Just before Alfreton scored, I had a look at the latest scores, saw that a couple of our rivals were on course to draw, and thought how crucial it was that we should finish the job and ensure we won this match. Ten seconds later we were level. With matters elsewhere going against us, these were two worrying dropped points.
Not that we ever really bossed the game. Admittedly, there were patches of good pressure and we certainly created a couple of great chances late which we ought to have taken. But on balance, we can’t complain about not having won, as I wouldn’t say we particularly deserved to.
So what went wrong? Well, Jay Harris was missing, but one man doesn’t make a team and his replacement, Kevin Thornton, did well. He was inventive and worked hard, buzzing around and often winning possession back high up the pitch.
Andy Morrell also threw his two new men into the mix, taking a calculated gamble as both lack match sharpness. David Artell looked solid, doing a good Mark Creighton impersonation. Certainly Chris Westwood, who likes playing with the insurance of a big stopper alongside him, seemed to enjoy playing with him and was impressive. Mind you, he also enjoyed a rare opportunity at this level to play against a striker who wasn’t particularly big!
Dele Adebola had a mixed time of it. He’s certainly big, and his header set up Thornton’s beautifully taken goal, but his influence faded as the game wore on and he didn’t cover the ground particularly quickly. Not that we should have expected Usain Bolt, but perhaps this led to the strange substitution debate twenty minutes from the end.
The game was drifting away from us and the time looked ripe for a reshuffle. That’s the point in the game when Morrell tends to make his changes too, and when Rob Ogleby appeared a swap with Adebola looked the obvious option. Then Glen Little appeared alongside him, but soon both disappeared back into the seats behind the dug out. Perhaps there was a conflict between giving the target man more time on the pitch and making our usual change, bringing off the man who’s worn the centre backs down to let a quick sub capitalise.
For whatever reason, there was no more movement on the side of the pitch for a while and the game meandered on. When the changes were made it was Little and Adrian Cieslewicz who came on, and Adebola stayed on while Thornton and Brett Ormerod made way, no doubt both to give them a short rest as both had done well. Thornton’s replacement was greeted by loud boos – very harsh on one hand as Morrell and Billy Barr’s methods have put us are top of the table, but understandable on the other as he had done well. To be fair to Morrell and Barr though, the changes were pretty effective: Little and Cieslewicz opened the game out and we made chances in the closing stages – Dean Keates really ought to have scored from the last kick of the game – and Adebola was unlucky not to win the game when a 93rd minute overhead kick hit the bar.
Perhaps the changes ought to have happened earlier, although Morrell reasonably argued there was a danger of dropping a further point if we went for broke too soon. On balance, it was just one of those days, although we can’t afford to have many more of them between now and the end of the season.
WREXHAM (4-3-3): Maxwell; S Wright, Westwood, Artell, Ashton; Clarke, Keates, Thornton (Little 81); D Wright, Adebola, Ormerod (Cieslewicz 83). Unused subs: Coughlin, Ogleby, Hunt.
Miscellaneous: Adebola & Artell’s Wrexham debuts; Thornton’s home debut.