It may be a cliche, but it really has been a roller coaster year for Wrexham Football Club. A year of high’s which took the club to it’s first ever trip to Wembley, heartache at the famous ground and a disappointing 6th season in the 5th tier of English football.
It began as most years do, in January. New Years day to be precise and the reds are away to AFC Telford United. Wrexham are flying high in the league after a 2-0 win, Danny Wright scoring the first goal out of any team in Europe as the middy kick off was before most other games on the continent. Wright’s goal was the first of 2013 when opening the scoring on 24 minutes. The win put the reds in to second in the table as they searched for promotion. The following match was away to Newport, it was 2nd v 3rd as things looked to be really hotting up at the top end of what was the Blue Square Bet Premier. The Dragons traveled to Rodney Parade unbeaten in their previous three matches. The game kicked off and on 34 minutes hitman Danny Wright nudged Wrexham in front with his 10th goal of the campaign, after Reds keeper Joslain Mayebi saved an early penalty from Newport’s Andy Sandell. Wrexham looked to be in control before Max Porter equalised for the Amber Army. Even with the game ending 1-1 Wrexham leapfrogged Grimsby Town in the table taking top spot, the perfect start to the year. A win followed against Alfreton Town before Wrexham travelled to Sutton, as two FA Trophy weekends would take place, the first at Sutton United where new signing Kevin Thornton would make his debut, he was signed after 6 months on trial and signed on non-contract terms. The reds won 5-0 away in the midlands and Thornton scored on his debut, Rob Ogleby, Nick Rushton, Johnny Hunt and Joe Clarke were also on the score sheet. Next was Southport in the FA Trophy Quarter Final, a game the reds won 3-1, sending them into a 2 legged semi-final against Blue Square Bet North opposition, Gainsborough Trinity. A final draw to Southport in the league ended January, as well as Joslain Mayebi’s season, as the keeper tore is achillies and was ruled out for 4 months. With Mayebi’s injury former reds keeper Chris Maxwell was signed on loan from Fleetwood, after his departure to the League 2 side in the summer.
Wrexham began February with a 0-0 draw away at Forest Green Rovers before defeating Stockport County 3-1 at the Racecourse. A 0-1 win at Hereford United’s Edgar Street took Wrexham to an FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st leg against Gainsborough Trinity at the Racecourse, a match which will stick in the minds of most Wrexham fans. The camera’s were all on Wrexham as Trinity marched to the Racecourse. The match kicked off and after 20 minutes Danny Wright sent the Wrexham faithful wild, the Wembley dream was in sight, but 100 minutes more of football were to be played yet. And the Dragons were sent crashing down to earth when former Chester man Darryn Stamp headed home for Gainsborough, the hundreds in the away end were delirious from the second the ball hit the back of the net. But it wasn’t to be for the ‘Holy Blues’ as the Red’s tricky winger Adrian Cieslewicz trickled through the defenders and slammed home a stunning shot to put Wrexham 2-1 up, another goal followed from Neil Ashton who smashed the ball home in a crowded box, 3-1 and the tie looked to be sealed, or was it? Well yes, but it was close! As the following weekend the reds would travel to The Northholme ground, in between the fixtures was a 0-1 Wrexham win at Gateshead, goal curtsy of veteran stirker Brett Ormerod. The 2nd leg kicks off in Lincolnshire and 22 minutes in, once again it’s the ‘Buffalo’ as nicknamed by his team mates, Danny Wright with a goal putting Wrexham 1-0 up and 4-1 on aggregate. But Terry Hawkridge lifted Trinity spirits and then 6 minutes from time Michael Leary made it 2-1 to Gainsborough, and 3-4 to Wrexham on aggregate. An amazing final 6 minutes was played out as Gainsborough bombarded the Wrexham goal, some stunning saves from Maxwell and balls cleared off the line held the match and Wrexham progressed to the final and would visit Wembley for the first time ever. Following the success in the FA Trophy Andy Morrell added some loans to his squad, with Rochdale’s Dele Adebola joining up as well as Northampton Town’s Dave Artell. A sterling month ended in a 0-1 win away to Barrow where Irishman Kevin Thornton scored a winning goal in the 84th minute.
