Saturday’s victory at Coventry was a massive, historic achievement, and felt like the first great moment under Rob and Ryan’s ownership. So let’s focus on last Tuesday.
I had an awful sense of foreboding before the Bromley match, and that was unusual. This season I’ve been genuinely confident going into games, despite my natural inclination towards the cautious. There’s a simple logic to our success: we have a good manager and good players. Back them up with vociferous support and you’re going to win a lot of football matches.
Yet between Saturday and Tuesday I felt nervous. We’d expended so much energy in attaining a brilliant result at Coventry that I felt we were at risk of suffering a hangover.
Not literally, of course, but we’d put so much effort into that game – the last 20 minutes were draining to watch, never mind play in – that there was a fear in my mind that playing again so soon could be problematic.
The physical toll of that was, for me, encapsulated by Sam Dalby. He was terrific at the CBS Stadium, and by the end you could see he was running on empty: one forward run ended in him simply running out of fuel and falling flat on his face.
Yet Phil Parkinson didn’t want to withdraw him as his height was crucial in repelling the barrage of set pieces that were being flung into the box. So Dalby kept digging deeper and deeper into his resources and sacrificing himself for the club.
It was brilliant to see such commitment, but was it ideal preparation for a Tuesday game on a heavy pitch?
Mentally it must have taken a toll. If you don’t feel the emotions of sport as you watch it, then sport is not for you. Again, if it’s like that for a fan, imagine what it’s like for a player, living out the whole drama, knowing that any moment could see them instantly become a hero or a villain.
The FA Cup tie had everything: the euphoria of our early goals; the incredible way we went to 4-1 up against 10 men, and the terrifying fight-back which nearly saw us lose that winning position.
How do you raise yourself again for a match 3 days later?
That’s why, for me, the 2-1 win over Bromley is a contender for the result of the season so far. All of the above hasn’t taken into account the fact that The Ravens are a difficult side to play against. Indeed, there aren’t many I’d want to face less after such a draining Saturday.
They brought the best version of themselves to the game too, and executed their game plan really well in the first half. Pressing high into our half and backing that up with a high back line, they condensed the space when we had the ball and made it difficult for us to pass our way through them.
Also, they were extremely physical. Two yellow cards were doled out to them in the first half which could easily have been reds, and when Michael Cheek conceded a penalty he could have been dismissed too. Yes, he didn’t mean to kick Jordan Tunnicliffe in the head, but the fact is that he still kicked him in the head! Players tend to get sent off for doing that, whether they meant it or not!
But, in the face of all that, Wrexham persevered, and ultimately they showed class and resilience to get all three points.
Massive credit is due to Parkinson as well. With 20 minutes left he made a radical change to his side, shifting to four at the back in order to chase the win. We were on top of the game at that point, and to be honest I’d have been inclined to keep things pretty much as they were and hope we could come up with a winner. That’s why I’m not a football manager!
Parkinson refused to be so cautious and refused to accept the possibility of a draw. It took guts to gamble like he did, but he demands the most out of his team and wanted the win. I have to confess that, as the rain poured down on Tuesday, a big part of me wanted the game to be called off. I know we’d have to deal with serious fixture congestion further down the line, but it felt like a game which had all the ingredients of a disaster. I should be ashamed of myself for suspecting this team could let me down.