By Tom Barlow
JJ Hooper scored on his debut as Wrexham came from behind to win their opening Vanarama National League match of the season against Barrow at the Racecourse.
Hooper scored the equaliser and set up Bobby Grant's winner to inspire the Wrexham comeback, after Barrow took an early lead through Josh Granite.
The Wrexham front three created havoc throughout the game for the Barrow defence, which will certainly please Wrexham fans this early on in the season.
The Reds began their National League campaign with an unchanged starting 11 from that which started the narrow friendly defeat to Crewe Alexandra.
Manager Bryan Hughes decided to stick with four defenders, after trialling the three/five at the back formation.
New signings Devonte Redmond, Hooper and loanee Mark Harris started the game, hoping to make an impression on the home fans.
Wrexham’s attacking intent was clear from the off, with Shaun Pearson and Harris linking well to trouble the Barrow defence.
The first chance of the game came ten minutes in, as Barrow’s Dior Angus’ shot was smartly blocked by captain Pearson.
Grant conceded a foul on the edge of the Wrexham box 12 minutes in, however, and the resulting free kick was headed into the bottom corner by Granite.
The 17th minute saw chaos again in the Wrexham area, with Mark Carrington going down, with play scrambling on around him before the hosts cleared their lines.
After some heavy pressure by the Bluebirds, Wrexham began to dictate possession 20 minutes in. A lofted ball over the top to Hooper saw him clean through on goal, but the keeper’s pressure forced him wide, and James Jennings’ resulting cross was cleared.
Harris was the next to have a run at goal, after a clever through ball from Grant, and his inverted shot was deflected wide for a throw in the 25th.
A minute later, Wrexham had a strong appeal for a penalty as Pearson tussled with Jason Taylor, but referee Nick Hulme gave the foul to the away side, much to the captain’s dismay.
Just after the half-hour mark, Carrington delivered a low cross to Hooper in the box and his effort was scuffed wide.
The Bluebirds were struggling to get on the front foot at this point, as Wrexham were dominating play.
Patrick Brough countered from a Wrexham corner in the 38th minute, however, leaving Wrexham wide open. Fortunately, Christian Dibble was on hand to smother Angus’ shot.
Ex-Wrexham man Scott Quigley then failed to connect firmly on his shot in the 40th minute, after some neat play in the area.
The 44th minute saw Hooper’s header somehow trickle wide after a delicate, inverted cross from Luke Summerfield.
But Wrexham found themselves 1-0 down at half time, even after creating some good chances in the first period.
Three minutes into the second half and Hooper equalised for Wrexham. Summerfield’s free kick found Jennings at the back post, laying it on a plate for Hooper, who headed in, despite Joel Dixon getting a hand to it.
Wrexham pressure continued in the 54th minute as Harris’ shot from outside the box was tipped over by the Barrow keeper.
Harris was almost through on goal after a lofted ball in the 58th minute, but he was brought down by Brad Barry, who was then booked by the referee. Summerfield’s resulting free kick sailed narrowly wide.
Wrexham finally took the lead through Grant, just after the hour mark. Brilliant hold up play by Hooper allowed him to dribble past the Barrow defenders and lift the ball to the back post, where Grant rose up well to head in.
A corner in the 66th presented Lawlor with a header, which landed on his counterpart Jennings' head. The reflex header sailed just over the crossbar.
Barrow’s manager Ian Evatt decided to make a double substitution after the goal, with Byron Harrison and Oliver Greaves coming on for Quigley and Hardcastle.
Grant began to run at Barrow’s back four, but was brought down by Brough in a sliding challenge on 69 minutes. He was thus booked and Josh Kay too for dissent.
Barrow substitute Greaves then found an unmarked and unpressured Taylor with 15 minutes remaining, whose shot was pinballed around the box before being cleared.
Wrexham made their first substitute of the game a minute later, with Paul Rutherford coming on for debutant Redmond.
Hooper was again involved in play in the 77th minute, with his through ball finding Harris, who shot off balance and therefore over the bar.
Barrow’s keeper denied Hooper a second goal after a smart save, and Rutherford’s rebound goal was flagged for offside with five minutes remaining.
Jennings was booked in the 91st minute for a mistimed tackle. Grant was then booked a minute later for a deliberate handball.
Substitute Leighton McIntosh decided to get in among the action in the 96th minute, but blazed a 20-yard effort over the bar.
Wrexham stood firm at the other end, however, to ensure they kicked off the new season with all three points.
Wrexham AFC: (4-2-3-1): Dibble, Jennings, Pearson © , Lawlor, Carrington, Summerfield, Young, Redmond (Rutherford 76’), Grant, Harris (McIntosh 86), Hooper (Oswell 90)
Subs not used: Szczepaniak, Chambers
Barrow AFC: (4-1-4-1): Dixon, Barry, Granite, Hird, Brough, Taylor, Hardcastle (Greaves 66’), Rooney, Angus, Quigley (Harrison 66’), Kay (Hindle 71’)
Subs not used: Brown, Dyson,
Referee: Rick Hulme
Wrexham AFC Bookings: Jennings 89 (foul), Grant 90+2 (UGC)
Barrow AFC Bookings: Barry 58’ (foul), Brough 66’ (foul), Kay 66’ (dissent), Evett (manager, dissent 86)