Rushden and Diamonds 1 Wrexham 1
SHAUN Whalley rescued a draw for the Dragons on Sunday to end the Diamonds’ winning start to the Blue Square Premier – but Brian Little was left feeling it was two points dropped.
In a vastly improved performance on the one produced in front of the television cameras at York three days earlier, Little’s side dominated their hosts, who had won their first two matches, but fell behind just after the hour-mark to a soft strike from a relative of ex-Wrexham chief Denis Smith.
But, following the injection of youth and pace in the shape of Wes Baynes and Neil Taylor for Sam Aiston and Jefferson Louis, they equalised 15 minutes from time when Whalley finally beat the over-worked Alan Marriott.
Dragons boss Little said: "Playing the way we did at the end got us back into the game but there were a lot of things that we did earlier, prior to their goal, which could have seen us win the game.
"Their keeper has pulled off a number of saves and overall I thought we were the stronger side.
"So I was pleased with that, given that it came on the back of Thursday’s performance, but also a little disappointed that we haven’t won. But these four opening games are against the tougher sides in the division and the two we have just played away from home particularly so."
Whalley, with his second of the campaign, took the headlines but Little paid tribute to Simon Brown.
Brown, shifted up front after Baynes came on to take his place on the right-side of midfield, set-up the equaliser after being played in by Tom Kearney, who had won a drop ball following an injury to Chris Hope, brother of last season’s Wrexham captain Richard.
It was fitting that skipper Kearney played a role in the goal as it capped an inspirational display.
Driven on by the midfielder, the visitors, for whom Steve Evans and Levi Mackin came in for the injured Nat Brown and the dropped Christian Smith, should have been in front long before Rushden broke the deadlock, with Louis not making the most of the good chances that came his way and Marriott denying Simon Brown, Evans and then Kearney.
And they were made to pay in the 61st minute when substitute Sam Smith, grandnephew of Denis, tapped in a cross from captain Andy Burgess, who, on his 250th appearance for the club, too easily beat Simon Spender.
But Whalley’s cool finish – the first time Rushden have conceded this season – ensured Wrexham returned home with the point they deserved.