Wrexham AFC claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Swindon Town on Boxing Day, as James McClean registered his first league goal since joining the Club in the summer.
McClean, who usually is found at full-back, produced an inspired performance in advanced attacking areas and opened the scoring after just 13 minutes.
The visitors had multiple chances to put Swindon out of sight, but an inspired performance from Lewis Ward kept Wrexham’s threat at bay.
James Jones was shown a red card for a second yellow in the 74th minute, but Arthur Okonkwo remained resolute and ensured that his side claimed a vital three points on the road.
Having signed off for Christmas in the best possible way following a 2-0 victory over Welsh rivals Newport County, Paul Mullin made way to the bench on Boxing Day due to illness.
In came Anthony Forde, while McClean was moved further forward, with both Forde and Jacob Mendy slotting into the wing-back positions.
Swindon got the match underway through Dan Kemp, surrounded by a packed-out County Ground in Wiltshire.
Having scored his 13th league goal of the season against Newport previously, Elliot Lee came close to adding yet another to his impressive tally after just a minute.
Lee disposed of his opposite number in the final third with some determined running, drove towards goal and struck an effort from range that drifted wide of Swindon’s net.
Both sides proceeded to battle out the opening exchanges, with several physical challenges being made early-on.
While neither team managed to create much in a well-contested first ten minutes, Sam Dalby did well to win a free kick in the 12th minute as he was hacked down on the counter-attack.
Captain Ben Tozer stepped up to take the set-piece and drilled a fantastic delivery into the path of Dalby who headed across goal into the path of McClean.
Wrexham’s number 23 latched onto the loose ball, glided past Harrison Minturn and fired with composure into the net – carefully placing his 13th minute strike into the bottom corner on his right foot.
The ex-Republic of Ireland international almost doubled the visitors’ lead after 30 minutes, and he was in inspired form leading the line alongside Sam Dalby. McClean collected the ball from Jones, but his effort fell just wide with Lee nearby.
Phil Parkinson’s side continued to push for a second goal, with Lee and Andy Cannon both having attempts on goal at the Alan McLoughlin Town End.
Swindon held on resolutely for the final minutes of the half, but were potentially fortunate to head into the break with just a single goal deficit as Wrexham started to take control of the match.
The visiting Red Dragons continued to up the pressure in Wiltshire as Parkinson’s side pushed for a second goal to provide some much-needed distance between themselves and the Robins.
Jones and Cannon drove forward within minutes and saw their efforts bravely blocked as Swindon went right down to the other end, reminding Wrexham of their threats.
Swindon keeper Lewis Ward, who was making his first league start of the season for Swindon was in incredible form and spectacularly kept Lee from getting Wrexham’s second after 48 minutes.
Jones was next to go close in the 54th minute, but he sliced wide from McClean’s cross as the search continued for a second-half goal.
Ward made another incredible save five minutes later, after Forde found his fellow countryman McClean with another precise delivery from the edge of the pitch.
The 34-year-old managed to beat his man and produced a strong header that was parried away, as Remeao Hutton cleared the loose ball.
Tozer made a strong block to retain Wrexham’s lead, and he denied Jake Young from close-range after 73 minutes.
Things took a turn for the worst just a minute later, as James Jones was penalised for a late challenge, having previously been booked earlier in the half.
He challenged Tyrese Shade to claim a loose ball, but Jones was beaten and his late challenge seemed to make contact, leaving the referee with a decision to make.
In the end, Tom Reeves pulled out the yellow card again and left Wrexham with ten men for the remainder of the match.
Swindon scuppered a golden opportunity to draw level after 84 minutes, as Jake Young drove towards the final third and found Saidou Khan in space.
Khan was in loads of space at the far-post but wrapped his finish wide of the post, much to Wrexham’s relief.
The hosts continued in their onslaught on the Red Dragons’ goal, but Arthur Okonkwo stayed resolute and produced a number of fantastic late saves, to ensure the travelling fans went back to North Wales with a crucial win on Boxing Day.
Wrexham Starting XI: Okonkwo, Cleworth, Tozer (C), Forde (Young 76’), Jones, Cannon, Lee (J.Davies 90’), Mendy, McClean, Dalby (Fletcher 69’).
Subs not used: Howard, Barnett, Mullin.
Swindon Town: Ward, Hutton, McEachran (Brewitt 32’), Young, Khan, Kemp, Kokolo, Kinsella, Shade (Cain 75’), Minturn, Austin (C)
Subs not used: Evans, Genesini, Dworzak, McGregor, Hart.
Match Attendance: 12,271 (1,435)