Where would we be without Andy Coughlin, Steve Tomassen and Leon Clowes?
Be honest: that’s not a sentence you’d have expected to see a month ago. Maybe not even twenty four hours ago. But the kids stood up to be counted in this match, and offered a reason to believe Wrexham might be heading for salvation this season after all, despite their grim start.
I don’t want to get too carried away: after all, this was a scrappy win against a side in the relegation zone, secured by a fluke and a last minute goal. But then that’s exactly why it was so heartening. The spirit shown in the face of adversity, particularly by those three young lads, was hugely encouraging; the way the team dug in to earn a win markedly at odds with much of what has preceded this game.
When I wrote on Friday of the absurd number of central defensive partnerships Andy Morrell has already been forced to field this season, little did I know that we were about to see yet another. A pairing of a half fit Clowes and Tomassen, whose previous game at the heart of defence had been an unhappy affair didn’t do much to whip up pre-match confidence, and behind them was a greenhorn keeper. But this match might have been the making of all three of them.
To be fair to Clowes, his development has been striking for a while. At the end of last season his partnership with David Artell impressed, and he has built on that this time around. The problem is he’s having to play on an injury, and the danger of him breaking down (and unleashing yet another defensive duo as Anthony Stephens comes on!) is all too real.
Tomassen, you feel, needed something like this. He’s always looked okay without quite being totally convincing and probably required a strong showing to kick start his confidence. He came up with it in spades against Woking: positive, aggressive and decisive, he made a number of key challenges and you could hear a previously sceptical crowd warm increasingly to him.
And as for Coughlin, well what can you say? Hopefully it’s sunk in for him that he’s the number one now and not merely keeping the place warm for Joslain Mayebi because this was a second clean sheet in four games, and once more he more than played his part in earning it. After his bravura efforts against Southport he made three crucial stops to keep out a Woking side driven forwards by the threatening combination of a prolific Conference scorer in Scott Rendell and a class act in Kevin Betsy.
Oh, and to continue the youthful feel, Theo Bailey-Jones made a fine cameo appearance off the bench. A judicious introduction from Andy Morrell, who could have gone cautious and made a change to shore up the side and play for a 1-0 but instead threw on a pacy winger to stretch the game, seeking to both pin back Mike Cestor and hit Woking on the break. It worked beautifully: Bailey-Jones sent Rob Ogleby clear and although he didn’t get an assist for that, he did get one five minutes later when he teed up Joe Clarke (in a move which began WHEN HE BEAT A DEFENDER TO A HEADER. Yes, that wasn’t a misprint!)
It wasn’t just down to the young guns, of course. Dean Keates’ return to the side has had a profound effect, and Andy Bishop put in his best ninety minutes in a Wrexham shirt. But most importantly, on a day which ended with the table looking a good deal better than it did at the start, the key message was that the kids are alright. More than alright.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Coughlin; Carrington, Tomassen, Clowes, Ashton; Clarke, Keates, Harris; Anyinsah (Bailey-Jones 77), Bishop, Ormerod (Ogleby 46). Unused subs: Mayebi, Stephens, Evans.
Woking (4-4-2): Beasant; Newton, Parkinson, McNermey, Nutter (McNamee 72); Betsy, Goddard (Sole 72), Ricketts, Cestor; Williams, Rendell. Unused subs: Howe, Wright, Salmon.
Referee Richard Wigglesworth
Miscellaneous: Rob Ogleby made his 50th appearance for Wrexham.