Let’s not kid ourselves: Wrexham have a mountain to climb today. But mountains do get climbed: ask Chris Bonnington. The thing is not to panic on the way up.
Wrexham have never come back from two goals down in a two-legged tie, and statistics across the years in all competitions tell us it’s a tricky feat to pull off. But that’s not to say it can’t be done. It won’t be done if Wrexham approach the match as they did the one on Thursday though, that’s for sure.
Clearly that’s true on an obvious level: if they play anything like they did in the first half of that match the tie will be dead very quickly. However, it was their openness in that first half which led to the problems. Wrexham need to realise today that, while having a rabid crowd behind them will be an invaluable advantage, they must temper their desire to rip recklessly into Luton, because plainly The Hatters are a side more than capable of hitting them swiftly on the counter attack. Indeed, if they had been more clinical at the conclusions of their breakaways at Kenilworth Road, this tie would be deader than Wolves’ season.
The key will be to strike a balance between harnessing the fury of the crowd and not forgetting that if Wrexham are a goal up with half an hour to go, on balance they’re probably favourites.
That ought to be reflected in the team selection. Andy Morrell and Billy Barr will have spent plenty of time pondering which changes need to be made after the disappointment of the first leg, but they mustn’t go gung ho too soon and select a side which will over-commit. Issues clearly need to be addressed at the back, and Steven Wright’s problems when a quick winger runs at him, present all year but illustrated starkly on Thursday by Robbie Willmott, ought to open the door to Danny Alfei.
However, further up the pitch there is no need for panic selection. As enticing an option as Glen Little is, should he be fit, the fact that he’d be returning from injury only adds further weight to the notion that he should start on the bench if available, able to spark a late charge if necessary. The other major selection also hinges on fitness: Jake Speight must start if he can. One can also make a strong case for Danny Wright offering more of a focus to the attack when Wrexham go long, but beyond that I suspect there’ll be no selectorial surprises.
If it does come down to Little coming on to inspire a late charge, it’s also crucial Wrexham learn the lessons of their recent downturn in form. Too often they’ve gone long too desperately, playing like a side which is behind in injury time rather than a team playing to a plan. It might have earned a late equaliser at Cambridge, with Mark Creighton up as a makeshift target man, but since then it’s just led to careless long balls which give possession away. If Wrexham find themselves in that position late on, they’ve got to lay with their heads not their hearts; it’s no coincidence that the late clutch goals have dried up lately.
But today is all about the fans. If it wasn’t for them, the season wouldn’t have even started and right now we’d be talking about a phoenix club getting into some level of the Evostick next season. The employees’ wages were paid by them, the bnd to stay in the COnference was paid by them, and now the club is owned by them. In so many ways, the last season has been both the proudest and the most dismal year in the club’s history.
The fans climbed Snowdon at the start of the season in the club’s cause; now the team have a chance to do something similar.