WREXHAM manager Dean Saunders declared himself reasonably satisfied with the performance of his players at the Racecourse on Saturday where the Dragons shared the spoils with Championship visitors Coventry City.
Saunders used the opening fixture of a busy friendly programme to field separate sides in each half of the game and there was enough of a competitive edge to what was essentially a 90-minute training session to entertain the small crowd.
“We played two different teams against a Championship team and hopefully it’s given the lads a bit of confidence because they played really well,” said Saunders afterwards.
“It was quite good but we don’t need to be sharp yet, we need to be sharp in three weeks.
“Matches like this affect the training programme a bit, but I’m pleased we got through the game without any injuries.”
A few alarm bells were ringing when striker Marc Williams, who sat out the last three months of last season with a broken bone in his foot, was sent sprawling in the first half and Jamie McCluskey was the victim of a crude challenge late in the game, but Saunders shrugged off both incidents.
“I told him (McCluskey) he was having too many touches on the ball, so he is going to be kicked” he said.
“He has had a bit of trouble with that ankle, so when he does get kicked it’s always a bit of a worry, as was the case when Marc went down, but he’s okay too.”
Williams, who put Wrexham ahead in the first half when Neil Taylor forced an error from City goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous and defender Curtis Wynter before setting up his team-mate to put the ball into an empty net, was simply pleased to be back in action after his lengthy lay-off.
“It’s been a long time – four and half months – so I was happy to get out there,” said the Wales under-21 international.
“I was going to postpone it for another week but I had a few good days in training and I just wanted to get out there. Neil Taylor could have taken the goal himself, but he said it would give me some confidence, so I’ll take that.
“I thought I had scored a few minutes earlier, but the keeper made a great save and I was just delighted to be playing again.
“I enjoyed playing with Gareth (Taylor) and I’m sure as we keep playing together, our understanding will improve.”
Veteran striker Taylor and Polish winger Adrian Cieslewicz were on show for the first time since joining the Dragons this summer and both could feel satisfied with their contributions as Coventry were made to look second best in the opening 45 minutes.
But it was different story after the break, with the visitors shortening up their game and deservedly getting back on terms thanks to Jermaine Grandison’s powerful header from a 65th minute set piece.
“In the first half it was excellent,” said Saunders. “But then we conceded from a corner, which does happen sometimes when you change 11 players and people weren’t sure who was marking who. We spent five minutes going over it but we haven’t done it in training and their lad scored with a good header to be fair.”
The Dragons boss, who expects to sign teenage Liverpool goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis on loan this week, had a special word of praise for the club’s only other senior keeper, Chris Maxwell, who made several important saves and displayed immaculate handling.
“Chris has not done himself any harm at all after coming in at the end of last season and he’s made me think twice about getting a second goalkeeper in,” Saunders added.
“He’s improving all the time and I just need to make sure he keeps his focus and carries on in the same vein.”
And having criticised the Racecourse playing surface last season, the Dragons boss was much happier following close season remedial work.
“The pitch is a lot better than it was last year, at least you could pass the ball on it,” he added.
“It was a bit sticky because of the weather and I was hoping it would rain just before the game.
“It needs a bit of rain, it’s still not knitted properly in the goalmouths and where the linemen are running.
“But hopefully in three weeks it will be even better.”