Cup upsets are in Wrexham’s DNA. It’s such a shame that younger and newer fans haven’t had a chance to sample the delights of a decent giant-killing, but the win at Coventry meant they’d a chance to feel the joy of knock-out glory. Here’s my top ten Wrexham FA Cup ties.
10. 1957 4th Round Manchester United
A momentous yet poignant day as we welcomed the remarkable Busby Babes to The Racecourse. Wrexham’s biggest home attendance witnessed the brilliant visitors triumph 5-0. Thirteen months later, 10 of United’s players from that day were involved in the Munich air disaster. Seven of them lost their lives.
9.1978 3rd Round Bristol City
We’d already knocked First Division City out of the League Cup, and came close to beating them at Ashton Gate in a topsy-turvy match. City raced into a 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes, but an own goal, a strike from McNeil and two from Bobby Shinton, who scored the only goal in the League Cup clash, left us 4-2 up with 7 minutes to play.
City managed to claw themselves back into the game and earn a 4-4 draw, but they might have wished they hadn’t when the replay came round. McNeil, Whittle and Mickey Thomas struck as they were thoroughly out-played in a 3-0 win.
8. 1981 3rd Round West Ham United
An old-school epic. West Ham were the holders of the FA Cup and it took an 87th minute Gareth Davies goal at Upton Park to force a replay. The second match ended goalless after extra time, and a successful toss of the coin meant the second replay would also be held at The Racecourse. That went into an extra period too, as players wilted with exertion on a heavy pitch. Dixie McNeil, filling in at left back since the 19th minute, managed to sneak up the pitch to give Wrexham the lead, and we held on for a nerve-wracking 16 minutes to go through.
7. 1997 3rd Round West Ham United
Hammers boss Harry Redknapp was hardly a gracious guest, complaining after a 1-1 draw at a snowy Racecourse that the conditions had brought his side down to Wrexham’s level. He had nowhere to hide after the replay, as Wrexham dominated the game and won through a last minute long range goal by substitute Kevin Russell.
6. 1978 5th Round Blyth Spartans
A remarkable clash of the giant-killers as we faced non-league opposition with a place in the last 8 at stake. We came so close to elimination, equalising in the 89th minute through Dixie McNeil from a corner which was retaken because the flag fell over. The replay, in front of more than 40,000 fans in Newcastle, saw Graham Whittle’s penalty and a McNeil screamer secure victory.
5. 1974 4th Round Middlesbrough
Our opponents were setting a hot pace at the top of the Second Division, like on Sunday. Jack Charlton, their manager, was a northerner with links to Leeds United, looking to enhance his growing managerial reputation, like on Sunday. In front of the biggest crowd of the season, Dave Smallman, our talismanic striker scored the only goal of the game just before half time. Just like Sunday? Over to you Mister Mullin!
4. 1978 4th Round Newcastle United
An 89th minute goal by McNeil, his second of the match, earned a 2-2 draw at St James Park. The replay was a spectacular display of attacking football as we dominated top division opposition. It took McNeil just 80 seconds to open the scoring and although we conceded an equaliser against the run of play, we blew The Magpies away through goals from Bobby Shinton and Les Cartwright, with McNeil chipping in with another.
3. 1974 5th Round Southampton
We’d never got this far in the competition, and were facing a Southampton side with a superb home record. Luck didn’t seem to be favouring us when Brian Tinnion’s goalbound shot was slowed down by the muddy pitch, but Dave Smallman found the net from Tinnion’s corner. Goalmouth heroics from Brian Lloyd and Joey Jones helped to ensure we clung on for victory.
2. 1982 3rd Round Nottingham Forest
The forgotten upset. Mel Sutton’s side, which had been in the Second Division relegation zone all season, travelled to Brian Clough’s Forest, who retained the European Cup 18 months earlier, and conceded in the second minute. Not to worry: second half goals from McNeil, Steve Dowman and Mick Vinter earned a from-behind 3-1 win.
1. 1992 3rd Round Arsenal
You saw this coming, didn’t you? Probably the most remarkable cup upset in the long history of the competition, Brian Flynn’s side, bottom of the 4th Division the season before, are trailling champions Arsenal with 7 minutes left. Time for Mickey Thomas to set up and blast a ludicrous free kick past David Seaman. Shell-shocked, Arsenal allow Acrefair’s finest, Steve Watkin, to capitalise on a mistake by England captain Tony Adams and slide in an improbable winner. Typical Wrexham.