Sunday, 20 January 2008

What a Performance!

Remember it was just one game. But what a game! The Racecourse atmosphere was reminiscent of one of those great cup games we have specialised in over the years, and the comparison doesn't stop there. Wrexham versus MK Dons looked, on paper, like the biggest mismatch you could imagine in a league game. Top against bottom; the side with the best away record in the country against the team with the second worst home record; a side looking for a seventh consecutive away league win against a team which would equal the club record for consecutive defeats if they lost! Thank God football defies logic sometimes!

Wrexham fans will be keen to vouch that the game often defies any sense of justice too, considering the number of cruel blows we've suffered lately, but Saturday restored my faith in the order of things a little. To see Neil Roberts rewarded for a bravura performance with the sublime winner was almost spiritually appropriate. He has been fighting his heart out all season, and his totemic stature at the club and in the town has meant he has often been the brunt of the fans' frustration too. Hopefully Saturday reminded a few people that the fact that he cares so much makes him like us, so we should cherish, not target him.

It seems wrong to single anyone out though, as the entire side were terrific, and while Roberts clearly played for the shirt, young on loan debutant Stuart Nicholson looked like he had Wrexham Football Club coursing through his veins too!
I worried that we might not be able to maintain the ferocious pace we set early on. I worried that we might suffer another familiar, match-losing slack start to the second half. I needed have worried on either count. From the opening ten minutes, when the likes of Sonner, Spender, Roberts and Tremarco clattered in with jarring tackles to let the league leaders know they were in for a test, to the closing moments as Evans and Hope time and again threw their bodies on the line, we were up for it. And whisper it, but if we can maintain that, we'll be fine.
It was also good to see that, while we naturally dug in at the end and had to do a lot of defending, we never looked desperate, or penned in. We resisted the inevitable pressure which MK Dons put us under with an unfamiliar sang froid; certainly we didn't freeze in the headlights as we have recently under even the merest application of pressure from the opposition. We were even willing to hit them on the break and exploit the gaps they were leaving at the back, to the extent that in the last ten minutes we actually looked more likely to score than they did!
For proof, just look at the circumstances of Gavin Ward's first clean sheet for the club. When did a Wrexham keeper last have to do so little? Apart from field a weak long range shot in the first half and make a punch in the second, he had very little to do. MK Dons created only two chances worth mentioning, a great early opportunity for Cameron which he sliced wide, and a Diallo header which scraped the post late on, although he was clearly climbing on his man, an offence which unsurprisingly passed the inept officials by! I'll bet that'll be the fewest chances MK Dons create in an entire match all season!

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