Leader Preview: Luton Town v Wrexham

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.

Louis Moss: scored at Kenilworth Road in perhaps the most relevant past clash between the two sides.

Tomorrow’s FA Trophy tie is a tricky one to anticipate with both managers likely to rotate their squads. Andy Morrell needs to be careful as Wrexham’s pattern of results in the second round of the FA Trophy is quite simple. If we take it seriously, we go through.

We’ve reached this stage of the competition three times and have succeeded twice, while the one time we failed owed much to an experimental selection.

In January 2011 Dean Saunders’ eleven showed promotion was his priority. Lee Fowler made his debut and Nat Knight-Percival made his first appearance at centre back for a testing tie at Salisbury.

We also tried out the split centre back formation that would serve us so well the following season, with Fowler dropping back between the two central defenders to make play from deep, and he looked impressive but short on match fitness, a factor which was possibly decisive when his late challenge led to the decisive penalty in a 1-0 loss.

Two seasons earlier, in our first tilt at the trophy, we picked a much stronger side for a trip to Basingstoke and were rewarded with a victory. An early own goal settled the nerves and Jeff Louis added a second in the second half. Although the home side grabbed one back with three minutes left, we held on comfortably for the win.

Last season we made it safely through the second round, of course, on our way to victory at Wembley. Morrell rotated his side but will have felt the players he selected were well equipped for the challenge as we faced Solihull Moors at home.

However, a nasty early injury to Rob Ogleby seemed to shake us and we were trailing a minute before the break when Brett Ormerod grabbed a crucial equaliser. Solihull were tenacious opponents though, and took the lead again just before the hour. However, Adrian Cieslewicz snatched an equaliser within two minutes, and five minutes after that Dean Keates’ penalty settled the match.

We’ve lost just once in our last seven games against Luton and our only previous cup tie against them, in the second round of the League Cup in 1981, saw us go through 2-1 on aggregate after winning 2-0 at Kenilworth Road.

However, with both teams likely to rotate their squads perhaps the most relevant previous clash was on the last day of the 2010-11 season. We already knew we’d face each other again in the play-off semi-finals so both managers fielded second string teams. Joslain Mayebi made his debut, and marked it with some good saves and a wild charge off his line which abruptly curtailed Fowler’s involvement!

Louis Moss gave Wrexham’s youthful team a deserved lead and Rob Salathiel nearly became Wrexham’s youngest ever scorer before a controversial late penalty given against Anthony Stephens allowed Luton to snatch a 1-1 draw.

Tomorrow’s game will be played on the anniversary of perhaps Wrexham’s first great cup upset. On December 14th 1960 we faced top division Blackburn Rovers in the very first running of the League Cup. We’d reached the third round after overcoming Northampton and Brighton, and earned a replay at The Racecourse after a Mickey Metcalf goal secured a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.

Metcalf struck again in the replay to take it into extra time, where he really came into his own, scoring another two to complete a hat trick which helped Wrexham to a 3-1 victory. He might have wished he hadn’t bothered when we crashed to a 5-0 defeat at Aston Villa in the next round!

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