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.
With the FA Trophy semi-final balanced on a knife edge, let’s hope history repeats itself.
Six times in our history Wrexham have won the first game of a two-legged tie 2-1, and on each occasion we’ve gone through.
Four of those matches were at home too. Graham Whittle’s penalty helped us take a 2-1 lead to Ninian Park for the 1972 Welsh Cup Final, where we held Cardiff City to a 1-1 draw thanks to Albert Kinsey’s goal. Three years later we met them in the final again and followed up a 2-1 home win with a 3-1 away triumph as Billy Ashcroft scored two.
The following season we took a 2-1 lead to Djurgardens in the European Cup Winners Cup and again Whittle hit the net in a 1-1 draw, and the final example of a 2-1 home win which laid the foundations of success was just two seasons ago.
Dave Artell and Neil Ashton gave us a play-off semi-final win over Kidderminster Harriers, and we went through emphatically at Aggborough, winning 3-1.
One of the two occasions when we won 2-1 away and then went through was also at Kidderminster’s expense when we won 2-1 and then 3-2 in the 1988 Welsh Cup semi-final, with Steve Buxton scoring in both legs, and the other occasion when we won the first game 2-1 was the 1978 Welsh Cup final when we beat Bangor City 3-1 on aggregate.
We’ve had plenty of experience of two-legged ties since we dropped out of the Football League, and the good news is that we seem to be getting better at them!
We’ve played a series of play-off and FA Trophy semi-finals over the last four years, and our fortunes have markedly improved. After two play-off defeats to Luton – who could forget our first leg melt-down in 2011 – we’ve since been involved in a last four Trophy tie and a play-off semi, won the first leg at home and finished the job off in the return.
Celebrating our hundred and fiftieth anniversary with promotion seems a long shot, but we’ve certainly commemorated our proud reputation as a redoubtable cup side, whether we triumph tomorrow or not.
Tomorrow will be our fourteenth cup tie of the season, the most we’ve had in a campaign since the 2004-5 season, although it should be pointed out that we were in four cup competitions that season! In a rather incident-packed season we won the LDV Vans Trophy, got to the final of the Welsh Premier Cup, reached the second round of both the FA and League Cups, become the first side to be docked points for going into administration and were relegated! Phew!
We’ve never played this many cup ties in a season when we’ve only been entered in two competitions. The most we’d previously managed was thirteen in 1908-9, when we won the Welsh Cup and got to the first round of the FA Cup.
In fact, after tomorrow’s game we’ll have played eight cup ties in 2015 compared to just five league matches.