It certainly was a game of two halves at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium, where once again the referee had more of an impact on the result than either team.
With the Dragons kicking off towards the Kop, the opening ten minutes were spent in the Bristol Rovers half, without any clear-cut chances emerging. However, Wrexham were settling into a pattern of crisp passing, which resulted in the first opportunity, as Mark Carrington’s run down the right saw his shot blasting across the face of the goal with no one there to tap home.
The home side took encouragement, and they continued to push forward and after 16 minutes, a throw in from the left came to the feet of Wes York who shot from 25 yards out, only to watch his effort drift over the bar.
At this point, it was all Wrexham, and the chances kept coming. Rob Evans, taking charge of play from 25 yards out created the best chance of the game so far, hit a sublime shot, which dipped just too late to find the right side of the crossbar.
Wrexham were buoyed by a half hour of sustained pressure, and Rovers were sluggish to exert any influence on the game. Daniel Bachman, making a welcome return from injury was untested until the 31 minute mark, when a Blaine Hudson sliced clearance was pounced upon down the left wing. The resulting cross was met by the Bristol attack, but the header cleared both keeper and goal.
Wrexham were unlucky not to break the deadlock when after 35 minutes, Andy Bishop pounced on a loose ball and, one on one with the Rovers Keeper, attempted to slot the ball home, only to be denied by the sprawling Steve Mildenhall, who sustained an injury to his leg for his trouble.
With the Rovers stopper being replaced on 40 minutes by centre back and captain Mark McChrystal, the Dragons pushed forward, encouraged by the 2,608 strong crowd to shoot at every opportunity.
The fourth official indicated seven minutes of injury time, and with almost the last kick of the half, Rob Evans, battling valiantly in midfield, was adjudged to have lunged into the first of two tackles in the centre circle. The referee reached into his pocket without hesitation and Evans was shown a straight red.
Coming out for the second half, the game was finely balanced between Rovers protecting their outfield player turned Goalkeeper, and Wrexham having to adjust to playing with ten men. However, it was the Dragons who once again showed all of the initiative, taking the game to the Gas at every opportunity.
Only three minutes in, Wes York was put through on goal, and with only McChrystal to beat, he saw his effort bravely blocked by the keeper’s legs.
The Dragons could feel hard done to, when on 53 minutes, after several attempted crosses into the Rovers box, the ball finally floated across to the rising Manny Smith, who went down close to the edge of the box under the flying boots of Nathan Blissett. The Referee awarded a free kick right on the whitewash of the 18 yard area, when could have easily have pointe to spot and Blissett was shown a yellow card.
The resulting free kick was blocked by the advancing Rovers wall, but two minutes later, Neil Ashton went close when his curling 20 yard shot from the right channel just cleared the top right corner, the goalkeeper well beaten.
With the game passing the hour mark, Wrexham still looked like the team who wanted to take all the points, and Rovers seemed happy to play on the break, despite their man advantage.
Elliott Durrell replaced Wes York after 70 minutes, injecting a new lease of life into the Dragons attack. Ross White and Manny Smith were providing solid resistance in defence, limiting Rovers’ chances and leaving Bachman rarely tested.
Tired legs were starting to show, and when a Wrexham free kick 30 yards out was cleared for a rare Rovers breakaway, Bachman was forced to dive low to his left to keep the scoreline level. The ball started to flow from end to end, and Bristol’s best chance of the game came after 82 minutes, when a free kick from a Durrell foul firmly struck the crossbar and flew back out to safety.
With the crowd becoming more and more frustrated by Rovers lack of ambition, and Wrexham’s inability to break through a packed defence, the game came to an end, with the home side feeling unlucky not to have taken the spoils against the odds, and Bristol’s 193 travelling fans probably relieved to return home with a point.
Wrexham:Bachmann, White, Smith, Hudson, Ashton, York (Durrell 71), Carrington, Clarke, Evans, Jennings, Bishop (Moult 88).
Subs: Tomassen, Thompson, Harris.
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall (Trotman 43), Brown, Lockyer, Mansell, Parkes, McChrystal, Sinclair, Monkhouse, Blissett (Wall, 70), Taylor, Della-Varde (Balanta 24).
Subs: Goldberg, Clarke.
Referee: Ross Joyce (Teeside)
Sending Off -
Wrexham: Evans (45+7 violent conduct)
Wrexham: Jennings (89, foul)
Bristol Rovers: Blissett (54, foul), Taylor (84, foul)