On location in Wrexham, Wales: Saturday’s match between Wrexham AFC and Swindon Town was incredulous. The Red Dragons, down 1-4 at halftime, looked dead and buried, but after an unbelievable series of comebacks in the second half, Phil Parkinson’s men came alive to finish the game 5-5 at the death.
On a picture perfect day at Wrexham with the sun breaking through the clouds and a temperature of 72 degrees fahrenheit, the scene was set for League Two newcomers Wrexham to face Swindon, a team that last played in the Premier League in 1994.
Captaining Swindon was Charlie Austin, the former Premier League striker who joined The Robins in December after playing for a short time in Australia. His eye for a goal caused Wrexham so many problems during an enthralling 90 minutes.
Swindon and Wrexham, a tremendous advert for League Two football
Swindon, no doubt, was the better side. Michael Flynn’s team played an attackng brand of possession-based football. The side’s confidence on the ball caused Wrexham innumerable problems. So much so that Swindon must have been wondering how they didn’t win the match after hitting the crossbar, and seeing the ball bounce agonizingly close past the post.
In a thoroughly entertaining game, Swindon showed Wrexham how much quality there is in League Two. If The Robins aren’t sniffing around promotion places at the end of the season, I’ll be shocked. In reality, both teams showed how good the quality level is at a League Two level. The football is fast paced and entertaining to watch.
Worryingly for Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson, Wrexham continue to leak goals and are making too many mistakes at the back. Swindon ripped Wrexham apart in the first half with Austin being involved in the first two goals. Wrexham pulled one back after man of the match Jake Bickerstaff showed some individual skill to dribble past the defenders and slot the ball into the goal to make it 1-2.
But soon after Bickerstaff scored, Swindon found the net two more times to make it 1-4 before halftime.
Second half magic
For Wrexham to be so poor in the first half, Parkinson’s halftime team talk must have lit a fire under the team. Soon afterwards, in the 51st minute, it was Wrexham who pulled one back after Elliot Lee to make it 2-4. Four minutes later, Wrexham narrowed the scoreline to 3-4. Scored by James Jones, it was Wrexham’s best goal of the day after patient buildup play found Jones in the box.
Then, what seemed like the killer blow happened. Swindon’s Dan Kemp scored a goal from a breakaway in front of the crowd of 10,258.
Losing 3-5, it all felt too familiar for Wrexham supporters from the opening game of the season when the team lost by the same scoreline against MK Dons.
But Wrexham was given a late lifeline after scoring a penalty kick in the 92nd minute to make it 4-5.
The impossible couldn’t happen. But it did.
With a goalmouth scramble after the ball had hit the freekick wall, Wrexham’s Elliot Lee kicked the ball into the back of the net to send the Wrexham fans into deliriium. Five, five. Who could have believed it?
Wrexham – Swindon parting thoughts
Wrexham’s first half performance should be a wakeup call to Parkinson and the club. Even though key players Paul Mullin, Jordan Davies, and James McClean are injured, the team needs to adapt its style of play to better handle the opponents in League Two. For instance, Wrexham in that first half was too one dimensional, playing route one football to target man Ollie Palmer who would knock balls down to the other forwards.
Similarly, Wrexham is not playing the free-flowing football as much as we saw from them last season. League Two is a big step up from the National League. As such, what I saw Saturday was a team lacking in confidence, playing a kick and rush style of play. Swindon, on the other hand, had the majority of the possession with creative midfielder Saidou Khan playing a fantastic game. That’s what Wrexham is missing — a midfield general who can be the fulcrum of their game.
We keep hearing the line that Wrexham’s fairytale story is better than a Hollywood script. However, Wrexham can’t keep pulling off miracle comebacks every week. Much tightening is needed in defense as well as more experience in midfield, and a different approach up front. Paul Mullin’s return will certainly help a lot, but Wrexham needs to dip into the transfer market to strengthen the team before this window ends.
Still, though, that shouldn’t take away from the incredible fightback by Wrexham on Saturday afternoon. That fight will go a long way to rescuing valuable points throughout the entire season. Long may it continue.
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