Did you see that giant duck burst in Taiwan? (I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited to use that sentence.) Well that surreal incident summed up our first half. It’s to the team’s credit that they managed to reinflate themselves in the second half to clinch what could be a crucial victory.
In fact, Wrexham had to endure quite a few blows in the course of the afternoon. The loss of Robbie Evans shortly before kick-off, the failure of the likes of Neil Ashton and Dean Keates to return to fitness and the failure of Leon Clowes to emerge for the second half were all set-backs. But it was yet another sloppy, avoidable goal which took the wind out of us.
Despite our selection problems, we started very well and put in an impressive opening twenty minutes. Joe Clarke, given the captain’s armband for the first time, was particularly impressive. Sitting in a more defensive position than usual to allow Jay Harris and Mark Carrington to get forwards, he was strong and tidy in possession. It was wholly appropriate that he should give us the lead from Carrington’s corner.
But there’s always a sucker punch this season. We’d kept one clean sheet in our last thirteen matches, and we weren’t about to stop being slack now. When Steve Tomassen was too slow to get out of the box after we’d cleared a corner, playing Brett Williams onside and allowing him a simple finish.
It was a blow which we took a long time to recover from, and we were fortunate to get to the hour mark level. With Jayden Gibbs and Jordon Roberts dangerous on either flank (and Roberts reprising his role of irritant from the sides’ first clash of the season!) we were allowing too many balls into our box from the flanks, and we also conceded too many free kicks in our own half. We were endebted to Andy Coughlin and the centre backs (and that includes Tomassen, who slotted in superbly at the heart of the defence after Clowes’ departure) for our survival.
A word of praise for Kyle Parle too: at Aldershot it appeared Roberts had successfully got under Tomassen’s skin: he seemed to be chipping away at him throughout and eventually forced a mistake which led to his goal. Young Parle was surely an easy target for such an approach, but he stood firm and snuffed out Roberts’ threat. The late decision by the Shots bench to withdraw the excellent Gibbs to right back also helped Wrexham as he was less able to get at Johnny Hunt, with whom he’d had a fascinating duel.
Carrington and Harris deserve credit too, for beginning to get a grip on midfield and haul Wrexham back into the game in the second half. Harris’s spectacular winner with just two and a half minutes left was a fair reward for a player who is struggling to stay fit, but didn’t let that stop him from battling with a typically big heart.
This was the best type of win. It was an ugly match and a fairly unimpressive performance. Yet we dug deep and managed to snatch victory from somewhere. Never mind the old cliche about good teams winning even when they don’t play well; this was simply a win which felt like an unexpected surprise. Having sat through a freezing hour and a half of grim struggle, it feels rather good.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Coughlin; Tomassen, Artell, Clowes (Parle 46), Hunt; Clarke, Carrington, Harris; Ogleby (Cieslewicz 71), Anyinsah, Bailey-Jones (Bishop 74) Unused subs: Mayebi, Ormerod.
Aldershot (4-4-2): Morris; Oastler (Mekki 79), Goodman, Partington, Barker; Gibbs, Rowland, Stanley, Roberts (Paterson 90); B Williams, O’Brien Unused subs: Tonkin, L Williams, Young.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire)
Man of the match: Jay Harris
Miscellaneous: Kyle Parle’s league debut.