Tomorrow we play at a stage of the FA Cup which, for so long was none of our concern, but the qualifying round presents a considerable obstacle to Wrexham Football Club. Hyde will be pleased to hear it’s not just the quality of the opposition that’s an issue; we’ve always struggled to get past the preliminaries of the cup and into the real thing.
It’s a problem which goes back into the Nineteenth Century, but the difficulties we suffered than are manifesting themselves again in modern times. We’ve played at this stage five times since relegation from the Football League, and the scales are only just tipped in own favour in terms of getting into the first round proper.
In fact, somewhat ironically, for the first three years we were in The Conference the only time we progressed through the fourth qualifying round was the one time we were drawn away from home!
Five years ago it looked like we’d been given a very kind draw as we were paired with Eastwood Town at The Racecourse. If Dean Saunders’ side had won in his fourth match in charge he’d have set a club record for the most consecutive wins a manager had started off with, but we drew a dismal game 0-0 and embarrassingly crashed out in the replay.
We enjoyed success the following year, but only by the skin of our teeth. Halifax Town gave us a tough test, but we prevailed when Wes Baynes scored the only goal of the game, an absolute screamer from long range in the last minute.
Normal service was resumed the following season though, as we lost at home to a Southport side which had capitulated weakly at The Racecourse a couple of weeks earlier. Having gone 2-0 down, we gave ourselves some hope when Jamie Tolley followed Baynes’ example by scoring from distance, but we were unable to earn an equaliser.
In October 2011 we finally managed to win a qualifying tie at The Racecourse (for the first time in 89 years if you’re interested!) York City were the visitors – on paper the toughest opposition we’d encountered at that stage – but Nat Knight-Percival opened the scoring just after the break and although City swiftly equalised we grabbed a deserved winner when David McGurk put the ball into his own net.
Last season we gained a measure of revenge on Southport, winning 2-0 with goals in the last minute of each half. Dean Keates got the opener and Brett Ormerod’s first goal for Wrexham sealed victory.
We played in the qualifying rounds for most of the early years of our existence, including the first couple of seasons after we’d entered the Football League, and our record of getting through to the first round proper was atrocious!
In total we’ve fought through the qualifying rounds successfully just four times in thirty eight attempts! Admittedly, we weren’t always put in at the final stage of the qualifying process, but still, that’s a pretty awful record!
Indeed, in 1905 we didn’t even reach the qualifying stage! We were knocked out in the preliminary round 4-1 at home by Rhyl, and as the match was played on September 23rd it marks the earliest point in a season that we’ve been knocked out of the F.A. Cup!
Our unhappy experiences in the qualifying rounds are summed up by what happened in 1901. Having battled our way to the stage we find ourselves at tomorrow, we were paired with Port Vale at The Racecourse. We were leading 1-0 after an hour when thick fog meant the game had to be abandoned, and we were unable to hit the net in the rearranged match, drawing 0-0 then losing the replay 3-1 to crash out of the cup!