After a fortnight of enjoying the familiar comforts of home, Wrexham return to the road to face National League new boys Scunthorpe United.
Wrexham meet Scunthorpe after a separation of 16 years with momentum behind us. A run of four consecutive home games ended on Sunday with a perfect outcome: four wins, three clean sheets and an aggregate score of 11-1. To build on that run, Phil Parkinson’s side need to show they can replicate such dominant form in away games.
Wrexham haven’t won away from The Racecourse since the victory at Oldham at the start of October. Since then we’ve lost 1-0 at Notts County in a game which could have gone either way, struggled to impose ourselves in an FA Cup draw at Blyth Spartans, and put in a strong performance to draw at Boreham Wood.
The question of whether Wrexham can impose ourselves on the road is the sole issue still agitating fans: after such a fine run of wins, two away games in four games is a testing schedule, but one which could allow the Red Dragons to show they can maintain their form away from their own patch.
Scunthorpe suffered relegation to the National League last Summer, and nearly a third through their first season in non-league football they are not enjoying the experience.
Before the round of midweek fixtures, they were just one point above the relegation zone, having enjoyed just three wins from 18 matches, including an FA Cup Qualifying Round defeat to South Shields. Those wins all came at home though, as did 11 of their 15 points, so Wrexham visit Glanford Park knowing their opponents are a more difficult proposition at home than their league position suggests.
United's slide into non-league football was precipitated by problems off the pitch, and the club's ownership remains unresolved with two groups reportedly interested in taking the reins. There were rumours of unpaid wages last month, which Iron COO Lee Turnbull moved to quash on BBC Radio Humberside.
“I think there are many clubs up and down the country that are feeling the pinch," he explained. "There has been clubs up and down the pyramid that have struggled to pay wages.
“We pay our wages on time. In my long history with this football club, wages have always been paid on payday and that was no different. Historically this football club have always achieved that.”
On the pitch, United's poor start to the season cost manager Keith Hill his job, with academy manager Tony Daws stepping in as interim manager. His temporary reign has been a long one, with 12 matches already under his belt, and he certainly staunched the bleeding: former Wrexham defender Hill lost 27 of his 39 games at the helm, including the last 5, but under Daws only 2 of their 10 league games have ended in defeat.
After Scunthorpe's most recent game, a 2-0 loss at Eastleigh, Daws felt he'd seen signs of improvement.
“We’re not the finished article by a long way, but we’re improving, and the team are working really hard to try and do that. When we turn up and play like I know we can do, we look like a really decent team. Consistency is all we’re missing in our performances and I don’t think we are that far away from achieving that.”
Tony Daws, Scunthorpe United interim manager.
They will certainly hope to improve defensively. They haven't kept a clean sheet this season; indeed, their last shut-out was 30 games ago against Crawley last March. Their most recent home clean sheet was back in February, 16 home matches ago.
HEAD TO HEAD
We haven’t been to Scunthorpe United since 2006, when we pulled off an FA Cup second round upset. They were a division above us, but we were convincing 2-0 winners through goals by Mark Jones and Kevin Smith.
We’ve had a few high profile wins at Glanford Park since The Iron moved there in 1988. Another second round tie, this time a replay, in 1996 saw us pull off a dramatic 3-2 win after extra time.
It looked like we were going out, but with three minutes left a remarkable goalkeeping error allowed Steve Morris to tap in an equaliser. Steve Watkin kept his cool to score the winner from the penalty spot in the 114th minute, and we went on to reach the quarter-finals.
We lost our first league match there, but returned at the end of the season for the second leg of a play-off semi-final. We led 3-1 from the first leg and put in a dominant performance: Kevin Russell put us ahead in the second minute and added another before the break to kill off the tie.
Phil Parkinson’s 75th game as Wrexham manager.
Jordan Tunnicliffe’s 275th league appearance.
Sam Dalby’s 100th career match.