Kevin Thornton scored a second goal in two matches the fist week of March as Wrexham drew 1-1 with Alfreton Town, following this was a 4-1 home win against Ebbsfleet United, who would be relegated at the end of the season. They say all good things must come to an end, and Wrexham’s 13 game unbeaten run came away at Dartford, a 2-1 win for ‘the Darts’, with Jack Evans cancelling out Danny Wright’s first half goal, before Eliott Bradbrook winning it for Dartford on 91 minutes, a cruel way to lose. Wrexham quickly bounced back away to Lincoln City on a Tuesday night, after a Chris Westwood own-goal Brett Ormerod eqaualised, and a goalkeeping error from the Imps stopper gave Dele Adebola and open goal on the half way line, a stunning effort gave Wrexham all three points to take back to North Wales. Following Wrexham’s triumph at Lincoln, it was home again to Luton Town, a stalemate 0-0 was conducted before the big one, Wrexham V Grimsby Town at Wembley, March 24 2013, it was like the whole of North Wales was heading down to London for one of the biggest games in Wrexham history, and the first ever trip to the home of football. It’s safe to say the entire town got caught up in the excitment of the occasion, including myself. Memorabilia was being bought, it was all over the papers and the town seemed to have a buzz in the air. There were events such as the players conducting signing sessions in the eagles meadow club shop and special tv programmes on BBC 2 Wales. But when it came down to the event, over 18,000 Wrexham fans packed themselves into Wembley, filling the entire bottom tier and nearly half of the top ones, not bad for a club in the 5th tier of football! The game kicked off after the Welsh and English anthems were played, the first half was evenly contested and ended 0-0, although there was some contreversy on whether the Mariners captain should have stayed on the pitch after a nasty challenge on reds skipper Dean Keates could have warranted a dismissal. The second half really came alive when Grimsby’s Andy Cook gave the Lincolnshire club the lead after 72 minutes. But they lead for just 11 minutes as Dean Keates’ surging run into the box beat several defenders before he was brought down by Shaun Pearson in the box, referee Jon Moss awarded a penalty and up stepped Kevin Thornton. You could cut the tension with a butter knife, but the coolest head in the ground was that of Thornton’s, who slotted home equalising for Wrexham. Extra-Time followed and it was all Wrexham now, Adrian Cieslewicz ripped the Grimsby defenders to bits and could have scored a hatrick if it weren’t for James McKeown in the Mariners net. After 120 minutes of football, it all came down to one dreaded word that nobody wanted to hear….penalties. But there was no need to worry, as Grimsby’s first tWo takers missed, Cieslewicz, Wright and Westwood all converted their spot kicks. Joe Colbeck kept a cool head and scored his penalty but it was too late, Johnny Hunt placed his penalty and won the game for Wrexham crowning them FA Trophy Champions 2013. Following the FA Trophy triumph Wrexham finished March away to Hyde, over 1,000 fans traveled to Greater Manchester to watch the Champions in action only to be disappointed, as Hyde defeated the Dragons 2-0.
