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.
At last, after five years of waiting, the cross-border derby is back! Tomorrow will see the 147th edition of a rivalry which stretches all the way back to an FA Cup qualifying round clash in Chester in December 1888 which Wrexham won 3-2.
Well, in theory it’s been five years since we met, but in fact we played each other a year later. Perhaps appropriately, the match ended in a rather forgettable goalless draw, and Chester’s subsequent demise as they failed to complete their fixtures meant that their results were expunged.
Wrexham hold a significant upper hand in the derby, having won 65 games and lost 52, 29 ending as draws. We’re also dominant at The Racecourse, having won over half our home games in the fixture. We’ve won 37 out of 70 matches, with 17 ending as victories for Chester. In the league our home record is even more impressive, having won 20 out of 38 matches and lost just 6.
We are currently on a four-match unbeaten run in the derby and for our last home league defeat to Chester you have to go back to April 1978. City, as they were then known, won 2-1 but Wrexham were the happier side by the end of the season as we’d won the Third Division title.
Chester’s recent league record at The Racecourse is particularly poor. In their last seventeen league visits, spread over 52 years, they’ve only won once, and home and away they’ve won just ten of the last forty-four derbies, Wrexham winning 21 in the same period of time. Furthermore, Chester have only kept one clean sheet in the last sixteen derbies, while Wrexham have kept five.
Although our last home league loss to Chester came 35 years ago, we have lost to them subsequently at The Racecourse in cup ties, both defeats coming in the same season as they put us out of both the FA Cup and Freight Rover Trophy in 1986-7.
Our biggest derby win was a spectacular case of us taking our frustration out on our closest rivals. Having narrowly missed out on promotion, the last home game of the 1952-3 season saw us thump Chester 7-0 with two goals each from Tommy Tilston and Tommy Bannan. Ron Hewitt, George Jones and Gordon Richards completed the scoring.
Chester’s best win at The Racecourse came the first time we played host to them after the Second World War, when City completed the double with a 4-0 victory.
Our greatest goalscorer in this most crucial of fixtures is Billy Tunnicliffe, who got ten goals in derbies, including a hat trick in a 3-2 win in August 1951.
A goal behind him is Tommy Bamford, who also managed a hat trick in this fixture: indeed some reports credit him with four in a 5-2 away win in August 1931. Bannan stands in equal third place in the list with six goals, alongside with Sammy McMillan and Llew Griffiths.
The only other Wrexham hat trick against the old enemy was scored by Graham Whittle in a 4-2 win in December 1976.