Wrexham AFC exited the Carabao Cup following a penalty shoot-out defeat against Bradford City, after the teams played at a 1-1 draw in normal time at the STōK Cae Ras.
Phil Parkinson elected to make changes to the side that faced Barrow on the weekend at the SO Legal Stadium, with Aaron Hayden returning to the side for the first time since picking up an injury on the US Tour.
The visitors got proceedings underway and wasted no time breaking the deadlock in North Wales.
Jamie Walker won a penalty for the Bantams in just the second minute, as it was adjudged that Walker was fouled by Hayden in the box - after the defender got the better of his opposite number to get to the ball first.
Tyler Smith stepped up to take the spot-kick, firing low into the bottom-left corner and under Mark Howard. Howard guessed the right way but couldn’t get the necessary touch to deny Bradford’s number 14 from opening the scoring.
Wrexham looked for a quick response, with Jake Bickerstaff causing problems in the early stages of the match. Bickerstaff went close with an effort in the 15th minute, as he dispossessed Liam Ridehalgh and launched a shot just wide of Harry Lewis’ goal.
Even after their best efforts, the hosts had nothing to show for their grit and determination, with chances limited in what had become a physical battle between the sides.
Parkinson’s side had three golden opportunities in a matter of moments to hit back at the STōK Cae Ras in the 39th minute, with Ryan Barnett, Ben Tozer and Sam Dalby all forcing Lewis into several impressive stops to shift the ball away from his net.
With time running out in the first half, Bickerstaff ended up with one final opportunity to put his side ahead on the brink of half-time.
The young forward managed to fire a low effort towards goal, but his right-footed effort drifted wide of the net as the host were forced to go into the break a goal behind.
James Jones got the second half underway for the Red Dragons, and it seemed like they might have found an equaliser just four minutes from the restart. Andy Cannon made an excellent driving run, finding Jacob Mendy on the left-flank.
Jones shifted past his opposite number, finding Wrexham’s number 27 in the box, but the 21-year-old’s effort struck the side netting.
Despite ending the first half as the better side, Mark Hughes’ team responded well as they looked to double their advantage in North Wales.
Emmanuel Osadebe, who caused several issues with his impressive speed at the STōK Cae Ras, fired over on the break in the 57th minute with Howard all but beaten.
The hosts were handed a huge let-off just six minutes later, as Brad Halliday broke on the counter at pace with just Howard all that stood between Bradford’s number two and the Wrexham goal.
Halliday fired low, but his effort shaved past the post, falling just centimetres wide of the post.
With just 18 minutes remaining, Parkinson’s men got an all-important equaliser from Will Boyle, with the centre back scoring his second league goal of the season.
Luke Young provided the delivery, as he placed a perfectly weighted corner towards Boyle, who rose highest to head home to the jubilation of the home supporters.
From then on, it was Wrexham who were more likely to grab a late victory, with the substitutions of Ollie Palmer, James McClean and Elliot Lee all providing a late boost to the Red Dragons.
However, despite their best efforts, Wrexham couldn’t find a breakthrough in normal time and were forced to settle for a penalty shoot-out in their attempts to progress to the third round of the competition.
Hughes’ side set the tone early on, with ex-Wrexham loanee Matt Derbyshire scoring their first penalty if the shoot-out.
Young stepped up to take the hosts’ first kick of the shoot-out but failed to find the target with his spot kick.
Bradford proceeded to score their next three penalties, but heroics from Howard kept his side in the match, saving Daniel Oyegoke’s effort to give Jones a chance to level the scores.
It wasn’t to be though, with Jones’ effort saved by Lewis as the Bantams progressed to the next round of the Carabao Cup.
Wrexham line-up: Howard (GK), Hayden (O’Connell 61’), Tozer, Boyle, Barnett, Young (C), Cannon (Lee 61’), Jones, Mendy (McClean 61’), Dalby (Waters 87’), Bickerstaff (Palmer 70’).
Subs not used: McNicholas (GK), Forde, O’Connor, McAlinden.
Attendance: 9816 (1010 away).