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.
We’ve been to Alfreton three times, and in general have enjoyed playing them on their own patch more than when they’ve come to Wrexham.
Our first visit there came back in August 2011 and Alfreton were hampered by the catastrophic decision of their manager, Nicky Law, to go man for man against a Wrexham side which was passing fluidly with Lee Fowler pulling the strings. The result was chaos amongst the home side, who often looked unsure of where they should go as they were pulled into unfamiliar areas, and there were a series of running arguments between the players and the bench as Wrexham picked them apart.
Jake Speight scored first, but Alfreton pulled a goal back from a set piece: Nat Knight-Percival failed to deal with a free kick into the box and, swinging wildly in an attempt to clear the ball, he caught his man. Alfreton equalised from the spot, but it would prove a temporary reprieve.
At the other end Speight, who had failed either to find the net or hit form in his first four games for the club, was invigorated by his goal and encouraged by his confused opponents. He had a hat trick to his name before the game was an hour old, then capped a superb performance by dribbling round the back of the Town defence and pulling the ball back for Mathias Pogba to complete a 4-1 win.
Our game there the following season was very different in nature, but offered a similar platform for a Wrexham player to shine. It was the match when Joe Clarke had his moment of genius.
Neil Ashton gave us an early lead from a corner, but shortly after the half hour a spell of Alfreton pressure was rewarded by an equaliser.
The enormity of our task increased in the forty ninth minute when Danny Wright was sent off. The decision was a surprising one, as he’d already picked up a very harsh yellow for time wasting, and received his second for pushing a player in the back as he ran the ball out for a throw in, which hardly seemed to be a hanging offence. Billy Barr certainly saw things that way, and he was also sent to the stand by the officious referee.
It looked like a point was the best Wrexham could hope for as they battled against the odds, but with a quarter of an hour left came a moment of sheer inspiration. A headed clearance fell to Clarke in midfield and he embarked upon a magnificent Lionel Messi-like run, slaloming through the heart of the Alfreton defence before finishing emphatically to earn the win in the most heroic of fashions.
Last season’s trip to Alfreton was a frustrating affair. Andy Morrell’s side dominated the game but went behind when John Akinde scored in added time at the end of the first half. We completely dominated the second period, forcing the home side back into their penalty area, but couldn’t manage an equaliser.