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Dan eyes debut

RECENT Racecourse recruit Dan Bennett has been put on standby for his Football League debut in Wrexham's 'must-win' clash with Port Vale this evening.

RECENT Racecourse recruit Dan Bennett has been put on standby for his Football League debut in Wrexham's 'must-win' clash with Port Vale this evening.

The 24-year-old central defender is set to partner Dennis Lawrence at the heart of the Dragons' back four because teenager Shaun Pejic is given a less than 50-50 chance of recovering from a badly bruised thigh.

And Wrexham will also be without goalkeeper Marius Rovde and leftback Shaun Holmes both of whom limped out of Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by Chesterfield.

The trio have joined Brian Carey, Steve Roberts and Martyn Chalk in the treatment room, a situation which gives manager Denis Smith little room for manoeuvre in terms of his team selection during what will be a crucial couple of weeks for the relegation-threatened club.

"Dan Bennett is the obvious replacement for Shaun because other possibilities like Adrian Moody and Craig Morgan are also unavailable through injury and illness," said Smith.

"A couple of weeks ago everything was looking good, we were cruising along and playing well but now, on top of a bad result on Saturday, we've got all these injuries.

"But we have just got to live with it and I've had a chat with one or two individuals after Saturday. I'd like to believe that the performance was a one-off, but we have to remember that we don't have a divine right to beat anyone in the league and Chesterfield have done a similar job on other teams in recent weeks."

Bennett, whose Wrexham outings have so far been confined to the Avon Insurance League, is looking forward to the match. "If I'm selected, I feel ready and up for the challenge," he said.

"I'm feeling quite comfortable about it and after being on the bench for the last couple of games I know what goes on and how to prepare. I guess it will be a step-up from the reserves but I know what to expect and I will do my best.

"I expect there will be a few nerves before the start but this is what I'm here at Wrexham for and obviously I'm looking forward to it."

A Stoke City player for the majority of his career, Smith cares as much about the Potteries' other team as Wrexham fans do about Chester, but, although Port Vale go into tonight's match on the back of two straight defeats, he is taking nothing for granted.

"We don't know how they are going to respond or whether they will be making any changes but it's another fairly local derby for us and we need a result, " he added.

"Despite losing two on the trot, they will still feel they have an outside chance of the play-offs and I'm convinced that any team, including us, is capable of stringing together a good sequence of results, even at this stage of the season."

With another home match against Tranmere Rovers to come on Saturday, Vale captain Matt Carragher holds a similar viewpoint.

Yesterday he said: "The season is nowhere near finished for us. We are bitterly disappointed with what happened last week and the fact that we may be away from relegation means nothing, because we shouldn't be anywhere near the bottom anyway.

"The fact is we should be pushing for the play-offs and while we have any possibility of making it, that's what we need to be striving for every time we go out on the pitch.

"It's going to be extremely difficult now because of last week but we have to believe we can go out there and get back to basics against teams which, for their own reasons, are trying to achieve things at opposite ends of the table."

WREXHAM (probable): Walsh; Whitley, Lawrence, Bennett, Sharp; Phillips, Ferguson, Thomas; Sam, Faulconbridge, Trundle. Subs (from): Rogers, Edwards, Gibson, Russell, Blackwood, Morrell.


David Holmes
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