LEE JONES honed his striking instincts with both his side's goals to give a strong Wrexham reserve line-up a hard-fought draw at Macclesfield Town yesterday afternoon.
The 30-year-old striker, who has not started a Second Division match since the end of October, pressed his claims for a first-team recall under the watchful eye of manager Denis Smith.
But Wrexham were forced to hang on for the final quarter of the match after youngster Levi Mackin was shown a red card for deliberate handball - his second sending-off within 24 hours.
Nevertheless, the Racecourse boss declared himself reasonably satisfied with the performance, picking out the goalscorer and midfield man Steve Thomas for particular praise.
"Lee's already scored a few goals before picking up a bit of an injury, which set him back a little, but he's looking very sharp again," said Smith. "Both of them were great finishes and I was very pleased to see him in that frame of mind.
"Steve Thomas also had another good game for us."
Although striker Chris Armstrong was unavailable through illness and midfielder Darren Ferguson was prevented from playing because his Football League suspension was for violent conduct, the visitors had seven members of the senior Racecourse squad in action.
Macclesfield enjoyed the majority of early possession, but were unable to get close enough to test teenage goalkeeper Danny Evans, who had played for Wrexham's youth team at Watford the previous evening.
The Dragons should have gone ahead in the 11th minute when Dylan Owen beat the home side's offside trap. The youngster, though, opted to try and chip Dean Delaney, who was well-placed to hold the shot.
Seven minutes later Jimmy McNulty's probing ball reached Lee Jones, who fed Shaun Holmes, but the Northern Ireland international got underneath the ball.
Macclesfield also had chances and Evans did well to get a hand on Colin Little's shot, turning it for a corner, before the same player drove a more inviting opportunity wide of the Wrexham goal. And the visitors' defence was caught sleeping in the 47th minute when Michael Carr was allowed a free shot from the edge of the penalty area, which rebounded off the bar.
It was former Liverpool man Jones, the Dragons' leading scorer, who finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute with a finelyjudged run to meet Craig Morgan's pass before lifting the ball beyond Delaney, but Macclesfield were level within two minutes, Little firing home a superb free-kick from 20 yards.
There was no suppressing Jones, who needed only five minutes to double his tally, slicing through the home team's back four to turn in a slide-rule pass from Thomas.
Wrexham found themselves reduced to 10 men 16 minutes from time when Mackin was sent off for handling a goalbound header from Mark Haddrell before John Miles stroked home the subsequent penalty.
Smith had a lot of sympathy for the teenager, saying; "The lad's saying the ball hit him in the stomach and that he didn't handle the ball. It was disappointing we didn't win the game but the penalty and the sending-off meant we had to hang on a bit towards the end."