PREVIEW: Wrexham AFC v Chester FC

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)

It’s time for the cross-border derby once again, and we need to get back on winning ways against our near neighbours and fiercest rivals.

We won the last time we met at The Racecourse, a fine first half strike by Kieron Morris proving to be enough to earn victory. However, that’s starting to look like a rather isolated success in the derby, as recent clashes haven’t gone our way. That win is our only success in five matches in the National League, and we’ve avoided defeat on only one other occasion.

That was Kevin Wilkin’s first derby, and it ended in a tedious goalless draw at The Deva in April 2014. Remarkably, that sparked a run of fifty two consecutive away games without a 0-0 until our recent match at Macclesfield.

Indeed, we’ve only scored four times in our five clashes in the National League, and Connor Jennings and Blaine Hudson, who each scored in defeat at The Deva in our last two matches there, our the only current Wrexham players who know what it feels like to score past Chester. Before Morris you have to go back to November 2007 to find our most recent derby scorer at The Racecourse: Michael Proctor got both goals as we drew 2-2 in Brian Little’s first match in charge.

Morris’ winner ended a barren run of home derby results. Before then we haven’t won any of the previous three Racecourse clashes with Chester, and two seasons ago our performance was particularly traumatic. They arrived in awful form after a winless start to the campaign, but we gifted them two early goals and they held onto that lead with ease.

Despite our recent downturn of fixtures, we still hold a considerable advantage over Chester in the fixture. We’ve played them 151 times in eight different competitions, stretching back to an FA Cup fourth round qualifying round match at Chester in 1888, and stand eleven wins ahead of them with 60 victories to 55.

Defeat would mean we suffer the ignominy of Chester doing the double over us for the first time in 55 years. Doing the double is a surprisingly rare feat in the derby. Despite this being the 52nd season we’ve spent in the same league, we’ve only done the double over them four times, and they’ve done the same to us on a mere three occasions.

There’ll be no-one on the pitch tomorrow who can match the derby record of 1950s Wrexham winger Billy Tunnicliffe. With ten goals he is three ahead of the next highest scorers from either side, namely Tommy Bamford and Mickey Metcalf, who played for Wrexham but put all seven of his derby goals into our net for the Cestrians!

Tunnicliffe got a hat trick against Chester in a 3-2 win in September 1951, a feat matched only by Graham Whittle, who got his in a 4-2 win in December 1976, and Bamford in a 5-2 victory in September 1931, although some sources state Bamford actually got a fourth in this match.

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