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Sick Dragons let home side off the hook

WREXHAM manager Denis Smith was spitting feathers on Saturday evening after watching his struggling Second Division side dominate the game for long spells against opponents Colchester United only to come away empty-handed from Layer Road.

WREXHAM manager Denis Smith was spitting feathers on Saturday evening after watching his struggling Second Division side dominate the game for long spells against opponents Colchester United only to come away empty-handed from Layer Road.

The home side, who are in the top half of the table, were out-played for long spells but they rode their luck and hung on long enough to eventually settle the outcome with a goal 12 minutes from time.

And if Wrexham are to be relegated at the end of the season, they will look back at games such as this for the cause of their downfall. United were under the cosh from the kick-off, scored in their first attack and were then forced backwards again until Welsh under-21 international, Steve Thomas scored a spectacular 28th-minute equaliser.

That goal should have been the springboard for a rare away win but Wrexham, and Trinidad international Hector Sam, in particular, could not deliver the knockout blow in a scrappy but evenly-contested second half.

"The lads are sick and it's been typical of our season so far," said Thomas afterwards.

"It's the same old story, we've played well yet we are coming away with nothing from a match where we deserved at least a point.

"There comes a time when it's all about points and it's about time we played badly and picked something up. Sometimes I think we go out believing we are going to lose but we need to start getting points, and quickly.

"Overall, during the whole game I felt we were the better team and I think their manager has just said the same thing. But it's not about performances any more, it's points we need.

"We need to find a bit of belief as a team from somewhere and start getting them because time is running out."

Defeat took the gloss off the midfielder's third goal of the season, a venomous shot from outside the penalty area, with Thomas adding: "I was happy with my goal but it doesn't mean anything now because we've been beaten. When I do score, it seems to be from 25 yards or so, and it would be nice to score from a tap-in occasionally.

"From a personal point of view, it's nice to get on the scoresheet but it would have been much better if we had gone on to win the game."

Considering the match was in doubt until little more than three hours before the kick-off, finally being given the go-ahead after a second inspection, the Layer Road pitch was in really superb condition and Wrexham made the most of it with an enterprising first-half display of attacking football.

Twice in the opening five minutes, Sam found himself in good positions but goalkeeper Andy Woodman made comfortable saves and Michael Blackwood showed early promise with a run and cross that was just too high for Andy Morrell.

But it was the home side who went ahead after 12 minutes when Graham Barrett surged down the left and slid the ball into the middle where Micky Stockwell applied the vital touch, despite the close attentions of both Steve Roberts and Kristian Rogers.

From the restart, Sam did very well to make space for a cross, but there was no-one in support and Wrexham squandered another good opportunity after 15 minutes. Again Sam was involved, picking up the ball on halfway to run at a stretched defence, but with Morrell and Wayne Phillips in support, he went on alone to drive the ball straight at Woodman.

Colchester relieved the pressure when Barrett again used his pace to good effect, but his attempted chip was never going to dip under the crossbar and Wrexham drove forward once more, Shaun Holmes hitting a long-range effort just wide.

Blackwood's skill on the ball finally conjured up an equaliser on 28 minutes when he jinked his way through to the edge of the penalty area. Finding his progress blocked, he laid the ball off to Thomas who struck it first-time with a power and precision that gave Woodman no chance.

Ironically, the goal sparked United's first good spell of the game, which was encouraged by a touch of the jitters from Rogers. One mis-timed punch put the Wrexham defence under unnecessary pressure and the 'keeper then spilled what was little more than a routine cross from Karl Duguid, but the ball was fortunately hacked away to safety by Roberts.

The Dragons' vulnerability to crosses from the flanks was exposed in the 49th minute by Alan White's delivery from the right, which picked out the diving Scott McGleish for a header he steered wide, but United's defence too was not watertight.

A well-intentioned pass from Thomas gave Morrell just too much to do as Woodman raced off his line and Sam and Blackwood combined well before Blackwood's shot was deflected for a corner.

United danger man Barrett was denied after 62 minutes, Rogers making a fine full-length save at the expense of a corner, and Roberts survived a hand-ball appeal under pressure from McGleish before another good opening was squandered by the visitors.

Blackwood did the spadework to get beyond the defence but, with Morrell hovering in space, he went for goal and was denied by the competent Woodman, who then came to his side's rescue again, in somewhat contentious circumstances.

Sam intercepted a poor back pass and knocked the ball past the goalkeeper before seeming to lose his balance. Wrexham claimed afterwards that Woodman held the striker's ankle but referee Keith Hill obviously did not see it and the chance was gone.

The injustice, if that were such, was magnified within three minutes when Colchester went ahead for the second time.

A McGleish cross was chested down by substitute Adrian Coote for Bobby Bowry to drill a low shot past Rogers.

The final 12 minutes were played almost exclusively in the home side's half with Morrell curling a shot inches wide, substitute Scott Fitzgerald making a timely clearance from Holmes and, with the last kick of the match, Sam rounding off another mazy run with a tame effort that could not have been more comfortable for Woodman.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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