April proved to be a busy yet disappointing month for Wrexham as all hope of winning the league went out of the window, the first home match as FA Trophy winners was against Macclesfield Town in a 0-0 draw. This followed by a magical Tuesday night against Mansfield Town. Top of the league Mansfield took the lead under the floodlights after 53 minutes through rampant striker Matt Green who would prove to make it big signing for Birmingham City at the end of the campaign. But Wrexham pulled the game back, with the biggest home attendance of the season for this re-arranged fixture, the Racecourse was rocking after Dean Keates’ free-kick leveled the match. Minutes later former Premiership midfielder Glen Little came on for the reds, and instantly changed the game, the Mansfield players didn’t know what to do with him, and this point was proved when he sliced the defence open with a pass to Danny Wright who finished nicely to seal all three points. This would be the last win of April as two successive losses away to Woking, Cambridge United and Kidderminster Harriers followed and then a draw to Braintree Town meant Wrexham slipped down the league but remained in the play-offs. During the Braintree match leading scorer Danny Wright dislocated his elbow and would miss the remainder of the season, which included the play-offs. A final game of the season away to Mansfield saw the Stags win the league as a Wrexham side captained by Glen Little lost 1-0, this was a game in which Dave Artell was sent off and suspended for the play-offs, but the FAW overturned the suspension and he was able to compete in the play-off semi-final fist leg against Kidderminster Harriers at the Racecourse. It was lucky for Wrexham that Artell’s suspension was overturned as the defender opened the scoring in the play-offs just before halftime. His goal was cancelled out by prolific striker Michael Gash who equalised on 54 minutes. But a Neil Ashton penalty gave the reds a 2-1 lead going in to the second leg at Aggborough the following Sunday. It was a tense opening few minutes in the second leg as a packed away end roared the reds on, and on the half-hour mark Brett Ormerod soared through the Harriers defence and beat the keeper one-on-one. The lead was cut out by Chey Dunkley who’s effort put the Harriers back in the tie. But 5 minutes later Joe Clarke’s free-kick sneaked in the bottom corner and restored a two goal lead on aggregate. The game was sealed on 85 minutes when Neil Ashton slotted home another penalty and sent Wrexham to Wembley a second time.
May comes around as did Wembley, after a taste of victory in domestic competition in March, could Wrexham win in the play-offs? Newport defeated Grimsby Town in the semi-final setting up and all welsh final. The match was completely tied, it looked like there was nothing between them, the biggest chance of the game fell to Brett Ormerod who blazed the ball over the bar from 4 yards out. It looked like extra-time was coming until the last 5 minutes, which obliterated Wrexham’s season. Christian Jolley managed to break through and chip the ball home to give Newport the lead, and 4 minutes later Aaron O’Connor smashed the ball home to seal promotion breaking Wrexham hearts.
Pre-Season came in July where players came in and out, Chris Westwood, Declan Walker, Jamie Morton and Glen Little were released whilst Martin Riley re-signed for Mansfield Town and Danny Wright signed for Forest Green Rovers. Chris Maxwell, Dele Adebola and Dave Artell returned to their parent clubs. Although Dave Artell would be re-signed in the summer on a permanent deal. Coming in was Andy Bishop who had a loan spell at the club the previous season, former Manchester City trainee Theo Bailey Jones, Junior Theophile N’Tame and Joe Anynisah
It was a pre-season which consisted of plenty of Football League opposition and Welsh Premier League sides, as well as a pre-season tour of Scotland in a mini tournament, which the reds won. They faced Colwyn Bay and Aberystwyth on the Welsh Premier front, with young 17 year old striker Bradley Reid scoring for the Dragons. Blackburn Rovers, Tranmere Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers were in town from the Football League, with a draw to Blackburn, win over Tranmere and a slim loss to Wolves. Wrexham also faced Premier League opposition as Mark Hughes’s Stoke City were in town, Jermaine Pennent, Peter Crouch, Asmir Begovic and Jonathan Walters were all in action at the Racecourse.
The season began in August and it wasn’t the best month, although Wrexham won their first game of the season against Welling United but lost to Halifax, drew to Tamworth and Hyde, before losing to Lincoln City and then Chester, a loss that hurt everyone with Wrexham for obvious reasons, another person hurt from this match was Mark Creighton who injured himself again keeping him out of action until November.
Transfer deadline day approached and just one signing came in or out of Wrexham, and it was out as 17 year old Bradley Reid signed for Wolves for a fee believed to be in the region of £200,000.
September proved to be as bad as August as Wrexham won just twice in six games to Luton Town and Gateshead. The dreaded form of the 2013/2014 season looked to be running on for a while with losses to part time clubs such as Braintree Town and Nuneaton, a side who Wrexham defeated 6-1 just 10 months beforehand. A positive for September was the signing of Mark Carrington who proved to be an essential part of the season.
