January, a new start for Wrexham as they aimed to change their poor season which began a whole six months ago. A disappointing mid-table position with some saying relegation was a possibility which, though I couldn’t see it myself, looked like a plausible opinion. But surely not? Surely the Wrexham that won the FA Trophy and were in the Play-Off final no longer than 10 months ago weren’t to be a relegation battling side? Well to cut a long story short, no but it was close. I look at January and how Andy Morrell’s boys got the 2013/2014 season back on track in a matter of weeks, as they begin the calender year as they mean to go on.
It began with away tie on New Years day, to a side they lost narrowly at the Racecourse a week earlier on Boxing Day, Alfreton Town. A side I like to describe as a dark horse, a side who have surprisingly done really well in the current campaign sitting pretty in the Play-Off spots. Alfreton, whose 90th minute Chris Westwood strike snatched all 3 points in North Wales the previous week were confident going into the game which really paid off, as in the return fixture a John Akinde goal gave them all 3 points and kept Wrexham in a miserable 15th place in the Skrill Premier table, it was also Alfreton’s 5th win on the trot as Robbie Evans’ strike hit the bar denying the reds any points on 75 minutes.
The first home game of January, and 2014 was to South Coast side Aldershot Town who, after some misfortune at the beginning of the season regarding a points deduction, were on their feet and making their way up the table. But Wrexham wanted to hold up their uprising as a thrilling end to a good game. The deadlock was broken after Joe Clarke’s header smashed the roof of the net grabbing his 5th goal of the season. But the Dragons led for just 5 minutes as Shots striker Brett Williams equalised. A few chances for both sides were capitalised by the battling sides up until the 87th minute when Jay Harris struck a shot with such velocity from 30 yards to beat keeper Glenn Morris, sending the 2,800 Reds fans wild.
A week later the Wrexham faced FC Halifax Town who had some fortune this season after promotion from the Conference North. The Shaymen had spent the majority of the season in the Play-Offs and faced a Wrexham side who had moved up to 13th after victory over Aldershot. It was an even game throughout with not many chances for either side, but a disappointment came for the North Walians as veteran striker Brett Ormerod was sent off for kicking out at a Halifax player just before half-time. The game finished 0-0 with Wrexham remaining in 13th with Ormerod receiving a 3 match ban. Although some positives were taken by manager Andy Morrell who said ”I challenged our defenders to get more clean sheets and I am pleased we have got a point and come out with something.”
On the 16th Wrexham’s only outgoing player of the January transfer window occurred, as tricky Polish winger Adrian Cieslewicz signed for Kidderminster Harriers. The midfielder made a large number of appearances for Wrexham where he came off the bench, he also scored in some important matches, including the FA Trophy Semi-Final 1st Leg against Gainsborough Trinity last season. He also went on to play in the Final at Wembley.
Heading up north on a cold January, Tuesday night, the words all football fans love to hear! As we traveled to Southport. Not the most glamorous of matches at Haig Avenue, but one goal could be such an important factor at the end of the season. It began with a decent start not for Wrexham, but for the Sandgrounders who took the lead through a Scott Brown header after Mark Carrington’s botched clearance. But it lasted just 10 minutes, as Dave Artell headed home from a Mark Carrington’s cross, rectifying the mistake of the right back. Wrexham did well and pressed the opposition for the rest of the 90 as Theo Bailey-Jones was denied well by the Yellows keeper and Andy Bishop struck the woodwork. It looked set to end up as a draw until another 87th minute long range effort this time from Joe Anyinsah gave Wrexham all the points in a decent contest which also saw Kevin Thornton on the bench for Wrexham, another big boost.
The following Saturday a monsoon seemed to descend on Wrexham as a huge downfall of rain on the Racecourse two hours before kick off against Grimsby Town meant a washout, and the game was called off, I’m sure the referee had to as young defender Steve Tomassen walked out of the tunnel and a shot of lightning sent him sprinting back in, his feet never touching the floor!
Wrexham’s first signing of the window was revealed in between the Southport and Tamworth matches as Elliott Durrell signed an 18-month contract from Hednesford Town. The young forward scored 109 goals for Hednesford in 240 appearances, mainly from wide positions. He received international clearance 10 minutes ahead of Wrexham’s next fixture against Tamworth so wasn’t eligible but would be available for the Dragons’ following game at home to Dartford.
The final game of January came at home to another relegation battling side in Tamworth, the Lambs, who had some mixed league form in recent matches. Wins over Halifax and Hyde are overshadowed in some cases by losses to Cambridge and two draws to lower league Chorley in the FA Trophy. But they showed a lot of promise in this match as the big physical side looked to get themselves out of trouble as relegation looked possible, being a point from safety. But it wasn’t to be their night as an incredibly rainy Racecourse looked like it could be postponed before kick-off, but the game went ahead on an incredibly soft and wet pitch. Tamworth looked great in the first 10 minutes as they pressed high up the pitch and created chances, but it was Wrexham who broke the deadlock through Andy Bishop, scoring for the first time since November.
A game which saw both sides attacking each other and really going for it, both sides creating a real advert for the Conference with an end-to-end match. More injury headache came for manager Andy Morrell as Joe Anyinsah clashed with reds’ keeper Andy Coughlin forcing him off with a groin injury. Tamworth will be wondering how they hadn’t scored before half time as Justin Richards took the ball, the Wrexham defence parted like the red sea leaving Coughlin stranded, but Richards could only smash the bar before the whistle was blown. As they came out for the second half an Andy Bishop effort was stopped by goalkeeper Cameron Belford 3 minutes into the second half with a Johnny Hunt follow up shot also grasped by the ‘keeper. On 80 minutes a surging run from Joe Clarke from his own half to the opposition box with a step over chucked in gave Wrexham a chance before he was brought down in the penalty area. Bishop was given the chance to get his second of the game but his spot kick was saved by Belford who had a great game. It could have been a disaster for the reds as on 87 minutes Richards hit the bar again, for what was the 4th time that match. Sub Darren Byfield’s header over the bar from 6 yards out letting Wrexham off before an Andy Bishop run into the box set up Johnny Hunt who doubled Wrexham’s lead and gave them all 3 points in a thrilling contest that could have finished 5-5.
The transfer deadline day is a huge part of football which effects most sides, but it was just the one signing for Andy Morrell as Carlisle United centre-back Danny Livesey joined the FA Trophy Champions on loan for the rest of the campaign.
A very good month for Wrexham compared with other, especially December as they go from 15th to 11th and are now just 5 points from the play-offs. It is a vast improvement for Wrexham and maybe the play-offs are a possibility, only time will tell. One things for sure, a good run in February could see them end the month in or around the play-off spots.