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.
We’ve never played Welling before, but we have faced a newly promoted side on the opening day of the season recently, and we enjoyed a pleasing outcome.
Last season we faced Woking who, like Welling tomorrow, were fresh out of the Conference South. We saw them off in pretty emphatic manner, racing into a two goal lead by the break through two well taken strikes by Rob Ogleby and Dean Keates.
Woking showed the spirit you’d expect from a side keen to make an impression at a higher level, and pulled a goal back in the second half, but that strike from the wonderfully-named Byron Bubb would not prove to be the foundation for a come-back as Mark Creighton hurled himself at a corner to score with a typically fierce header. What a shame that his season would be interrupted so abruptly just two games later; hopefully he’ll be fit to make a similar opening day impact tomorrow.
There are a number of patterns which have been established by Wrexham’s opening games of the season since we dropped into the Conference. This is our sixth season at this level, and each time we’ve kicked off the campaign at home. Furthermore, we remain unbeaten in those opening games, the only time we’ve dropped points being two seasons ago when an injury time equaliser, deflected past Chris Maxwell by Steve Tomasson, earned Cambridge a 1-1 draw, cancelling out Andy Morrell’s customary opening day goal.
We’ve enjoyed some emphatic first day victories too, but be careful of drawing concrete conclusions from the opening match of the season. We beat Eastbourne Borough 3-0 five years ago, with Hedi Taboubi sweeping in a free kick on his debut to spark a brief excitement over the talents of the French midfielder which would turn swiftly into a false dawn.
Also, our very first match in the Conference was a 5-0 thrashing of Stevenage Borough, but that game also served to prove that first impressions can be deceptive. Six weeks later we’d sacked our manager, Brian Little, as the early promise of the campaign fizzled out, while Stevenage pushed on, won the FA Trophy and laid the foundations for their title win the following year.
It’s six years since we started the season with a defeat either home or away, when we lost 2-0 at Darlington and we haven’t lost on any of the previous nine times that we’ve started the season at The Racecourse, the last time we kicked off a campaign with a home defeat coming thirteen years ago when Bristol City beat us 2-0. Indeed, that’s the only loss we’ve suffered in the last fifteen times we’ve begun with a home match.
However, this isn’t quite our longest unbeaten home run on the season’s first day. When debutant Mick Vinter nipped onto a short backpass to score our only goal against West Ham in 1979 he also helped ensure we’d managed twelve opening day home games without defeat, matching a run which stretched from 1923 to 1953.