The stakes could hardly be higher for both sides as we play out our final league game under the lights.
For Wrexham the task is clear: two wins from the next three games will claim the title. The goalless draw at Barnet kept our fate in our hands, but it was a bruising affair. Andy Cannon was subject to some heavy tackles and had to come off, while Ollie Palmer had to withstand a great deal of aggressive play from The Bees' centre backs. Furthermore, Callum McFadzean will also be absent if the appea against his red card fails. Phil Parkinson will be hoped the game doesn't come too soon for Jacob Mendy, who is hoping to recover from the jury which rules him out on Saturday.
Yeovil, meanwhile, are in a rather more desperate situation. Anything less than victory will mean they are relegated to the National League South, dropping from the 5th tier for the first time since 1997. They can only survive if they win their final 3 games of the season and other results go their way.
Last Saturday, they showed the sort of fight they need to pull off an escape with a 2-2 draw at Solihull Moors, battling back after being 2-0 down at the break. Their recent form has been aarming, though, as they slid into the relegation zone. The Glovers didn't dip into the bottom 4 until late February, in the midst of a disastrous run of 5 consecutive defeats, but they haven't been able to climb out since. They haven't won in 9 games, and that ome victory over Eastleigh is their only success in 17 league matches. They've picked up just 9 points out of 51 in that period, and their most recent away clean sheet was 9 games ago, in a victory at Dagenham in late January.
Frustratingly for Town fans, there's clearly potential in the side. Indeed, they've conceded only 3 more away goals than Notts County, but they have had problems at the other end, with only Scunthorpe and Halifax scoring fewer on the road. That pattern is reflected when you look at the overall table: Southend and Halifax are the only sides outside the play-offs with better defensive records - they've conceded 11 fewer goals than Barnet - but The Glovers are comfortably the lowest scorers in the division. Bottom club Maidstone United are the nearest to them, but even they've scored 8 more goals.
The Glovers’ desperate situation is certainly not being helped by a protracted takeover. Matt Uggla was announced as the new owner, but the deal has not been sealed, and frustration at the lack of movement has often been played out publicly.
A disagreement between Uggla and manager Mark Cooper over the purchase of striker Frank Nouble is the latest issue to arise: Cooper wanted to buy the player, but wasn’t able to seal the deal. To make matters worse, Nouble went to Torquay instead, and has played in all 5 of their run of wins which has seen them leapfrog Yeovil, scoring 2 in the process.
Uggla responded on Twitter to Cooper’s concerns: “The fact Frank Nouble didn’t sign is down to a number of reasons. One being Mark Cooper and his agent. We have back the man. Plus he sat in my house in Hampstead in January saying we don’t need to sign anyone else.
“This is my last tweet until the start of next season when positivity will be back.”
Cooper complained that his players had contacted him after reading the prospective owner’s comments, and emphasised a desire to keep his focus on the pitch: “For me it is about trying to be as professional as I can be in really difficult circumstances and trying to be there for the players and prepare them as best as I can for the last few games.
“There was a period not so long ago when we played really well against Eastleigh when everything was rosy and since then it has been downhill for one reason or another.
“I want to try and retain my integrity and be professional and, if I’m not, then I lose the respect of the players and I think it is important that I am there for them and they know I have got their back.
“We can’t change what has happened, it is done. It’s been a challenging few weeks for everybody, and we have to go in to these next four games and give it all we’ve got.”
“Frank was on his way here but somewhere along the line it didn’t happen, I would have loved Frank here, but we can’t change that, that’s gone.”
“We are always going to differ on targets and players we are going to bring in, that’s just the way it is, Matt has made it clear he is going to recruit the players he is going to recruit and that’s fair enough – it’s his money and it’s his club.”
Skipper Josh Staunton, an experienced and admirable leader who was the driving force behind last month’s reaction against proposed National League rules which would make it easier for club’s to offload players, has been a strong voice, calling for calm and unity on and off the pitch.
“It is important every single player is pulling in the same direction,” he told BBC Somerset, “and it is my job to unify the dressing room. People are under pressure and pressure does strange things to people in terms of decision making and characteristics, this would be a much easier integration if we were relaxing in the middle of the table.
“It is clear to see that we look like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders and it is my job to relieve that pressure and keep it on myself and let the boys play with a sense of freedom they should have.
“I would run through a brick wall for this football club and it is important that everyone in that dressing room has the same mentality. You will never find me blaming my body – I hurt, I ache but will go out there and do everything for the football club. The boys do look tired, but when I am looking them in the eye I am asking them to give everything for the club and I wanted every single player to find that extra 10%.
“It’s essential we have that unity…characters at this stage of the season are worth points, they make a difference, stand up, run through brick walls for each other and get you those few points when you really need them. So it is important we all take the time to realise what we are playing for and it has to be your driving force.”
