FA Cup: Chesterfield and Wrexham lead non-league push into third round | FA Cup

Non-league Chesterfield pulled off a shock 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon to book their place in the FA Cup third round.

Armando Dobra put the National League high-flyers in front just before half-time and Jeff King’s long-range effort with 15 minutes left made sure of the upset against the League Two Dons.

Paul Mullin scored a hat-trick as National League leaders Wrexham defeated Farnborough 4-1 at the Racecourse Ground. Mullin headed the Dragons in front from a corner early in the second half, but the National League South visitors were level just after the hour through a free-kick from Oli Pendlebury. Elliot Lee put Wrexham back in front with 12 minutes left before Mullin added two more late on to complete his treble.

Forest Green Rovers ended seventh-tier Alvechurch’s hopes of a money-spinning tie in the third round with a 2-1 win. Former Crystal Palace striker Connor Wickham put Rovers, who are bottom of League One, ahead from the penalty spot in the 24th minute. Alvechurch – who play in Southern League Premier Central Division and were the lowest-ranked team left in the competition – equalised three minutes into the second half through Jediah Yeboah Abbey’s free-kick.

However, Josh March put the League One side back in front just two minutes later, scoring against his former club. Forest Green finished the match with 10 men after defender Dom Bernard was sent off for a second yellow card after grabbing Danny Waldron’s shirt as the Church striker looked to break clear.

Connor Wickham celebrates with his Forest Green teammates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot.
Connor Wickham celebrates with his Forest Green teammates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot. Photograph: Graham Hunt/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

King’s Lynn, second-placed in the National League North, were beaten 3-0 at home by League Two Stevenage. Three goals in five minutes at the start of the second half, with Luke Norris scoring a quickfire brace before Jamie Reid’s strike, ended the Linnets’ hopes of further progress.

National League Barnet’s cup dreams were ended with a 1-0 defeat at Accrington through a late goal from Ethan Hamilton. Otis Khan hit a last-minute winner as League Two Grimsby stunned Cambridge 2-1 at the Abbey Stadium. Khan had put the visitors ahead on the hour, but Sam Smith nodded in a equaliser before the Mariners frontman struck a late second to send the League One Us crashing out.

Myles Hippolyte headed a stoppage-time equaliser as League Two Stockport snatched a 2-2 draw at Charlton to earn a replay. Chris Hussey had given County an early lead but the Addicks led by half-time, Steven Sessegnon’s cross diverted into his own net by keeper Ben Hinchcliffe before Albie Morgan made it 2-1.

Goals from Devante Cole, Adam Phillips and a Josh Benson penalty gave Barnsley victory against League Two Crewe 3-0 at Oakwell. A brace from Josh Umerah helped Hartlepool beat 10-man Harrogate 3-1 at Victoria Park. Town defender Joe Mattock was sent off at the end of the first half for a foul on Umerah, who slotted in the resulting spot-kick.

Billy Bodin grabbed two goals in the closing stages as Oxford beat League One rivals Exeter 4-1 at the Kassam Stadium.

Walsall came from behind to beat Carlisle 2-1 with an 88th-minute Andy Williams equaliser and a stoppage-time goal from fellow substitute Douglas James-Taylor.

Sheffield Wednesday substitute Michael Smith hit two goals in six minutes in a 2-1 comeback win over League Two Mansfield at Hillsborough, while Shrewsbury beat Peterborough 3-1 to also book a place in Monday’s draw.

Colby Bishop scored twice from the penalty spot as Portsmouth came from behind to beat MK Dons 3-2 at Fratton Park.

In Saturday’s late kick-off, National League Dagenham were denied another upset when Scott Kashket scored a stoppage-time equaliser for Gillingham at the Chigwell Construction Stadium after Josh Walker had put the hosts in front with just 10 minutes left.

Torquay and Curzon Ashton take League One clubs to FA Cup replays | FA Cup

Will Goodwin struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time as the National League side Torquay salvaged a 2-2 draw against 10-man Derby in the first round of the FA Cup.

League One Derby looked on course to sail through after Will Osula struck in the 27th and 47th minutes. But the game turned on its head when Eiran Cashin was dismissed after he pulled back Goodwin in the penalty area before Asa Hall converted the spot-kick.

Goodwin then scored in the closing seconds to send the home supporters at Plainmoor wild and earn Torquay a replay.

