The Easter Weekend fixtures are traditionally seen as the point which can make or break a season, and that feels particularly true for Wrexham this year. With Easter falling unusually late, there will only be one match left in the campaign after the Easter Monday trip to Halifax, so our chances of a top three finish could be decided by our weekend double header.
Only four times in Wrexham’s history have the Easter fixtures fallen on a later date than this year, most recently in 2011 when we won 1-0 at Gateshead thanks to a Dean Keates goal.
Good Friday matches have, until recently, been pretty rare for The Dragons. We’ve played on that day just three times in the National League, and just 7 times in the last 42 years. We’ve on awful record over that period, our last win on Good Friday coming in 1977, when we beat Chester 2-1.
You have to go back a fair way to find the last time we won on Good Friday. We’ve played on that day three times during our time in the National League, and picked up a miserable one point from a possible nine.
Our first two Good Friday matches at this level were dispiriting home defeats. In 2012 we were beaten 1-0 at The Racecourse by Alfreton, and like the Derbyshire side, Maidstone United also earned their first ever win in North Wales, triumphing 3-1 two seasons ago. Last season’s 1-1 away draw with Bromley might look like an improvement, but it should be noted that we threw away a second half lead against a side which had suffered a red card in the first half!
Until two seasons ago, the National League didn’t tend to schedule a round of fixtures for Good Friday, preferring instead to play a game on Saturday and then another on Easter Monday. Wrexham haven’t tended to cope well with the short turnover between matches during this period, and have only emerged with the full six points from the Easter double header once in the National League. That occurred in 2011, when we won 1-0 at Gateshead and followed up with a 4-2 home victory over Tamworth.
The only other time we’ve emerged from a National League Easter weekend unbeaten was in 2015, when we beat Alfreton Town 4-0 and then drew 2-2 at Macclesfield.
That’s not so say we haven’t enjoyed memorable successes at Easter. Perhaps our most enjoyable victory in the last couple of seasons came on Easter Monday two seasons ago, when Dean Keates’ side inflicted a 3-1 on York City.
The victory at Bootham Crescent, coming from behind to win in emphatic manner before nearly 900 travelling supporters, erased any lingering worries about the drop and contributed to the eventual relegation of our hosts, who were managed by former Dragons boss Gary Mills.
Our Easter Monday record in the National League is moderate, as we’ve won 3, drawn 3 and lost 3.
While this season’s schedule is demanding, it’s nothing compared to the traditional format for Easter fixtures. Until the early 1970s, the traditional Football League Easter schedule involved playing three games in four days, turning out on Good Friday, then again the next day before enjoying Sunday off and playing again on Easter Monday! Usually the Friday and Sunday games were double-headers against the same opposition.
We managed to win all three Easter fixtures just once, in 1925 when we beat Rotherham and Barrow at home, then completed the double over The Millers. However, we’ve lost all three twice, and those barren Easters took place in consecutive seasons as we suffered whitewashes in both 1960 and 1961.
Sometimes the Easter schedule became even more congested though. When we were in the Combination League we would play on Friday and Saturday, but in 1903 we also threw in the little matter of a Welsh Cup Final on Easter Sunday!
It turned out rather well for us too: we won 4-0 at Chester and then drew 4-4 at Rhyl in the league, before returning to The Racecourse to roll Aberaman Athletic over 8-0 in the cup final!
Chester are our most common opponents in Easter fixtures, and we have the upper hand with 7 wins compared to 3 losses and 3 defeats.
Club record scorer Tommy Bamford seemed to enjoy the gruelling Easter schedule, although his phenomenal goal record rather suggests he enjoyed playing at any time in the year, to be fair! Perhaps his ability to cash in over the busy Easter schedule simply shows that if you’re playing well the next game just can’t come soon enough.
In 1930 he scored in all three Easter games, although disappointingly he still ended up on the losing side twice. One of those defeats was a remarkable 3-5 home reverse against Southport on Good Friday. That prolific period came in the middle of a run of five consecutive Easter fixtures in which he found the net.
Bamford also scored four goals in a 5-1 win over Walsall on Easter Saturday 1932.