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REPORT | Salford City 3-1 Wrexham AFC

Red Dragons pay for slow start in third straight away defeat

3 February 2024

Match Reports

REPORT | Salford City 3-1 Wrexham AFC

Red Dragons pay for slow start in third straight away defeat

3 February 2024

Wrexham paid the price for a slow start at the Peninsula Stadium, as Sam Dalby’s first league goal of the season could not prevent a third straight away defeat.

Theo Vassell and Elliot Watt put Salford two-up early on and, although Sam Dalby pulled a goal back before half-time, Matt Smith added a third for Salford to consign Wrexham to defeat.

It meant a third straight away defeat for the Red Dragons, who handed deadline-day signings Luke Bolton and Jack Marriott their Wrexham debuts late on.

Wrexham welcomed back fit-again defensive duo Aaron Hayden and Jordan Tunnicliffe, who flanked Ben Tozer in the back three – the trio together again for the first time in more than 12 months.

Deadline-day signings Marriott and Bolton – at his former club – both started on the bench.

Former Red Dragons Vassell – who was injured when the two teams met in North Wales – and Curtis Tilt were both in a Salford side which was, with the exception of Bolton, otherwise unchanged.

Salford caught Wrexham cold in the reverse fixture, with two early goals before the Red Dragons’ dramatic comeback win, and once again made the brightest start.

And it was the Ammies who had the first big chance of the game on six minutes, as Matt Smith headed goalwards but Arthur Okonkwo got down to turn it wide.

From the resultant corner, however, Vassell headed in the opener at the back post with Okonkwo beaten by the flight of the cross – the centre-back opting not to celebrate against his former Club.

It got worse for Wrexham too. On the quarter-hour, a loose pass in midfield led to a long ball over the top, which Tozer missed, although Okonkwo initially turned Junior Luamba’s lobbed shot over.

Again, however, the reprieve was only temporary. Watt curled the corner in from the left, straight over Okonkwo and directly in at the unguarded back post.

Okonkwo spared Wrexham from it getting worse on 20 minutes, this time saving low to his right after Conor McAleny shot from distance, before smothering Callum Morton’s follow-up.

Tozer was next to keep Wrexham was further trouble, after Watt ran on to Luamba’s low pass on 24 minutes and shot low, but the captain stuck out an important left boot to block.

Luke Garbutt then wasted a good chance for Salford in the 27th minute, curling well over the bar from a left-footed free-kick after Elliot Lee’s foul.

Wrexham’s frustrations were laid bare, as Paul Mullin and Vassell nearly clashed as the defender shielded a ball back to the keeper before Andy Cannon and Tilt did clash after a collision in the 28th minute.

As with the reverse fixture, however, the Red Dragons got a foothold in the game late in the half. James McClean whipped a free-kick to the back post on 41 minutes, which Tozer hooked back into the middle for Hayden to head goalwards and Dalby turned it in a close range.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Tozer had the chance to hurl a long throw in, finding Hayden at the near post, but this time his header was well off target.

Shooting towards the packed away end, with the wind behind them, Wrexham started the second-half at an electrifying pace and won a number of early set pieces.

From one, a McClean corner on 52 minutes, goalkeeper Alex Cairns only got a touch to the cross at the near post but that proved just enough to stop Mullin steering his back-post header under the bar and into the unguarded net.

Okonkwo produced another big save at the other end two minutes later, when Watt fed Morton with a clever through ball, saving with his legs at the near post.

But the Ammies restored their two-goal lead on 56 minutes, Watt crossing deep for Smith to hook the ball into the corner of the net.

The goal, and a lengthy stoppage as Smith received treatment for a bloodied nose, took the sting out of Wrexham’s bright start – even despite the introduction of Steven Fletcher for Dalby.

Fletcher had the ball in the back of the net on 73 minutes but was flagged for offside.

At the other end, Salford substitute Matthew Lund shot fiercely goalwards in the 75th minute, but Tozer made a good block and Okonkwo smothered the loose ball.

Junior Luamba almost put the game beyond doubt on 82 minutes, cutting inside from Watt’s crossfield pass before his thunderous shot clattered the bar and bounced clear.

Ten minutes of stoppage time gave Wrexham some hope, but they struggled to create any telling chances as Salford saw out victory.

Line-ups

Salford City: Cairns, John, Vassell, Tilt, Garbutt (Shephard 56), Watson (Hendry 86), Watt, Luamba, Morton (Lund 69), Smith, McAleny (Nmai 69)

Subs: Torrance (G/K), Mariappa, Hendry, Chesters

Wrexham: Okonkwo, Hayden, Tozer, Tunnicliffe (Marriott 80), Barnett (Bolton 80), Cannon, Lee, Evans, McClean (Mendy 89), Mullin, Dalby (Fletcher 62)

Subs: Howard (G/K), O’Connell, Jones

Referee: Alex Chilowicz

Attendance: 4,591 (1,368 away)

Bookings

Salford City: Garbutt (20, foul), Watson (35, time wasting), Tilt (79, foul), Nmai (90, time wasting)

Wrexham: Tunnicliffe (32, foul), Lee (34, foul), Mullin (45+2, foul)


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