Curzon Ashton will replay against Cambridge after a goalless draw at Tameside. Seventy places separate the sides but Mark Bonner’s League One team, who last season reached the fourth round with a 1-0 win at Newcastle, were unable to break the deadlock against their National League North opponents.

Wrexham booked their spot in the next round with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Oldham. Sam Dalby opened the scoring after 10 minutes when he tapped in from close range before Paul Mullin doubled the home side’s advantage 15 minutes later. Mullin, who celebrated his 28th birthday, then headed home Ben Tozer’s long throw shortly after the hour to seal Wrexham’s first second-round spot since 2018.

Woking’s clash against Oxford was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch at the Laithwaite Community Stadium.

Wrexham striker who put boot in to Tories may have scored a costly own goal | Football

Considering Paul Mullin has scored 11 of the goals that have helped propel Wrexham to second in the National League, a division from which they are desperate to win promotion, one might be forgiven for assuming the powers that be at the Racecourse Ground would wholeheartedly endorse any tweaks or adjustments their top scorer might consider implementing in an effort to improve his game.

On Tuesday morning, at about the time Rishi Sunak was standing behind a lectern promising the return of “integrity and accountability” to 10 Downing Street, Mullin elected to make a statement of a different kind. On social media the Liverpool-born striker showcased the boots he presumably intended to wear for his side’s come-from-behind victory over Halifax that night. It kicked off at about the time our new prime minister had finished doling out cabinet positions to the kind of servile no-marks, shamelessly vacuous flip-floppers and security-threatening hate-mongers that suggested the return of “integrity and accountability” to 10 Downing Street could scarcely be further from his mind.

Mullin’s Nike Air Zoom Mercurial boots had been customised and bore the player’s name and number, and a likeness of the Liverpool skyline under the words “This Place”, a nod to the popular local singer-songwriter Jamie Webster. In a rather less subtle nod to the feeling of indignation, despair and anger felt by many in the UK as the Conservative party continues to find new depths to plumb, they were also embossed with the slogan “F*** The Tories!” The picture, clearly taken at the Racecourse Ground, was met with almost unanimous approval but Mullin’s show of mischievous dissent incurred the wrath of his employers. They were quick to stress they would not have given permission for the impromptu photoshoot had they known about it.

A club statement tut-tutting Mullin’s act of insubordination was drafted and any plans the player had to lace his pimped-up boots that evening were shelved. It is unclear who ordered or drafted the slap-down disassociating the club from what it described as an “unwelcome distraction”, but this chapter in Wrexham’s history will make for intriguing viewing when discussed by the owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, in the next season of their documentary series Welcome To Wrexham.

Paul Mullin's customised boots.
Paul Mullin’s Instagram post depicting his customised boots which sparked a strong response from Wrexham. Photograph: Paul Mullin/Instagram

All too predictably Wrexham’s reaction to Mullin’s politicking created far more of a furore than the photos of the boots. The club came in for criticism from many who did not see the statement as being in keeping with the “blue collar” credentials of the largely working-class Welsh town that McElhenney claims gave him the idea to invest in the club.

The previous day the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia star had posed proudly for photos with staff at the Wrexham Foodbank, a charity he and Reynolds have supported since their takeover and one of 1,400 similar monuments to austerity in the UK run by The Trussell Trust. The pictures weren’t captioned “F*** The Tories!” but they might as well have been. Wrexham, far from criticising their co-owner for highlighting social inequality under the Conservative party, used their Twitter account to flag it up.

We can but assume Wrexham gave permission for a different photoshoot at the Racecourse Ground in July, when the local Conservative MP, Sarah Atherton, posed alongside fellow Tories Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Welsh secretary, Robert Buckland. The resulting snaps certainly did not tally with the club’s recent line that, “while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, whether that be employers or supporters”, they would “also highlight that an individual view cannot be fairly attributed as the view of everyone or the club itself”.

But while the distance Wrexham scrambled to put between themselves as a club and Mullin’s stunt may have seemed unduly harsh, and unnecessarily obsequious towards those in power, there is a very good reason why they need to keep the Tories sweet.

Atherton, elected in 2019 to what had been a safe Labour seat, has been a driving force behind the Stadium for the North campaign in Wales. With her support Wrexham council has bid for levelling-up funding to redevelop the derelict Kop End at the Racecourse Ground and is waiting to see whether its application will be looked on favourably.

