Mighty Wallops


Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

You wait for years to see a screamer, then two come along at once.

Jay Harris absolute screamer against Barrow was one of the best strikes I’ve seen from a Wrexham player for quite some time, and then Adrian Cieslewicz matched it in the rout of Nuneaton.

We’re lucky to have seen two such fine goals at this level of football. Both driven in from similar range, but subtly different in their execution: Cieslewicz’s containing an element of finesse as he shaped it inside the post, Harris’ more of what Apu from “The Simpsons” would call “a mighty wallop.”

Over the years we’ve all seen a few spectacular Wrexham goals, of course. From Ian Edwards’ feted volley at Derby, lazily stroked in with impeccable timing from the corner of the box, to Mickey Thomas’ free kick against Arsenal, it’s worth the wait for such moments of wonder.

A couple of them stand out in my memory as particularly fine technical strikes. A half-volley by Mark Jones at Oxford was outstanding: the ball was falling in front of him twenty five yards out and he sliced across it with sublime control, hitting the sweet spot as he swiped across the ball and propelled it like a rocket into the top corner.

Equally brilliant was a remarkable goal by Steve Fox, who sadly died a fortnight ago. Fox was an edge of the seat winger who signed for Wrexham during the first season that I watched them. He’d have off days where he was anonymous, but when he sparked he could be thrilling. However, his long range shots, and there were many of them, tended to end up closer to the tea stall on the Kop than the net.

I used to get stroppily frustrated at this, which was my prerogative as a ten-year-old, but my Dad wisely consoled me with some perspective. We were notoriously shot-shy that season, and he explained to me that at least he was stepping up and taking some responsibility by having a go. Eventually one would go in, and then it would all be worthwhile.

How right he was.

I turned up for the Welsh Cup final against Shrewsbury in a state of juvenile excitement, but The Shrews were a strong team, freshly promoted under Graham Turner, and were good value for a 1-0 lead late in the game.

Cue Fox.

The ball fell to him in a central position a good thirty yards out just as he was losing his balance. However, somehow he managed, as he fell backwards, to retain control of his strike as he swiped his right foot at the ball. It whistled past the startled keeper and soared viciously into the roof of the net. The tie was alive again.

Of course there was no fairy tale ending – we lost 2-1 on aggregate – but the experience turned out to be a valuable one for me. We’d been brave but failed, and I’d been given a moment of thrilling hope. It was an excellent grounding for a life as a Wrexham fan!

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