There are plenty of people looking for a reason to crucify Wrexham now. This wasn’t it.
On the face of it was the sort of game which will disturb fans. Defeat to a small club that struggles to get a decent attendance seems pretty drastic. However, if you just concentrate on the facts a very different picture emerges. This was Alfreton’s fifth win on the spin and they’re extabishing themselves at the sharp end of the table yet Wrexham had slightly the better of the first half and battered them in the second. it was only their lack of a cutting edge, allied to Alfreton’s ability to dig in, which went against them which ultimately did for Andy Morrell’s team.
I shouldn’t forget the referee’s calls either. Three major, controversial decisions went against Wrexham and they could have been crucial. Morrell was most upset about the disallowed goal when the score was 0-0, although watching the replay suggests that there was enough in the challenge to invite the ref to decide Alfreton keeper Jon Worsnop had been backed into. From my perspective the more obvious injustice was the failure to give a penalty to Jay Harris when he was fouled as he was about to score in the second half, while the match video shows that Lathaniel Rowe-Turner’s 14th minute lunge on Joe Clarke was much worse than it appeared at first. An in-the-air-tw0-footed assault, it was a clearcut straight red, but the Alfreton player got away with it, one must assume as a consequence of Clarke’s honesty, as he stayed on his feet to protest about the tackle rather than writhe in mock agony, and the tackle happening early in the match. If any of those three decisions had gone Wrexham’s way the outcome surely would have been different.
The bad luck which has dogged Wrexham struck once more before the kick off when illness deprived Rob Ogleby of the chance to follow up his hat-trick of three days ago. That opened the door to Adrian Cieslewicz, who looked lively in the first quarter of an hour but faded afterwards. There were moments of promise from him in the second half but it’s indicative of how he drifted out of the game that Wrexham’s threat essentially came from the right flank after the break. Indeed Wrexham concentrated on that side of the pitch to such an extent that Mark Carrington, one of our most effective attacking outlets again, had to be substituted as he was absolutely shattered after spending the second half doing shuttles up and down the wing.
Playing against the wind and rain in the first period Wrexham were marginally the better side with Joe Clarke impressive in the centre of the pitch which saw him enjoy his moment of genius last season. They might have taken the lead when Worsnop blocked an Ormerod shot inadvertently with his thigh, sending the ball spiralling agonisingly over the Alfreton bar, and had other chances to take a lead.
However the fact is that we do not keep clean sheets away from home and what felt like a solid first half was devalued when we suffered our customary short-circuit. John Akinde was a dangerous, strong striker and in added time he struck, getting in behind Clowes too easily and finishing well from a tight angle.
This changed everything for the second half but Wrexham responded well, completely dominated midfield to the extent that Nicky Law changed to 4-3-3 to combat our control of possession.
Alfreton created little in the second half. They haven’t trained properly in four weeks as they try to protect their pitch and their stamina has been found wanting as a result in recent games. Yet they keep winning: they have terrific experience at the back and the strength of Wylde, Kempson and Westwood, both physically and metaphorically, was shown as for the second time in a week they held on for a win despite losing grip of the game in the second half.
Skipper Robbie Evans, who had struggled to make an impact in the first half, was a threat in the second, making scurrying runs into the area. Twice he was denied by the goalkeeper’s speed off his line coming out to save at his feet and once by bar as again Worsnop had run out decisively and forced him to shoot early.
The trouble was we just couldn’t properly break down Alfreton’s deep-lying defence. Brett Ormerod was inventive down the right, and Joe Anyinsah made a real impact once he came on for Andy Bishop, who once again worked hard but offered no great threat. But the ball simply wouldn’t drop for Wrexham.
Afterwards the Alfreton press were fulsome in their praise of the visitors, describing us as the equal of any side they’ve played this season. However, any side is ultimately judged by its deficiencies in either penalty area, and in that case Wrexham got what they deserved here. But this isn’t the fixture to rush into judgement of Morrell’s side. While you make your own luck, it would take a particularly hard heart not to feel sorry for Wrexham after this match.