After a week and a half's break, it's time to get back to business in the league.
The FA Trophy tie at Altrincham not only gave the players who had earned two gruelling wins against Coventry and Bromley a rest, but also offered an opportunity for a number of the squad to state their case for a starting place.
Injuries picked up against Bromley will hopefully have been shrugged off by now, but there's no need to rush players back thanks to the depth of squad Phil Parkinson has put together, which last Friday illustrated. Jake Bickerstaff's two goals, coming hot on the heels of Sam Dalby's goal and assist at the CBS Arena, certainly showed the options Parkinson has up front.
EARLIER THIS SEASON
20/08/2022 Wrexham 5 (Mullin 9, 64 (pen), 83, Davies 39, Odusanya (o.g.) 45+3) Maidstone United 0
Paul Mullin's hat trick helped to earn Wrexham our biggest win in this fixture, in front of the biggest crowd to see us face The Stones.
Referee: David Richardson
The Stones also experienced penalty shoot-out drama last weekend, and suggested they might be about to break out of a worrying cycle of recent form which has seen them drop into the relegation zone. Their victory at Notts County certainly showed they have the spirit for the fight.
It seems lately that virtually every side Wrexham come up against has either experienced a change of manager or is in the midst of a takeover. Maidstone tick both boxes.
The Stones are in the midst of a change of ownership. Local businessman and Stones fan Alan Manchett will buy a controlling interest from co-owners Terry Casey and Oliver Ash, who will continue to assist with the running of the club as the exchange of control takes place.
Alan is a lifelong supporter of the club and for the past two seasons his company Manchett Group has been one of its main business partners.
"Alan has a clear vision and ambition for the club that underpin not only long term security but also a desire to return in due course to the EFL.
"Alan is interested in long term projects, such developing the infrastructure of the Gallagher Stadium but has also committed to helping the club attempt to avoid relegation from the National League this season.
-Maidstone United's board of directors
Ash and Casey have achieved a great deal since taking over the club. They returned the club to Maidstone after 24 years of exile, two years after their 2010 takeover, having built the Gallagher Stadium near the town centre. Regular promotions have followed as the club has climbed back up the divisions.
Hakan Hayrettin achieved the most recent elevation, gaining promotion from the National League South last season, but their recent poor form led to him being relieved of his duties. He was able to look back with pride at his time with United though, as he told Kent Online.
"I tried my best with what I had. Yes, I made a couple of mistakes with signings, but the injuries we had killed me. The simple fact is the club doesn’t have the money to compete at this level (without the takeover). Working at this level isn’t a hobby, it’s a job."
Maidstone's main issue has been their away form. They have lost more league games on the road than anyone else in the division, and only Eastleigh and bottom of the table Scunthorpe United have fewer away points. At home they're more secure, although only Scunthorpe and Aldershot have suffered than their 5 home losses.
Six conscutive losses sealed Hayrettin's fate - The Stones haven't picked up any points since a 3-2 home win over Maidenhead in November - and George Elokobi has taken over as caretaker manager.
He started superbly with that fine triumph at Meadow Lane, and has been active in the transfer market despite his temporary status: Sam Bone has returned to his home town and Ryan Galvin, a loan signing who has made a positive impression, has extended his stay at the Gallagher Stadium.
In goal United can field a genuine young talent in Dan Barden, a Wales Under-21 international on loan from Norwich City. However, he will face competition from Tom Hadler, who was brought back into the side by Elokobi and saved two penalties at Meadow Lane last Sunday.
Another loan signing, midfielder Sha'mar Lawson, is impressing at the Gallagher Stadium, and is enjoying his time in Kent, but the arrival of Yoan Zouma a week before Hayrettin's arrival has been more devisive, with fans disconcerted by his high profile conviction for animal cruelty in June.
HEAD TO HEAD
We’ve yet to win at Maidstone in the National League, and we’ve yet to win at the Gallagher Stadium, as all our away wins in this fixture came at their temporary home in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Stones got into the Football League during that period, but off-field issues meant they had to find a new home, and alighted upon Dartford’s Watling Street ground.
Our record there was excellent, with two of the three games we played there ending in victory.
Our first trip to Dartford, in October 1989, didn’t go well as we lost a Fourth Division game 2-0, but things improved from there as we began a 3-game unbeaten away run in this fixture.
First, Chris Armstrong and Gareth Owen scored in a 2-0 win almost exactly a year after our first trip to Dartford, and the following year we came out on top of a goal-laden match.
By the midway point in the first half we led 2-1, despite conceding first. Lee Jones equalised and 2 minutes later a rare Mel Pejic put us ahead.
We conceded an equaliser after the break, but in the closing stages Andy Thackeray and Owen struck to earn a 4-2 win.
Our next game at Maidstone was our first at the Gallagher Stadium. We looked set to maintain our winning streak despite the twin set-backs of conceding first and arriving late for the match! It seems Scunthorpe don’t hold a monopoly on tardiness!
Callum Powell had the best afternoon of his short Wrexham career, striking twice from the edge of the box to put us ahead, and we looked set fair for all three points until Curtis Tilt’s horribly under-hit back pass allowed the Stones to pinch a late equaliser.
The following season our unbeaten run ended in the most controversial circumstances. Again there was drama ahead of kick-off, as goalkeeper Chris Dunn picked up an injury in the warm up and had to be replaced by debutant Christian Dibble.
Alex Reid gave The Red Dragons a 10th minute lead, but by the break we were behind 2-1. The real drama came when Manny Smith was adjudged to have committed a professional foul in the penalty area and was shown a red card. When Mark Carrington correctly pointed out to the referee that he’d got the rules wrong and the offence was not worthy of a sending-off, he was dismissed too!
Down to nine men, Wrexham were handed hope when Dibble proceeded to save the penalty, and while our reduced side didn’t carve out any really clear chances, they applied more pressure than they did when they had a full side!
Our most recent visit to the Gallagher Stadium, in November 2018, saw us snatch a point thanks to a deflected Brad Walker strike.
Elliot Lee's 250th career game.
Max Cleworth's 75th career match.
Aaron Hayden's 75th Wrexham match.
Paul Mullin's 75th Wrexham game.