Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
We need to put the past behind us tomorrow, as last year Alfreton put us out of the FA Cup at exactly this point in the competition. Not only that, on each of their three visits to North Wales Alfreton have dealt a serious blow to our title ambitions.
Despite the fact that we’ve won both our games at Alfreton, we simply can’t seem to get the better of them at The Racecourse, and as I alluded to above, even that FA Cup tie even managed to seriously hurt us in the league too.
We took the lead through a Neil Ashton penalty but a Joslain Mayebi error meant the sides went in level at the break. The keeper then compounded his error by getting sent off for retaliation while the ball was in his hands, also conceding a penalty in the process. It was converted and although Danny Wright pulled one back we naturally left ourselves horribly exposed at the back and eventually lost 4-2.
The absence of Mayebi for the next three matches dealt a costly blow to our title hopes. Although we immediately went to Southport and won 4-1, our next two matches, both at home, yielded a mere point. The five we dropped would have come in very handy in the title run-in as our form faltered.
During that run-in we met Alfreton again, and once more they harmed our ambitions to win the league. The game saw Dele Adebola and David Artell make their debuts for us, but it was Kevin Thornton, in his first league start for us, who caught the eye. He’d scored in both his previous appearances for us and maintained that run in the ninth minute, but the lead he gave us didn’t prove to be decisive. Alfreton grabbed an equaliser early in the second half and held on grittily, with ex-Wrexham centre back Darran Kempson outstanding, to earn a point.
The one previous occasion that they visited The Racecourse came in April 2011 as we were locked in the closing stages of a titanic title struggle with Fleetwood Town. We simply failed to get our rhythm going on a warm end of season day and looked tired after the exertion of trying to keep up with the nouveau riche table toppers.
We paid a price shortly before the break when Anthony Wilson scored, and despite our desperate second half efforts, that turned out to be the only goal of the match.
An impressive crowd of 4,673 went home disappointed and the jaded performance was part of a pattern of deterioration: we’d only scraped a draw in our previous match, at Cambridge, thanks to Rob Ogleby’s first Wrexham goal, which came out of the blue in injury time, and following this defeat our subsequent three matches saw two draws and another loss as the title slipped from our grasp.
There’s something for the back four to aim for tomorrow as we’ve never kept a clean sheet against Alfreton in the sides’ five clashes.