Notts County 2 Wrexham 2
WHEN referee Anthony Bates blew the final whistle at the end of this lively Division Two fixture, Wrexham's small band of travelling supporters - looking lost in Meadow Lane's imposing, double-tiered Kop Stand - celebrated as if their team had won rather than drawn.
Their elation was easy to understand. Despite manager Brian Flynn having only 15 senior professionals to choose from, and despite his goalkeeper and back four having played less than 30 league games between them, Wrexham held a strong Notts County side in their own backyard.
"It was such a young side we had out there," remarked Flynn afterwards. "As Joey (Wrexham coach Joey Jones) put it, they weren't wearing jockstraps or slips, they were wearing Pampers."
Flynn was struggling to put together a squad of 16 for this match - defender Brian Carey and midfielders Darren Ferguson and Martyn Chalk were all missing through suspension while goal-keeper David Walsh and midfielder Wayne Phillips were out injured.
With just one goalkeeper available (Wrexham's other goal-keeper, Paul Whitfield, is on loan to Connah's Quay Nomads) Mark Morris, the club's 33-year-old Football In The Community officer and who last played league football seven years ago, signed non-contract terms the previous day so he could deputise for Kristian Rogers.
After four matches the Red Dragons are still waiting for their first win of the season, but Flynn can take many positives from this resilient display in Nottingham, not least the fact that with Lee Trundle and Craig Faulconbridge in attack his team will always score goals. That should keep them out of trouble.
And it was those two players who stung County on Saturday. Trundle cancelled out Danny Allsopp's penalty with a deflected shot early in the first-half while Faulconbridge got Wrexham's second equaliser shortly after the break.
The visitors might even have won it at the end, but Trundle failed to spot the unmarked Carlos Edwards during a counter-attack in the dying minutes.
"I thought in the first half we gifted them two goals. But all credit to my players for the way they battled back," added Flynn. "We showed a lot of spirit in the second-half and defended a lot better, especially through the middle. Generally I'm pleased with the way we performed, especially as I only had 15 pros available.
"If anything, I'm disappointed we didn't get a win. We counterattacked well in the second-half and caused them problems. We defended better and broke quicker.
"I asked Lee about passing to Carlos at the end but he said he didn't see him and that he had his sights on goal. Goalscorers have to be greedy and the best goalscorers are."
The Wrexham manager will be hoping his players can find the winning habit tomorrow when they take on Bury at The Race-course. Ferguson, Chalk and Carey will be available for the clash.
Wrexham fell behind after just five minutes when Warren tripped Mark Stallard just inside the box. Allsopp, who had a successful loan spell at The Racecourse the season before last, beat Rogers from the spot.
At this point one feared the worst for Flynn's inexperienced defence of Shaun Holmes, Dennis Lawrence, Stephen Roberts and David Warren, not to mention 20-year-old Rogers in the Wrexham goal.
But Trundle, making his first appearance of the season after serving a four-match suspension for being sent off in the final game of last season, levelled six minutes later.
The former sports science student was invited into the box and his shot beat Steve Mildenhall after taking a deflection off Craig Ireland.
That goal settled Wrexham's nerves but they conceded a second in first-half injury time. Simon Grayson, on loan from Blackburn, delivered a long ball for Allsopp who beat Wrexham's offside trap, rounded Rogers and then rolled the ball into the empty net.
Three minutes after the break Mildenhall tipped Trundle's shot to safety but barely 60 seconds later Faulconbridge hit a super equaliser. He chested down Edwards's cross from the right and hit it first time, the ball zipping past Mildenhall and going in off the post.
Faulconbridge has three goals to his name this season and has attracted the interest of Wycombe Wanderers manager Lawrie Sanchez and his exploits at Meadow Lane will not have gone unnoticed in Buckinghamshire.
Asked if he expected a fight to hold onto the 23-year-old forward, Flynn replied, "I've heard nothing from Wycombe. If players score goals then other clubs will make inquiries but so far nothing has happened with Craig. I've got a squad of 20 and I want to keep hold of all those players. In fact, I want to add to it."
County desperately tried to re-gain the lead for a third time. Rogers saved Marcel Cas's low drive in the 55th minute and Allsopp missed an opportunity to bag his hat-trick two minutes later.
Stallard knocked down Grayson's cross but Allsopp blasted wide from close range. Cas also missed the target after good approach work involving Stallard and Allsopp.
But Wrexham had the best of the late exchanges. Mildenhall had to be alert to push away Michael Blackwood's fierce effort from just inside the penalty area and Trundle went close with a typically adventurous 25-yard effort.
County manager Jocky Scott was unhappy with his team's display, especially in defence. "I don't know if 2-2 is a fair reflection of the game but we didn't make things easy for ourselves.
"We got an early goal and then conceded the sort of goal we mustn't concede. We got back in front and then conceded again. We only have ourselves to blame. Faulconbridge and Trundle did well.
"All credit to their strikers but at the same time we've got to defend better.