Staunton was quick to offer his manager the players’ support: “I support Mark Cooper, he is one of the best managers I have ever worked under…he is a fantastic person and there’s not a better man to deal with the pressure. I trust the Gaffer and I respect that he takes a lot of the responsibility and I will try and take as much pressure off every single player in the dressing room as I can.”
The disagreements over recruitment took another twist at Solihull Moors last Saturday. After a poor first half, Cooper brought on Reo Griffiths and Zanda Siziba, two recent signings who are perceived to be the prospective owner’s choices, and they provided the spark which inspired a spirited fightback.
The duo have managed just 194 minutes between them since arriving in early March, but will both be in line for a first start for the club at The Racecourse.
Post-match, manager Mark Cooper admitted to BBC Somerset that the club’s situation was deeply concerning:
“They’re frustrated by what’s happened, but like I said last week, it didn’t need to happen. But it has, and we have to see it now as rock-bottom for the club.
“I think everyone needs to look at it as a chance to rebuild. It’s a chance to put real good building blocks in place. Right people in the right positions. Recruit a really good squad on top of the boys, we’ve got some exciting players at the club for next year. The recruitment has got to be spot on because if you get it wrong at the start of the season, or during the season, it’s really difficult to recover.
“I think a lot of it’s fear. Players are frightened to make a mistake but we haven’t got time for that. You’ve got to seize the moment, if you get an opportunity in the team you’ve got to take. The changes we made affected the game and we’ve ended up getting something out of it.”
“It’s not about ability. I said to the whole group it’s not about ability, that’s only one part. It’s about application and being a really good professional. If players show that, they get opportunities to play, if they don’t, and don’t work as hard of the rest of the players then they don’t. It’s as simple as that, it’s an unwritten rule for us that you have to buy in to the group and work hard.
“We’re having to make changes after 20-odd minutes. We were powder-puff for 20 minutes and we tweaked a couple of bits and from then on in we looked as though we were going to be a threat.”
Despite the turmoil, Cooper remains committed to the club:
“I get excited about the future, as I said when I came here I was desperate to build the club and to put it back where it belongs. I still want to do that, but it’s not what it said on the tin. So we all have to take a little bit of blame. We have got a group of four or five warriors that are desperate for the club to succeed and we have to add to the group.
“If the takeover goes through, there’s a lot of us not going to be here, there’s no point beating around the bush. But I want to be here. Look, nobody knows what’s going to happen, the takeover has been going on for a long time now. For the sake of the supporters of the club and the really good people that work at the club, it’s so important that they get clarity.”
LAST TIME WE MET
13/08/22 YEOVIL TOWN 1 (Linton 49) WREXHAM 1 (Mullin 6)
Wrexham Howard, Hayden, Tozer, Cleworth, Forde, Young, J.Davies, Mendy (Hosannah 62), Lee (J.Jones 68), Mullin, Palmer. Unused subs: Watson, Tunnicliffe, Dalby
Yeovil Town Smith, Williams, Hunt, Wakefield, Staunton Reckord, Worthington, Perry, Pearson (D’Ath 68), Linton (Johnson 87), Fisher (Toure 71). Unused subs: Pond, Buse
HEAD TO HEAD
Our history with Yeovil doesn't run too deep, but their three visits to The Racecourse have each been memorable in their way. Last season's match hinged on a contentious red card decision which reduced Wrexham to ten en before the break. It was scoreless when Liam McAlinden's challenge for an aerial ball was surprisingly deemed to be worthy of a straight dismissal, and The Glovers went on to score twice in the second half to secure their first win at The Racecourse. That remains the last time Wrexham have been beaten at The Racecourse in the league as we have gone 35 home games unbeaten.
In May 2021 we completed our first league double over Yeovil in emphatic manner. Kwame Thomas had scored the only goal as we won at Huish Park at the start of the season, and the home game saw Shaun Pearson, Jordan Davies and Luke Young all strike in the first half hour as we swept to a 3-0 win.
Yeovil's first match at The Racecorse, in November 2019, was a dramatic affair. Rhys Murphy put The Glovers ahead in the 3rd minute but Akil Wright equalised halfway through the first half. Murphy struck again, but Paul Rutherford levelled in the last minute before the break and Bobby Grant put us ahead in the opening minute of the second half. Murphy was not to be denied, though, and secured a 3-3 dra by completing his hat trick in the 66th minute.
Paul Mullin is the only Wrexham player to score more than once in this fixture: indeed, he's the only Wrexham player to score in the last 330 minutes against Yeovil, as the other goal we scored in that time was an own goal.
Elliot Lee's 50th Wrexham appearance.