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.
The job is half done. Wrexham’s performance in the first leg was terrific, and showed that we have the ability to earn a third trip to Wembley in the space of two years. So why do I feel so frustrated?
Last Saturday’s game, in almost all respects, couldn’t have gone better. We dominated the game and put in a genuinely good team performance: nobody was below a seven out of ten, were they?
On the bench we claimed an excellent victory too. The sides had met three weeks earlier, and Kevin Wilkin used the intelligence well. Apart from the fact that he got the team’s shape right, building on three performances in which a 4-3-3 had settled into a nice groove, he also capitalised on something he’d noticed in January to create danger from set pieces.
Torquay keeper Martin Rice had been excellent when it came to shot-stopping but shaky in the air in the goalless draw, and the same was true last Saturday as we hemmed him in and swung good deliveries into the six yard box.
Sadly, Rice also made a string of key saves, which leads me to the one area we could have improved on. We didn’t take our chances.
I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy the game at all. Generally I’m able to take things as they come in Wrexham matches, but my essentially even-tempered nature took a battering this time.
As Wilkin said after the game, two-legged ties are rarely decided after one match, but on this occasion that ought to have been the case.
I can’t say I went through the range of emotions during the game, as essentially I experienced varying levels of the same one: frustration.
When it was goalless I was frustrated that we hadn’t taken advantage of a fast start.
When it was 1-0 I was frustrated that we weren’t taking our chances and adding to our lead.
When it was 2-0 I had a brief window of relief from frustration: I felt a mixture of hope that the roof would cave in for Torquay and we’d finish the tie, mixed with a fearful realisation that they’d started to improve shortly before our second goal and were likely to pose a threat at the other end.
Then they scored a soft goal and I was back to frustration again.
I still haven’t shaken that feeling off. Clearly we’re capable of scoring past them; the amount of chances we created on Saturday showed that. Also, before the match I’d have been delighted with any sort of lead. Football is a low-scoring game and the percentages say that the side that scores first usually wins. We go into the game with a one goal lead, so the odds are in our favour.
And don’t forget that the last time we had to play a two-legged tie we won the home game 2-1, against Kidderminster, and closed it out comfortably in the second game.
But I just can’t shake that feeling of frustration.