It was a battle out there. Maybe victories carved out of adverse circumstances, irrespective of their quality, are the most precious of all. Wrexham certainly showed the togetherness assistant boss Gary Mills tweeted about a couple of hours after the final whistle.
— Gary Mills (@GaryMills10) August 23, 2014
They had to, because frankly Alfreton were a nasty bunch. Please look through my match reports to confirm I don’t usually take this tack: I look to reflect the reality of the opposition rather than automatically take a tribal position against them because they had the temerity to try to beat my chosen team. It’s in that context that I say it again: Alfreton were unpleasant.
They fought, bit, scratched and did everything they could to drag us down to their level. It’s a long time since I’ve seen so much off-the-ball incident in a match and Luke Graham ultimately paid the price when he picked up a second yellow for a body check: his first came for a particularly unpleasant altercation with Louis Moult which left the Wrexham striker looking incensed. Manny Smith did a great job getting his team mate away from the incident, shoving him forcibly in the chest to get him as distant from his provocateur as possible, but Moult’s livid body language was of the kind you usually see when a player has been subjected to racial abuse. Obviously Graham hadn’t gone down that vile route, but clearly Moult, no stranger to the rough and tumble of the pro game, felt a line had been crossed.
Alfreton were desperate, understandably as they’ve not only lost every game this season, but have lost their last six in total and last won thirteen matches ago, in March. With their manager Nicky Law sitting out a stadium ban which will run the length of the month they lack direction, and seem to retained the vitriolic side of his approach while missing his tactical nous.
Bradley Wood was fortunate not to be sent off for shoving Wes York to the ground in the opening minutes, but would live to regret his actions as, carrying an early yellow card, his subsequent tentative attempts to contain the winger were doomed to failure, most spectacularly when he failed to prevent York’s assist for Connor Jennings.
Jennings would fall victim of Alfreton’s approach when he picked up the harshest of yellow cards, reacting to having his toe deliberately trodden on off the ball with words alone. The perpetrator, Jake Sheridan, responded bizarrely by bear-hugging Jennings, who again did nothing beyond the verbal. The referee,who had looked understandably flustered throughout as he tried to keep up with what was going on behind his back, erroneously delivered a yellow to the Wrexham man.
But Wrexham kept their cool admirably in the face of such provocation. They also responded well to going behind to a poorly-defended goal: Blaine Hudson ought to have done better with a left wing cross than help it on to the far post, where Mark Carrington got touch tight to Joe Ironside but failed to prevent him turning to score.
Wrexham’s defence again looked shaky, with the familiar exception of Smith, and they would also exhibit the other area of concern this season: a failure to convert the chances they create. Before the latter issue became relevant they would take a decisive grip of the game, driven by another controlling display from Jay Harris.
Moult’s equaliser, coming swiftly after Alfreton’s opener, was as hilarious as it was crucial. Rather than gain confidence from having taken the lead, the home side collapsed defensively and ought to have been comprehensively out of the game by half time. Hudson’s headed goal owed everything to a superb corner deliver by Elliott Durrell and after Jennings made it 3-1 Wrexham ought to have put the game out of sight. However, Durrell again frustratingly failed to capitalise when one-on-one and a lightning fast opening ten minutes of the second half somehow failed to yield a fourth.
As a consequence Alfreton were able to fight back. Perhaps Andy Coughlin ought to have come for the well delivered Tom Shaw free kick which allowed the constantly combative Paul Clayton forced in. At least we held on, although Hudson’s new-found confidence after his goal faltered in the closing moments. It was what we deserved, and believe me, it was definitely what Alfreton deserved.
Alfreton Town: Dawson; Wood, Graham, Smith (Hicks 46), Rowe-Turner; Bradley (Shaw 72), Keane, Howell, Sheridan (Stevenson 64); Clayton, Ironside. Unused subs: Courtney, Gray.
Wrexham (4-2-3-1): Coughlin; Carrington, Smith, Hudson, Ashton; Harris, Clarke; Jennings, Durrell (Bailey-Jones 82), York (Rushton 89); Moult. Unused subs: Bachmann, Stephens, Evans.
Attendance: 914 Away: 396
Referee: Simon Bennett
Wrexham Player Man of the Match: Jay Harris
Miscellaneous: Blaine Hudson and Connor Jennings’ first Wrexham goals.