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.
Once again we’ve reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy, and Torquay promise to present a very particular challenge.
Home advantage could be more crucial than usual in both legs of this semi-final, as this fixture has tended to be tough for the away teams as they look to recover from a long journey to the match.
Wrexham have certainly had the upper hand over Torquay at The Racecourse, although the recent clash in North Wales ended in a frustrating stalemate. The Gulls arrived carrying injuries, but it wasn’t until late in the match that Wrexham switched to 4-4-2 and opened the match up. They ought to have clinched a victory in a ferocious final ten minutes but had to settle for a goalless draw, only the second goalless draw this fixture has seen in thirty eight matches. The only other scoreless match was back in April 1989 when the two sides drew a blank at Plainmoor in a Fourth Division match.
That result wasn’t enough to tip the balance in Torquay’s favour when they head to The Racecourse though. In nineteen trips north they’ve lost ten times, drawn five and been victorious on only four occasions.
However, Torquay have enjoyed better fortunes in recent clashes at Wrexham. We’ve only beaten them twice in the last five times we’ve entertained them, with the other matches ending in draws.
If you’re wondering about the likelihood of building up a decent lead to take into the second leg, history suggests you’ll be disappointed. Although we’ve won over half our home matches over Torquay, only sixteen per cent of those matches have ended with Wrexham winning by more than one goal.
Twice we’ve clinched a 4-2 win: in October 2005 Jon Walters got two, Dean Bennett scored one of two goals he managed for Wrexham and Simon Spender rounded off the scoring; and twelve years later it was Jonathan Cross helping himself to two goals with the others added by Mike Lake and a rather more prolific Bennett – Gary!
Our other win by a two goal margin, in March 1985, reminds us of the need for patience in a two legged tie. The game was scoreless with a quarter of an hour left when Torquay gave us a helping hand by scoring an own goal, and Paul Comstive rounded off a 2-0 victory with two minutes left.
That match was played in front of the lowest crowd attracted to The Racecourse by Torquay, just 1,034. We’ll certainly manage a bigger crowd than that tomorrow, but our reduced capacity means we won’t challenge the biggest crowd this fixture has seen, the impressive 9,920 who came to see us lose 2-0 to Torquay in March 1966.
Joe Clarke makes the hundred and seventy fifth appearance of his career tomorrow, and assuming he doesn’t get the yellow card which would mean he’s suspended for the next match, Neil Ashton will register a significant milestone against Forest Green Rovers next Tuesday as he will be playing in the three hundred and seventy fifth league of his career.