BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES | Wrexham AFC vs Braintree Town

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Fri 05 Apr 2019

Braintree will be making a familiar trip up to North Wales from Essex for Saturday’s Vanarama National League match at the Racecourse.

The Iron have been opponents in seven of the last 11 seasons, and actually edge the head-to-head record with six wins to Wrexham’s five.

Wrexham have the better goal difference, however, after back-to-back 5-1 wins across two seasons in 2012.

We’ve revisited one of those high-scoring successes as our game to remember, while our ‘worst of times’ revisits a performance that left then-manager Kevin Wilkin apologising to the travelling fans.

Best of times: Wrexham 5-1 Braintree Town (28/04/2012)

Wrexham and Braintree met for the first time in the 2011/12 season, and the visitors will not have particularly fond memories of their first trip to the Cae Ras.

The Dragons were looking to finish the season on a high – a campaign which, under normal circumstances, would have seen Andy Morrell’s side storm to the Championship.

Having already far exceeded the club’s best ever points tally, Wrexham went into the final home game of the regular season with 29 wins, 80 goals and 95 points to their name.

The visitors had enjoyed a decent first season in the Conference Premier, sitting mid-table having both scored and conceded 75 goals prior to their trip to the Racecourse – earning 17 wins and 17 defeats.

A high-scoring match was probably likely, therefore, as Wrexham looked to gain momentum going into play-offs – a Jamie Vardy-inspired Fleetwood having won the league by reaching a century of goals and points.

And a high-scoring match was exactly what Wrexham delivered, with Jay Harris and captain Dean Keates running the show in midfield.

Player-manager Morrell opened the scoring on 19 minutes, sweeping in Stephen Wright’s low cross from close-range after good work by Jay Harris to release the full-back.

Wrexham dominated proceedings for the rest of the half, and it eventually paid off on 42 minutes when Harris’ incisive through ball released Adrian Cieslewicz, who fired in at the near post.

Six minutes after the restart, Keates was the provider – finding Harris, courtesy of Morrell’s clever dummy – but his midfield partner’s curling right-footed strike smacked against the post.

To add insult to injury, a minute later Braintree had a goal back – some slack defending allowing Ben Wright to head in at the back post.

Braintree briefly rallied, but Mathias Pogba restored Wrexham’s two-goal lead on 59 minutes when he made space on the edge of the area and drilled a low, right-footed shot into the bottom corner.

Still Wrexham piled forward and Keates fired just wide himself, before his clever pass released substitute Danny Wright in the 88th minute – who fired clinically in from close-range to cap a move his interception started.

And the gloss to a fine afternoon was added in stoppage time, when Aswad Thomas fouled Keates in the area.

Neil Ashton, the only outfield player yet to score during the season, stepped up and coolly slotted the penalty into the bottom corner.

It meant Wrexham finished the season second in the table, with 98 points, taking to the pitch for a lap of honour led by a scarf-waving Glen Little before focus turned to the play-offs and a two-legged clash with Luton.

It’s the hope that kills you…

What they said: “The Dragons set themselves up for the play-off trip to Luton so perfectly even Neil Ashton scored.” (Wales Online)

Line-ups:

Wrexham: Mayebi, Ashton, Creighton, S.Wright, Harris (Hunt 65), Cieslewicz, Keates, Tolley (Clarke 46), Knight-Percival, Morrell (Wright 69), Pogba

Unused subs: Maxwell, Westwood

Braintree Town: McDonald, Thomas, Bailey-Dennis, Paine, O'Connor (Quinton 67), Wells, Reason (Symons 76), Davis, Gibson, Wright, Guy (Bentley 80)

Unused subs: Haxell, Peters

Worst of times: Braintree Town 1-0 Wrexham (15/11/2014)

A season which had promised plenty at the start was already fading into nothing by mid-November, when Wrexham made the trip to Essex to face out-of-form Braintree.

Wrexham had now won in six matches, but Braintree had not even scored in their previous six and had gone ten without a win in total.

But a lacklustre Dragons performance meant The Iron not only ended a nine-hour streak without scoring but got back to winning ways too.

The key moment came on 25 minutes, when fit-again Charlie Strutton – making his first start after recovering from a broken leg – lashed home the rebound when his initial free-kick was blocked.

Eight minutes later, Sean Marks missed a gilt-edged chance to double the lead – failing to beat Andy Coughlin from close-range after a goalmouth scramble.

Braintree continued to dominate and Chez Isaac’s direct running led to Coughlin having to pull out another smart stop to keep the score at one.

Wrexham chances were few, and Connor Jennings failed to take advantage of the best one – unable to get the ball out of his feet when through on goal.

It is always a sign things are badly when a manager pulls out a triple substitution and, after Braintree started the second-half on top too, that is exactly what Wrexham boss Kevin Wilkin was forced into.

It made little difference, however – Marks heading over on 68 minutes, while the Dragons’ more expansive system only invited more Braintree chances.

And a bad afternoon got even worse for Wrexham with seven minutes remaining – Blaine Hudson earning a deserved second yellow card for a bad foul.

Though still 12th in the table, it was a seventh game in a row without victory for Wrexham – who only managed one shot on target in the whole game.

It left manager Kevin Wilkin in apologetic mood afterwards, confessing, “Braintree were sharper and far hungrier than what we were and deserved to win the game.”

What they said: “I can only apologise to the travelling supporters for such a lacklustre performance.” (Kevin Wilkin, Wrexham manager)

Line-ups:

Braintree Town: Hamann, Peters, Clerima, Massey, Habergham, Mulley, Paine, Isaac, Akinola (Brundle), Marks, Strutton (Sparkes 69).

Unused subs: Smith, Sowunmi, Pentney

Wrexham: Coughlin, White (Evans 60), Smith, Hudson, Hunt, York (Moult 60), Clarke, Carrington, Durrell (Keates 60), Bishop, Jennings

Unused subs: Tomassen, Rushton

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