Phil Parkinson's side get a break from league action this weekend, but the stakes will still be high as Gloucester City visit The Racecourse for the first time.
Parkinson's pedigree in cup competitions is well known, of course, and he will have to balance getting a result against giving opportunities for players to remain match fit. With no game in the midweeks before and after the game, there should be no danger of overloading the first team before the hectic Christmas fixtures begin, but there are plenty of players who will want to stake a claim for a spot in the first eleven as the promotion race hots up.
Kwame Thomas (above) will be particularly keen to get some minutes under his belt as he returns from the training injury which put him out of action for 8 months.
Gloucester City have a chance to pull off a giant-killing this weekend, but their preparations have been severely hampered by COVID. Ten members of their first team squad have tested positive, and most importantly, the best wishes of all at Wrexham AFC go out to them and their families. City have taken the difficult, brave decision to go ahead with the game as they fear a postponement would merely be storing up further problems for later in the season.
This tie will offer some relief from the battle against relegation from the National League North. They are currently 5th from bottom, 4 points ahead of basement team Telford United, and have the worst defence in the division.
They have yet to win an away league game this season, but came close last Saturday against play-off contenders Alfreton Town. Tommy O'Sullivan gave The Tigers the lead with a fine free kick, but a familiar face denied them the victory when 37 year-old Matt Rhead hit the equaliser.
City's performance was not a surprise: despite the worrying statistics, they have rallied in recent weeks, winning 3 of their last 5 games and losing one, at home to Kidderminster Harriers. Leading the way as Gloucester's form improves is Ollie Hulbert. The 18 year-old, on loan from Bristol Rovers, scored in the 5 games before the draw at Alfreton, and also bagged two in the last round of the Trophy as Kettering were beaten 3-0.
It's a real frustration for The Tigers to be battling at the wrong end of the table, as they could easily have been visiting The Racecourse as league opponents this season. They started last season superbly, and although Chesterfield poached their manager James Rowe, they were still top of the National League North when the season was annulled.
Their squad was depleted after the end of the season, with Gold Omotayo and Keanu Marsh-Brown heading to Wrexham, of course. However, the squad features some interesting players: ex-Red Dragon Jordon Thompson was on the bench last Saturday; Tom Mehew, son of a former City manager, is in line to make his debut after arriving on loan from Bristol Rovers last week; while Fabian Robert, who has Ligue Un experience with Lorient, and Bernard Mensah were outstanding for Aldershot when they beat Wrexham in August 2016.
In September, manager Paul Groves paid the price for a poor start to the season, departing after a 3-0 loss at Gateshead completed a run of 5 consecutive losses, including a 9-0 defeat to Chorley. Lee Mansell was appointed as interim manager and steadied the ship, earning a contract until the end of the season.
HEAD TO HEAD
We’ve never played Gloucester City before. Indeed, despite its close proximity with the Welsh border, we’ve barely played against any teams from Gloucestershire.
Our first match against a side from that county was as recent as 1983, when we played Cheltenham Town in the Welsh Cup, coming from behind to beat them 3-2 through goals by Simon Hunt, Steve Buxton and Jake King. We’ve gone on to face them in the Football League in 2005, and subsequently when they were briefly relegated to the National League.
Surprisingly, the only other side from Gloucestershire we’ve ever faced in a competitive match is Forest Green Rovers.
We first faced them in 1991, when they were known as Stroud, and beat them in a Welsh Cup tie with Gareth Owen and Chris Armstrong scoring the goals. Of course, we renewed acquaintances with them when we joined the National League, as Forest Green became regular opponents.
11/12/21 Wrexham 1 (Davies 30) Weymouth 0
Wrexham: Lainton, Hall-Johnson, Hayden, Tozer, Cleworth, Hosannah, J Jones, Young, Davies, Mullin, Hyde (Ponticelli 46). Subs: Dibble, French, Green, Thomas.
11/12/21 Alfreton Town 1 (Rhead 54) Gloucester City 1 (O'Sullivan 48)
Gloucester: Cole, Leadbitter, Harrison, Nugent, Galvin, Sheaf, O'Sullivan, Dawson, Tomlinson, Noel-Williams, Hulbert. Subs: Armstrong, Thompson, Young, Mensah, Robert.
David Jones' 425th career appearance.
Harry Lennon's 100th career appearance.
Jordan Ponticelli's 50th Wrexham game.