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REPORT | Wrexham AFC 2-0 Newport County

Red Dragons claim Welsh Derby bragging rights in front of biggest crowd since 2007

23 December 2023

Match Reports

REPORT | Wrexham AFC 2-0 Newport County

Red Dragons claim Welsh Derby bragging rights in front of biggest crowd since 2007

23 December 2023

Wrexham AFC claimed the Derby Day spoils, recording a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Welsh rivals Newport County, as James Jones and Elliot Lee got on the scoresheet in North Wales.

Over 12,000 fans were in attendance at the STōK Cae Ras, the highest recorded attendance at the ground since 2007.  

Arthur Okonkwo produced a number of fine stops to keep the score level, while the Red Dragons also had chances of their own to break the deadlock.

The Red Dragons stayed resolute though, as second-half goals from Jones and Lee secured all three points ahead of Christmas.

Phil Parkinson was handed an early present in this festive period, as Okonkwo had been cleared to start after sustaining an injury at Harrogate Town last month.

There was a late change in the build-up to kick-off, as Max Cleworth replaced Eoghan O’Connell, while Will Boyle took the place of Cleworth on the bench.

It was an intense start to proceedings at the STōK Cae Ras, as both teams registered an intensity that is often expected from a match of this magnitude.  

The recent history between Wrexham and Newport needs no explanation, with the 2013 play-off final at Wembley perhaps the most vivid memory for both fanbases.

While Newport rose into the EFL as a result, Wrexham continued their plight in the National League for another ten years – it is the first time that the sides have met each other in the top four divisions since March 1988.

Speaking of firsts, for the first time in 5,719 days, fans returned behind the famous Kop end as the temporary stand was given approval earlier this week to open.

Neither team managed to register any meaningful chances within the opening 15 minutes, but Wrexham came close to breaking the deadlock just as the clock struck 20 minutes.

Lee did well to control Okonkwo’s throw, before shifting the ball across his body and into Cleworth.

From there, Wrexham’s number 32 found Jacob Mendy down the right-flank with ease and the Gambian international whipped a dangerous delivery into the path of Lee, who didn’t quite manage to head home from close range.

Okonkwo’s presence in the Wrexham net was quickly re-established after a short stint out, as the six-foot-six keeper produced a fantastic save in the 25th minute; he denied the prolific Will Evans superbly from close-range.

Having already made one fantastic stop, Okonkwo went on to do one better and produced a world-class save to keep the scores level in North Wales.

Seb Palmer-Houlden fired towards goal with real momentum, forcing Wrexham’s number 33 to react with speed as he tipped the ball onto the crossbar from point-blank range with 28 minutes played.

The resulting corner caused more trouble, as Harry Charsley’s speculative effort from 20-yards out found Newport captain Ryan Delaney. He failed to wrap his foot around the ball, and his effort drifted agonisingly wide.

With time running out, Andy Cannon fired a thunderbolt towards goal on his right foot in the 40th minute, but the effort lofted over, seemingly having taken a late deflection.

It was the last real chance in a half which was full of effort, but that lacked many moments of real quality.

Neither side elected to make changes at the break, with the intense nature of the match resuming into the second 45 as both teams continued in their search of an opener.

Wrexham had a penalty shout after 48 minutes as Paul Mullin hauled down by James Clarke inside the box, but referee John Busby decided against pointing to the spot much to the Exiles' relief.

The hosts started to advance up the pitch and stamp their authority on proceedings.

With the Red Dragons looking for a crucial opener, Ben Tozer’s long throw-ins were aided by the strong winds in North Wales and caused Newport problems defensively.

As Parkinson’s side climbed closer to an opener, Lee had almost reached the summit.

The energetic and tricky number 38 glided onto the ball from outside the box, firing a thunderous effort that cannoned against the post and forced Townsend into a crucial stop after 58 minutes.

Sam Dalby was next to test his luck a minute later, trapping the ball inside the box and turning onto his right foot, but the forward’s impressive effort swept just wide.

Mullin and Dalby almost wrapped the ball into the net after 61 minutes as the opportunity flashed across Newport’s goal, but neither striker could convert on the goalline.

For all their second-half efforts, Wrexham finally registered the goal that they deserved in the 64th minute at the STōK Cae Ras.

Jones was in the right place to break the deadlock from Tozer’s throw, which caused chaos and landed at the feet of Wrexham’s number 30.

Under pressure, he calmly fired into the bottom-right corner before celebrating in front of the Kop stand to perfectly mark his 100th league match for Wrexham.

Wrexham looked like they were going to see the match out for a hard-fought, but slender victory in North Wales – until Tozer stepped up to take another dangerous throw-in from range.

The Captain lined up and unleashed a calculated delivery from the left which found Lee, who bundled the ball home to double his side’s lead and secure all three points on Derby Day.

Wrexham AFC: Okonkwo, Cleworth, Tozer (C), O'Connor, Mendy, Jones, Cannon (Young 88’), Lee (J. Davies 92’), McClean, Dalby (Fletcher 72’), Mullin (Bickerstaff 92’).

Subs not used: Howard, Boyle, Forde.

Newport County: Townsend, Delaney (C), Clarke, Evans, Morris, Bogle, McLoughlin, Charsley (Baker 65’), Wildig, Palmer-Houlden (Payne 80’).

Subs not used: Maxted, Waite, Rai, Wood, Bondswell.

Match Attendance: 12,095 (1,139 away)

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