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 renew acquaintances with Barnet tomorrow, a side we’ve met on and off throughout the last twenty years. However, don’t try to draw too many conclusions from our results against them.
The last time our paths crossed was in 2007-8, the season that we went down to the Conference, and The Bees did the double. Funnily enough, the only other time they achieved that feat against us was in 1992-3, when our fortunes were rather different: we were promoted to League One!
The game will mark a first visit to Barnet’s new ground, and it will be interesting to see if it lives up to the excitement a trip to Underhill tended to generate. Our trips there usually ended in a notable win or a real disappointment.
Our last match there, in March 2008, definitely fell into the latter category. We went there desperate for a win as our hopes of remaining in the Football League dwindled, and were looking in decent shape after a scoreless first half. However, Brian Little’s brittle Wrexham side caved in, conceding twice in six minutes after the break, and although they showed commendable spirit to try and recover, that disastrous period proved decisive.
Drewe Broughton pulled a goal back, but soon afterwards Barnet went 3-1 up. Although a well-worked goal by Simon Spender made it five goals in a frantic twenty one minute period, we couldn’t get an equaliser and suffered a third consecutive away defeat. In fact, our next away win would come on the last day of the season, when we were already relegated.
We also suffered a huge disappointment there in January 1993. The circumstances were very different then, as both sides were vying for promotion. However, an injury to Gary Bennett had cast a pall over the club, and although his stand-in, John Paskin, scored, there was little else for Wrexham to cheer in a 3-1 defeat.
However, there were good times at Underhill too. The following season, with both sides having gone up eventually, Bennett was fit and raring to go, and made up for the disappointment of the previous season in some style! Trailing 1-0 at half time, Wrexham took advantage of playing with the notorious Underhill slope to lay siege on Barnet’s goal. Gareth Owen got an equaliser twenty minutes into the second half, before Bennett popped up in injury time to strike the winner!
Our most notable win at Underhill came in March 2007 though. We travelled there on the second longest run without victory in the club’s history, staring relegation to the Conference in the face with manager Brian Carey still looking for his first win in his tenth game in charge.
It seemed nothing was going to change at half time as we were 1-0 down, but Lee McEvilly then took control, hitting two goals in four minutes either side of the hour mark to earn a 2-1 win. Not only did the result begin a run of improved results which made our survival possible, it also launched McEvilly’s infamous stomach rubbing goal celebration!