October rolled by and it was more of the same as it opened with a 2-1 defeat to now Skrill Premier new boys Salisbury City. But things did pick up for Morrell’s reds as the pressure to perform mounted up, a 1-0 win over Southport led to a 1-1 draw at Barnet, a game that won’t be forgotten for a while after three sendings off including that of Barnet’s player-manager Edgar Davids, for an elbow to the face of Stephen Wright, who bizzarly was also sent off! A free-kick in the 87th minute was given to Wrexham who were 1-0 down at the Hive, and Dean Keates stepped up to score from it. Then minutes later substitute Johnny Hunt committed an awful challenge on Barnet’s Curtis Westonwhich saw the young scouser dismissed. The month was ended with a 2-0 home win over Woking in the league, and a 2-0 home win over Hyde in the FA Cup.
November rolled by and opened in a nasty way as Wrexham lost 3-2 at Macclesfield, Joe Anyinsah scoring put injuring himself in the process, leaving him sidelined for the rest of the month. Wrexham then tasted more domestic success with a win over Alfreton Town in the FA Cup 1st Round sending them through to a tasty 2nd Round tie at home to League 2 leaders Oxford United. A decent month followed with a win over Gateshead and then a loss to Kidderminster and the ‘ghost goal’, after Adrian Cieslewicz ran through scoring a sensational goal, referee Amy Fern judged it to have gone wide, but after 6 minutes of arguing it was overturned and given as a goal, what happened? the ball went through a hole in the net! only Wrexham! After the Kidderminster defeat the Reds managed wins against Darford and Forest Green Rovers, a game remembered for the amount of stick Danny Wright received during the 2-0 win in which player-manager Andy Morrell scored a stunning volley.
The final game of November came in the FA Trophy against Gresley, a side in the 8th division of English football. The game finished 2-1 to Wrexham, but proved to be the last time Mark Creighton would pull on a red shirt, as he picked up another injury, and a month later decided to call it a day on his career, aged 32. But they say every cloud has a silver lining, well no better news could have come out of Wrexham than the news that came out, and that was the announcement that after 2 years of fan ownership, Wrexham Football Club were debt free and that the club could begin re-branding. One example of this was the new 150th Anniversary badge unveiled for 2014.
December, and the last chance to get up the league before 2014. It began with the FA Cup 2nd Round tie against Oxford United. The game had been changed to a Monday night as it was being broadcast live on BT Sport, and the night had a certain atmosphere, the type you get when you know it’s a special night. It very nearly was as well as Joe Clarke gave Wrexham the lead in the first half with a beautiful volley, Wrexham dominated the first half and Oxford were lucky not to be two or three nil down. But the second half came around and Oxford showed why they were one of the favourites to go up in to the 3rd division as James Constable and Ryan Williams both scored within minutes of each other to snatch the tie away, taking away the chance to face Charlton Athletic at the Valley in the 3rd Round.
With the announcment of Mark Creighton retiring on December 23rd, a couple of days beforehand Junior Theophile N’Tame announced that he had left the club by mutual consent.
The rest of the month was disappointing as Wrexham were dumped out of the FA Trophy against Luton. They went on to draw against Welling United and lose to Alfreton Town in the last minute courtesy of a Chris Westwood goal, the defender refused to celebrate against his former club. The last game of 2013 came at Hyde’s Ewan Fields, at that point Hyde had not won a game since April and they took the lead against Wrexham in this match, but it wasn’t to be as a Rob Ogelby hatrick and goals from Joe Clarke and Dave Artell sealed a 2-5 victory for the Dragons.
So, was 2013 a successful year for Wrexham? I’m torn, two trips to Wembley, reaching the play-offs and clearing debts is a great year and i think a majority of fans would have taken it, but promotion was the main aim and we didn’t achieve it, and won’t this season coming into 2014 either. Where Wrexham will finish in 2014 I have no idea. A good pre-season, a few fresh faces and maybe, just maybe, 2014 may be our year.