Wrexham recorded a welcome first win of the season with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Lincoln City in the first group stage of EFL Youth Alliance Cup (Northern Section) at Colliers Park. Having lost heavily at Carlisle in the season opener, a merited draw at Accrington seven days later paved the way for a win which delighted coach Nick Chadwick.
“I think anyone who’s watched the first two games and then seen them again today can see continuous improvement and that’s what we’re all about,” reflected the newly appointed Professional Development Phase (PDP) Lead Coach.
“It’s about the lads developing, it’s about the lads getting better and improving and it’s nice to see the players are getting their rewards for how hard they’ve worked in the week.”
With professional players Dan Davies, Aaron James and Owen Cushion ineligible for the cup competition, Wrexham made four changes to the starting eleven at Accrington: Dan Wright switching to centre-back alongside first-year trainee Regan Nicholas, Hari Roberts taking over at right-back, Alex Moore anchoring the midfield in place of Cushion and Rio Owen coming in for Mikey Hayman up front.
For the visitors, Under-16s keeper Hugo Bennett was one of just three players named on the substitutes’ bench.
With a gale force wind blowing across the 3G surface, the early stages saw both sides struggle to adapt to the conditions. When they did it was Wrexham who created the game’s first opening, James Rainbird’s left wing cross finding Callum Edwards at the far post but his header was comfortably dealt with by Isaac Allen in the Imps’ goal.
Lincoln responded through Tom Nesbitt who caught Nicholas in possession before racing clear; his low shot being well saved by Jack Pilkington. The Red Dragons’ custodian was again called into action moments later when he forced the onrushing Bailey Adamson wide, the striker shooting into the side netting from an acute angle. Zane Okoro then rattled the Wrexham crossbar with a 20-yard shot as Lincoln dominated the first half-hour.
It was thus somewhat against the run of play when the Young Red Dragons took the lead on 31 minutes; Harry Ashfield capitalising on good interplay between Rainbird and Jake Roberts to fire a rising shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards out. Edwards almost doubled the lead ten minutes later when his first-time volley flew agonisingly wide of the target.
Wrexham rode their luck after the interval as Jake Roberts produced a superb last gasp tackle to deny Adamson before Edwards cleared a Dakara Wifa effort off the line. Gradually they regained a foothold in the game with 16-year-old Rio Owen a constant threat – the Bangor-born striker linking well with Edwards and Ashfield to force two fine saves from Allen.
Lincoln set up a grandstand finale when they levelled matters on 79 minutes, Denny Oliver’s through pass finding Adamson who shot low past Pilkington.
As the visitors pushed forward in search of a winner, however, a fine tackle from diminutive substitute Tom Kelly enabled Ashfield to find Rainbird out wide on the left, the winger racing into the box to rifle home into the far corner of the net.
Deep into injury time, Alex Moore played in Edwards who crowned a fine individual display with a superb finish to add a third goal. While the final margin of defeat was harsh on the visitors, there was a lot to be pleased about in the Wrexham performance.
Wrexham line-up: Pilkington, H.Roberts (Hayes 70), J.Roberts (Kelly 85), Moore, Nicholas, Wright, Edwards, Lussey, R.Owen, Ashfield (Evans 90), Rainbird.
Sub not used: B.Owen