Well, last night was a bit good wasn’t it? A triumph built on grit, determination, poise, swagger and an unflinching belief that victory would be earned despite another red card drama.
Despite an indifferent start to the new season this new-look Wrexham side are showing plenty of signs of promise where it matters — the business end of the pitch.
For too long and too often we’ve watched our team huff and puff to create any sort of meaningful chances. That seems to have changed just four games in.
Oh how we’ve longed for a striker in the mould of Danny Wright and/or Jake Speight — strong, direct and full of desire. Step foward JJ Hooper. The Reds faithful love him already because he is the exact type of player we’ve been lacking for what feels like an eternity.
It’s all very well Shaun Pearson being consistently amazing for us every season but there are only so many times you can celebrate a clearance header or crunching tackle with gusto. We need goals. Well-crafted or bundled in off the arse of a hapless defender, it doesn’t really matter as long as it results in joyous limb carnage.
Hooper was a handful in the superb come-from-behind opening day 2-1 win over Barrow, netting one and turning provider for the other.
Yes, Wrexham conspired to chuck away two points at Borehamwood before yet more late drama saw defeat at Dover Athletic. However….we scored in those games too.
And on Tuesday against the early paces Wrexham confirmed that the toothless have become the ruthless. Well, in a manner of speaking. The 1–0 scoreline is not a true reflection of how good Wrexham actually played. The standard of fare on show in the first 15 minutes was as exhilarating as any Wrexham team have produced since dropping out of the Football League.
They were on it from the get-go. Okay, they didn’t get their rewards for their early efforts and some might cry “same old Wrexham”. But any of the 5k Reds inside the Racecourse will testify that we now appear to be a different animal, one starting to bare its teeth rather than circle and stare at its prey.
Whilst Hooper appears to have all the attributes a striker needs to bag 20 in this godforsaken league what about those of Mark Harris? The on-loan whippet took his tally to three goals in four outings with a lovely clipped winner against the Shaymen, our first win over them since 2015. He caused chaos down the flank all night — speed, low centre of gravity and wonderful vision. And we’ve got him for an entire season!
Tuesday also saw a first clean sheet for Christian Dibble and boy, did he earn it. He made two terrific saves to thwart Halifax after they weathered the early onslaught. He gathered with composure throughout and is clearly thriving from an extended run of games.
Patience is a virtue and he has it in abundance as he was reduced to a bit-part role last campaign behind player-of-the-season Rob Lainton. When Lainton is fully fit again Bryan Hughes will have a big call to make — restore the club’s no.1 back into the starting XI or stick with Dibble? It’s a nice problem to have.
Talking about problems…discipline. Bobby Grant saw red at Dover after kicking out/tripping up the home keeper. The Reds boss said Grant reacted to the keeper throwing an arm out at him, however he paid for his petulance after starting the season a player reborn. Could and should have been avoided.
As for Jake Lawlor’s dismissal against Halifax…well, he definitely took one for the team. Tobi Sho Silva rinsed him for pace and Lawlor decided to make contact with him as he raced towards Dibble. It may have been minimal, Shaun Pearson may have narrowed the angle enough to be deemed the covering defender but the referee had already made up his mind. Clever? Cynical? Who cares. The dismissal galvanised the 10 men further, Harris struck the winner and we all scuttled off into the night discussing travel plans for Notts County on Sunday. Someone tell the breathless Luke Young though. I think he’s still running around the pitch.