Hatters Hit For Six, As Dragons' Firepower Wrecks ‘Em
County's Trophy road for this season came to an abrupt and emphatic end on a wintry night in North East Wales, which saw the Hatters replay at the Racecourse Ground while not being exactly ‘at the races'.
The ever-lengthening injury list with which Alan Lord had to contend required him to replace both Tunji Moses and Richie Baker, each of whom had limped off during the first tie between the two sides on Saturday. Jordan Fagbola, as part of a five-player defence, and Kristian Dennis were recalled in their places. The County bench, meanwhile, included Charlie Russell, from the Development Squad, who, in the course of the second half, was to be brought on for his senior debut.
As the players acclimatized to the sub-zero temperature and driving sleet, the game began quietly, with no chances to speak of in the first fifteen minutes. A couple of opportunities then presented themselves to Wrexham, although Louis Moult's shot from the edge of the area was drilled wide, and a longer-distance effort by Robbie Evans flew wider – not to mention higher – still.
At the other end, the Hatters looked to have two possible shouts for a penalty in quick succession, following an appeal for handball and, immediately afterwards, the grounding of Chris Sharp. In both instances, however, play was waved on.
Less than five minutes later, the home side went ahead. Their second corner of the evening was played to Wes York, who, from twenty yards out, curled a shot into the top right of the net.
Having scored twice within three minutes at Edgeley Park over the weekend, Wrexham repeated the feat on home turf when York crossed from the right to find Louis Moult. The forward, whose overhead equalizer on Saturday had since become something of an internet sensation, now slid in to poke the ball home and double his side's lead.
The Red Dragons appeared to be playing well within their comfort zone. Only some good work by Danny Hurst, who first parried a shot from Andy Bishop at point-blank range and, a little later, intervened to beat the same opponent to the ball following a Neil Ashton cross, prevented their goal-count from increasing further.
With the Hatters looking rather out of sorts, and out of the contest, as half-time neared, they unexpectedly halved the deficit when Chris Churchman converted his third goal of the season. ‘Churchy', following Saturday's match, had been identified by Wrexham as one of the County players to watch… which is precisely what the home defence seemed to do, as the young midfielder was given time on the edge of the box to tee up a shot that found its way through a sea of players to deceive Dan Bachmann.
County once again had cause to thank Hurst just before the break, when, for a third time, he denied Bishop, whose shot was the culmination of an impressive move involving Moult and former Hatter, Connor Jennings.
HALF-TIME: Wrexham 2 (York, 20; Moult, 23), County 1 (Churchman, 43).
As the teams took the field for the second half, Wrexham did so with one immediate change necessitated by a thigh injury to Bachmann. This substitution assumed rather more interest when it was noted that the home team had not named a goalkeeper on its bench! Bachmann's replacement was, in fact, Joe Clarke, a popular midfield general, who had not been known previously to don the gloves.
With this in mind, and given that the sleet had abated, there were grounds to believe that the Hatters might get well and truly back into contention. In the event, however, they failed to test Clarke – who, other than getting an early touch of the ball to catch a Mark Lees effort, was not called upon to use his hands again – and found themselves having to endure an entirely different kind of storm, as it began to rain goals at the away end.
Within four minutes of the re-start, Bishop finally won his contest with Hurst – positioning himself at the far post to head home a York cross from the right. York himself then made it four for his team, and two for himself – running clear on the same flank, before chipping the County ‘keeper from an angle. A little later, the same player shot narrowly wide whilst in search of a hat trick.
The one-way traffic continued, and, with fewer than twenty minutes left, Moult joined York to bag himself a brace – getting behind the County defence to pick up a delightful chip from Bishop, and rifling home for Wrexham's fifth.
Jennings came close on two occasions to scoring again against his old club – only to be thwarted by the legs of Hurst, and then to fall short of stretching quite enough in a sliding attempt to connect with a cross from York that flew across the County goalmouth.
Nevertheless, there remained time for a sixth Wrexham goal. And it duly arrived with three minutes to go when substitute, Steve Tomassen, won a chase in the box for the ball, which he proceeded to dink over Hurst.
County's interest in the Trophy had, of course, effectively ended rather earlier in the second half, but the full-time whistle officially confirmed that neither Gateshead nor Grimsby would be visiting Edgeley Park for the Third Round a week on Saturday. The Hatters will, however, be anxious to ‘G' themselves up following their knockout disappointment – for a trip to Gainsborough beckons this weekend, together with an opportunity to revive Conference North fortunes.
We would like to give a special mention to the 141 hardy souls who braved the weather to support us last night. Your support is appreciated and doesn't go unnoticed.
FULL-TIME: Wrexham 6 (York, 20 and 55; Moult, 23 and 72; Bishop, 49; Tomassen, 87), County 1 (Churchman, 43).
Team: Hurst, Todd (Russell, 57), Duxbury, O'Halloran, Belezika, Fagbola, Lees, Churchman, Sharp (Spencer, 65), Dennis, Ryan.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Lofthouse, Hancock.
Attendance: 1,373 (141 away).
Listen to boss Alan Lord's post-match reaction to the performance on Pure 107.8 Radio podcast here: http://podcast.pureradio.org.uk/index.php?id=2553