Never-Say-Dai Approach Wrecks ‘Em, As County Go Sixth!
The Hatters earned their fourth win in five matches, their first victory of the campaign away from home, and their first triumph at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground across the Welsh border in nearly 12 years, to inch up another position within the play-off places to sixth.
Goals before the break from defenders Ash Palmer and Sam Minihan – a first of the season for each – left the Hatters nicely poised after the first 45 minutes, although they needed to hold firm throughout much of the second, in the face of heavy pressure from the hosts who scored a consolation late on.
County took to the field showing one change from the starting line-up against Chesterfield five days earlier – with Nyal Bell, who had netted as a substitute both in that match and at Harrogate two days beforehand, replacing Frank Mulhern. The hosts for their part included two ex-Hatters in goalkeeper Christian Dibble and striker Jason Oswell – the latter of whom was leading scorer at Edgeley Park for 2017/18, but making only his first start of the season for the ‘Dragons’.
The Hatters were forced to make a change within the opening five minutes, after Jake Kirby turned awkwardly on his ankle and had to be replaced. Alex Curran, who had been recalled to the bench following a midweek injury – also with an ankle involved – for Connor Dimaio, made his competitive debut in Kirby’s place.
Another half a dozen minutes were to pass before the contest’s earliest opportunity of note, as Bobby Grant fired well wide of the left post for the hosts. And shortly afterwards, Luke Young’s free-kick from the left was headed goal-wards by home captain Shaun Pearson, before taking a bounce into the arms of Ben Hinchliffe.
But with 20 minutes on the clock, the Hatters went ahead with their first chance of the afternoon – which also became their inaugural first-half goal in 2019/20. Elliot Osborne’s free-kick was whipped in from the right, claimed, but then spilled, by Dibble, and nodded home by Palmer.
Osborne came close to fashioning a second, albeit wholly indirect, assist, when his deflected shot fell into the path of Bell who volleyed just beyond the right post. But the Dragons’ fire had not been entirely extinguished after falling behind – and shortly ahead of the half-hour mark, Hinchliffe tipped a Luke Summerfield shot from the edge of the box on to the left upright, before Oswell connected with Grant’s cross from the left to clear the crossbar with an overhead kick, and Hinchliffe again came to the rescue in smothering low drives by Young and Devonte Redmond.
Having weathered that brief flurry, the Hatters hit back – with Dibble doing well to keep out Adam Thomas, after the latter had been played through by Osborne. But the former County loanee-keeper was ultimately powerless, despite his best efforts, to prevent a second goal six minutes before half-time.
Once again, the Hatters were to score following a free-kick – as Sam Walker’s lofted delivery was headed into the six-yard box by Palmer, leading to shots in quick succession from Bell and Minihan that Dibble parried, before Minihan’s deflected shot went in to double the lead – an advantage that was retained into the interval, despite a spell of added time that saw Wrexham earn four corners in as many minutes.
HALF-TIME: Wrexham 0, County 2 (Palmer, 20; Minihan, 39).
The Dragons sounded an early declaration of fierce intent upon the resumption – earning a corner on the left, from which Michael Chambers half-volleyed wide of the near post. And they then went closer still, after Grant met Summerfield’s cross from the right and successfully chipped Hinchliffe – but his angled shot from beyond the far upright was cleared off the line by Jordan Keane.
Hinchliffe was kept occupied, as he held on to a downward header from Chambers and gathered another of Summerfield’s long-range efforts, before County, in a rare post-interval foray upfield, went close – with Thomas firing narrowly over, following a Minihan cross from the right.
With 10 minutes remaining, Hinchliffe dived at full stretch to tip Grant’s low drive from the right around the far post – and Wrexham hit the woodwork for a second time when substitute Ben Tollitt’s piledriver from outside the area clipped the top of the bar.
Another of the hosts’ substitutes, Leighton McIntosh, halved the arrears six minutes from time after beating Hinchliffe to the ball to the right of goal, and rolling it in off the far upright from the tightest of angles.
Grant fired narrowly over, and Tollitt’s delivery from the left tested Hinchliffe, as the hosts strove in added time to end the contest on level terms – but the Hatters held on for all three points, and substitute Frank Mulhern almost had the last word for County, only for his shot to be cleared from the line by the splendidly-named Jazzi Barnum-Bobb.
FULL-TIME: Wrexham 1 (McIntosh, 84), County 2 (Palmer, 20; Minihan, 39).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Keane, Palmer, Cowan; Turnbull (Capt.) (Mulhern, 79), Walker; Thomas, Osborne, Kirby (Curran, 5); Bell (Arthur, 66).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Jackson.
Attendance: 5,777 (988 announced as representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.