Wrexham win first trophy at Wembley
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 24th 2013)
Back from the Brink
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Wrexham’s player-manager Andy Morrell, said after Wrexham won the FA Carlsberg Trophy 4-1 on penalties. “What a feeling. I thought we were the better team. They [Wrexham’s players] are just brilliant to work with.”
Wrexham’s first trip to Wembley ended in joy after a master-class in penalty-taking by the North Wales club – they despatched all four of their spot-kicks clinically. Only Joe Colbeck found the net for Grimsby Town. “We lost the game on penalties,” said Grimsby’s joint-manager Rob Scott. “Let’s not dwell on it. Positives are we live to fight another day. We’ve still got promotion to fight for.”
Grimsby’s form has fallen lately, but they are still in with a chance of promotion via the play-offs. So are Wrexham. “There’s nine games to go,” Scott said. “I constantly see Premiership clubs complaining about how many games they have to play. I”ll gladly swap them.”
His goalkeeper James McKeown was in inspired form, especially in extra time. McKeown produced a string of fantastic saves. “Macca was excellent in extra time,” Scott said. “We looked a bit jaded.”
Adrian Cieslewicz replaced Morrell after an hour. As the first half of extra time was drawing to a close Danny Wright nodded on to Cieslewicz, who chested it down and volleyed from 30 yards out only to see McKeown produce an excellent save.
Grimsby’s keeper kept the Dragons at bay in the second half of extra time too. A neat turn by Wright in the penalty area resulted in a shot towards the corner, but McKeown was once again equal to it at the expense of a corner. But Cieslewicz came more and more into his own. “It was a tough decision to put him on the bench,” Morrell explained. “I wanted to start him.”
Within 15 minutes of his introduction, the Dragons had to chase an equaliser. Colbeck crossed for Cook from the right flank. His first effort rebounded back to him and he made no mistake with the second. Just over five minutes earlier Cieslewicz was involved in a slick move on the left flank which eventually gave Brett Omerod an opportunity to finish a move that he started, but he headed Johnny Hunt’s cross over the crossbar.
“It [bringing on Cieslewicz] was a brilliant tactical decision by me,” Morrell joked. But he had an impact. His wending run into the box required the best efforts of McKeown to thwart him, but Wrexham deserved an equaliser. Grimsby suggested that Dean Keates had been cute, going down to easily and that the decision to award a penalty had been a tad soft. Shaun Pearson claimed that he was told by the referee that it was not for a foul by him. Kevin Thornton beat McKeown to send the final into extra time.
“I thought we got a foothold in the game once we scored,” Scott said. “If you ask if we deserved to win, probably not. If it had been a draw, it would have been fair.” But as he acknowledged finals can’t end in draws. So penalties it was.
Cieslewicz stepped up to take the first in front of the Dragons’ fans. He made no mistake The hugely impressive McKeown never stood a chance. It proved to be an odd penalty shoot-out. None were saved. Sam Hatton’s reply hit the post. The impressive Danny Wright doubled Wrexham’s advantage. It proved decisive when substitute Richard Brodie blasted his penalty well over the crossbar. Man of the Match Chris Westwood kept his nerve to take Wrexham to the brink of glory.
Colbeck had to score to keep Grimsby’s hopes alive and did so. Hunt made no mistake with Wrexham’s fourth. The trophy would go to Wales.
“Obviously it is disappointing, but ultimately when it goes to penalties, it is 50/50 and there’s not much you can do,” McKeown said. “We’ve got to make sure we back here in 4-5 weeks. I don’t see any bigger inspiration than to come back here and win a play-off final.”
They have an opportunity to secure promotion to Division Two of the Football League. Their form has dipped recently and Wrexham are also in with a shout of a return to the major leagues. Their departure was controversial. A ten point penalty for going into administration cost them dear, but He saved the club (see Fit and Proper, which will be published soon)
“I’m sure a few of them will celebrate a bit,” Morrell said. He certainly did, sliding across the turf to join in with his team-mates celebrating the win. “I think we were the better team overall.” After all they have been through few would begrudge them their success.
“The club is now in the right people’s hands,” Morrell said. It is owned by their Supporters’ Trust after they dug deep to save the club from extinction. “You can see what we think of them [the fans]. We won’t repay them, but maybe this is a little slice back.”