Fan’s View – Wrexham and Dagenham

Dagenham photos courtesy of Steve Daniels
Dagenham photos courtesy of Steve Daniels
Article by Paul Beasley


It was the bus again for me. Happy with my own company on a double seat with my now familiar friends the iPod, newspaper and sleep. One or two on board just seemed to stare into space. Where did their minds wander I wonder?

At the other end I headed with undue haste to the Royal Oak in the High Street. This would be just past 6:30 but it was noticeable that Wrexham, even at this early hour, was something of a ghost town. I expected to see a few glue sniffers in shop doorways but didn’t. What I did hear was a chant with the word Oxford in it. It wasn’t coming from Oxford fans but a small group of local juveniles who were telling of what they were going to do to the Oxford. At least I think that was it as I had trouble with the accents. They didn’t look old enough to be of drinking age but there was a Wetherspoons nearby and I suspect that may have been a factor. I passed by untroubled except by a general concern for the world we live in.

The pub was friendly enough and having listened to the local accent a bit more, I began to pick up the gist of things which was just as well because back at the Racecourse ground I was able to understand the turnstile operator when he informed me that I was going in the home end. Nearly oops.

Wrexham, having won their last seven home games, were naturally confident and, unlike Gateshead, played on what they perceived to be our weaknesses from the off. They wasted no time in getting their two wide men in the game and launched plenty of high balls into our box. But this time we had Johnny Mullins back so weren’t quite as patched up as we had been four days earlier. This didn’t mean that we were able to keep them comfortably at bay. We escaped a dangerously inviting low cross come shot from Jay Harris but it was not the biggest of surprises when we went one down about half an hour in. A good pass and hammered Joe Clarke finish did for us as the right side of the defence was breached.

I thought our support was pretty good in numbers, considering it was a Monday night and on TV and also in making themselves heard. Some do seem though to hold unrealistic expectations. It is as if we should never concede a goal or ever give the ball away. The fact that there are eleven men not wearing yellow shirts trying to make these very things happen is ignored. Whenever Ryan Williams got the ball there was a cry of “Go on Ryan, skin him” but I’m not sure whether this was encouragement or an absolute demand. Whenever we’ve not got possession these people expect us to go flying in and win the ball cleanly failing to recognise that defending is about so much more than this, such as positional sense and denying the opposition space within which to play.

But if anything the support got behind the team even more after we fell behind.

At half time I don’t think that there was any doubt that the better side was leading but I don’t think we were that far behind with Mullins having hit the bar and come close on another occasion. Whilst not 100% confident that we would turn it around I was pretty sure that the Welshmen would not be able to play with the same intensity for another 45 minutes and would be a different prospect heading towards the massive but empty Kop instead of towards their own fans.P1000466

It could all have been very different if Ryan Clarke had not wondrously denied Johnny Hunt a goal from what looked like the easiest of tap ins seconds after the restart. Thereafter we took control, played some very good football and just over 10 minutes later had the lead.

At half time I had remarked that Beano wasn’t doing much of anything effectively and that his control was again noticeably rather lacking. I also remarked that often, when the same has been said, he comes up with the goods. And that is what he did with a smartly accurate low finish following more Dave Kitson magic. He sees passes most others at this level can only dream of. Apparently TV replays proved it was offside. No one thought so at the time.

Then a very sweet goal indeed. A goal that stuck two fingers up to a couple of thousand Welsh men (and women possibly). Ryan Williams nipped in and nodded home a long throw and justice was done.

In the first half he suffered a horrendous potentially career ending tackle. My immediate thought was this is similar to the hatchet job inflicted on Alfie Potter. Thankfully he survived battered, but not broken. There was of course a similarity to the Potter incident; the total ineffectiveness of the referee. Gavin Ward did not even award a free-kick. What an incompetent prick. And whilst on this subject let’s move on to Dean Saunders and the ability he has to talk out of his arse. In Saunders’ screwed up world it was all Ryan’s fault. That’s the same Dean Saunders that cowardly ended Paul Elliott’s career.

Well done to David James and Robbie Savage for calling it how it really was, and that’s after a group of Oxford fans’ had none too politely sung a few songs about Robbie.



But what got me as much as anything was the home fans’ constant booing of Williams as if he had faked it. On this occasion, he absolutely had not. I despised them and it wasn’t just one section of the ground giving him grief.

Oh how good it felt when those goals went in. The Welsh weren’t happy. The odd one or two gesticulated as fans the country over do in these circumstances knowing full well they’re nowhere near anyone who wanted to or could oblige them.

