Don’t Look Back In Anger
- We look at an underlying factor why the Barrow defeat provoked mass outrage amongst Reds fans
- The captain conundrum — who fits the bill?
- Why Maidstone could be a banana skin
There was so much more to my ire after the Terror of Tuesday Night.
I had to gather and compose my thoughts and figure out why I, and indeed so many other Reds fans had blew such a huge gasket in the aftermath of that abysmal, abject annihilation.
First off, it was wholly unexpected. It was only our ninth loss of the campaign and just the third home league reversal after Dover (0–1) in January and Leyton Orient (0-2) last November. However, in direct contrast to the nature of the Barrow debacle we deserved something from both those games.
We expected a reaction after Bryan Hughes tasted defeat for the first time as Wrexham boss in last Saturday’s cruel defeat at Orient.
We got one — a very poor show which incurred the furious wrath of the disbelieving four-and-a-half thousand punters who braved the bitter bite of Storm Gareth swirling outside as another brewed within the ground.
Many of them streamed out of the ground at half-time knowing full well the chances of Wrexham matching, let alone overturning a three-goal deficit were slim to none-existent.
It was hard to take any positives from it. Luke Young was probably the only one to emerge with a modicum of credit as he tried to forget the scoreline in order to drive the team to get something from the game.
The defending was sub-school boy, however calls for Kevin Roberts to never play for us again are simply nonsense.
Yes he was run ragged and isn’t quite up to speed after injury, but to cut him adrift after one really, really bad game…well, if that’s the case then you have to apply that thinking to most of the others who played on the night.
Back victim Shaun Pearson is always going to be a huge loss. But Tuesday also made it abundently clear how much we rely on and miss Brad Walker and vice-captain Mark Carrington when they are sidelined. Remove any durable, dependable parts from a solid structure and the risk of it crumbling will undoubtedly increase.
And crumble we did. Hughes switched to a 4-4-2 and was rewarded with poor, poor, poo.
The despondency was exacerbated by the feeling of ‘here we go again’ as, in the space of four days Wrexham went from potentially putting a chink of daylight between them and Orient at the summit to casting doubts over their play-off credentials. That’s our Wrexham right there. They tease your tackle before toe-poking you in the balls.
The same self-destruction started to happen around this time last year when Dean Keates gave up the reins to take over the Walsall hot-seat. Under Andy Davies we dropped like Edin Džeko faced with a light summer’s breeze.
So it is no wonder Wrexham fans are getting an unwanted sense of déjà vu as we stumbled to a pair of limp defeats heading into the final eight games.
The green, green grass of home
So, what other factors contributed to my fit of pique?
Maybe we’ve been a little spoilt in recent years. Quite simply we have become accustomed to watching Wrexham hold their own on home soil where defeats are as rare as a pro-WST comment emerging from the cake hole of Dean Saunders.
And when we do lose here it is usually by a narrow margin and accompanied with at least an average effort to get something from it. In short, all is not lost when we are a goal behind. On Tuesday all felt lost when we did and fans’ disbelief soon morphed into rage as Barrow reduced us to a walking football outfit.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not spoilt for home entertainment like Man ‘Citeh’ fans with their star-studded team’s propensity for finding the onion bag, but Wrexham tend not to let us down too badly when they stride onto that lush green baize of LL11 2AH.
After giving Salford a sound 5-1 whooping at Christmas we’ve won four home league games 1-0 in and around those aforementioned two narrow losses to Dover and East 17.
Prior to Barrow the last time any side plundered three league goals at the Cae Ras was Maidstone United, 1-3 on April 14, 2017. The only other team to win by a three goal margin at our place the same season was Macclesfield (0-3).
No side managed such a rare feat in the 2017/18.
You have to go back to January 2015 for our last true outright Racecourse dicking, Telford United strolling to a 4-0 hammering in a game which saw the first half dismissal of Connor Jennings.
Two weeks earlier we were daring to dream of an FA Cup upset at Stoke City before proceeding to stick eight goals past Stockport County over two games in the FA Trophy. Then, the Telford tonking. Football eh.
Sadly, it seems so much easier to find fault with people and exploit it than it is to lavish praise and sustain it.
You could have taken your pick from most of the starting XI humiliated by Barrow and hung them out to dry.
Shorn of his captain and vice-captain Bryan Hughes had to find someone to give the armband to. James Jennings took it, probably willingly as he doesn’t shirk away from a challenge.
It was a decision which backfired on the night as the third choice skipper could not cajole his teammates to stop the rot when it was so evident early on that we were all at sea.
Huge respect to Jennings for his brutally honest post-match assessment — it was impossible to sugar coat and he knew it.
“We lacked desire, lacked character, everything”, he said.
Unlike Pearson Jennings is not the imposing giant at the back with the gravelly bark that strikes a little bit of fear and demands better from his troops.
That is not to say the players did not play for Jennings on Tuesday — they were looking for some inspiration and guidance but he was thrown in the deep end and asked to fill giant boots. A seemingly impossible task.
Assuming Pearson fails to return for Saturday (however, all noises point to the big man reclaiming his rightful place in the heart of the back four) does Hughes stick with Jennings as armband wearer or plump for someone else?
From a purely observational point of view it is tough to work out who can call the shots with gusto and step up to the plate.
Personally I think Rob Lainton would be a good shout. He’s a leading contender for the Player of the Season gong because of his performance levels.
He is consistent, commanding, vocal and alert. He is a calming and reassuring presence, not just for those in front of him but for us in the stands. Best Reds goalkeeper since Chris Maxwell? That’s one to discuss around the fruity.
Bryan Hughes this week told the local press that “we need a few more leaders out there”.
One thing is for sure, there will be no place to hide on Saturday as the Reds try and make amends for an anomaly of an arse-kicking.
Relegation looms large for Maidstone United who will be keen to address their current woes on the road.
They only won one (2-1 at Dagenham) and lost the next four of their first five road trips of the season, but then secured back-to-back 1-0 wins at Braintree and Aldershot.
The Shots have also pocketed maximum points at Barnet, Borehamwood and Hartlepool, the latter being their last league away win on January 5.
Since then they have lost all four of their away league games, conceding 12 goals without reply.
They are 11 points from safety but in John Still, their third manager of the season they have a wise old head at the wheel.
In five National League meetings with them we’ve only triumphed once — 1-0 almost 12 months ago.
With Leyton Orient distracted by FA Trophy action for the next two weekends Wrexham need to turn the screw before the O’s host AFC Fylde on March 26.
Pray for Pearson. Pray for goals.
*top pic — Ian Cooper (@icphotography) . All other pics nabbed with good intent and used with gracious thanks*