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View from the Racecourse: A Wrexham insider's view on the derby

Daily Post sports reporter Rob Griffiths answers our questions

Robert Parry-Jones
Wrexham manager Gary Mills

The clock is ticking down and the first cross-border derby of the season is almost upon us.

There is just a point and a place between Chester FC and Wrexham AFC in the National League table to add even more spice.

We know how the Blues are preparing, so how about their opponents?

Wrexham manager Gary Mills needs the points with his side so far failing to look like promotion contenders.

Daily Post sports reporter Rob Griffiths has answered our questions on the burning issues affecting the Dragons.

Here is what he had to say:

Has Wrexham’s poor away form affected the mood in the camp? Or do they feel comfortable enough at the Racecourse to be confident ahead of a home derby?

Rob Griffiths (RG): I think Wrexham will go into the game at the Racecourse in confident mood, especially given they are yet to be beaten at home and have conceded only once in their five games so far.

While their away form is vastly different, I don’t imagine spirits are too low in the camp ahead of the game anyway, even given how they went down to defeat last weekend at Woking.

They say form goes out the window in derbies, home form and away form, but Wrexham have been solid enough at the Racecourse to go into Saturday’s clash feeling confident.

Wrexham players after their 2-0 loss to Woking

How much pressure is Gary Mills under? And what would a derby loss do for his position?

RG: Regardless of whether or not Mills is under any kind of pressure, questions will always be asked of a side if they lose in the derby, even Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United used to admit to feeling under pressure following a derby day defeat to cross-city rivals.

There is a strange atmosphere at the Racecourse this season with fans unhappy at how the team is playing, bizarrely the team were booed off after a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the season, while they were again booed off following a 1-0 win over Sutton United in their last outing at home.

A defeat in Saturday’s derby would only add to the feeling off ill will from a section of the fans.

Does the club still harbour promotion hopes after an indifferent start to the season?

RG: Let's be honest we are only 10 games into the season, and I think the league table is still yet to completely find its level.

Yes Wrexham have made an inauspicious start to the term, certainly when you consider the opening they enjoyed 12-months ago that saw them second in the National League after six games.

Promotion will always be the aim for the Dragons, and while they are nine points behind leaders Dagenham & Redbridge it is still very early on in the season.

Perhaps I am a little ‘glass half full’ at times, but with 36 games remaining in the season – which equates to 108 points – it is still a little early to be writing off hopes.

But by the same token management and players will know they need to up their performance levels if they are to have any realistic chance of breaking into the top five.

Jim Roberts/Arwyn Roberts
Wrexham AFC's Callum Powell, Robbie Evans and Curtis Tilt

Wrexham’s scoring record is a poor one, just nine goals in 10 games, what is going wrong up front?

RG: Essentially it is that their main goalscorer – Jordan White – has been laid up for the last three months with a mystery illness.

White was brought to the club as the Dragons’ main goal threat, a big bullocking forward with a good touch and an eye for goal.

That he has been missing since the middle of pre-season with a mystery illness has severely curtailed the Dragons attacking quality.

Mills worked tirelessly to bring in replacements – Shaun Harrad, Tyler Harvey and Gerry McDonagh (loan) all signed within 48 hours of each other – and have had varying degrees of success.

The biggest issue though has not been up front as such, it has been a lack of creativity in midfield, Wrexham failing to provide much ammunition for the forwards.

Blaine Hudson, Elliott Durrell and Johnny Hunt are all former Dragons. What kind of reception do you expect they will get?

RG: There is no reason to think they’d get anything other than a nice friendly North Wales welcome.

This is the second time Johnny Hunt will have played for Chester at the Racecourse, but he was a great servant to the club during his time and came through the academy ranks.

And he will always be remembered for scoring the winning penalty as Wrexham lifted the FA Trophy on their first appearance at Wembley.

I can’t remember him getting a bad reception last season, so don’t see why he would now either.

And I don’t see any reason either why Durrell or Hudson would receive heated receptions.

Les Evans Elliott Durrell in his Wrexham days
Elliott Durrell in his Wrexham days

Durrell was released by Mills before the start of the 2015-16 campaign, while Hudson was not offered another contract at the end of last term.

Neither specifically chose to leave Wrexham, they were given no choice, as it were, so there is hardly any animosity swirling around the fans when it comes to any of the trio.

Sean Newton and John Rooney are both former Blues. How have they fared so far this season and are they likely to feature?

RG: Firstly in terms of a reception, I imagine Hudson, Durrell and Hunt will receive a better reaction from Wrexham fans than Newton and Rooney will garner in return from the travelling crowd.

Secondly how they have fared has been fairly mixed this season, Newton being his usual consistent self, while he has also popped up with a couple of crucial goals this season.

He is captain and is a the model professional, leading the team well, both by example and vocally.

Wrexham AFC John Rooney has left Chester to sign for rivals Wrexham
John Rooney left Chester to sign for rivals Wrexham

Rooney has struggled somewhat for form this term, and has even been on the end of a certain amount of ire from the Dragons fans.

We know he is capable of so much more than he has offered this term at times, and Saturday would be the perfect chance to show his quality.

And finally, how do you see the match panning out, and what is your prediction for the score?

RG: I don’t see it being as one-sided as the 3-0 victory last March, derbies are rarely ever as comprehensive.

I would imagine this to be a very tense affair, with most likely one goal to decide the outcome.

Given Wrexham have been so stoic at the back at home this season, and conceded only once, if there is going to be the one goal in it then I suppose by that logic I have to go for a 1-0 home win.

What do you think of this story? Are you confident ahead of the derby? Let us know in the comments below.


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