It took an incredible effort from the groundstaff to get this game on. Pity they’re so good at their job.
This was a grim way to spend an afternoon. Wet, windy and incredibly cold, and the conditions surely got to everyone in the crowd, and they seemed to get to Wrexham for the first hour. At least the double 2 out of 45substitution which saw Elliott Durrell make a bright debut livened things up, but overall our failure to deal with the conditions meant we threw three points away here.
Not that Dartford’s efforts should be underestimated. Their horrible recent record of 2 points out of 45 and position in the relegation zone made them look like easy pickings, but Tony Burman has replenished his squad wisely in January and their last two results – a win at Kidderminster and a 3-3- draw with Cambridge which they led late on – suggest they’re actually one of the division’s form teams.
They certainly started better than Wrexham did, seeming happier with the conditions and driving on with a heavy wind at their backs. However, it was the home side’s generosity that saw them emerge victorious as much as their own stubborn defensive efforts in the second half.
In my notes during commentary I noted just three efforts worth recording by Dartford, and they all came from Wrexham errors. A sloppiness on the ball was understandable up to a point, with a sticky pitch cutting up more and more as the game wore on. But it was only acceptable up to a point: the extent to which Wrexham squandered possession, especially in the first half, was ultimately the decisive factor.
Only Dean Keates managed to find any real consistency with his passing, and he looked to inject pace into Wrexham’s play with his swift shifting on of the ball. Joe Clarke and Jay Harris had their moments and Neil Ashton strove hard to drive play forwards down the left, but the failure of the forwards to make an impact meant their efforts were in vain. As the half wore on Wrexham gained more of a grip on the match, but packed little threat up front. Johnny Hunt, dropping off to link play, was the most effective of the three but in the box there was little threat.
Ogleby and Bishop failed to trouble the back four, which was frustrating on a day when it was difficult to defend as the wind and rain lashed down. The ball was often pitched into the Dartford area in the first half and, although the defenders and goalkeeper clearly had problems reading its flight, too many losst causes weren’t chased down.
It felt like a day for Joe Ayinsah, whose superior ability to hold the ball up ought to be useful in such conditions, and Morrell didn’t stick to Plan A for too long, pitching both the striker and Durrell on before the half hour mark, having seen that the change of ends hadn’t facilitated an increase in threat from the forwards. Hunt was perhaps unlucky to get the hook, but the two substitutes immediately energised the side and the final half hour was a story of constant pressure with no end result.
Durrell showed that he has energy, confidence and the ability to rip an early cross in with great shape, and a succession of chances were created from his delivery on the flank. He nearly scored deep in injury time too, a deflection taking his shot narrowly wide. Ultimately, though, this was to be a huge disappointment on a day when, as so many other games were called off, victory would have propelled Wrexham into the top ten. We’re not in a position to miss too many more opportunities this season.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Coughlin; Carrington, Tomassen, Livesey, Ashton; Clarke, Keates (Thornton 82), Harris; Ogleby (Anyinsah 58), Bishop, Hunt (Durrell 58). Unused subs: Mayebi, Artell.
Dartford (4-4-2): Julian; Burns, Mitchell-King, McAuley, Sterling; Woodyard (Noble 83), Stevenson, Cornhill, Bradbrook; Pugh (Clark 89), Wall (Harris 71). Unused subs: Swallow, Suarez.
Referee: Jason Whiteley
Attendance: 2,645 Away: 52
Miscellaneous: Joe Clarke’s 100th career league appearance; Dartford’s first win at Wrexham; Livesey and Durrell’s Wrexham debuts.