Dean Keates takes charge of his 150th game as Wrexham manager across his two spells at the club today. Ironically, an FA Trophy match is the last fixture he’d want to have.
The only priority this season is our league position, and while an FA Cup run could have yielded some handy cash for mid-season recruitment, the FA Trophy certainly doesn’t have such financial potential.
Therefore, there’s a fair chance we’ll see a side more akin to those we fielded in that Tunnocks Caramel thing (I don’t think that was a dream, was it?) Mark Carrington’s next game will be his 250th for Wrexham, but it might not happen at Halifax.
It’s not just the lack of prize money which makes today’s game a bit of an irritation. After last Saturday we want to play our next league fixture as soon as possible.
Coming hard on the heels of an excellent win at Eastleigh, the way we beat title-chasing Solihull Moors was impressive. With our next league game coming against Sutton United, the side we pushed into the relegation zone with those victories, and a clear midweek finally allowing Keates to work uninterrupted with his squad, we’d have been desperate to carry that momentum into such a massive match.
That extra time on Colliers Park will allow us to further bed in the three-man defence which helped us keep consecutive league clean sheets for the first time since February. It’s ironic to think that, in turning to a shape which you really wouldn’t associate with Keates, he has started to find the defensive security he brought to the club two and a half years ago.
Not as ironic as Bryan Hughes’ dalliance with the formation though. In the Summer we played it in half our pre-season games, but never looked like turning to it in serious matches until we were in crisis. It felt like we’d wasted half our preparations for the new campaign working on something which was then returned swiftly into its box.
I doubted that the formation suited the players we had at the time, but the addition of Kieran Kennedy has significantly improved the depth of our quality in the centre of defence, and the need to have more thrusting wing-backs on both sides is diminished now we find we’re fighting for survival rather than looking to run riot in a promotion push.
In both matches with a back three, that central trio have defended our penalty area ferociously. The midfield and wing-backs have worked tirelessly, and Omari Patrick’s exciting pace has suddenly brought some menace at the sharp end. Of course, Keates might decide to play a strong side to keep the momentum going, but what a shame we’re not playing our relegation six-pointer this weekend, just when the pieces have started to fall into place!