Wrexham are eager to get back to winning ways, but Sutton are tougher opponents than their league position suggests. Their physicality caused problems for their hosts at the Stok Cae Ras, and they'll want to repeat that performance again.
A fourth consecutive defeat on Saturday was a blow for The Red Dragons, but the performance was a considerable improvement from the previous week's loss at Salford. Eoghan O'Connell returned to the side and was impressive in defence, while his long passing was flawless. Aaron Hayden looked to have benefitted from another week on the training ground too.
The failure to score at Stok Cae Ras ended a remarkable scoring streak in home league matches: we'd set a club record by scoring in 51 consecutive home league games, stretching back 27 months. With 2 goals scored in the last 4 matches, Phil Parkinson will be keen to reinvigorate his team's attack, and new man Jack Marriott will be keen to get a first start up front.
THE OPPOSING VIEW
There's no point in denying the situation Sutton United are in: it'll take a remarkable effort to avoid relegation. However, while their league position is precarious, they have been competitive since a horrible Christmas period. A week before the big lad got the reindeer fired up, Sutton suffered an 8-0 thrashing at Stockport, and a week later were beaten 2-0 at home by Mansfield Town. However,, they bounced back with a terrific win at AFC Wimbledon and although they haven't won in their last 8 league matches, none of the 3 losses they suffered was by a margin of more than one goal.
Manager Matt Grey paid the price for United's strugggles in December, and was replaced by Steve Morison, whose has a year as Cardiff City manager under his belt as well as 20 Welsh caps. He faced a daunting challenge at the start of his tenure, but emerged with great credit, as his new team managed an impressive draw at Mansfield and also held Barrow to a 2-2 draw at Gander Green Lane. Four draws and two losses mark a solid start for a team which is clearly refusing to give in. One of those losses came last Saturday as Morecambe managed their first home win under new manager Ged Brannan, with the only goal coming in the 4th minute.
Harry Smith will be a familiar opponent for Wrexham's defenders, and is an effective physical presence. He's managed 10 goals this season despite his side's struggles, although he hasn't hit the net since November. He was a thorn in Wrexham's side last season as we battled to a goalless draw at Barnet, and went close to scoring a goal which would have put our title charge under real pressure. His propensity for battling against centre backs earned him a booking, and he's no less feisty now, as he's had two red cards already this season.
Another familiar face is goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, although his link with Wrexham is rather peculiar. In July 2009 it was announced that we had signed him on loan from Liverpool, but the deal fell through and he ended up at Accrington Stanley instead, while we opted for Sam Russell between the sticks.
HEAD TO HEAD
After a spectacular start, our record at Sutton has been poor.
That first trip to Gander Green Lane saw us claim a place in the last eight of the FA Trophy with a 5-0 win. Kevin Thornton stood out as he enjoyed a remarkable debut at Gander Green Lane, scoring one and setting up three. Four goals in fourteen minutes at the end of the first half put us emphatically in the comfort zone as Rob Ogleby, Johnny Hunt, Nick Rushton and Joe Clarke all hit the net. Thornton rounded off the scoring with a 92nd minute penalty, and he would go on to score one more spot kick that season, at Wembley three rounds later as we won the FA Trophy. Although Thornton’s performance was remarkable, Hunt also had a terrific game, setting up two goals on top of scoring.
Our subsequent 5 visits have been nowhere near so successful. We’ve earned two points from a possible 15 in league matches at Gander Green Lane.
Our first league match at Sutton was in December 2016. Martin Riley gave United a fourth minute lead with an own goal which proved to be the only goal of the game.
The following season both sides were in contention for the title when we met at Gander Green Lane. We took an early lead through Scott Quigley, but a sloppily-defended corner just after the break meant the home side earned a slightly flattering point.
In September 2018, our trip south was a disastrous affair, as we crashed to a 3-0 defeat. Luke Summerfield was sent off at the end of the first half for a late challenge, which was surprisingly overturned on appeal, but we were already 2-0 down by then and showing no signs of revival.
A year later we fared no better. Omar Bugiel, who could have been sent off in the first half with the score at 1-0 for a wild tackle on Luke Young in virtually the same spot Summerfield had been dismissed the previous season, scored a hat trick, and James Jennings' 90th minute goal was scant consolation.
Our most recent match at Sutton saw us end the run of defeats at Gander Green Lane. The game came in March 2022 and Sutton were well on their way to promotion to the Football League. Dean Keates' side had surprised them at The Racecourse in an emphatic 4-0 win, but this would be a very different affair. United dominated, but Wrexham defended stoutly and conceded very few chances as they fought their way to a goalless draw.
TODAY’S OTHER FIXTURES
Ben Tozer's 500th league appearance.
Jordan Tunnicliffe's 325th league match.
Aaron Hayden's 250th career appearance.
Eoghan O'Connell's 250th league game.
Andy Cannon's 225th league appearance.
Sam Dalby's 150th league game.
Elliot Lee's 75th Wrexham league appearance.