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Cheers all round for Dragons' win

Agood afternoon all round for Wrexham as they recorded a second successive league victory, extended their unbeaten run to four matches and saw the majority of their fellow relegation battlers slipping up elsewhere.

A good afternoon all round for Wrexham as they recorded a second successive league victory, extended their unbeaten run to four matches and saw the majority of their fellow relegation battlers slipping up elsewhere.

However, Racecourse manager Denis Smith has been in the game long enough not to get carried away by the moment. Within minutes of the final whistle he was bringing his players and the fans back down to earth by pointing out that there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done before second division safety is assured.

But he was also correct in his assessment that this was a big result for the Dragons who, for probably the first time this season, took three points from a side generally considered to be title contenders at the start of the season.

That augurs well for the coming few weeks, which sees visits to Queens Park Rangers and Brighton, followed by another difficult home match against Tranmere Rovers.

Nevertheless, in their current mood and with a full squad of players available, Wrexham can go forward with a confidence that has never been far below the surface but is now being reinforced by points in the bag.

Was it not only a fortnight ago that they surrendered a 2-0 lead in the final 20 minutes of their match against Swindon Town? On Saturday, in almost identical circumstances, they defended with a great deal of composure, soaked up Wigan's increasingly desperate pressure and even went close to increasing the margin of their victory. But if it was a satisfying afternoon for Smith, it was one of frustration for Latics' boss Paul Jewell as his side fell to a third defeat in four outings, despite controlling the game for long spells.

"I can't believe we've lost, because we dominated it, but we were done by two set-pieces," he said. "Three defeats in four games is a bad run, but there are a lot of games left and time to put it right."

A month ago, Wigan were in with an outside chance of pushing for the play-offs but their sudden slump has set alarm bells ringing. "If we are not careful we are going to find ourselves down in there," added Jewell.

"We have to start winning games again. We should have won today and I'm sure Wrexham can't believe how they won it. We had so many opportunities and good situations but we could not make the right decisions.

"But even if you don't take the chances, you still have to defend and we didn't do that well either. If we had had a goalscorer there today we would have won the game, but that's why they are so special and so expensive. It's not something you can coach and, while we have some good players, but we don't have a fox in the box, as they say.

"It's a cause for concern but they are hard to find. We have got five strikers on the books, so we can't give up on them. But once it was 2-0 we had to chase the game and I still can't believe they've won.

"They had one chance early on and a couple late on when we were chasing the game but all I can remember is us getting behind them on both wings, balls flashing across the box and a couple of good saves from their goalkeeper.

But for all the good possession we had, he didn't have much to do."

But Marius Rovde's first clean sheet for his new club was as much to do with the application shown by his team-mates in what were particularly trying circumstances during the opening 45 minutes.

A gusting wind at Wigan's back reinforced their momentum and, as Smith later observed, Wrexham had to defend from the front, with even Craig Faulconbridge spending as much time in his own penalty area as at the other end of the field.

Apart from a third minute chance, when Michael Blackwood stabbed the ball against the legs of Wigan 'keeper, John Filan, the home side were forced on to the back foot as Gary Teale, Peter Kennedy and Lee McCulloch ran the show.

Raiding effectively down both flanks, the visitors created several promising openings but some wayward finishing caused few problems for Rovde, who seems to be growing in confidence with every game he plays, following a long spell on the sidelines at Ayr United.

And Wrexham survived the torrid opening spell to take the lead after 19 minutes. Ferguson curled a free-kick to the far post where the unmarked Faulconbridge met the ball first-time to send a looping volley beyond Filan and into the roof of the net.

In recent weeks, the Dragons have found it difficult to defend their advantage, usually conceding an equaliser in short order, but Wigan, for all their fury, could not hit the target. Kennedy drove a free-kick inches too high, McCulloch fired wide after good work by Teale and Tony Dinning also went close with a shot from 25 yards.

It was not until the 44th minute that the visitors found their range but Rovde responded to another Dinning effort with a superb save, pushing the ball away for a corner. And when Wigan came forward again, Steve Roberts recovered from an initial slip to make what, in hindsight, was a potential match-winning tackle on Andy Liddell as he bore down on goal.

Another turning point went in Wrexham's favour after 57 minutes when McCulloch unleashed a fierce effort which cannoned off the foot of the post as Wrexham struggled to turn back the tide of blue shirts. Smith's response was to pull off Hector Sam and Blackwood, replacing them with Carlos Edwards and Lee Trundle, and they made an immediate impact, holding and running with the ball to give team-mates the opportunity to move further up the field.

And Wigan, for all their pressure, were found wanting at the back again after 67 minutes when a Steve Thomas free-kick was lashed home from close-range by the unmarked Dennis Lawrence, for his second goal in as many matches.

With the wind now in their favour, the home side hardly looked back and there was rarely any sign of the nervousness that had seen them regularly pegged back in their previous three outings. Teale, whose quality shone throughout, had one final effort which Rovde flicked to safety over the crossbar but Wrexham had the scent in their nostrils of a third success this season against their visitors.

A trademark turn and shot from Trundle was driven straight at Filan and Thomas jinked to the byline to feed Faulconbridge, whose near-post effort was well-saved by the 'keeper, as the Dragons saw out the game with a swagger in their step.

WREXHAM: Rovde; Whitley, Roberts, Lawrence, Holmes; Phillips, Ferguson, Thomas; Sam (Edwards, 58), Faulconbridge, Blackwood (Trundle,58). Subs: Rogers, Pejic, Sharp. WIGAN ATHLETIC: Filan; De Vos, De Zeeuw, McMillan, Croft; Teale, Kennedy, McCulloch, Dinning; Liddell (Dalglish, 80), Brannan (Haworth, 80). Subs: Green, Nolan, Mitchell. Booked: Wrexham's Thomas and Whitley; Wigan's McMillan, McCulloch, Brannan and Dinning.

Referee: Alan Butler (Sutton-in-Ashfield). Attendance: 4,153.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
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