Supporting Wrexham in 2019 was tough. Over the 12 months, the club reached the top of the table in February, lost their play-off eliminator in May and then sunk to the bottom of the National League come November. Three managers took charge of the team in that spell, with Dean Keates now tasked with the job of pulling us away from the relegation zone.
If we’re going to survive, one thing he’ll need to address is our away form. In 29 games across all competitions last year, the Reds only managed four wins away from home and three of them were during the previous campaign.
Thankfully, though, a 2-0 win at Eastleigh in early December sparked a decent run and we headed into 2020 on the back of three wins in five league games. One of those victories came at home to relegation rivals Chorley on Boxing Day and winning the reverse fixture on New Year’s Day would provide a big step towards staying up.
Three of us headed up to Lancashire to see if we could complete the double and start the year off right.
Back on the hop
This was my first Wrexham away day since we were dumped out of the Scottish Challenge Cup by Rangers Colts in mid-November and my first groundhop outright since my visit to Hampden Park a few days later.
So despite the streets being empty and the only signs of life coming from a few pubs and an unloved spinning teacup ride in the town centre, I felt very excited to be in Chorley.
Further wacky pleasures came when we headed to the ground, as we discovered the away entrance was actually in the local park. It was so bizarre to see Wrexham fans going through turnstiles next to a bunch of kids skating but it just continued to fuel my love of visiting new places and discovering the peculiar things waiting there.
When we tried to enter Victory Park, the Chorley stewards were super-friendly and understanding, letting all the Wrexham fans who had to purchase home tickets due to the short sales window between festive games, enter the away end with no hassle.
Chorley is so small that we ended up getting in the ground 45 minutes early. Wrexham were training on the other side of the pitch so it gave us a chance to spot a few familiar faces in black and white – namely ex-Wrexham players Chris Holroyd, Ntumba Massanka and Nortei Nortey.
Seeing Holroyd was particularly heart-breaking as his once proud, reality TV star haircut had turned into a flat, lifeless bowlcut. We were thankful that his beard still remained and that he and the other old guard weren’t in the starting line-up.
Wrexham were the better team when the game commenced and should have been ahead through JJ Hooper on a couple of occasions. Kieran Kennedy also had a header saved by home goalie, Matt Urwin, before Chorley grew into the match by winning a number of set-pieces. Thankfully, the referee only awarded them corners (despite their desperation to win a penalty) and we successfully defended them to enter the break goalless.
The home side then upped their tempo after the restart and Rob Lainton was called upon to deny Elliot Newby with a superb save. The pressure was increasing with every minute, though, and mistakes were starting to creep in. Wrexham were hanging on to a 0-0 draw until the game turned with 20 minutes remaining.
A Chorley mistake let Omari Patrick in and he managed to deliver a beautiful ball to the far post where Devonte Redmond headed home. Many of us in the opposite end of the ground didn’t realise the ball was in but we made up for it with delayed celebrations when the team mobbed Redmond soon after.
Due to our brittle defence this season, we were all wary of conceding and this only escalated when Chorley brought on Holroyd and Massanka. But before they could make an impact, Patrick sealed the three points with a top drawer finish that curled into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Redmond’s effort might have been hard to follow but Patrick’s hit the net perfectly from our standpoint and kick-started a late New Year’s party in the away end. Chorley did come close to scoring after that but we manged to hang on for a rare clean sheet and lift ourselves out of the relegation zone.
Although the club seemed really decent and I enjoyed seeing a ground which was basically an extension of a public playing field, Victory Park is not a great place to watch football. There are overgrown embankments that are boarded up, the stands are all mismatching and an old chimney with a Morrison’s logo written down it dominates the skyline.
The toilets were also up there as some of the worst I’ve seen, sitting between Aldershot’s port-a-loos and Halifax’s all-time low experience of pissing up a shed wall. Chorley’s were like being in a tiny pub’s toilets, only one of the urinals was overflowing and the floor was muddy.
Wrexham fans made up half the crowd in Chorley and it was great to finally see their huge support rewarded with three points. Patrick’s goal will remain an away day highlight for many years to come and I hope the on-loan Bradford City man can continue his excellent spell with us, which has yielded five goals in nine games so far.
Keeping him and adding a defensive-midfielder should be the biggest aims of January, as well as using this win as a springboard to secure mid-table safety. No doubt, this month will go a long way to deciding how 2020 goes for many Wrexham fans.
Ground rating: 2/10