li Weifeng 6||
|Carsley 6||Li Tie 8||Gemmill 5||Naysmith 6|
|(Stubbs 83) –|
|Radzinski 7||Campbell (c) 8|
|(Rooney 64) 8||
(Ferguson 72) 6
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Simonsen, McLeod.
Man of the Match: Jim Whitley
Referee: Alan Kaye (Wakefield)
|Ferguson (Foul on Naysmith, 31)||Hibbert (Foul on Morrell, 16)|
|Trundle (Foul on Weifeng, 82)|
Miscellaneous: Whitfield’s debut; end of Morrell’s run of consecutive games scored in (8), the second best in the history of Wrexham F.C.