After last Tuesday’s events an unpleasant air has lingered over The Racecourse. Dissatisfaction threatened to spill over into something more substantial, but this was a positive performance underpinned by decisive decision-making from Andy Morrell. It was the reaction you’d want to see, and if Joslain Mayebi hadn’t handed Cambridge their equaliser it might have been rewarded with a win over the league leaders. Instead Cambridge established a club record for their longest unbeaten start to a season, but they knew they’d been in a game.
Morrell responded to the previous two performances by changing the shape of his team. Again he was stymied by pre-match misfortune, as Andy Bishop’s withdrawal through illness made it three games in a row that his chosen eleven had to be changed unexpectedly on the day.
As he admitted afterwards, the change to 4-4-2 was partly designed to get the most out of his main striker, but Morrell stuck to his guns and, although the players looked a little rusty at times as they adapted to a new formation and at times it clearly would have benefitted from a striker more able to hold the ball up and offer an aerial challenge, the outcome was still a massively improved performance.
It didn’t hurt that we scored early, Leon Clowes getting his first Wrexham goal to set alongside the two he grabbed on loan at Airbus, profitting from a good corner delivery from Johnny Hunt and sloppy Cambridge marking. However, we took advantage of the momentum that goal brought us, and were in control of the opening quarter of an hour. Joe Anyinsah was energetic and direct up front, Theo Bailey-Jones once more threatened on the flank, pinning back Greg Taylor and forcing Harrison Dunk into spending more time than he’d have liked to doubling up with his full back, and Hunt’s delivery continued to ask questions.
However, Mayebi’s terrible error, passing the ball inexplicably to Kwesi Appiah, who ran in on goal to finish with ease, chenged everything. Indeed, after what happened after Steve Tomassen’s controversial own goal on Tuesday, Wrexham did well not to cave in completely after such a body blow. However, United were clearly buoyed by the goal, as they no doubt also were by the sudden recollection that this was the keeper who handed them a last minute equaliser in an FA Cup tie two years ago. He’s even had a tough time against them in the virtual world:
Cambridge started to threaten for the first time in the match, with Liam Hughes an effective outball down the right as his height allowed him to dominate Neil Ashton as Cambridge fed him diagonals, but the frequency with which they hurled balls forward was no doubt increased as Mayebi sought to re-establish himself, tearing off his line to attack crosses, twice attempting to pull off a one-handed catch and spilling the ball.
Still, despite having the better of the possession for the remainder of the game, United didn’t really threaten. Their final ball was disappointing and Adam Cunnington was kept back on the bench until the last twenty minutes. It might well be that rotation helped Wrexham as well as their change of shape. Having said that, Anyinsah, Brett Ormerod and Clarke all had chances from six yards out before the break but all failed to test Chris Maxwell.
In the second half Wrexham’s threat diminished. Morrell’s hands were tied in terms of changes: Clowes started in the knowledge that he might not be fit to see through the whole ninety minutes and Anyinsah was never going to have a full match in his legs, so the Wrexham manager had to cover his options carefully on the bench, selecting both Anthony Stephens and Jonathan Royle, and was therefore unable to throw players on to freshen things up.
Still, Wrexham held firm with David Artell and Clowes doing well at the heart of the defence, especially when the pacy Delano Sam-Yorke had to go off following a heavy collision with the advertising hoardings as he’d threatened with some bursts into the left channel.
Ultimately Wrexham were very good value for the point, and after the week they’d had it was a very satisfactory outcome. You can’t help but wonder what might have been if that equaliser hadn’t been handed to Cambridge, though.
Wrexham (4-4-2): Mayebi; Carrington, Artell, Clowes, Ashton; Bailey-Jones, Harris, Clarke, Hunt (Cieslewicz 79); Ormerod, Anyinsah (Ogleby 76). Unused subs: Coughlin, Stephens, Royle.
Cambridge (4-4-2): Maxwell; Tait, Coulson, Miller, Taylor; Hughes, Champion, Berry (Spillane 76), Dunk (Cunnington 70); Appiah, Sam-Yorke (Arnold 60). Unused subs: Norris, Roberts.
Attendance: 3136 Away: 206
Referee: Ross Joyce
Man of the match: Leon Clowes
Miscellaneous: Cambridge equal their club record unbeaten start of 12 matches.
Wrexham are now unbeaten in ten games against Cambridge, our longest unbeaten run in this fixture.
Joe Clarke’s 100th career appearance today.