Things fall apart. This felt the rather unpleasant yet probably inevitable consequence of the last few months. We’ve put together enough decent performances to keep the back door to the play-offs alive, but even by Andy Morrell’s admission, that route is now closed.
This was the match where the incremental deteriorations in the team caught up with it. They started well for a half hour, and then fell apart before our eyes. It would have got more nasty were it not for the impact of Danny Livesey, brought in by Andy Morrell to tighten the back four; he has had the desired effect and Barnet’s goal was the only one we’ve conceded in the last two and a half games. If the defence hadn’t stood up to the punishment in the second half we’d have been beaten more heavily.
The second half was pretty grim. Wrexham created nothing but the defence at least stood firm and apart from their goal Barnet only really managed one other moment of danger, when Andy Coughlin and Mark Carrington performed heroics to prevent a close range goal.
Perhaps the performance was summed up by Jay Harris. He was the unanimous choice of man of the match for the Wrexham Player commentary team, but while he did his best interventions in the first half driving the team forwards, in the second period much of his work was carried out on the edge of our area, often as deep as the back four, digging deep to keep Barnet at bay. In a way that was part of the problem; in the second half Wrexham’s midfield was driven so deep that Barnet were first to every second ball, and once one of their attacks broke down we simply cleared the ball into a midfield occupied solely by visiting players, who picked up where they left off.
Yet the first half hour was very different. Andy Morrell suggested before the game that the plan was to get into Barnet’s faces and pressure them, and his team did exactly that. Joe Clarke and Harris were energetic and Joe Anyinsah was chasing everything as Barnet’s defence looked edgy in the gusty wind. If the ref had given a 50-50 penalty call by Andy Bishop, perhaps things would have been different.
But the chances didn’t go in, our grip on the game slackened, and the game began to be played on Barnet’s terms. Danny Livesey talked after the game about Barnet keeping their shape better than we did, and that was certainly true for the goal as players were dragged into areas they didn’t want to be down the left, ending up exposed and over-committing in the challenge in a desperate attempt to rectify the situation. But it was that depth of shape, the loss of midfield and the accompanying growth in the distance between the lines, which left the strikers isolated, which did for us.
Morrell tried what he could, but his changes couldn’t alter things. Rob Ogleby and Brett Ormerod couldn’t hold the ball up when it was cleared, and the logical move of bringing Kevin Thornton on behind a front two to shorten the gap between midfield and attack wasn’t able to address the issue. Perhaps the surprise was that it was Elliott Durrell who was the last of the three strikers to stay on: he’d had moments of intermittent promise but they were less frequent as the game wore on as he battle to acclimatise while coping with his troublesome knee. Bishop hadn’t carried any threat but at least he worked hard and enjoyed some success in making the ball stick up front.
But it would be churlish to ponder how things might have turned out when the game had drifted so clearly away from us. The second half felt like it summed up a season which drifts along without much hope of a successful resolution, hope gradually dissolving.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Coughlin; Carrington, Tomassen, Livesey, Ashton; Clarke, Keates, Harris; Durrell (Thornton 80), Bishop (Ogleby 70), Anyinsah (Ormerod 63). Unused subs: Artell, Hunt.
Barnet (4-3-3):Jupp; Yiadom, Gjokay, Johnson; Weston, Byrne, Adams (Casabella 82); Marsh-Brown (Lopez 67), Hyde (Mengerink 90), Cadogan. Unused subs: Abdulla, Vilhete.
Referee: Ross Royce
Attendance: 2,925 Away: 90