19th December 2000: Welsh Premier Cup Group A
|Wrexham 4||Bangor City 0|
|(J. Roberts o.g. 9, Sam 29, Thomas 55, Barrett 85)|
Reds Ease Into Last Eight
The inevitable was confirmed at a low-key Racecourse tonight when, before a sparse crowd and with a line-up chosen with more than half an eye on next Saturday’s league match, Wrexham eased their way past Bangor City to win their Welsh Premier Cup group and earn a home tie in the quarter finals. While that was always the priority, other objectives were achieved, with Waynne Phillips getting another 65 minutes under his belt, Stephen Thomas also getting more match practice on his own way back from injury, and Hector Sam earning a much needed confidence boost by registering his first goal since September and setting up the other three, although he also missed a number of chances to really fill his boots.
Bangor came to pass the ball around and take the game to Wrexham, a fact that must have delighted Brian Flynn as this allowed his side plenty of space in which to play. This was swiftly capitalised upon when Sam raced down the left and drove in a cross which was narrowly out of Craig Faulconbridge’s reach but found its way into the net via the shin of John Roberts. Sam nearly snatched a goal of his own shortly afterwards, capping a great length-of-pitch move by latching onto Gibson’s cross and hitting a powerful drive on the turn which Ray Newland held well to his right. With City’s defence pushing up, Sam’s pace continued to cause problems, and the first of a series of good chances created by his acceleration but spurned by the two strikers came when Owen played a delightful pass with the outside of his foot to put Sam clear. The striker raced around the keeper as he rushed out of his box, but when he pulled the ball back for Faulconbridge his strike partner dallied and saw his shot blocked.
The second goal finally came when a free kick was awarded on the edge of the box after Sam was tripped following a clever Faulconbridge dummy. Owen lashed his effort into the wall but the rebound fell to Stephen Thomas whose ferocious drive was deflected into the roof of the net by Sam. For a couple of minutes it looked like the roof might fall in on City, Faulconbridge going close with a smart chip from the edge of the box and Phillips hitting a fearsome drive too straight after more good play by Sam. However, the visitors regained their composure and carved out a good chance when the industrious Deniol Graham’s cross was met by Clayton Blackmore, whose header was saved by Walsh. Blackmore was a sad shadow of his former self, though, moving slowly through midfield and passing with a lax lack of conviction, while ex-Robin Scott WIlliams also struggled to impose himself. The source of much of their early promise came from Rhodri Giggs, younger brother of Ryan, who started brightly on the right but soon faded. Another former Wrexham player, Paul Roberts, hardly covered himself with glory either, making a bad tempered contribution which began with a booking for retaliating against an innocuous Ridler foul and ought to have culminated in a dismissal after a terribly late foul on Bouanane which went unpunished. In between, he could have scored, but instead ended Bangor’s best move by heading Rowlands’ cross wide when he should have done better.
Ray Newland, the ex-Chester keeper thrust into the action after the disciplinary travails of City’s first choice goalie, had his moments, but went through a rough patch either side of half time: at the end of the first half he hoisted a poor kick to Robin Gibson, whose immediate shot from a good thirty five yards out didn’t quite catch him far enough off his line, and at the start of the second a powerful but eminently catchable long range drive by Faulconbridge cannoned off his chest to Sam, who inexplicably lashed his shot over the bar from eight yards out with the keeper rocked back on his heels. The third goal did come, though, when Sam again did well, showing good speed and neat footwork to race around the outside of Williams and pull the ball back to Thomas who capped a pleasing performance with a neat first time finish into the bottom left corner from ten yards.
Again, the immediate reaction to a goal was a strong Wrexham spell which City survived as a result of some wasteful finishing. Owen sent Sam clear again, but his poor effort was saved by the foot of Newland, and Gibson’s shot from the rebound was blocked by Williams; and Faulconbridge went close with a couple of headers from a Gibson cross and an Owen corner, and drove a shot narrowly wide after Bouanane and Sam combined excitingly down the left.
The most remarkable missed chance was still to come, though, when a four-on-one break was squandered! Gibson crossed to the feet of Sam six yards out and he turned the sole defender but struck his shot firmly into the body of Newland. The striker was quick to react, racing to the loose ball and trying to fire a shot back across the goal into the bottom corner which Newland saved excellently, Faulconbridge not managing to make enough contact to divert the ball into the empty net as he slid in at the far post. It was a terrific double save, but in all honesty Sam shouldn’t have given Newland the chance to make either stop. While Bangor’s goalkeeper was kept busy, Walsh wasn’t unemployed either, making two fine full length tip-rounds at the foot of the left post from drives by Giggs and Lampkin, although the latter stop came about as a result of the young keeper making a hash of a routine catch from a corner.
The answer to Wrexham’s finishing problems arrived in the sixty-fifth minute, when Phillips was replaced by Paul Barrett, who clearly relished his return to first team action and turned in an energetic performance which was characterisaed by some crisp first time passing. He hit a flashing twenty yard half-volley which whistled narrowly wide of the goal with Newland rooted to the spot before he notched his first goal of the season after neat interplay ended in Sam holding the ball up before deftly releasing the onrushing Barrett, who burst through a static defence and confidently clipped the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper. Barrett even had time to whip in a perfect cross from the right which Faulconbridge met firmly, Newland pawing the header away, and was nearly released through the centre in almost identical circumstances to his goal in the closing moments. It was an enjoyable vignette which lifted Wrexham and will surely push him closer to a first team recall.
The final whistle went with Wrexham looking likely to add to their tally. It had been a satisfying exercise, but the profligacy of the strikers marred the day even if both Sam and Faulconbridge had made good contributions with their movement, workrate and ability to hold the ball up. Such an opportunity to gain some confidence with a few goals should not have been passed up, and will not arise again in the League, where an inability to finish the opposition off has been a major failing this season.
WREXHAM (4-4-2): Walsh; Roche, Ridler, Moody, Bouanane; Gibson, Owen, Phillips (c) (Barrett 85), Thomas; Sam, Faulconbridge. UNUSED SUBS: Dearden, Edwards, Russell, Chalk.
BANGOR CITY (4-3-3): Newland; Smith (Lampkin 77), Hazelden, E. Williams, J. Roberts (Cooper 71); Blackmore, S. Williams, Rowlands; Giggs, Graham, P. Roberts. UNUSED SUBS: Thomas.
Referee: Kevin Parry (Anglesey)
|Ridler (foul on P. Roberts, 33)||P. Roberts (retaliation on Ridler, 33)|
|Thomas (foul on Smith, 67)||E. Williams (forearm smash on Faulconbridge, 45)|
|Rowlands (foul on Gibson, 90)|
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