Player-manager Andy Morrell pulled no punches after watching his side suffer only their second away defeat of the season at Kidderminster Harriers, admitting his team were second best on the day.
Yet disappointed as he was with the performance in front of near to 800 travelling fans, the veteran striker has been in the game long enough to know that on occasions your best on the day is simply not good enough.
Aggborough has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Dragons since they dropped out of the Football League and, for those who believe in coincidence, the appointment of Wigan’s Karl Evans as referee might have set alarm bells ringing, since he was in charge at the aforementioned first defeat on the road at Macclesfield Town back in August.
But although there were certainly issues with his display at Moss Rose, the match official did not get much wrong on Saturday in a game that, tribal loyalty stripped away, was an excellent and well-contested advertisement for Conference football.
Without question the home side got their act together better than Wrexham, but in a high tempo encounter there were chances at both ends to the extent that what in print appears a relatively comfortable Harriers’ victory was, in fact, not secured until the 90th minute.
Prior to that vital second goal, substitute Nathan Blissett’s first touch a header that comprehensively beat goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi, the visitors were just a defensive mistake or lucky bounce away from snatching what would admittedly have been an undeserved share of the spoils.
It would not have been the first time that has happened, but on Saturday the Dragons could have no complaints as their opponents were half a yard ahead both in mind and body to prove their recent surge in form is no flash in the pan.
For Harriers’ manager Steve Burr, who not so long ago was less than flavour of the month with the club’s supporters, the result was a vindication of the work he and his players have put in.
“I thought it was a thoroughly deserved win and we played some exciting stuff today,” he said afterwards. “Over the last few weeks the team has gelled together and it’s been very encouraging indeed.
“Wrexham are a quality side and they showed in glimpses today that if you stand off them and let them play they can hurt you. But I felt overall over the whole 90 minutes that we were the stronger side and that we deserved to win.
“It was test for us and we came through it well. There were some good individual performances and as a team we were excellent. It was important to get three points today and Wrexham are a very good side so I was delighted with everybody.”
It wasn’t hard to see why, the home side grabbing the initiative and establishing an early grip on the game from which their opponents struggled to break free. Relentless in their hunt for the ball and quick to get it forward to the excellent Jamille Matt and Anthony Malbon, the Harriers gave Wrexham’s defence a torrid test that, for the most part, was passed with flying colours, Mayebi in particular looking composed and confident in his handling.
The keeper survived one rush of blood, beaten to a long through ball at the edge of his area by Malbon, whose chip was drifting wide before Chris Westwood made absolutely sure, and after Joe Clarke drove a first-time shot straight at his Kidderminster counterpart Danny Lewis, Mayebi tipped a Keith Briggs free kick over his crossbar.
Unable to find either space or time and all too frequently conceding possession, Wrexham were reduced to the long ball, a tactic that was meat and drink for the home defenders, and when Matt was the beneficiary of another poor touch from Clarke it needed an excellent saving challenge by Danny Alfei to save the day.
From the subsequent corner, Malbon’s header crashed off the frame of the goal, a wasted chance that was replicated at the other end by Brett Ormerod, who met Alfei’s measured cross only to fire wide of the target.
Ormerod’s effort was symptomatic of a general absence of both conviction and confidence as the Dragons tried without success to get on to the front foot, but at the back Martin Riley’s goal-saving tackle on Matt and Mayebi’s alertness kept the visitors in the game.
Possibly as a result of that resilience, combined with elements of doubt affecting the home side, the visitors enjoyed their best spell in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, a generally subdued Nick Rushton for once getting the better of Mickey Demetriou to curl a fine shot just beyond the far post before Danny Wright possibly should have done better with a free header that was well saved by Lewis.
A goal then might have been the tipping point, but instead the breakthrough came at the other end where Wrexham, already caught napping by one break from Marvin Johnson who tested Mayebi, failed to heed the warning and were short of numbers when the winger raced away in the 57th minute to set up Matt for a clinical finish at the near post.
Thereafter it was pretty much one-way traffic, although the Dragons somehow managed to survive the onslaught. Dean Keates cleared off the line after Mayebi failed to hold a Callum Gittings shot, the keeper beat away a fierce effort from Johnson and he was also equal to a long –range drive from full back Lee Vaughan.
Wrexham’s threat, by comparison, was tame and extremely limited, substitute Adrian Cieslewicz seeing his well-struck shot blocked by Kyle Storer and Ormerod dispossessed by Demetrious just as he was about to pull the trigger.
And had there been any last-minute nerves in the home camp, they were dispelled when Johnson sealed his man-of-the-match award with another burst of acceleration and cross for Blissett to wrap it up.