The stand has been unfit and unsafe for purpose or occupancy since 2008 but a successful bid would see Wrexham county borough receive £18m to cover the costs of transforming the Mold Road gateway into the town, which would include a 5,500-capacity stand, new floodlights, improved media facilities, a 400-space multi-storey car park and ground works for a hotel and convention centre. Supplemented by money from the club’s celebrity owners, it would mean north Wales could again host international football, even if the preference of the Wales men’s team for the Cardiff City Stadium means Wrexham would not get high-profile games.

Although hopes of receiving the funding are high considering the local MP is a Conservative, a cynic might argue that Wrexham’s prospects of success may have taken a hit. When Atherton broached the subject of Wrexham’s bid at prime minister’s questions in April, Boris Johnson said, “I will do what I can”, a promise almost certainly as disingenuous as it is now moot considering he has been banished to the back benches. Two prime ministers on and the incumbent faced questions in the chamber this week about a surreptitious recording in which he told affluent Tory voters in Kent about steps he had taken to divert funding their way from far more deprived areas. One suspects Sunak, fabled for his inability to use a debit card, may struggle to point to Wrexham on a map.

Considering what’s at stake, Wrexham’s overreaction to one of their players publicly disparaging the Tories is perhaps understandable, in so far as they have no wish to bite the hand publicly that they fervently hope will feed them. Plenty of Wrexham fans will share the sentiment stitched into Mullin’s boots and it is to be hoped that the well-meaning striker they adore has not scored what could prove an extremely costly own goal.

‘F*** the Tories’: Wrexham move swiftly to ban message on Paul Mullin’s boots | Wrexham

Wrexham’s striker Paul Mullin will not wear his controversial new boots which featured an X-rated message for the Conservatives.

The forward had posted an image on Instagram of the boots, with “F*** the Tories!” printed on the side. But the National League promotion chasers, owned by the Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, moved swiftly to ban the former Morecambe, Tranmere and Cambridge forward’s boots.

A Wrexham statement read: “The club can confirm that the boots revealed by Paul Mullin on social media will not be worn tonight, or in any other Wrexham AFC fixture and that the photographs taken at the Racecourse Ground were done so without our knowledge or approval.

“For the record, the pictures wouldn’t have been permitted to be taken, had we known, and the issue will be dealt with privately by the club. The club has adopted a neutral position on many matters with a political dimension and intends to continue to do so going forward.

Paul Mullin’s Instagram post depicting the boots.
Paul Mullin’s Instagram post depicting the boots. Photograph: Paul Mullin/Instagram

“The club also acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether that be employees or supporters, but would also highlight that an individual view cannot be fairly attributed as the view of everyone or the club itself.

“There is no more prominent example of this than the fact that the MP for the constituency within which the club is found, is a Conservative seat,” the statement added. Sarah Atherton, the Conservative MP for Wrexham, has not commented on the pictures at time of writing.

“After this unwelcome distraction, the club hopes the focus remains on our objectives of gaining promotion on the field and creating community benefit off it, in which Paul Mullin will continue to play a significant part,” the club statement concluded.

The statement was met with criticism from some fans on social media, while Guardian Football Weekly host and Cambridge United fan Max Rushden tweeted in reply: “Prouder of @PMullin7 for this than for all those goals at the Abbey.”

‘Utterly addictive’: how Wrexham took over Reynolds and McElhenney | Wrexham

In an early episode of Welcome to Wrexham, there is a scene recorded on a movie lot shortly after Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney meet in person for the first time. Recently approved as the new owners of a fifth-tier football club located in a working-class town in north Wales, the actors are filmed admiring what appears to be a brass plaque on a studio wall commemorating the first film in which the Deadpool star Reynolds appeared. A closer inspection and impromptu act of minor vandalism reveals the plate to be made of cheap plastic and rubber, prompting McElhenney to observe gleefully: “This is just Hollywood to a tee; beautiful on the outside but just … shit.”

Previously acquainted with Reynolds only through a series of mid-pandemic video calls on which they had discussed and negotiated the purchase of Wrexham Football Club from its supporters trust, McElhenney was the driving force behind the takeover. He couldn’t do it alone and needed the “movie-star money” provided by Reynolds, who has supplemented his already obscene acting income with lucrative stakes in Aviation American Gin and Mint Mobile. Neither man had ever set foot in Wales, let alone Wrexham, and the prevailing concern among fans regarding the Hollywood duo’s peculiar interest was that their stardust-sprinkled stewardship and the documentary series that would chronicle it might turn out to be as tacky as the studio sign.

