After the heroics of Tuesday night, it's time to return to the important business of chasing the title.
Phil Parkinson rotated his side at Sheffield, so it would be logical to expect a number of changes as we settle back into the league routine. However, a number of players who were given a chance to play at Bramall Lane took that opportunity to give the manager a nudge with confident performance against Championship opoosition. With a frantic four weeks ahead of him, Parkinson will be glad to know that his squad has impressive depth.
Rob Lainton, Harry Lennon, Jacob Mendy and Andy Cannon all got much-needed minutes into their legs, wich could prove crucial in the run-in. It was also good to see Bryce Hosannah back on the bench after injury, and Eoghan O'Connell will be available again against The Stones having been cup-tied on Tuesday.
The injury time defeat to Sheffield United ended our club record unbeaten run, but we still haven't been defeated in theleague since October, and must now look to hit the ground running as a Saturday-Tuesday fixture pattern establishes itself in the short-term.
Having consolidated their National League status with a solid mid-table finish last season, Wealdstone have made an impressive tilt at the play-off spots this time round. They arrive at The Racecourse in 10th place, just one point off the post-season slots, having spent 8 weeks of the season in the coveted top 7 places, briefly holding top spot.
That strong start was followed by an alarming evaporation of form in October, as 6 consecutive defeats were suffered. A succession of injuries was the prime cause of the collapse as they slipped down to mid-table, but since then they've lost just 2 in 12. Consecutive clean sheets have raised them back to the cusp of the play-off places, with an impressive victory over Dagenham & Redbridge, leap-frogging their opponents in the process.
That win followed on from an annual Wealdstone tradition: a goalless draw at Yeovil. Consecutive clean sheets have given The Stones hope that they are finding stability as they regroup for the run-in, and their defence showed great fortitude as it repelled Dagenham in the second half, with Sam Howes outstanding in goal when a chance was created.
Wealdstone haven't conceded an away goal since December 10th, when they drew 3-3 at Bromley, and have lost just 1 one of their last 6 games on the road. Solidity is the watchword on their travels: outside the bottm 7, only Halifax Town have scored fewer away from home, but only 2 teams below them have better defensive records.
There is a real feel-good factor around the Vale, attendances are up around 20% compared with the same fixtures last season and it was fantastic to break the attendance record when Wrexham visited in November.
-Rory Fitzgerald, Wealdstone chairman.
Having registered their highest league position in 35 years last season, and appearing on track to improve on it this time round, there's a genuine sense of hope around Wealdstone. They certainly have friends in high places as they received support in the negotiation of a lease for Grosvenor Vale from their local MP, Boris Johnson. You can certainly see why chairman Rory Fitzgerald proudly described to his club's website that Wealdstone are "unique...we are a part time football club playing in a full-time league entirely dependent on volunteers to keep the club going."
HEAD TO HEAD
It seems to be a case of famine of feast where Wealdstone are concerned, as our matches tend to either be stalemates or packed full of goals!
Two of our five clashes have ended goalless, including our match earlier this season and the last time they came to The Racecourse in November 2021. In fact, The Stones ended Wrexham’s run of scoring in every game of the season when they kept a clean sheet, Wrexham having hit the net in their first 17 games under Phil Parkinson. Keeper George Wickens, on loan from Fulham, was the hero of the day, pulling off a remarkable triple save from Aaron Hayden, Ben Tozer and Luke Young to repel the Red Dragons.
We looked to be on course to drop three points against them in the reverse fixture, as we trailed by a penalty kick with 2 minutes left, but Jordan Davies equalised with a brilliant goal which ought to have been disallowed because his initial free kick thundered back to him without touching anyone else, so his successful follow-up shot was a consecutive touch from a set piece.
There was nothing lucky about the winner except that it came in the 5th minute of added time, as Reece Hall-Johnson struck the target for his customary injury-time winner in the south east.
In contrast to those low-scoring affairs, our first two matches yielded 12 goals! If you want to know about the circumstances of our 4-3 defeat when the sides first met in October 2020, ask Jacob Mendy as his remarkable strike was the pick of the goals!
We gained revenge in the home match though, although once again our opponents proved to be a stone in our shoe. We were trailling at half time, but we were in the lead by the 9th minute of the second half and went on to win 4-1 thanks to Luke Young, Dior Angus and two goals from Kwame Thomas.
Those two strikes make Thomas our equal top scorer in this fixture alongside Adi Yussuf, whose first two goals for us came in that 4-3 defeat.
Ollie Palmer’s 525th career appearance.
Ollie Palmer’s 50th league game for Wrexham.