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.
Tomorrow’s match offers Wrexham an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge for the bizarre defeat we suffered at the hands of Altrincham last November, when the dismissals of Louis Moult and Andy Bishop led to us surrendering a two goal lead in a 3-2 defeat.
Encouragingly, we have a decent record at Altrincham, having won two and lost one of our six trips there. In fact, those figures compare well with our home record against The Robins, which isn’t terribly impressive as we’ve played out two wins, two draws and two defeats.
The last time we played there, on New Year’s Day 2011, was a forgettable goalless draw. It wasn’t the first time the two sides have drawn a blank at Moss Lane though, as our first clash in an FA Cup tie in 1963 was a particularly frustrating affair. The first attempt to play the game had to be abandoned due to fog although it was memorable because centre forward Ernie Phythian had to go in goal after Wrexham’s keeper, Albert Dunlop, was forced to go off injured. Phythian kept a truncated clean sheet and was unhappy to be dropped when the game was rearranged!
That match lasted the full ninety minutes but neither side could score, so the elongated affair moved on to The Racecourse, where we finally put matters to rest with a 3-0 win which remains our best result against Altrincham, home or away.
If only we could go back to the defensive solidity we showed in those first two encounters. In ten subsequent encounters we have kept just two clean sheets, while Altrincham have managed four.
Our best result at Moss Rose came in January 2010. Andy Mangan, Wes Baynes and Mark Jones scored the goals in a 3-1 win, in stark contrast to a clash between the sides at Altrincham just six weeks earlier. We lost that match, an FA Trophy first round replay, on a freezing evening in front of a miserable crowd of just 405.
Our only other win at Altrincham, during our first season in the Conference, was also a protracted affair. It came in the Setanta Shield in November 2008. The match attracted thirty two more fans than the afore-mentioned FA Trophy match did, but the few that bothered to turn up were rewarded with an exciting tie. Marc Williams put us in front but we couldn’t defend our lead and the match went into extra time. Williams’ strike partner, Jeff Louis, was able to oblige with the decisive strike and we progressed to the second round.
That wasn’t Louis’ first goal at Altrincham that season, as he’d also scored when we drew 1-1 in the first league meeting between the two sides at the start of the campaign. Nobody has scored more for us against The Robins than Louis, although Baynes also has two goals to his credit in this fixture, as does Mickey Metcalf, who struck two past them in that FA Cup tie in the 1960s.