Wrexham restarted their Vanarama National League campaign under Dean Keates, with a 1-1 draw against Harrogate Town at the Racecourse.
Wrexham took a sharpish lead as some clinical, precise football saw Bobby Grant fire the ball home from a Jason Oswell cross.
The Reds forfeited their chance to go two goals clear, as Grant blazed his penalty over in the second half that he won himself.
The visitors pounced on Wrexham’s mistakes and found an equaliser with only ten minutes left on the clock. Déjà vu from the draw at Woking FC.
Keates returned to the Racecourse to jubilant applause, after his reappointment as Wrexham manager on the weekend.
Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and Shaun Pearson re-entered the side for Mark Carrington and Michael Chambers, as Keates looked to refresh the side, following the previous 1-1 draw away at Woking FC.
The Reds were looking to make the Racecourse a fortress once more, after our one goal victory against Ebbsfleet, to end our winless run.
Wrexham started the game in 20th position, seven points and ten places behind the Sulphurites. The Dragons remained above the relegation zone via a better goal difference of two.
Early proceedings suggested that the affair would be an open, end-to-end game.
The Keates era (times two) had got off to a flying start. A defensive header only found its way to Paul Rutherford, who slotted Oswell in on the angle. His short cross to Grant at the back post was perfect, as the Wrexham winger smashed the ball in from close range, just five minutes in.
Clever link-up play in the 12th minute saw Wrexham almost grab a second. Oswell’s interception off a throw-in allowed him to play through Luke Young. The midfielder’s shot was well saved by James Belshaw and good defending by Harrogate stopped Young from scoring the rebound.
The sudden lashing down of rain would see the complexity of the match change.
The home fans grew tiresome with referee Lewis Smith, as he tried to let the game flow as much as possible.
After some scrappy edge of box play, Grant found an inch of room and managed to pull a shot off in the 26th minute. His effort took a deflection and bounced just wide of Belshaw’s post.
The Sulphurites were gaining many free kicks on the halfway line, but failed to make use of them as the ‘Red Wall’ stood strong.
Two successive yellow cards for Warren Burrell and Alex Bradley, gave Wrexham a free kick in a very dangerous area. Young’s deep ball to the back post was struck over by a stretching James Jennings, who was deemed offside on a close call 31 minutes in.
Harrogate Town were starting to easily run through the Wrexham midfield at this point, but some last ditch defending by Jennings and Pearson prevented any real chances from being created.
Ryan Fallowfield sliced a ball over his head and luckily into the hands of Belshaw, after a drilled cross from Young into the box in the 37th minute.
The addition of Adam Barton into the holding midfielder role really helped the Reds win back possession, whilst the midfielder was able to release over players through his strength.
Keates’ reunion with National League football and Wrexham saw his side 1-0 up at the break.
Grant’s header two minutes after the restart was teasing the corner of the goal, but Belshaw was able to scramble across the goal-mouth and prevent a second goal for the Reds.
Commotion greeted the next phase of the game, as the Harrogate players thought they were playing wrestling and not football. Will Smith was booked in the 51st minute for his take-down.
There were strange scenes off a Harrogate corner, as all the Harrogate players decided to team up on the goal-line, which seemed slightly counter-productive. Summerfield cleared the ball away though, with 53 minutes on the clock.
Some poor defending allowed Oswell to flick a header on to Grant, whose early shot was saved high by Belshaw in the 57th.
With an hour on the clock, George Smith brought down Grant after a lofted cross by Oswell. Referee Smith blew for the penalty, which was the definition of ‘stone-wall’.
Grant had missed his previous penalty, but looked confident when running up for the current one. However, his penalty was blazed over the bar, making Wrexham rue a missed chance to be two goals to the good.
Grant was desperate for a second goal, but the cross was too high for him to get a solid connection on in the 67th minute, as it deflected behind him.
The Sulphurites were starting to come out of their shell, after the penalty incident and were starting to create some dangerous play in the Wrexham box.
Christian Dibble was finally called to action, as Jack Muldoon drilled one low to Dibble’s right, but the Wrexham keeper matched the effort and pushed it away from danger in the 69th.
Wrexham were sitting back on this 1-0 lead with 20 minutes left to play, as they looked to play on the counter.
The Racecourse grew in noise over some questionable refereeing decisions, but the Reds stayed composed in their defending to keep the Yorkshire men out.
Hopes of a Wrexham win seemed tarnished in the 80th minute, as Jack Diamond was allowed to walk through the Wrexham penalty area, but his shot curled outwards into the other side of the box, where Fallowfield fired the ball home into the roof of the net to level the scores.
Wrexham tried to regroup and push for a winner, but the eleven men who started the game seemed exhausted.
Ben Tollitt marked the first Wrexham substitution late on, as Man of the Match Barton was taken off in the 87th minute.
The match ended 1-1, as Keates’ side counted themselves unlucky not to take all three points.
Wrexham:(4-3-3): Dibble (GK), Barnum-Bobb, Lawlor, Pearson ©, Jennings, Barton (Tollitt 87’), Young, Summerfield, Rutherford, Oswell, Grant.
Subs not used: Szczepaniak (GK), Redmond, Wright, McIntosh.
Harrogate Town:(4-2-3-1): Belshaw (GK), Fallowfield, Smith, Falkingham ©, Burrell, Beck, Kiernan (Emmett 74’), Bradley (Diamond 54’), Muldoon, Hall, Smith.
Subs not used: Cracknell (GK), Stead, Brown.
Referee: Lewis Smith
Wrexham: Pearson (82’ Ungentlemanly conduct), Barnum-Bobb (90, hand ball)
Harrogate Bookings: Bradley (30’ Foul), Burrell (31’ Foul), W Smith (51’ Foul), G Smith (59, foul), Beck (77’ Foul)
Man of the Match: Barton