Stamford created a huge slice of history on Tuesday, October 18, by beating Wrexham in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round replay at the Racecourse Ground, meaning they will appear in the First Round Proper for the first time in the club’s 120-year history.
Having drawn the original match 1-1 at Stamford’s Zeeco Stadium, it may have seemed that their chance had passed them by. But despite being dominated for large periods of the replay, they progressed with a 3-2 win after extra time which sets them up with an away tie at Hartlepool United on the weekend of November 5.
Wrexham, three tiers above them in the football pyramid, had the lion’s share of possession in a frustrating first half for the Dragons, who were limited to half chances and long range efforts. An early shot from Forest loanee Gerry McDonagh was one of the best, forcing a smart save from Stamford’s Sam Donkin. John Rooney also brought gasps from the crowd with a curling 25-yard free-kick which arced just wide of the post.
But, as the half began to peter out, the visitors were awarded a penalty after a rare break into the Wrexham box. Lee Beeson, whose penalty set up this replay, took the spot kick and rifled it past a hapless Shwan Jalal.
The 52 supporters who had made the long trip from south Linconshire – and one from Derbyshire – were ecstatic. A shock was on.
After the break it was more of the same for the hosts, who played like 11 strangers for the most part, dominating play but with no end result.
Then, from a rare Stamford corner, Wrexham failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to midfielder Kern Miller who fired in a ferocious volley into the roof of the net, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead and a real chance to dream.
Many of the home side’s supporters vacated their seats at this point, unable to watch an embarrassment unfold before their eyes.
What they missed was pure FA Cup drama. Shaun Harrod pulled one back on 87 minutes, giving the remaining home support renewed hope and providing a nail-biting finish for the small band of diehards from Stamford.
After Wrexham then hit the bar and had the subsequent rebound cleared scrappily off the line, it looked like plucky Stamford had done enough. Alas, they had not. Substitute Jordan Evans drilled in a late-equaliser in the 92nd minute! Stamford’s players collectively collapsed to the floor, gutted. They had come so close but now, with tired legs, they had to face an extra 30 minutes.
Wrexham came out of the blocks raring to go, now seeing Stamford as a wounded animal ready for the taking. But this is the Cup, and Stamford completed the famous victory when Jake Duffy’s late free-kick found the back of the net to put the visitors into the first round proper for the first time in their history.
A proper cup shock, and a privilege to see it unfold in such a famous old ground.
It’s fair to say that at least three sides of Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, officially Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium, has seen better days. It has stood since 1807, and used as Wrexham’s home since 1864 when Wrexham FC were formed in the local Turf Hotel pub, a pub which I visited. It’s a very proud Wrexham pub as you’d expect from a place which founded the club, but away fans are welcomed in small numbers.
The Kop – an all-standing terrace able to host 5,000 supporters, has an element of decay to it. A smattering of grass has sprung on the terracing, giving an almost derelict look to it.
The Mold Road stand is the newest, and secured lottery funding. However, it now somehow looks incongruous in such old-fashioned surrounds.
The away stand’s seating is, how do I put this, ancient. The seats are made of old plastic that looks look it would snap with very little force. The kiosk is tiny, not much more than a hole in the wall. But it does your standard footy fayre, and you can get cider and beer in bottles. These cannot be taken into the stands, which meant firstly fans had to quickly down their beers before the second half began.
Well worth a visit is The Centenary Club at the back of the The Yale stand, which houses both away and home fans. It’s a modern, well-furbished clubhouse which sells good beers, serves pies and shows Sky Sports. Away fans are also made very welcome.
The tired-looking Kop terrace
The Yale Stand which housed both home and away support. In the foreground are the Stamford supporters; in the background is the Kop.
The Mold Road stand, a somewhat incongruous image amongst an aging stadium.
The Glyndŵr University Stand behind the goal