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.
So a troubled season comes to an end, and at least we’ve a terrific recent record on the last day of the season, so perhaps we can at least hope for a rousing send-off to a wretched campaign.
Admittedly, we lost last year at Mansfield, but even then the circumstances make the achievement seem quite impressive. Andy Morrell selected a second string side, with Glen Little making his only start of the season and Mark Creighton thrown on for the first time since his injury seven months earlier. Taking all that into consideration, losing 1-0 to a disputed penalty against a side needing a win to clinch the title was no mean feat!
Apart from that occasion we’ve tended to finish our league season with a bang in recent years. In fact, that loss was the first one we’d suffered on the last day of the season in eight years, since a 1-0 home loss to Huddersfield. We’d won six of the seven final day encounters before that trip to Field Mill as well, so we’d got used to finishing the season on a good note!
In recent years there have been some dramatic and significant victories, such as the 3-1 win over Boston which sent them to the Conference and earned us a temporary reprieve in 2007.
In 1989 we needed a win over Rochdale to put us in the play-offs and it was looking good when Ollie Kearns gave us an early lead which we held at half time. Rochdale equalised after the break though, and it looked like we would be thwarted with four minutes left when a fortuitously deflected Jon Bowden goal clinched victory.
There were also a couple of memorable promotion parties. In 2003 an army of Wrexham fans swamped Bury and were rewarded with a fine display as Denis Smith’s side clobbered the home side. Carlos Edwards and Darren Ferguson scored either side of an own goal and the 3-0 score flattered the home side.
Ten years earlier we’d enjoyed a similar occasion. Again we were already up, and we celebrated with an entertaining 4-2 win over Colchester, with Steve Watkin contributing a couple of goals.
Sometimes we’ve played party poopers, such as in 2000 when a spectacular strike by Mark McGregor earned a 1-0 win over Gillingham which prevented them going up, or in 1992 when a crowd in excess of 21,000 turned up at Turf Moor to celebrate Burnley’s promotion. They led at half time, but goals from Jon Paskin and Gareth Owen earned a 2-1 win.
In 1998 it was our turn to be thwarted, although we did the business on the pitch that day. We travelled to Southend needing to win and for other results to go our way to get into the League One play-offs, and despite going behind early on we fulfilled our side of the bargain. Peter Ward grabbed two, his second goal memorably rifling into the roof of the net to seal the win, and Karl Connolly also struck to earn a 3-1 win, but events elsewhere meant it was all in vain.