Sunday 20 March 2022. Wrexham face Llandudno in the Genero Adran North, knowing that victory will win them the league title. They lead 2-1 at half-time, but concede two second half goals – including one in the 89th minute – to lose 3-2 and finish second.
12 months on, the Red Dragons are 2022/23 champions and on the brink of promotion to the Genero Adran Premier. Manager Steve Dale believes that last year’s near miss only made his team a more determined beast.
“We came close to winning the title last year but to be honest I don’t think we were ready for the step up,” he says. “We needed a season to find our feet in the Genero Adran North and get ourselves moving in the right direction after only coming together as a team the summer before.
“But after having a taste of doing well in this division, the main message at the start of this season was to go one better and win the title. We have done that in style and we are really chomping at the bit to show what we can do in the Adran Premier.”
Dale is right to say that his side have secured the title in style this season. They won all 12 of their Genero Adran North fixtures this season, scoring 70 goals and conceding just six to claim top spot by an eight-point margin.
“It was only a couple of days after the final league game that it really started to sink in what we have achieved over the season so far,” Dale admits. “I am immensely proud of all the players, staff and the whole club for what we have done.”
Wrexham were locked in a battle for the title with Connah’s Quay Nomads throughout the campaign, with both of the teams unbeaten and separated by just two points going into their first league meeting of the season at Deeside in late February.
The score was 1-1 as the clock hit 90 minutes, but stoppage time goals from Katie Sharp and Amber Lightfoot earned Wrexham victory, which proved to be a catalyst as they clinched the title the following week with an emphatic 11-1 win over Rhyl 1879.
“Winning away at Nomads in the fashion that we did was special,” Dale says. “It wasn’t our best performance in terms of how we normally play with the ball and I have to give credit to Nomads for restricting us.
“But to win the game right at the end in stoppage time was a big step towards winning the title and making this play-off possible.”
Wrexham faced Connah’s Quay Nomads again in their final league fixture of the season, this time at the Racecourse Ground in front of a crowd of 9,511 – a record attendance for a Welsh domestic league game.
Dale’s side scored a late winner again, this time Rosie Hughes netting in the 83rd minute to earn a 2-1 victory.
“There was a lot of talk leading up to the game about trying to beat the record league attendance, but we never imagined that we would get over 9,500 people coming,” Dale admits. “But it was a reward for all of the hard work that the players and staff have put in over the season.
“Stepping out onto the pitch before the game was amazing, we all had our friends and family in the crowd and it is something that I will remember for a long time. To then win the game made the day even more special.”
Now only one more game stands in Wrexham’s way in their quest to reach the Genero Adran Premier. On Sunday, they will face Genero Adran South champions Briton Ferry Llansawel in the promotion play-off at Latham Park in Newtown.
The two sides have both had exceptional seasons and Dale says that he has done his homework on his team’s opponents.
“We have to give Briton Ferry a lot of credit and respect for winning their league. It seems to have been quite comfortable for them in terms of their points return.
“We went to watch their final league game against Cascade and I was impressed. They like to get the ball into attacking areas and you can see why they create a lot of chances and score a lot of goals. They have got some really good players, so I think it is going to be a really good game and a big test for us.”
For both teams, Sunday’s game will be a culmination of a season’s hard work and more – but there can only be one winner.
“It is something that we have worked towards since the final whistle of last season really,” Dale says. “We felt we recruited well in the summer, we have had some really good performances and results have come off the back of that.
“We would of course likes to back ourselves in the game, but we know it is going to be a difficult challenge. It is something we have worked hard for, so we can’t wait to get going.”
The Genero Adran Leagues promotion play-off between Wrexham and Briton Ferry Llansawel takes place at Latham Park in Newtown on Sunday 16 April, with kick-off at 4:30pm.
Tickets for the afternoon can be purchased in advance from the two clubs and they will also be available to buy on the gate, costing £3 for adults and £1 for under 18s.