North Wales football’s greatest stories No7: Bangor City play at Wembley

Bangor City line up before the 1984 FA Trophy Final at Wembley

Not too many teams travel to a Wembley cup final having already been relegated from their league, but that was the situation that faced Bangor City 35 years ago.

Despite this, nothing was going to stop Citizens fans having a day to remember in the English capital as Dave Elliott’s side became the first from North Wales to play at the Twin Towers when they met Northwich Victoria in the 1983-84 FA Trophy Final.

Not since 1927 had a Welsh club reached Wembley, Cardiff City beating mighty Arsenal 1-0 in the final of the FA Cup.

Unfortunately for Bangor, their successful cup runs that 83-84 campaign had left them with a huge backlog of league fixtures. The Citizens had also made the FA Cup second round, losing in a replay versus Blackpool.

In the two weeks between the FA Trophy semi-final and the final itself, City were forced to play no less than 10 league games, five of which were lost, thereby condemning them to the drop.

Whatever sense of disappointment Bangor fans had felt, however, was made up for by the sense of occasion of playing at Wembley against familiar foes the Vics.

Two trains packed full of City supporters were specially laid on for the trip down to London, and in total around 7,000 fans travelled by whatever means they could.

A crowd of more than 14,500 turned out for the meeting of two Alliance Premier League (today’s National League) hopefuls.

Another interesting fact ahead of the game was this wasn’t the first locking horns of the teams in a major showpiece.

Back in 1889, the pair clashed in the Welsh Cup Final at the Racecourse, Wrexham, and Bangor won 2-1.

City’s path to the 1983-84 FA Trophy Final

First Round: Spennymoor United (h) 3-1

Second Round: Bath City (h) 1-0

Third Round: Gateshead (a) 2-2; 2-0 (h – replay)

Quarter-Final: A P Leamington (a) 6-1

Semi-Final (two legs): Dagenham (h) 1-0; 2-2 (a – 3-2 on aggregate)

Going into the Trophy final, Northwich were slight favourites although they had lost at Wembley in this competition 12 months before.

Earlier in this campaign, City had knocked Vics out of the FA Cup in the first round following a replay, while Northwich had won both league encounters between the teams.

Bangor City captain Mark Carter (right) shakes hands with Northwich skipper Kenny Jones before the 1984 FA Trophy Final. Picture supplied by Bangor Comrades 1919 Twitter page.

It looked set for an even contest at the kick-off – and so it proved.

After a goal-less first period, Bangor took the lead after the break when 20-year-old local lad Paul Whelan rifled into the roof of the net after an attack from the right.

Northwich were back on terms when Colin Chesters equalised with a diving header at the back post to take the Trophy final to its first-ever replay, to be played at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground.

City fans turned out in force for the second game, but were greatly outnumbered by the Northwich followers, who only had to make a short journey down the road to cheer their team on.

Nonetheless, the Welsh side took the lead again when Phil Lunn drilled home from 18 yards following a short free kick move.

Vics levelled when a penalty was awarded for handball against Bruce Urquhart and Chesters converted from the spot.

Just a minute remained when John Anderson pounced from close range to seal a 2-1 win for the Cheshire side.

Northwich were managed by John King, later to take charge of Caernarfon Town, with ex-Canaries Kenny Jones, Stuart Clynch and another future manager Phil Wilson also in the Victoria squad that year.

Stars of the City line-up included strike partnership Mark Carter and Ian Howat, a Wrexham lad who played professionally for Chester and Crewe Alexandra, as well as keeper Glan Letheren, a lively South Walian who plied his trade in the Football League with Leeds United, Scunthorpe United, Chesterfield and Swansea City.

After leaving Bangor, front man Carter had successful spells with Runcorn, Barnet, Bury and Rochdale.

Trophy final goalscorer Whelan later played for and managed Porthmadog in the League of Wales, as well as Glantraeth in the Cymru Alliance.

Bangor remained the only North Wales club to reach Wembley before Wrexham got there in 2013 to lift the FA Trophy.

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