Wrexham AFC suffered defeat on their return to the EFL, as their first match in EFL League Two for 15 seasons ended with a disappointing 5-3 loss to recently-relegated MK Dons.
The Red Dragons paid the price for the worst possible stop – conceding twice in the first ten minutes as Eoghan O’Connell put through his own net and Mo Eisa doubled the lead. Jacob Mendy’s cool response brought Wrexham back into contention, but Jonathan Leko capped a brilliant performance with a 13-minute double. Jordan Davies and Anthony Forde stepped off the bench to net for Wrexham, either side of Daniel Harvie’s goal in a chaotic finish, as Wrexham eventually found themselves on the wrong side of an eight-goal game.
With Paul Mullin injured, the question as to who would start up front was answered when Phil Parkinson named Billy Waters and Sam Dalby up front for the season opener.
New signing Will Boyle missed out due to injury, while it was already stated James McClean had signed after the registration deadline for this game.
For MK Dons, new manager Graham Alexander had five summer signings in the starting line-up and another, Ashley Hunter, on the bench.
It was quite a moment at the newly renamed STōK Cae Ras, as a Wrexham team stepped out for an English Football League fixture for the first time in 15 seasons. A great atmosphere created not just by the home fans, but also the 1,100 away fans who were clearly happy to have the football season back.
Disaster struck after just six minutes, however, when Ethan Robson crossed from a free-kick and Eoghan O’Connell misdirected his attempted headed clearance into the back of his own net.
Encouraged by their opener, the visitors pressed further and just moments later MJ Williams’ low shot deflected off Ben Tozer and clattered the post. Their continued attacking pressure was soon rewarded again, however, when Eisa found space on the edge of the box, danced through the Wrexham defence and poked a low finish beyond Ben Foster.
The Red Dragons did grow into the game, however, with both Andy Cannon and James Jones testing their luck from distance only for defenders to get blocks in.
Both Elliot Lee and Eoghan O’Connell found themselves in the book – the former for a rash challenge on Will O’Hora just after the 20-minute mark, and then the latter for tripping Harvie shortly afterwards.
Lee and Leko traded chances as the game continued to entertain – Foster diving to his left to parry clear from the latter.
Just three minutes from half-time, however, Wrexham got themselves back in the game. Ryan Barnett crossed after a quick counter-attack, and when Jones’ shot was saved, Mendy followed in with a calm finish across goal.
Leko stretched MK Dons’ lead after the break, however, unleashing a low curling shot from 25 yards which Foster could do nothing to stop as it nestled into the bottom corner. Wrexham’s frustrations were added to with Andy Cannon down – and then requiring treatment – in the build-up.
Cannon was then one of three players replaced on the hour-mark, as Jake Bickerstaff, Ollie Palmer and Davies all came on – Waters and Dalby also making way.
But MK Dons stretched the lead further on 64 minutes, with Leko once again the man involved. He beat the offside trap, raced through on goal and dinked a finish over Foster.
Tom O’Connor, pushed forwards into midfield, made good contact but missed the target from just outside the Dons’ area for Wrexham, while Palmer’s low shot across goal – after Bickerstaff’s through ball – was deflected clear by McGillivray.
Davies then shot over from 25 yards as Wrexham’s substitutes began to make an impact. Two further changes – Forde and Hosannah – replaced Mendy and Barnett with ten minutes to go.
And two minutes later, Wrexham had pulled another goal back. This time, Hosannah held the ball up and teed up Davies, who unleashed a brilliant effort past MacGillivray and into the top corner.
That sparked a frantic finale, and O’Connor headed just wide when Davies’ crossed back across goal, just moments later as the hosts found themselves well on top.
With seven minutes added on, there was still a slim chance of a comeback but that was extinguished when Harvie got himself in behind the defence and wrongfooted Foster with a low finish.
Still, there was time for Forde for pull a goal back late on with a low finish – completing the scoring as Wrexham suffered defeat on their return to the EFL.
Wrexham: Foster, Barnett (Forde 79), O’Connell, Tozer, O’Connor, Mendy (Hosannah 79), Jones, Cannon (Davies 60), Lee, Waters (Palmer 60), Dalby (Bickerstaff 60)
Subs not used – Howard, Hayden
Bookings – Lee, O’Connell
MK Dons – MacGillivray, Norman, Tucker, O’Hara, Williams, Leko (Hunter 78), Gilbey, Eisa (Scholtz 90+1), Smith, Robson, Harvie.
Subs not used – Harness, Holland, Ilunga, Anker, Devoy
Bookings – Eisa, Norman, MacGillivray
Referee – Tom Reeves
Attendance – 10,205 (1,150 Away)