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Wrexham 2, Rochdale 5

WREXHAM'S unbeaten start to the season was dismantled in spectacular fashion by Rochdale at the Racecourse yesterday.

WREXHAM'S unbeaten start to the season was dismantled in spectacular fashion by Rochdale at the Racecourse yesterday.

The Lancashire visitors thoroughly deserved their victory, which was orchestrated by playermanager Paul Simpson, but the talking point of the afternoon was a dubious first- half penalty awarded by referee Paul Rejer that halted a potential Dragons' fightback in its tracks.

Racecourse manager Smith would have warned his players beforehand to beware Simpson's cultured left foot, but his words obviously fell on deaf ears as the veteran midfield man scored twice and made the other two of his side's four first-half goals.

The home defence, which had looked reasonably secure at Macclesfield 48 hours previously, appeared hesitant every time they were put under any sort of pressure in that opening spell and not even the boost of an early goal by Steve Thomas was enough to settle their nerves.

Wrexham's Lee Trundle, who went close after 10 minutes with a first-time effort that scraped the foot of a post, was involved in the build-up with Jim Whitley before Carlos Edwards slid the ball into Thomas, who beat goalkeeper Neil Edwards with a crisp, low shot after 13 minutes.

But that lead lasted only four minutes as the visitors simply went into overdrive.

Lee McEvilly reacted quickest when Simpson's free-kick was only partially cleared to drive the equaliser into the roof of the net. Then a minute later only a fine tackle by Whitley prevented Simpson from a one-on-one against Andy Dibble.

But the Rochdale boss had only to wait until the 22nd minute to register his own name on the scoresheet, with a curling free-kick from wide on the Wrexham left, which deceived everyone before creeping into the far corner of the net. And the home side fell further behind two minutes later when another Simpson setpiece - this time a corner - again caused mayhem before central defender Gareth Griffith blasted it past the helpless Dibble.

The entertainment value could not be faulted and clearly there were more goals in the offing. So it was no surprise when Wrexham looked to have clawed their way back into contention eight minutes before the break as Andy Morrell struck a fabulous first-time cross-shot beyond Edwards to close the gap.

But Rochdale drove upfield again and when McEvilly was fouled on the edge of the penalty area by Dennis Lawrence, referee Paul Rejer stunned everyone in the ground by awarding a penalty, even though the offence was at least two yards outside the box. Simpson ignored the furore, which saw the Wrexham defender booked, to send Dibble the wrong way from the spot.

There was still time for Trundle to be denied a goal when his shot came off the crossbar and the fierce follow-up from Shaun Holmes was superbly turned away by Edwards at the expense of a corner.

The visitors showed no inclination to sit on their lead as the second half opened and Matt Doughty's deep cross deceived Dibble, bouncing back into the danger area off a post before being cleared by Lawrence.

And Rochdale were rewarded for their adventure with a second penalty on 59 minutes when Shaun Pejic was adjudged to have barged McEvilly in the back. There was less cause for Wrexham to complain this time and Simpson completed his hat-trick with aplomb.

Morrell went close to reducing the deficit after 62 minutes, heading a Darren Ferguson corner against the top of the bar and substitute Dan Bennett headed wide from another corner as Wrexham stepped up the tempo in a bid to rescue their unbeaten record.

Paul Edwards, who had replaced Holmes, brought another fine save from the Rochdale keeper, who then had a much easier stop after Morrell turned well in the area but was unable to get any power into his effort on goal.

The former Welsh under-21 international had come into his own during the second half and he was in the right place again to beat away Hector Sam's shot as the home side battled in vain to salvage some pride. A great tackle by MacCauley also robbed Morrell of another opportunity before the Rochdale goalkeeper made a last-minute save under the crossbar to push away a curling effort from Paul Edwards.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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