Wrexham AFC got their EFL Trophy campaign up and running with a 1-0 victory against Newcastle United’s Under-21 side following Sam Dalby’s first competitive goal of the 2023/24 season.
In front of just under 8,000 supporters at the STōK Cae Ras (an EFL Trophy record home attendance for the Club), the Red Dragons claimed maximum points to get up and running in Group B (Northern Section).
Phil Parkinson elected to make several changes to the side that beat Tranmere Rovers at the weekend, with full debuts handed to deadline day signings Arthur Okonkwo and George Evans.
Sam Dalby and Luke Young kept their places in the side, while young defender Max Cleworth returned to the starting line-up for the first time since playing against Wigan Athletic in the first round of the Carabao Cup.
Both sides played out a rather uneventful opening ten minutes in North Wales, but the game soon burst into life as Dalby broke the deadlock in the 13th minute.
Liam McAlinden pounced on a loose ball and caused just enough of an issue for Aidan Harris to force the keeper into parrying the ball from 12-yards-out.
Multiple shots were then blocked by a determined Newcastle backline, before eventually falling to Dalby, who smashed home the volley with his right-foot to open his account for this season.
Wrexham continued to enjoy most of the possession during the first half, but Amadou Diallo had a deflected effort for the visitors in the 28th minute that looped over the net and retained Wrexham’s lead at the STōK Cae Ras.
The Magpies’ number 49 went close yet again, as he forced Okonkwo into a smart stop on the brink of half-time, ensuring that Wrexham went into the break with a one-goal advantage.
The visitors got the second half underway, with Dylan Stephenson spurring a great opportunity to bring his side level in the 51st minute. Diallo found Stephenson with a well-placed through ball, but the resulting left-footed strike hit the side netting from close-range.
While goalkeepers are often required for their ability to keep the ball out of the net, Okonkwo went one step further, almost registering an assist on his Wrexham debut after 57 minutes.
The 21-year-old’s powerful clearance found the feet of Dalby, who was in-behind the Newcastle backline and preparing to fire an effort of his own to double his tally for the evening.
It didn’t happen though, as he seemed to be brought down in the box by Harris, but any appeals were swiftly waved away by referee Tom Parsons.
Billy Waters was next to try his luck at doubling the hosts’ advantage, but after a lay-off from substitute Ollie Palmer in the box, Wrexham’s number 16 produced a strike which rose over the bar and out for a goal-kick in the 63rd minute.
Just two minutes later, Parkinson’s side went the closest they’d been so far to getting an all-important second goal.
After winning a free-kick in the 64th minute, Tom O’Connor stepped up to take it from 25-yards-out. His effort came just centimetres away from finding the net, as it cannoned off the crossbar with 65 minutes played.
Both sides continued to push for a second-half goal, with Newcastle looking to salvage a point and a potential penalty shoot-out at the STōK Cae Ras.
Wrexham held resolute in the final minutes, despite late pressure from the visitors, earning a clean sheet and all three points to start their EFL Trophy campaign in the best possible way at home.
Wrexham AFC: Okonkwo (GK), Tunnicliffe (O’Connor 62’), Evans, Cleworth, Forde (Barnett 76’), Jones, Young (C), McAlinden (Lee 88’), McFadzean, Dalby (Palmer 62’), Waters (Bickerstaff 76’).
Subs not used: McNicholas (GK), Tozer.
Newcastle United U21s: Harris (GK), Wiggett, Thompson, Savage, Hackett (Scott 82'), Carylon (De Bolle 76'), Miley (Stanton 76') (C), Huntley (Hernes 67'), Parkinson, Diallo, Stephenson (Crossley 82').
Subs not used: Brown, Craggs.
Attendance: 7988 (285 away).