David Artell summed it up best after the game: have a look on Wrexham Player for the four letter word with which he quantified our performance.
It was a shame to see us fail to build on the last two performances, but it was probably a fair indication of where we’re at. Our true position in the great scheme of things is somewhere between the impressive coherence of the Luton performance and the grim showing against Chester. Heaven knows what adjective Artell would have applied to that match if he’d seen it!
So what went wrong? As at Lincoln, we came up against a strong side who were able to get on top of our midfield. As at Nuneaton, it was too easy for a decent side to respond to our good start, adjust their approach and take control. Unwanted history is repeating itself too regularly this season.
Unlike those games, Jay Harris was back this time, but he couldn’t hold the team together on his own. His was, on reflection, probably the only individual performance which could be said to have enhanced a Wrexham player’s reputation: a stark contrast to my suggestion after the Luton game that a number of players had enjoyed their best match of the season.
Yet we started well. Theo Bailey-Jones looked sprightly early on and we were in control of possession for the first half hour without really creating clearcut chances. But that all changed. Instead, it was the pace of Ashley Young’s brother, Jordan, on the right and Mark Molesely’s invention in the hole, underpinned by Stanley and Rowland’s strength in midfield, which dictated the game’s terms.
Still, at half time I felt okay. Our grip on the game had slipped, but things were still fairly equal. But in the second half we simply didn’t turn up, especially in midfield. We had no possession, gave no service to the strikers and didn’t offer enough resistance when under pressure.
At the back, Mayebi was Mayebi in the grand manner, making a couple of fine saves and a couple of horrible errors. He could have done better for the first goal, but by the same token, Joe Clarke, whose passing was poor throughout, ought to have cut it off at source and Harris could have done more to prevent the shot.
At the back Ashton was troubled by Young’s pace before the debutant faded and was subbed, Artell was less dominant after the break than one is used to, and Tomassen, after a sound first hour, encountered a knotty problem in Jason Roberts, Young’s replacement.
A winger who looked like he enjoyed getting under people’s skins, he unsettled Tomassen. They indulged in a number of off-ball wrestling bouts, one slap across the full back’s face was particularly sneaky. But the nastiness worked and the second goal, scored by Roberts, came as a consequence of Tomassen’s failure to win a far post header which he looked to be clear favourite for.
Junior Ntame, meanwhile, is still to look convincing. His errors went unpunished but he continues to look like the player Morrell thinks he is: one with some encouraging attributes but whose rough edges certainly remain. If Stephen Wright or Mark Creighton had been fit, the defence would have had a more solid look.
The goals were preventable, but to get a point out of that game would have mislead those who weren’t there. Aldershot’s position, skewed by their pre-season penalty, is unrealistic. They look well equipped to thrive in this division.
Should we have flattened out into a 4-4-2? Maybe. Was Morrell entitled to expect the eleven which side which won at Gateshead so comprehensively to execute our well-grooved 4-3- better? Certainly. There was a system failure here, but so many players were considerably below par that one wonders if a change of shape would have been any more than a futile gesture. A formation is only as good as the sum of its parts, after all.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Mayebi; Tomassen, Artell, Ntame, Ashton; Clarke, Harris, Hunt (Carrington 86); Ormerod (Ogleby 66), Bishop, Bailey-Jones (Cieslewicz 53). Unused subs: Coughlin, Clowes.
Aldershot (4-2-3-1) Morris ; Okeyele, Goodman, Webster, Barker; Rowland, Stanley; Young (Roberts 67), Molesley, Williams; Paterson (Gibbs 90). Unused subs: L Williams, Tonkin, Wickham