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.
Last season saw us face Aldershot again after a gap of twenty two years in which The Shots had gone out of business and had to claw themselves back up the divisions. Our clash at The Racecourse maintained the pattern of previous matches here as they returned south frustrated.
We took an early lead through Joe Clarke but it was swiftly cancelled out by Brett Williams. The remainder of the game saw us frustrated until the 87th minute when Jay Harris launched a terrific long range shot which The Shots keeper got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
That goal gave Aldershot a familiar sinking feeling as they have never won at The Racecourse, having lost fourteen and drawn four games, all in the league. We’ve kept ten clean sheets in those eighteen matches as well, and The Shots have only scored more than one goal twice in North Wales.
Our widest winning margin against Aldershot is four goals, and we’ve managed the feat three. On each of those occasions a Wrexham player helped himself to a hat trick too. In October 1964 Martyn King begun the sequence, Sammy McMillan did likewise almost exactly a year to the day later, and in March 1975 Dave Smallman also went home with the match ball.
Smallman has four goals to his credit against The Shots and is our top scorer in this fixture, one ahead of King, McMillan, Ray Smith and Arfon Griffiths.
As the sides kick off tomorrow they’ll be oblivious to the fact that one of the most bizarre episodes in the long history of Wrexham Football Club was played out exactly thirty one years earlier. On November 29th 1983 Wrexham faced Worcester City at home in a Welsh Cup third round tie, but injuries and a tight budget forced manager Bobby Roberts into a drastic act. With no experienced goalkeeper available he decided that the best course of action, rather than throw an untried youngster in at the back of what was already a disconcertingly youthful side, was to play in goal himself. This might seem like a logical course of action were it not for the fact that he’d retired many years earlier, and had been an outfield player during his career!
As it was, became the oldest player ever to represent Wrexham at the grand old age of forty three years and eighty eight days! He did alright as well, and only conceded once. A David Gregory goal earned us a replay and, with a proper keeper between the sticks, we prevailed 2-1.
Roberts was never required to call upon himself again, and his gamble certainly paid dividends as we went on the reach the final and qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup, leading to a glorious victory over Porto, perhaps the most remarkable result in the club’s one hundred and fifty year history, and a subsequent tie with Roma which allowed Roberts to lock tactical horns with the Serie A club’s coach, a youthful Sven Goran Erikson!