Leamington ran rampant to the fourth round of the FA Trophy, after claiming a nail-biting penalty shootout to break Wrexham hearts and knock the Reds out of the competition.
Normal time finished 0-0, with either side failing to conjure up any real, substantial chances. Sam Osbourne came closest in the 53rd minute, as his effort was denied only by the post of the Wrexham goal.
Penalties went to sudden death, as both sides scored all five of their penalties with ease. James Horsfield had the chance to win the tie for Wrexham, after Kaiman Anderson missed his penalty for The Brakes, but the experienced Wrexham man produced a poor penalty, which was easily saved. Jack Edwards then scored for Leamington and Jeffrey missed the final penalty, meaning Wrexham were knocked out of the cup 6-5 on penalties.
Wrexham made eight changes from the side that heroically came back from the dead to squash Weymouth dreams midweek, as Dean Keates looked to rotate his heavily active squad.
Shaun Pearson kept his place, as he looked to get more minutes under his belt after a recent injury. Elliott Durrell and Kwame Thomas also remained in the starting eleven to keep some of the fluidity and familiarity in the side, which came back from 2-0 against Weymouth.
Keates pursued with his new five at the back thinking, as Jordan Davies remained in the left-wing back position after his impressive display at Weymouth. The experience and versatility of James Horsfield was also on display, as he took up a central defensive midfielder role instead of his usual wing-back position.
Leamington started with the same eleven that came out 5-0 winners against St Ives in the previous round. Wrexham would have to worry about Lance Smith, who bagged a hat-trick in the second-round tie of the FA Trophy.
Waldron, who scored a brace in the previous round, was keen for his side to get off to a quick start in the third minute, as he cut in on his favored right foot to get a shot off at the Wrexham keeper. Christian Dibble was equal to the task though, as he dived smartly to his near post to keep the ball out.
Wrexham were beginning to settle into the game, and this was evident in the 11th minute when the reliable Horsfield got on the ball on the right-wing. He whipped in a delicious ball for Thomas, who just couldn’t quite guide his header underneath the Leamington bar.
Time passed throughout the first half without much real action to attend to. Wrexham were comfortably controlling the game but were not offering any cutting-edge football to break the deadlock. Leamington were definitely trying to press their agenda and to not sit back ‘José Mourinho’ style.
Davies was proving to be a bright spark at this left-wing back role after his performance at Weymouth and that was continuing today. The Wrexham man burst through the Leamington backline and fired a low-drilled shot for the bottom corner. His effort was blocked, but the ball fell to Durrell five yards out, however he couldn’t sort his feet out in time and failed to fire the ball home with 38 minutes on the clock.
Adi Yussuf was next to have a chance for Wrexham only a minute later, as his shot on the swiveling turn was scooped just wide of the top corner in the 39th minute.
Half time was called, as the gushing rain came down to cap off a fairly uneventful first half, but recent games have proved that Wrexham are very much a second half superior side.
Wrexham had a bright start to the second half, but it was The Brakes who had the first big chance of the half. Osbourne maneuvered the ball onto his right foot and curled a shot onto the post, amidst a scrambling Dibble. Lance Smith smashed the ball home, but he was deemed offside as the score remained 0-0 in the 53rd minute.
The Leamington pressure was really piling up on Wrexham now, as their players flooded the Dragons’ box. Captain Edwards was sitting on the edge of the box for The Brakes and fired a bullet at the Wrexham goal, which was destined for the net, but Mark Carrington’s toe was the Reds' savior and the ball ballooned out for a corner.
The resulting corner in the 59th minute was headed out to Steph Morley who volleyed a harmless shot at Dibble. The Wrexham keeper momentarily spilled the ball and did well to regain possession, before a Brake’s player stabbed the ball home.
Osbourne was really dictating play at the Racecourse, as the Wrexham players didn’t know whether to stand off the midfielder or close him down. He managed to muster a shot from 20 yards in the 67th minute, but Dibble’s positioning was second to none and he easily claimed the ball, which was headed towards the top corner.
Leamington were dictating every movement of play in this period and were putting the Wrexham backline under enormous amounts of pressure. Pearson’s heavy touch was about to set Simeon Maye through on goal, but Pearson cleared the midfielder out and luckily only received a yellow card, as the Wrexham captain had no chance of winning the ball on the edge of his box.
The recent and alarming Leamington pressure finally woke up Wrexham and The Reds started to formulate some attacks at the Leamington goal. The substitution of Anthony Jeffrey was much needed, as his pace and aggression were physically driving Wrexham forward into the Leamington box.
Wrexham finally took a meaningful shot at goal and it came through Durrell in the 86th minute. The midfielder fired an effort from 20 yards for which Jake Weaver punched the ball back into the danger zone. The ball fell straight to Jarvis in the box, who fizzed his volley inches wide of the post.
Full time was called, and Wrexham would be facing off Leamington in a penalty shootout towards the WrexRent Stand, with the visitors taking first.
Both teams scored all five of their first penalties, before Leamington substitute Kaiman Anderson slammed his penalty into the crossbar. Horsfield stepped up next to win the shootout for Wrexham, but it was a poor penalty to the middle of the goal and was easily saved by Weaver.
Captain Edwards finally stepped up to take a penalty for his side and he slammed it down the middle of the goal, before Jeffrey failed to convert for Wrexham, meaning the Leamington players were sprinting off into the distance to celebrate with keeper Weaver, much to Wrexham’s dismay.
Wrexham: (3-5-2): Dibble (GK), Davies, Cleworth, Pearson (C), Horsfield, Carrington, Jarvis, Durrell, Rutherford (Jeffrey 62’), Yussuf (Bickerstaff 83'), Thomas
Subs not used: Lainton (GK), Reckord, Hall-Johnson
Leamington: (4-3-3): Weaver (GK), Martin, Morley, Clarke, Morrison, Lane, Osbourne, Maye (Gittings 90+4'), Smith, Edwards (C), Waldron (Anderson 72’)
Subs not used: Meredith, English, Taylor
Referee: Martin Woods
Wrexham Bookings: Pearson 70’ (foul), Jarvis 77’ (foul), Carrington 88’ (foul)
Leamington Bookings: None
Penalty shootout: Osbourne scored (1-0), Thomas scored (1-1), Smith scored (2-1), Davies scored (2-2), Clarke scored (3-2), Jarvis scored (3-3), Gittings scored (4-3), Carrington scored (4-4), Morley scored (5-4), Durrell scored (5-5), Anderson missed (5-5), Horsfield missed (5-5), Edwards scored (6-5), Jeffrey missed (6-5)