On the final whistle the better team had won. Our class had shone through.

The police had a small presence with representation from South Wales and TVP stood around by the exits as we left. Just a few yards round the corner was the bus. Moments later when a small pack of kids that didn’t look more than about 15 years old gathered and started throwing stones at our transport home the police were nowhere to be seen. Windows remained intact but it took an ordinary bloke to tell them to stop. Moments later they were at it again as we were stuck in traffic and this time the stones were accompanied by a traffic cone. You know darned well that if confronted they would have run a mile. It was an embarrassment to Wrexham Football Club.

Dagenham and Redbridge

With our short term injury crisis almost over I wondered if there would be the danger of taking three points for granted but as we were at home that was never really going to happen.

What did happen was an exceptional first half and opening 30 minutes in particular from the men and boys in yellow. Kitson oozed class as the whole team seemed to be on the same wavelength gratefully accepting his angled passes and using the space our constant movement was creating.

The opener could not have been hit more perfectly by Beano who swivelled through an impossible angle on the edge of the six yard box and volleyed home Mullins headed pass. No player on the planet could have done better in that instant. I assume that it was this that made Beano the sponsor’s man of the match because I thought the rest of his contribution wasn’t that great. It wasn’t for lack of trying but yet again control of the ball was an issue.

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels

There were two obvious downsides to that marvellous first half display.

Firstly, we should have scored four or five more. Our play merited it, but unfortunately our finishing on the day didn’t. Of the many chances not converted the most memorable for me was when Josh Ruffles had linked up with Kitson beat a couple of players and got into the box only to see his low carefully considered bender not quite finding its way past keeper Lewington. I really liked the way he didn’t panic and just produce an aimless blast.

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels

The other downside was the equaliser as the whistle was about to signal the break. Dagenham have long ago made the tag of relegation favourites awarded them at start of the season by the bookies look very silly. In Zavon Hines they have a player with a bit of WHU pedigree in him and Rhys Murphy is the division’s top scorer. It was Murphy who scored the goal. It could be described as a wonderful effort from outside the box. I’m not sure if it was one of those that “no goalkeeper would save” or whether Clarke had got his positioning all wrong.

In the second half we no longer saw the football of the first and chances were few and far between. We had plenty of throws that we launched long into the box only for each to be easily headed clear by the defence. Our corners were somewhat more effective but also brought no tangible reward.

As the reality hit that this was quite likely to be another two home points dropped, frustrations began to show. Williams was berated for running into trouble instead of passing. Players like him will do that from time to time but I think he has improved dramatically on that front already from the time we first saw him. Is he a diver? Possibly. But perhaps he has to do that to get free kicks that should be given anyway. He does seem to get his ankles tapped quite frequently and it was noticeable how tight the opposition tried to get to him.
Football is not just about the pretty stuff. It is about resilience, the will to win and keeping going until the very end. And that’s exactly what we did, AGAIN.

Football matches turn on very fine margins. Deane Smalley fed David Hunt on the overlap. Their defender got a tackle of sorts in. The ball could quite easily have gone out of play but didn’t. It fell kindly for our full back whose delivery is something we have been crying out for for years. Another perfect cross and bang, Kitson had done the necessary.

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels

Having picked up a yellow card in this and the previous game our articulate Dave won’t be doing anything on the pitch for the next couple of games. There are those who say it’s the old planning for Christmas off trick. I personally think he is one of a handful of players who are a handful and who are thus treated in a different light by referees. At Wrexham yes he did kick the ball away but only to the goalkeeper who was coming out anyway, possibly to take it. Ward had hardly shown any indication to wave a card up until then and time and again in many games others do what Kitson did without as much as a raised eyebrow. On Saturday there was plenty of persistent fouling but it was no surprise who ended up going in the book. But we’ve just got to get on with it without him.

When the winner went in we had five men in the box. I liked that. We’d gone for it. I liked that. There were a couple of occasions though where we looked like we might get caught on the break. If we had been I wouldn’t have liked that. My mate Mark reasoned “we need more defenders”.

In the minute or two that remained after our winner I was mightily impressed at the way we kept the ball near the corner flag. Smalley is a master at this. And just for extra insurance Michael Raynes jogged on. We knew then we wouldn’t concede another.

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels

One Response to Fan’s View – Wrexham and Dagenham

  • Jon Tudge says:

    Paul, I absolutely love your contributions. I almost never get to watch a match (great to see two of the last three on the web), and so it's really good to get a fan's perspective on the game. Particularly a fan who seems as sensible as you! Many thanks!! Jon