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.
We’ve faced Gateshead sixty times over the years but our experience against them in cup competitions is limited.
We could do worse than repeat the last of our three cup ties against them. In November 1976 Heed came to The Racecourse for an FA Cup tie and suffered their equal worst result against us. Bobby Shinton helped himself to a hat trick, Billy Ashcroft got two and Stuart Lee scored as well in a 6-0 win.
Our other two cup ties against them came a lot earlier. In 1929 we managed a 4-1 FA Cup win at Gateshead, but two years later they gained revenge with a 3-2 win in the North East.
This is the third time we’ve got this far in the FA Trophy, and the good news is that on both previous occasions we’ve got through to the quarter finals.
In our first season in non league football we got to the third round and travelled to Workington Town. The Conference North side gave a rough ride to the half-strength side Dean Saunders selected, and we found ourselves trailing at half time.
Saunders responded decisively, throwing on his prolific strike partnership of Jefferson Louis and Marc Williams from the bench with just under half an hour left. Williams in particular made a real impact but we left it late before turning the match around, as Neil Fairhurst equalised form the penalty spot with just eleven minutes left. Williams then struck twice in three minutes, earning us a 3-1 win.
That match saw the beginning of the odd story of one of the more unusual characters we’ve seen in a Wrexham shirt: Christian Gyan. A well decorated player with a UEFA Cup winner’s medal to his name, he made an anonymous debut in midfield in this match and would make just one more appearance for us. In the next round he was selected at right back to face Ebbsfleet, had a nightmare and was withdrawn at half time, never to be seen again.
We failed to make it this far in the competition for the next three years, but got to the last sixteen in 2013. Our hosts, Sutton United, suffered at the hands of debutant Kevin Thornton.
It took us thirty three minutes to open the scoring, but once we did the flood gates opened and we would have the tie wrapped up by half time. Rob Ogleby hit the net first, and United collapsed in the final five minutes of the half. Nick Rushton, Johnny Hunt and Joe Clarke all helped themselves as we raced into a 4-0 win by the interval.
Thornton wrapped up a 5-0 win with a deserved goal in injury time at the end of the match. Not only had he scored on his debut, but he’d also accumulated three assists during that purple patch in the first half. Interestingly, no Wrexham player had managed so many assists in one match again until our most recent FA Trophy tie, when Wes York scored two and set up three against Stockport County.