Welling impressed me in the first half, and when we went in at the break we needed to up our game, a situation which seemed to happen too often during the pre-season. We needed Andy Morrell and Billy Barr to sit the side down and remind them of what we were about and how we approach games like this. It looks like that was exactly what they did, because the second half was a massive improvement.
It was a game which didn’t really address the issues we went into the game with, though. The second half was highly encouraging – we bossed midfield as you’d expect considering the quality we have in that part of the pitch and were dominant. However, the first half saw the worries we tokk into the first game of the season manifest themselves.
Following the pre-season games, we were looking a little thin at the back and the regularity with which Welling carved out chances suggested that we still need to look at that part of the pitch. If it hadn’t been for a string of good saves from Joslain Mayebi, we’d have been out of the game by the break. I’m not too worried about the long range efforts he had to save, even if that early flip round the post from Lee Clarke was superb, but he had to stand up to deal with a couple of one-on-ones and made a couple of near post saves after forwards had got through down the channels. Welling’s approach play was neat, but I was still alarmed by the frequency with which they managed to carve their way through into dangerous positions.
That’s not to criticise the defenders: there was a series of heroic blocks and challenges by the back four which ensured Mayebi wasn’t even more over-worked. However, I wondered on Friday whether we might have a problem with teams getting in behind us as a consequence of a lack of pace at the back, and the nature of Welling’s opportunites suggests I might have been onto something.
A word on Steve Tomoassen though. I can’t deny that I wondered whether starting the season with him was a good sign, and indeed whether if Morrell had realised that would happen, he might have retained Declan Walker. However, Tomassen did well defensively and also showed an interesting propensity to pop up unexpectedly in unorthodox attacking positions. A full back getting down the wing or occasionally cutting inside into the box is nothing unusual, of course. A full back regularly attacking crosses from a central position is rather rare though. Getting on the end of a cross from the right rather than the left, as he did when he went close soon after Joe Clarke’s opening goal was a bit of a jaw dropper – a right back might gamble on getting into the middle when the left back’s gone forward if the team’s shape allows both of them to go up at the same time, but getting into that position when the play’s on your side is fascinating. I’ll be fascinated to see if this is a ploy Morrell and Barr persist with: one the one hand it’s going to catch teams out; on the other, if an attack breaks down he has little or no chance of getting back in position in time.
My one worry with Tomassen was a propensity for conceding free kicks on the edge of the area. Admittedly, the referee was on a hair trigger and gave an awful lot of set pieces to Welling in the attacking third after minimal contact. Looking at the quality of their delivery, there might be some mileage in the notion that Welling’s strikers went down easily as part of a plan to make the most of their strengths. With a bit more experience, hopefully Tomassen will realise that if a ref’s constantly blowing if he puts his hands on a striker then he needs to alter his approach.
The first half could have gone differently though. Clarke’s superb strike changed matters for a while: Welling looked uncomfortable and we gained in confidence. There was a ten minute window when I felt that if we’d got another the visitors might have caved in. We didn’t though, and their reaction was impressive. If you look “Inevitable” up in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of their goal.
But as I said before, it was different after the break. Welling found themselves penned in, and showed spirit but also an odd predeliction for not dealing with long high balls into the box which made me check the flags and trees around the ground to see if it was gustier than I’d thought. Perhaps it was more to do with a part-time side getting worn down by the constant pressure Wrexham exerted. They certainly wouldn’t have been the first side to suffer that fate against us in the last three seasons.
Still, a lack of chances after an opening flurry was a worry and it looked like a draw was the most likely outcome. The final ten minutes saw the fruition of Wrexham’s attritional approach. Apart from Rob Ogelby’s well struck goal we ought to have had two penalties as first Tomassen (of course!) and then Ogleby were clearly upended in the box. Having watched the match video back, I’m more convinced than ever that both decisions were so abysmal they could have been made by the current Ashes umpires!
Ogleby made an impact. Adrian Cieslewicz’s withdrawal wasn’t popular with some fans, and understandably so as the Pole had put in a good shift in the second half, looking threatening and adding to our fluidity in attack by working hard across the front three. However, it was a situation where it was worth making a change to see if it could make a difference. One goal was always liable to be enough in that situation, and as Morrell pointed out after the game, the game looked well-suited to Ogleby.
Wrexham had gone back to basics and got their reward in the second half. I was pleased with our constant pressure, personified by the energy of Bradley Reid, pleased with our patience in possession when Welling got numbers behind the ball (Kevin Thornton certainly brings a lot to the side in this respect) and pleased with the variety of threat we offered. But it would be fair to say that the thinness of our squad is an issue: of the starting eleven, Joslain Mayebi, Stephen Wright, Mark Creighton, Rob Ogleby and Kevin Thornton have all either suffered a serious recent injury or have a history of picking up knocks. Hopefully they can stay intact, because our resources will be stretched if they can’t stay fit.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Mayebi; Tomassen, Creighton, S Wright, Ashton; Clarke, Harris, Thornton (Evans 86); Reid (Hunt 89), Bishop, Cieslewicz (Ogleby 82) Unused Subs: Coughlin, Rushton
Welling United (4-5-1): Butcher; Fazakerley, Hudson, Franks, Blomqvist; Guthrie (Pires 67), Gallagher, Dyer, Clarke, Healy (Jack Obersteller 79); Lafayette Unused Subs: Turner, Joe Obersteller, Hughes-Mason
Attendance: 4011 Referee: Kevin Johnson
Wrexham Supporters Association Man of the Match: Joslain Mayebi