Wrexham’s youth team continues to cruise through the early stages of the FA Youth Cup, looking for all the world like a side filtering through the competition until they get to a stage where they will actually be extended.
Their opponents have been progressively more testing, but not to the extent where one suspected they might actually put Joey Jones and Andy Davies’ side out of the tournament. The next round, a first away match, might be their first true test.
Having said that, it took the best part of an hour to break Selby Town down in the third and final qualifying round, and the side from Yorkshire did themselves proud. When they arrived at the game and immediately started taking photos of the impressive stadium they were about to play in one wondered whether they would be a little over-awed, but there was nothing of the wide-eyed tourist about their performance. They were disciplined, hard-nosed, and threatened to take the game into extra time and beyond with a well-drilled rearguard action.
Odd as it might sound, the game brought to mind innumerable Barcelona home games of the last five years. Like Wrexham’s previous opponents, Hyde and Fylde, Selby found themselves penned in and starved of possession for long periods; unlike their predecessors, they had an excellent defensive shape and although their deep midfield invited pressure on them (centre back Jake Doran enjoyed a couple of giddy forays, running unchallenged to within shooting distance) they looked capable of repelling Wrexham’s attack.
However, there’s a good variety to the Dragons’ attacking options. The pace of Adam Harvey-Davies was nullified to an extent by the depth of the defensive line, but in Danny Reynolds Wrexham possess a real prospect, able to execute Luis Suarezesque wiggles to find space in tight areas, while Jake Davies came into his own as the half wore on, a more traditional forward whose strength gave him scope to break down the Selby defence with his physique. Davies’ direct running down the flank hurt Selby’s defence, his ability to strike with power from the edge of the area troubled the keeper. By full time Reynolds had two poachers’ goals, Davies had two assists and the Selby keeper Walters had spilled two powerful shots and not been helped out by his back four when the rebound fell loose.
Encouragingly, the young Wrexham lads had shown real patience in breaking Selby down. They didn’t panic in possession and worked away at creating openings until one came, at which point the tie was essentially decided. Ross Weaver and Iwan Cartwright are tidy in possession in midfield while Matthew Hammonds, who played to good effect on the wing against Hyde and was less noticeable when shifted into a more central position in the second round, looked a lot more at ease at second viewing in the heart of midfield.
Selby made it a proper tie, the first real test of Wrexham’s cup run, and deserved the response they got from the crowd (and not just the impressive travelling contingent from Yorkshire) when they made the gesture of applauding the fans in the Yale Stand. But it was Wrexham who progressed and are beginning to look like they might be a side with a future.