Wrexham claimed all three points at the Racecourse to move eighth in the Vanarama National League table, after a 3-1 win against table footers Dover Athletic.
A solo run by Reece Hall-Johnson saw Wrexham secure a lead before Dover equalised just before half time through Ahkeem Rose’s impressive header. Fiacre Kelleher’s early glancing header in the second half was enough to seal the victory for the Red Dragons.
It was clear that Dover were a strong, physical side and Wrexham did extremely well to prevent a second equaliser for most of the second half, before Kwame Thomas won a penalty in the dying embers of the game for Luke Young to slot home.
Wrexham made three changes from the side that lost 2-0 away at Stockport County at the end of 2020, as Thomas and Elliott Durrell dropped to the bench, with Shaun Pearson being left out of the squad due to injury.
Dover started the fixture bottom of the table, having taken only one point from their last five games, whilst Wrexham sat uncomfortably in 16th position on 20 points.
The first ten minutes saw both sides aiming to settle into the game, with no real chances being created. However, Young was able to deliver a delicious free kick that was begging for a Wrexham man to poke it home, but the ball somehow evaded the three red shirts running onto it in the box.
Three minutes later in the 15th minute, Wrexham had another free kick in the same area, with the reliable Young standing over it. He whipped in a carbon-copy of his first free kick and somehow Yussuf wasn’t able to get a touch on the ball.
Hall-Johnson was looking extremely dangerous in the right-wing back position and was able to burst into the right-hand side of the Dover box. He was able to pull-back a ball for the oncoming Jordan Ponticelli, whose effort across the goal was blocked on the line by Will De Havilland in the 17th minute.
Dover had started to amount some attacks, but it was Wrexham with the first shot on target in the game, as Young came beaming out of nowhere and pile-drived a shot from 35 yards out. Keeper Yussuf Mersin was able to steady himself and take the ball comfortably, after a disconcerting bounce in front of him in the 25th minute.
Sloppy defending on a Dover corner saw the ball eventually fall to Ade Azeez, who took his time controlling the ball, but was still able to fizz a shot in which whizzed past Lainton’s crossbar, with 30 minutes on the clock.
Hall Johnson was scaring the Dover defenders into submission and this was evident in the 32nd minute when he made a piercing run into the box from the wing and slammed the ball home on his weaker left-foot to give the lead to Wrexham.
Dover attempted to bounce back straight away, as Ahkeem Rose was set through on goal. Lainton came rushing out and Rose was able to toe the ball around Lainton and scuff a shot towards goal, but Theo Vassell came flying in to block the ball from the Wrexham goal.
Jay Harris was unsurprisingly booked for a challenge, which saw Jack Munns get another opportunity to deliver a ball into the Wrexham box. The free kick was beautifully flicked on by Rose and somehow ballooned past Lainton into the Wrexham net. Even Fiacre Kelleher’s big frame could not prevent the header from crossing the line, as Dover levelled the score just before half time.
Half time was called by referee Peter Gibbons, with the scores level at 1-1 and deservedly so for Dover Athletic.
Once again, Ponticelli was hanging on the edge of the Dover box and found the ball bobbling over to him. Unable to bring the ball down, the Wrexham striker fired a half volley towards Mersin in goal, but it was straight down the throat of the keeper in the 49th minute.
Dover were starting to knock on the door in early proceedings of the second half, as midfielder Ryan Hanson fired a looping volley narrowly wide of the Wrexham post in the 57th minute.
The hour mark had arrived and center back Kelleher was able to bring Wrexham another lead. A ball was floated in, for which he glanced a header towards goal slower than the A55 during rush-hour, but the incredibly tall Mersin somehow failed to stop the ball from bobbling into the bottom corner.
Wrexham’s intention was not to sit back and defend their lead, but to kill the game off with another goal. Hall Johnson whipped in a vicious ball, which was smashed upwards of the bar from a couple of yards out by defender Spencer-Adams. The resulting play saw Yussuf smartly turn his man in the box and fire a shot towards Mersin’s near-post, but the keeper pushed the ball wide for a corner.
The Wrexham pressure on Dover was increasing now, as Young looked to curl an effort towards Mersin’s top corner, but the Dover man was easily able to pluck the ball out of the air in the 72nd minute.
Wrexham finally had their clear-cut chance to finish off the game, as Jarvis went through on goal. The young trickster tried to go around the keeper, but Mersin was wise to the midfielder’s aim and blocked off the pathway, which saw a running Hall-Johnson pick up the ball on the edge of the box and drill the ball wide of an empty goal in the 81st minute.
Deep into stoppage time, Mersin was far out of his goal ready to pump the ball field. Substitute Thomas was on hand to apply mass pressure to the keeper, who fumbled and miss-controlled the ball, allowing Thomas to challenge for the ball and run through on goal from the angle. A combination of persistency and desperation saw Mersin tackle Thomas to the floor giving the referee no other option than to award a penalty.
Young was the outright set-piece specialist for Wrexham, and he stepped up to calmly slot the penalty home in the 90+5th minute to claim all three points for Wrexham.
Wrexham: (5-3-2): Lainton (GK), Hall-Johnson. Vassell, Kelleher, Horsfield, Davies, Harris (C), Young, Jarvis (Rutherford 90+1’), Ponticelli, Yussuf (Thomas 90+1’)
Subs not used: Dibble (GK), Durrell, Redmond
Dover: (5-2-2-1): Mersin (GK), Wood, Gobern, De Havilland, Rose, Munns, Bramble, Ransom, Azeez, Spencer-Adams (Collins 77’), Hanson (Cumberbatch 82’)
Subs not used: Smith (GK), Wratten, Musa
Referee: Peter Gibbons
Wrexham Bookings: Ponticelli 26’ (foul), Harris 42’ (foul), Young 73’ (foul), Davies 90+2’ (foul)
Dover Bookings: Hanson 25’ (foul), Gobern 85’ (foul), Mersin 90+5’ (foul)