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.
Since dropping out of the Football League we’ve done pretty well in the FA Cup. This is the fourth time in seven seasons that we’ve got as far as the second round, but we’ve only got past this point once, when we beat Brentford to earn that famous third round tie with Brighton in 2012.
Maidstone stand in our path tomorrow and despite the distance between the two sides in terms of both location and league position, we’ve actually got some history against them.
They’ve never won at The Racecourse but they are able to point to a decent record in North Wales as they’ve only lost once in their three visits. That defeat came the first time they crossed the border in April 1990 when Wrexham were battling against relegation to the Conference. A superb run of six wins the previous month had left us in with a shot of salvation but we went into the match without a win in three and needing to return to winning ways.
The match got off to an amazing start with three goals in the opening ten minutes. Eddie Youds opened the scoring in the fourth minute and Gary Worthington got a second two minutes later, but we were pegged back to 2-1 by Steve Butler almost immediately.
Butler, who is widely considered to be The Stones’ best ever player, equalised just before the hour but Brian Flynn’s side packed a late punch as Worthington put us back in front with a quarter of an hour left and Mark Sertori made sure with five minutes to go.
We’d lost the away game earlier that season, a 2-0 defeat which was to have a profound impact on the club. Financially stretched, the team had to make their way to the game on public transport and a frustrated Dixie McNeil resigned as manager soon afterwards.
We haven’t lost to The Stones in five subsequent clashes. The following season Chris Armstrong and Gareth Owen scored in a 2-0 away win and there were goals at The Racecourse too. In each half we fell behind but were able to equalise, with Andy Preece scoring before the break and Jon Bowden netting a seventy sixth minute penalty to earn a point.
The next season saw us face Maidstone twice in the space of six weeks after Christmas, and the two games were massively different. The match at The Racecourse in January 1992 embodied the phrase “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. The previous Saturday we’d beaten Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup, but we followed up beating the league champions with a dull goalless draw in front of 10,000 fewer fans!
There was plenty more to cheer when we travelled south the following month though. We fell behind early on but a quick fire double from Lee Jones and Mel Pejic meant we were ahead by the twenty fourth minute. United equalised shortly after the break but Andy Thackeray gave us the lead once more and Owen’s late strike meant we ran out 4-2 winners again.