The worrying feeling I get after two games of our season isn’t anything to do with our defence, the danger injuries pose to our thin squad or the fact that we’ve already dropped three points. It’s the sense that the referees look even worse than they consistently have been since we dropped into the Conference.
I feel guilty saying that, as I’ve no doubt Messrs Johnson and Bankes did their best this week. But my God, what an influence they had on the shape and outcome of both games.
Well, I suppose the outcome of the Welling game ended up being unaffected by Johnson’s erratic performance, but our goal difference would have been boosted if he’d at the very least got his two most blatant blunders right and given us two penalties. But in common with Johnson, when it came to making decisions Bankes was guessing at Halifax. Unlike him, his errors had a massive influence on the result.
Halifax’s first two goals, plus the sending off of Stephen Wright, were the result of refereeing errors. Ironically, the decision most people at The Shay thought was wrong was the best one of the lot, as a look at the video shows the linesman was right to keep his flag down when the penalty was won.
However, he hit us hard with his other decisions: the first Halifax goal came from a free kick which was contentious at best, as Kevin Thornton seemed to have ceanly won a 50-50 tackle; the penalty and red card seemed harsh as Wright didn’t appear to commit a foul (if anything, it looked more like Joe Clarke had pushed a striker waiting for a foul in the back!); and the decision not to give a second half penalty when Clarke’s shot was spectacularly saved at full stretch by a defender was jaw-dropping.
Throw in a willingness to reward the home team’s enthusiasm for hitting the deck and a flurry of yellow cards (the Wrexham Player commentary team reckon we got six yellows and a red but it was one of those games where it was difficult to keep track of the cards as the ref lost control and at least twice delivered them in clumps) and you’ve got a pretty spectacular example of a referee failing to manage a match.
Of course, pointing the finger at the referee is just an excuse, and if we’d not suffered a dreadful final ten minutes of the first half we’d have been fine anyway. I wouldn’t categorise the first 35 minutes amongst our finest, but we held a deserved lead against a side which had played 70 minutes with nine men just two days earlier and might be expected to wilt in the second half. While the referee’s interventions didn’t help, we also contributed to our demise, losing our grip after taking the lead in the face of Town’s response to going behind.
As I discuss above, there was some disquiet about our use of the long ball in the first half, and we certainly squandered possession a few times as a result although I’d question whether the issue was quite the problem many felt it was.
The second half was a different matter and we deserved to pull off the remarkable feat of getting something out of a game despite being two down with ten men at half time. We kept the ball on the floor, popping it around well, and managed to get our full backs forward well despite our numerical disadvantage. Unfortunately, our finishing didn’t live up to our approach play. We squandered a few chances, and if Johnny Hunt had scored with a close range free header exactly halfway through the period, I suspect we’d have won the game.
As it was, Adrian Cieslewicz’s excellent goal was merely a consolation as we failed to create any real threat in the ten minutes which followed. At least we’ve won both second halves 1-0 so far.
Halifax (4-2-3-1): Senior: Toulson, Roberts, Ainge, McManus; Maynard, Pearson; Smith (Briggs 63), Wilson (Johnson 80), Holsgrove; Gregory (Gardner 69) Unused subs: Morgan, Marshall
Wrexham (4-3-3): Mayebi; Tomassen (Evans 87), Wright, Ashton, Hunt; Clarke, Harris, Thornton (Ormerod 90); Cieslewicz, Bishop, Ogleby (Clowes 42) Unused subs: Coughlin, Rushton
Attendance: 1,671 Referee: Peter Bankes
Supporters Association Man of the Match: Adrian Cieslewicz