Gresford claim derby bragging rights with dramatic JD Welsh Cup win

Gresford AFC booked their place in the JD Welsh Cup second round in a seven goal thriller with Brickfield Rangers at Clappers Lane on Saturday afternoon.

The first round tie brought Brickfield, who sit third in the Welsh National League Premier Division, to Gresford, a side Brickfield aim to meet in the Huws Gray Alliance next season as they chase promotion.

For Brickfield, it was a chance to test themselves against second tier opposition, whilst Gresford were eyeing a cup run to compliment their steady start in the league which has put them 7th after 10 games.

The derby got off to a good start for Brickfield, as they enjoyed a fair share of possession in the host’s half as their coaching staff urged them to get forward.

But it was the home side who had the first real chance of the game, when Sam Molyneux sent a cross towards Jack Chaloner in the area, who had a header saved well by the  keeper.

When Brickfield manager Nicky Ward made the decision to send Alan Bull forward to support Danny Wynne, they began causing problems for Gresford, with Bull’s awareness complimenting Wynne’s strength and pace.

On 30 minutes, Wynne darted towards goal, sending a low angled effort towards the bottom left corner to beat keeper Ben Jones and send the visitors 1-0 up.

And just one minute later the JD Welsh Cup upset was well and truly on, as Wynne surged towards goal chasing a long ball, lobbing Jones with a perfectly weighted shot to give Brickfield a commanding lead.

Gresford thought they had found their way back into the game in the final kick of the first half, when Niall Freeman’s free kick rattled the crossbar and bounded on the goal line, with the home bench protesting that it had crossed the line.

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Their appeals were waved away, leaving Gresford with much work to do in the second half to avoid a shock early exit from the JD Welsh Cup.

The restart saw Gresford enjoy the majority of the possession, but Brickfield remained in the encounter, chasing down every ball to defend their lead.

With 50 minutes played Brickfield defender and ex-Connah’s Quay Nomads man Chris Boyes threatened with an effort from 20 yards out, but the attempt went just wide of the host’s goal.

Halliwell then made his first change of the game, replacing Aaron Edwards with Joe Newton, signalling the end of Edwards’ Clappers Lane career as his departure from the club was announced that evening.

As the hour mark approached, Gresford finally found their way back  into the game, when Molyneux received the ball in the Brickfield area, pulled off a turn and finished low to make it 2-1 on 57 minutes.

Buoyed by their goal, the equaliser soon came and it was again from Molyneux, who rose high in the area to head a cross in off the post to bag his brace in the 59th minute.

The game was now a real cup classic with an end to end feel, seen when Alan Bull raced within seven yards of the Gresford goal to see a cross just evade him with only the keeper to beat.

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In the 68th minute, Gresford took the lead for the first time, when a powerful low shot from Kieran Evans couldn’t be held by Brickfield’s stopper, as the ball bounded high off his initial save and went in.

Just as Gresford looked to be pulling away with the win, Alan Bull brought Brickfield level in the 81st with a great low strike into the bottom left corner, which an outstretched Ben Jones couldn’t reach.

Danny Wynne remained a major threat up front, and went close to getting his hat trick to win the game. After a long ball was sent up into the Gresford area, he battled to head over Jones, but the keeper got there first to deny him.

After another long range effort from Bull was saved, Gresford’s Matthew Hurdman hit the post after making a good run into the area.

Both sides were rushing to find a late winner and avoid extra time, with Wynne proving just as effective in defence when he blocked a close range Gresford header near the right post.

Despite their best efforts, the Wrexham sides were level at the end of normal time, meaning AET was needed to decide the tie.

Jordan MacCarter went close in the 97th minute, hitting the post as he surged past the Brickfield defence to get sight on goal.

Gresford, who were finally taking control of the game, then saw good opportunities go amiss via Newtown and Evans.

In the second half of extra time the score remained level at 3-3 and with penalties looming, it was a spot kick which ironically decided the first round clash.

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Gresford were given the chance to win the game with just three minutes to go, when the Brickfield keeper was adjudged to have obstructed as he tried to sweep it away from the feet of an attacking striker.

Sam Molyneux stepped up and scored to become the hat trick hero, sealing Gresford’s place in the second round draw, which will be made on Monday.

The result was a disappointing one for Brickfield who matched their second tier opponents for large parts of the game, but their performance could prove a catalyst in their quest to finally earn promotion to the Huws Gray Alliance.

Following the game Halliwell praised his side for the hard fought win, admitting it wasn’t an easy watch from the touchline.

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