Nicky Laws was obviously delighted, speaking after his Alfreton team had just achieved the double over Wrexham. His post-match interview wasn’t over the top and remained realistic but did he unearth some hidden treasure that may come in handy for the management team at the Racecourse?
He stopped short of actually naming the teams he was obviously referring to but he mentioned that to be successful in the Conference, especially at this time of the season when the weather is bad and the pitches are worse, you need players that are “strong and mobile”.
Now it’s probably fair to say (and Andy Morrell will certainly agree) that on the balance of play, Wrexham didn’t deserve to lose either of the games in the festive double header against Alfreton – but lose them they did. The Dragons controlled large portions of both matches but there is a worrying trend that is more than simply developing – it seems like it’s already set in stone. Controlling large portions of football matches doesn’t necessarily bring the results it may (or may not) deserve.
Wrexham had 17 shots on goal at Alfreton and although only 5 of them were classified as “on target” it shows that there was plenty of application and effort. In most of the previous 10 or 15 matches (with perhaps the FA Trophy tie with Luton as an exception) effort and application has not been a problem. Opposing teams, however, are proving to be a real nuisance!
Wrexham are regarded (and rightly so) as one of the better footballing teams in the Conference and for the past 3 seasons that flowing, passing football has delivered plenty of success. 3 finishes inside the top 5, one tally of 98 points in a season and a play-off final at Wembley. Despite losing some key players in the summer (Danny Wright and Martin Riley were certainly two of them), the Dragons largely play in the same way as they did during those 3 terrific seasons. Injuries have also played a part, certainly when it comes to fielding a settled team, yet when they get into their groove, Wrexham still look good and at times can be an absolute joy to watch – but the results aren’t forthcoming. Why?
Of course the factors mentioned above are relevant but in the mass dissection of Wrexham’s season so far, very few have pointed their accusing fingers away from the Racecourse and taken an in depth look at what some of the (often referred to as) “unfashionable” teams have been up to. The longer teams like Alfreton, Braintree, Nuneaton, Salisbury, Welling and Woking spend in this division, the more accustomed they become to the relevant challenges and canny managers like Nicky Laws, Alan Devonshire and Kevin Wilkin (to name just a few) are doing their homework and working out what it takes to not only survive at this level but flourish too. Quite frankly, many of them seem to have worked out a way of frustrating footballing teams like Wrexham and picking up positive results.
Despite the still precarious financial position at the Racecourse, I would hazard a guess that all of those teams mentioned above have smaller budgets (and fan bases) than Wrexham. So, it seems it’s not a question of simply acquiring good players but players that are most of all suited to plying their trade at this level of football.
I have often heard Wrexham fans referencing the physical size of the opposition this season and Laws’ reference and emphasis of “strong and mobile” players has been very evident in many of the games. Wrexham have a good number of skilled footballers, some that are certainly capable of playing at a higher level and many that have already played there – so is that the problem? Are there too many talented individuals in the squad who are simply not well enough equipped for the challenges of this league? After all, we almost always put on a better show when playing teams from higher divisions.
Once again, the appalling disciplinary record this season points to plenty of endeavour and energy (no matter how reckless) but does the club possess enough players in the “strong and mobile” category to effectively, week in, week out, compete with other teams in this league? The transfer window is open!