When news of Reynolds’s and McElhenney’s pursuit started percolating in 2020, the understandable question on everyone’s lips was: why Wrexham? More specifically, what possible motivation could a couple of TV and movie heavyweights from across the pond have for investing in a club that have been treading National League waters for well over a decade and what would their involvement mean for the future of the club and town?

They are queries addressed in the opening episode of their Disney+ series, which is halfway through an opening run of 18 episodes. In the first one, McElhenney lays out his blue-collar credentials as the son of a working-class man who grew up in Philadelphia and says he feels an affinity between his home city and the Welsh town.

During his and Reynolds’ online pitch to the supporters trust, he tells his bemused audience that seeing his beloved Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl in 2018 was one of the top five moments in his life, up there with marrying his wife and having children. He also stresses his fascination with the idea of promotion and relegation and on more than one occasion in the series makes no secret of his ambition to move Wrexham up to the Premier League.

To begin this ambitious odyssey, Wrexham first have to escape a purgatory in the National League now in its 15th year, with the club trying to achieve promotion back to the Football League at the third time of asking under Reynolds and McElhenney. With that pair taking a backseat during the early episodes, we are invited behind the scenes at the club and, in film that calls to mind Sunderland Til I Die, introduced to the town of Wrexham and many of members of a population to whom the club means everything.

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney celebrate a goal for Wrexham
Reynolds and McElhenney have given every indication they are in it for the long haul at Wrexham. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

There’s Shaun Winter, a painter and decorator who “hates” his job, is the father of two young boys and is struggling to cope with the fact that their mother has just left him. Wayne Jones is the amiable and opinionated landlord and chief confessor of the Turf hotel, located just beside the Racecourse Ground and a shrine to the club where worshippers congregate on match days.

Receiving treatment for bowel cancer, Michael “Scoot” Hett is the lead singer of a local band whose members could scarcely be more chuffed to hear their catchy composition about Wrexham’s new owners being sung from the terraces. Like many other fans who quickly threaten Reynolds’ and McElhenney’s role as the main characters of this docu-series, Annette Gardner, a local librarian and club volunteer, isn’t short of a strident opinion. When the owners finally get round to visiting their club and meet her, she bluntly takes them to task over their decision to appoint Shaun Harvey, the controversial former chief executive of the English Football League and CEO at Leeds United and Bradford City, as their strategic adviser.

Having watched Wrexham’s progress, or lack of it, from afar for almost a year, McElhenney and Reynolds get their first live experience of National League football on a cold October night in Maidenhead. Their low-key arrival is booed by home fans, who go on to serenade the duo with chants of “You bought the wrong club!” as Wrexham valiantly rally from two goals and a man down only to lose by the odd goal in five.

“I don’t know how people do this, it’s heartbreaking,” says Reynolds of the 450 away fans making the late-night journey home from Berkshire. The following weekend the two men visit Wrexham for the first time and are mobbed by exuberant locals in the town centre. After meet-and-greets with the club’s staff, the players and the manager, Phil Parkinson, they end up on an epic booze-up in the Turf, where they are bombarded with increasingly strident and slurred opinions by landlord Wayne and his band of regulars.

During their first home game, a draw with Torquay, they sit alongside their expensive but suspended star striker, Paul Mullin. The scorer of 30 goals in what would turn out to be another failed promotion push last season, this particular character in what the makers are billing as an “underdog story” is reported to be on £4,000 a week plus bonuses as a non-league player.

Wrexham's Christian Dibble collects a high ball during the National League semi-final against Grimsby
Wrexham’s Christian Dibble collects a high ball during the National League playoff semi-final against Grimsby but his side lost 5-4. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

McElhenney and Reynolds have at least given every indication they are in for the long haul after finalising a purchase of the Racecourse Ground freehold that includes a covenant to ensure it will remain the home of Wrexham until at least 2115, unless the club outgrow it.

“I’ve only been the owner of a football club for a very short time,” says Reynolds, after Wrexham’s failure to make the playoffs under the glamorous new regime in May 2021, before he had seen them play in the flesh. “So far I’ve found it to be very time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, financially idiotic and utterly addictive.” After coming up just short again last season, Wrexham are a point from the top after 10 games and showing every sign they’re going to put their feted owners through the wringer once again.