Football: May's way full of craft

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Wrexham. . . . . .0

Cardiff City. . . 2

WHILE the giant Italian-style banner passing over 3,000 South Walian heads acclaimed 'The Darling Buds of Eddie May', the win which put Cardiff back on top of the Third Division and left Wrexham in the play-off zone owed much to the Dad's Army element in May's team.

Cardiff's cockney manager, a former Smithfield meat porter, had injudiciously predicted 'World War III' at the Racecourse Ground. The know-how of veteran campaigners Robbie James and Kevin Ratcliffe ensured that it proved little more than a minor skirmish along the road to promotion.

The 36-year-old James, more portly than in his Swansea prime, supervised strategy from right-back, while Ratcliffe, freed by Everton at 32 but blessed with Paul McGrath's ability to anticipate as well as his history of knee trouble, absorbed with a composure close to contempt everything an eager young Wrexham side threw at Cardiff after the interval.

By then the visitors were coasting, both goals following James free-kicks. Even the reappearance after injury of Wrexham's leading scorer, Gary Bennett, an abrasive performer who seems to take undue pride in the nickname 'Psycho', could not pierce the curtain which James and Ratcliffe drew in front of their goalkeeper.

They received strong support from three budding internationals - hard-tackling defenders Damon Searle and Jason Perry, and Nathan Blake, a goalscoring midfielder with a deceptively languid gait. All are in their early twenties and, encouragingly for national manager Terry Yorath, as Welsh as lava bread.

For May, the triumph was tarnished only by being spat at by home fans who, he mused, were probably the sons of those who cheered him 20 years ago as captain of Wrexham's finest team. 'I said our experience would be a telling factor and it was,' he said. 'People claimed that they play better football than us, which they did . . . in the kick- about.'

Brian Flynn, Wrexham's manager and an ex-Cardiff player, was more generous. 'They were craftier than us and used that to the full when we tried to make things happen in the second half,' he admitted. Strange, then, that Jimmy Case spent the match limbering up on the touchline when he might have been stretching his old Merseyside adversary.

Wrexham must now win their last three fixtures to be sure of promotion, and Flynn was heartened by the 'hurt' his players showed. They also have an early opportunity to set the record straight with Cardiff, who return to North Wales tomorrow for the second leg of their Welsh Cup semi-final holding a 2-0 advantage.

The winners meet Rhyl for a place in Europe, so Cardiff's next home game, against Shrewsbury, could become a double celebration. 'Come early,' May urged reporters, 'it'll be a hell of a party.' It happens, with neat symmetry, on May Day. A resurgent club in the capital is a major boost for the Principality, though the less parochial among Cardiff's followers will surely hope that Wrexham join them.

Goals: Griffith (27) 0-1; Blake (39) 0-2.

Wrexham: Morris; B Jones, Hardy, Owen, Humes, Pejic, Taylor (Bennett, 52), Lake, Connolly, Watkin, Cross. Substitute not used: Case.

Cardiff City: Ward; James, Searle, Brazil, Perry, Ratcliffe, Ramsey, Richardson, Stant (Dale, 79), Blake, Griffith. Substitute not used: Millar.

Referee: T Fitzharris (Bolton).