The year we very nearly went down

By Nick Griffiths

I would say that overall it has been a disappointing year. After coming so close the year before, this season we really should have been up there, and the squad really should have been strengthened for this campaign.

The Reading match got us off to a flyer, and with the parading of Rush there was a fairly decent crowd and Wrexham won 3-0. This got all our hopes up, especially as Reading had just been relegated from Division One and were regarded as one of the better sides in the league. The next home game though we were beaten comprehensively 4-2 by Colchester. This was a real setback - my first impression of the Wrexham team in a home league match last season as I was away for the Reading game. The next match was Manchester City; my personal feeling about this match, judging us on our previous result, was that it would be a case of lambs to the slaughter. This though was not the case, and Mark Cartwright played what was his best game for Wrexham. The team ground out a 0-0 draw in front of what was a superb away following.

Into September and our strike-rate was poor for a team that was tipped to be chasing a play-off place. York away was probably one of the most one-sided games I've ever watched, and how we did not go in two or three goals to the good at half-time I'll never know. We just did not have anyone capable of capitalising after our initial goal, and in the end York managed to sneak an equaliser to get a point. Games like this should have been won.

Autumn came and the visit of big spenders Fulham. The result…a 2-0 defeat by a Fulham team that was impressive. Then after a 1-0 win over Peterborough came the other give-away of the season: the 3-2 away loss at Oldham. This also saw the introduction of the Fluro Mitre Ball, which was to be used during the winter - apparently easier to see. I didn't think so. Anyway the game itself. To be 2-1 up, and end up losing, with maybe 10 minutes to go and concede two goals, was unbelievable. Again, this was three valuable points wasted. This result left us in 17th Place. So much for play-off contention! Following this result came two good home wins which boosted our position a little - up to 14th. But then another home defeat by Bournemouth took us back down to 17th.

The Christmas period brought Manchester City to the Racecourse, and Wrexham performed well, and were unlucky to lose the match 1-0 in front of a 9,000 crowd. It is the inconsistency that really cheeses off your typical Wrexham fan, and this was in evidence a few days later. After a good performance against City it was a trip to Deepdale and Preston. Boy were we ripped apart! Their use of the wings was brilliant - proper attacking football - with their number 7 absolutely tearing our defence apart for 90 minutes. The result, luckily, was only a 3-1 defeat. It could have been a lot more. Our goalscorer…well it was an own goal. Sign him on! The position now was 19th, and it was panic stations in my opinion. A couple of weeks later, we were given another footballing lesson, in what was an absolutely superb stadium. It was the 4-0 defeat at Reading. Again, we were outplayed, but the ground was amazing. It is also cheap to get in: 5 for students to sit down - here at Wrexham it was 9 to stand on concrete.

It was a Friday night when it eventually came…our first away league win of the season: 3-1 against Colchester. Then came the return of Preston: the less said about this fixture, the better. Wrexham had learnt nothing from their previous match against them this season. Again we were outplayed and lost 5-0, and personally I don't think Preston played as well as they did when we played them away. After this followed an amazing winning streak away from home. Amongst them was the best football I have ever seen Wrexham play - Stoke City away. We played them off the park - the away support was just absolutely stunned. The Stoke fans were absolutely stunned too - the result a 3-1 win. This again showed our inconsistency. It proved that we were capable of being one of the top teams, but why couldn't we do it on a regular basis? I honestly have no idea why we can't. The position after Stoke was 14th. A good result, but looking at the fixtures to come, we definitely weren't safe.

The Tuesday after the Stoke game though, Wrexham again produced the goods away from home in a 2-0 win at Northampton who, surprisingly, were occupying a lowly position in the league, especially after they did so well the previous season. After this though, we only picked up seven points in the next nine league games. This was definitely relegation form, and even Flynn declared we were now in a relegation battle. 'Battle' was the word when Wrexham went to Walsall. The new signings by Flynn were also out in force and Stuart Elliott, one of the signings, who had impressed me in the previous match, took an early bath for two reckless tackles inside the first 20 minutes. Ten-man Wrexham battled well in what was a good game, but Walsall ran out 1-0 winners.

Wrexham then took four points in the next two games against very good opposition: Gillingham and Fulham - both up at the top of the league fighting for honours. Three points against Gillingham at home, and a point away at Fulham was good going, and this put us in 13th place. Three games to go, and we were looking safe, BUT there always seems to be a team that drops from mid-table into relegation every year. Could it be us? I certainly wasn't convinced we were safe. A 2-0 defeat at home to Wigan left us hanging on in 18th place - due to results elsewhere we were declared mathematically safe. Good job too, because we ended the season with a 1-0 defeat at Lincoln but then got a point at Bournemouth - which stopped them from getting a play-off place.

So to sum up, we need to strengthen our squad in a couple of areas; we especially need a striker. If you don't score goals, you don't win games. Best game of the season - Stoke away. Worst game(s) - had to be Preston home and away. Best opponent player - had to be Cartwright of Preston, and also David Lee of Wigan; Both caused havoc for Wrexham down the wing. Best Wrexham player - Gareth Owen, absolutely superb in midfield and deserves his testimonial. Hopes for next season - we use two wingers, and have a goalscorer in the team.