A late Aaron James header and an injury-time Rio Owen penalty ensured Wrexham recorded a third successive win in the EFL Youth Alliance, with a 3-1 victory against Blackpool.
“It was a pleasing performance, and the lads are really starting to believe that they belong at this level,” explained a clearly delighted Nick Chadwick, Wrexham’s PDP Lead Coach.
“They’re a great group to work with and have come on leaps and bounds since the start of the season. Technically, they are getting better all the time, and their attitude is just great.”
With only three over-aged players allowed in the starting line-up, Max Purvis replaced Dan Davies in central defence allowing Owen Cushion to return in centre midfield for Alfie Lussey, goalkeeper Liam Hall and centre-back James completing the trio of ‘older’ professionals.
Hari Roberts also replaced Dan Wright at right-back whilst James Rainbird came in for Harry Ashfield with Callum Edwards moving further forward to support Rio Owen in attack.
Blackpool began the match brightly and took the lead in the fourth minute, Jaden Jones’s shot from the edge of the penalty area taking a clear deflection on its way past Liam Hall.
With few chances of real note, the game developed into a midfield stalemate with Terry Bondo impressing for the Seasiders.
Gradually the home side began to enjoy more possession and deservedly equalised two minutes before the interval, Owen netting a real striker’s goal after Matteo Spinelli had only been able to parry Edwards’s initial goal-bound effort.
The early stages of the second period saw Hall make fine stops from Luke Findlow and Bondo, as Blackpool dominated the opening exchanges.
The former Bradford Park Avenue keeper produced arguably his best save in 67 minutes when he palmed Ezra Amadi-Emina’s deft flick past the post from just six-yards out. That ultimately proved the turning point as Wrexham regained control, with Owen and Edwards a constant threat in the final third.
Wrexham’s resilience was duly rewarded after 89 minutes when a corner from Edwards was flicked on by substitute Regan Nicholas, Aaron James netting with a powerful header at the far post. Owen then made sure of the points three minutes into added time with a calmly taken spot-kick after he had been felled in the area by Amadi-Emina.
Chadwick was full of praise for two-goal Owen and the industrious Edwards, adding: “It was great for Rio to get the two goals because his work rate and all-round play deserved it.
"He reacted so quickly for the first one and then battled hard to win the penalty. Callum also played well, and it was great to see him get the reward for all the hard work he’s been doing on set-pieces out on the training ground.”
Wrexham: Hall, Roberts (Wright 81), Kelly, James, Purvis, Moore, Rainbird (Nicholas 89), Cushion (Lussey 68), R.Owen, Edwards, Hazeldine (Ashfield 59)
Sub not used: B.Owen