Ferguson gives father and club reasons to be cheerful

Southend United 0 Wrexham 2 aet; score at 90 mins 0-0
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The Independent Online

Long before Darren Ferguson made one goal and scored the other in the extra-time victory that breathes new hope into Wrexham's fight for life, this was comfortably the most enjoyable game of his father's weekend.

Long before Darren Ferguson made one goal and scored the other in the extra-time victory that breathes new hope into Wrexham's fight for life, this was comfortably the most enjoyable game of his father's weekend.

Manchester United's manager knows the Millennium Stadium well enough to underline his presence at this rousing spectacle as a proud paternal visit rather than an FA Cup semi-final "recce". And, committed football man that he is, he will be as pleased for Wrexham as for his 33-year-old son.

The Welsh team are the first League club docked 10 points for going into administration and alongside their uphill battle to avoid relegation to the basement division is a longer-term struggle to remain in existence.

At least there is £250,000 coming their way from the final of a competition that, as the Associate Members Cup (the first of its seven guises), was first concluded at Boothferry Park, Hull in 1984.

"The LDV Vans trophy certainly has its place,'' said a Football League spokesman. "People forget that this is the 22nd year of the competition. There are loads of cups in non-League football but opportunities for League clubs to win anything are few and far between. And each of the clubs in the final were guaranteed to make £200,000, so its no wonder sides take this tournament seriously.''

The electricity was turned off at The Racecourse in November and the manager, Denis Smith, said: "When the administrators came in looking to cut costs, they realised there was nothing left to cut.''

Still threatening them is the owner Alex Hamilton's notice to vacate the ground they have called home for 133 years this summer. Smith hopes the shop-window exercise accomplished yesterday will create the goodwill needed to trigger a buy-out.

"I know of things going on and hopefully there will be an announcement next week,'' he said. "We've been speaking to people for about a month and we're getting good vibes. I doubt a deal can be done within a week but there are genuine people with the money to take the club on.''

For Southend, who have recently unveiled an organiser of stag and hen parties as their shirt sponsors, this was another case of a big weekend falling flat. They lost in last season's final, but this end to a run of 17 games without defeat should not prevent them winning promotion to League One.

Their manager, Steve Tilson, admitted: "Going up has always been our No 1 priority. Having got to a final, though, we really wanted to win it.''

Freddy Eastwood clipped the outside of Wrexham's post in the first half and the central defender Adam Barrett brought one of several saves from the excellent Ben Foster. But the clearer openings fell to their opponents, Juan Ugarte hitting the post from a rebound after Mark Bentley back-headed against his own bar.

Ugarte finally broke through in the 99th minute with his 19th goal of the season - a close-range header when Ferguson's left-wing corner was nodded on by Dennis Lawrence. Then Ferguson toe-poked the second when Chris Llewellyn's shot was pushed out to him.

The Wrexham captain, now well past the 250-game mark for the club, was a class act all afternoon and Sir Alex ended the weekend with a smile after all. So did the administrators.

Goals: Ugarte (99) 0-1; Ferguson (118) 0-2.

Southend United (4-4-2): Flahavan; Jupp, Prior, Barrett, Wilson; Pettefer (Guttridge, 109), Bentley, Maher, Gower (McCormack, 81); Eastwood (Dudfield, 103), Gray. Substituted not used: Holloway (gk), Edwards.

Wrexham (3-5-2): Foster; Morgan, Roberts (Pejic, 15), Lawrence; Edwards, Crowell (Bennett, 105), Ferguson, Jones (Williams, 100), Holt; Ugarte, Llewellyn. Substituted not used: Harrison (gk), Sam.

Referee: B Curson (Leicestershire).

Man of the Match: Ferguson.

Attendance: 36,216.

* Barnet were promoted back into the Football League on Saturday when they beat Halifax 3-1 at home to win the Conference title.

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