THE WREXHAM ANGLE
Do you like goals? Then this could be the game for you! For a start, these teams shared 10 goals in an incredible match earlier this season, and frankly they've continued in the same vein. Wrexham are the division's second highest scorers, and Swindon are just 2 goals behind. However, only Sutton have conceded more than The Robins, and there have been 89 goals in their matches so far, the most of any team at a striking average of nearly 4 per match. Fourth in the list of goals at both ends per game are Wrexham, so we could be in for a bit of Boxing Day entertainment at the County Ground!
Phil Parkinson was able to welcome Arthur Okonkwo and Stephen Fletcher back into the squad on Saturday for the derby win over Newport, although he lost Eoghan O'Connell in the pre-match warm-up. As the festive games come thick and fast, Parkinson will be keen to see more of his injured defenders return to contention, although the performance of Tom O'Connor, Ben Tozer and Max Cleworth, Eoghan O'Connell's last minute replacement, when Newport attacked in the first half with the wind at their backs showed that he has terrific strength in depth at the back.
THE OPPOSING VIEW
Swindon got off to a strong start this season, but 3 wins in the last 17 matches have seen things fall away disappointingly, and they now stand in mid-table. Injuries have been a major issue in recent weeks, biting so deeply that Town have had to name between 3 and 5 academy players on the bench in the last few matches.
Jake Cain and Tyrese Shade returned on Saturday at Tranmere Rovers, but that good news was tempered by an injury goalkeeper Murphy Mahoney picked up, while Udoka Godwin-Malife dropped out with food poisoning.
Tom Clayton and Tom Brewitt hope to be in contention to face Wrexham, but Mahoney has injured a hamstring and will definitely miss out. Lewis Ward will step in, and he has plenty of experience: in his third professional appearance he kept a clean sheet against Wrexham in an impressive 2-0 win by Aldershot Town in November 2017.
I think Dan Kemp is a better ten than Lee and I really like Lee. He is play at an extremely high level with his goals, assists, and work rate.
Manager Michael Flynn told the Swindon Advertiser that Mahoney's injury definitely ruled him out of participating on Boxing Day: “Without having it assessed and scanned, I don’t know for sure but I think it is going to be a long one. Fingers crossed it is not as bad as I think it is but I can’t see that good news coming.
“Brewitt and Clayton are extremely close, obviously Jake Cain was back to give us some numbers and Godwin-Malife should be ok.
“Tariq Uwakwe is still out, Fraser Blake-Tracy, Benn Ward is still out, and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is still out.
“It is not clear all the way but at least we should have a few more back for the game against Wrexham.
“Brewitt is nothing to do with concussion, it is to do with his patella tendonitis, it has been very uncomfortable for him and we have had to keep him off his feet to allow the swelling and the inflammation to go down.
“We have had to build him back up gradually and thankfully he is back on the grass consistently.
“Rushian has got a bad knee, his scan came back clear but he is still in discomfort, so if the player is saying that he is struggling then it is a tough one because none of us know how to pinpoint it but it is obviously giving him some discomfort.
“They are sometimes more frustrating than breaking your leg because at least you know what that is.”
The loss at Tranmere was a third in a row, and Flynn was frustrated afterwards, having seen his side lose a half time lead.
"The two goals that we gave away were avoidable.
"We stuck together, we tried, and we put a lot of effort in, but ultimately we have given away soft goals.
I think a lot of it comes down to mentality. You can take a horse to water. The players are trying, but they have that lapse in concentration and it has happened too many times. We have not been in the position to change too much, but when we have a fit squad we can be a match for anybody. It is really frustrating as we are not far away, but we need to improve.
"We are on the bare bones and we have tried to put out the most senior team available and in a lot of the game they had done extremely well.
"This is a tough place to come and we know that but if we cut out those mistakes then we would have won the game.
"The crowd were gone [before the equaliser], for us the game was dead as the crowd had turned and gone quiet.
"They were flat and passing a lot of balls out of play and we were quite comfortable up until that."
"Today we did create a lot more and we had a lot more purpose with Dan [Kemp] getting in the holes and us getting some crosses in.
"But it is the goals we are conceding that are biting us."
HEAD TO HEAD
Swindon has never been a particularly welcoming venue for the Dragons. Our last win at the County Ground came back on the opening day of the 1985-6 season, when Steve Charles scored the only goal. Admittedly, we've only visited the County Ground 6 times since then, but we lost our last 4 games there!
Our most recent game at Swindon was also Brian Carey’s first as manager. Unexpectedly thrust into the hot seat after the surprise dismissal of Denis Smith in January 2007, Carey saw his team get off to the perfect start when Marc Williams headed the ball home in the 8th minute.
However, a minute later Swindon equalised, and they got the winner from the penalty spot with 19 minutes left as they continued with what would turn out to be a successful promotion push.
Our previous trip to Swindon was in March 2005 when we were battling against relegation from League One. Goals from Juan Ugarte and Hector Sam gave us a 2-0 lead with just over half an hour played, but then striker Sam Parkin turned matters decisively in the Robins' favour. Parkin hit a hat-trick to earn a 4-2 win, but his last two goals, in the closing ten minutes, were a free kick and a penalty, both controversially awarded by the referee.
The previous two visits were both defeats, featuring differing fortunes for the Wrexham keepers. A spectacular late goal earned Town a 1-0 win in September 2003 despite the heroics of Andy Dibble, but a 3-1 loss on a sopping night in November 2001 owed much to a nervous display from Kristian Rogers.
That match did, however, feature one iconic Wrexham moment: the quixotic Emad Bouanane, a left back who was much happier going forwards than defending, weaved his way gloriously through the home team on a joyful run which started deep in his half, rounded the keeper….and then launched his shot high over the open goal!
Wrexham’s best win at The County Ground came in the League Cup in September 1981 when we triumphed 2-0 thanks to goals by Mick Vinter and Ian Edwards.
Wrexham's joint top scorers against Swindon are John Lyons and Karl Connolly, while Billy Ashcroft, Stuart Lee and Graham Whittle are all one goal behnd.
Connolly got three of his in scoring the only hat-trick by a Wrexham player against Swindon, in a memorable 4-3 victory in September 1995, although the other one he scored also capped an impressive performance: in the return match that season Town were expected to exact revenge, but Connolly gave Wrexham the lead and they earned a deserved 1-1 against a side which won the Second Division at a canter and only lost once at home all season.
TODAY’S OTHER FIXTURES
Mansfield Town v Grimsby Town
Gillingham v Crawley Town
AFC Wimbledon v Sutton United
Barrow v Stockport County
Bradford City v Morecambe
Harrogate Town v Accrington Stanley
Milton Keynes Dons v Colchester United
Newport County v Forest Green Rovers
Notts County v Doncaster Rovers
Salford City v Tranmere Rovers
Walsall v Crewe Alexandra
Barrow’s magnificent form gets the ultimate test as Stockport County travel north in a mouth-watering clash between the two sides ahead of us.
Elsewhere, Newport County have a chance to bounce back from defeat at the Stok Cae Ras last Saturday when they host Forest Green Rovers. Their visitors will hope they can build on a solid home draw under new boss Troy Deeney in a relegation 6-pointer.
James Jones' 125th Wrexham appearance.
Paul Mullin's 100th Wrexham league match.