Leader Preview: Braintree Town FC v Wrexham FC

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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After the controversy of our 3-2 home defeat to Braintree last September, hopefully we can gain revenge at The Amlin Stadium, where we’ve never lost.

The results which stand out in this fixture are back to back 5-1 victories achieved in 2012. The first one came at The Racecourse on the final day of the 2011-12 season, and Braintree turned out to be the perfect opposition for a Wrexham side looking to hit the play-offs running.

Within twenty minutes Andy Morrell had put us ahead, and Adrian Cieslewicz joined in just before the break. Although Braintree pulled a goal back shortly after half time, Mathias Pogba restored the two goal lead, and the visitors collapsed in the closing minutes. Danny Wright scored with two minutes left, and then an injury time penalty allowed Neil Ashton to score his first goal for Wrexham.

The following November we travelled south and managed to achieve the same score line. The journey had already been made once that season, in fact, as the game had been cancelled due to a sudden downturn in the weather. Annoying as making the long trip for nothing might have been, when the game was rearranged Wrexham took their frustration out on their hosts and emerged with an emphatic win.

Shortly after the quarter hour mark we were two goals to the good, Wright having grabbed an early goal before Brett Ormerod chipped in with a fine solo effort. Braintree swiftly pulled one back, but they were swiftly slapped back down by another brilliant individual goal. This time it was Nick Rushton, fresh from scoring his first Wrexham goal three days earlier, who ran through the Braintree defence before finishing with style.

With just 508 fans there to urge the home team on the failed to build any momentum in the second half, and Wrexham cruised to victory with Wright adding another and Cieslewicz helping himself to the fifth as the game neared its conclusion.

By way of contrast, last season’s home game against Braintree represented something of a low. It came at that point in the season when Andy Morrell was looking to nurse his tired and injury-ridden squad through to the play-offs in one piece and was rotating his players heavily.

The game started promisingly enough, as Morrell scored in the fourth minute with a superb chip from the edge of the area, but soon afterwards any sense of elation dissipated. Top scorer Danny Wright surged into the box but lost his footing and landed heavily, dislocating his elbow. It was an injury which put him out of the play-offs, and as he left the pitch to the applause of a shell-shocked crowd, little did we know that we’d never see him in a Wrexham shirt again.

To cap it all, Braintree hit back to emerge with a 1-1 draw, although by then the result was irrelevant as distracted minds had already been cast forwards to how Morrell would shuffle his cards for the post-season games.

Neil Ashton makes his 175th appearance for Wrexham tomorrow.

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