DENIS SMITH'S Wrexham side got one monkey off their backs on Saturday by reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the first time in five years, and it's now up to the club's directors to remove another much bigger one in the shape of the Inland Revenue.
The principals in the unfolding off-field drama sat together in what passes for the directors' box at Hayes' Church Road ground - directors Dave Bennett and Dave Griffiths alongside would-be owner and former chairman Mark Guterman, who was accompanied by his proposed new chief executive Dixie McNeil.
The presence of Cheshire property developer Guterman, an erstwhile business partner of Alex Hamilton who now sees himself as the potential saviour of the League One club, fuelled speculation among Dragons fans that a deal had been agreed for him to resume control.
Although no one was giving too much away, that's not yet the case. But, unlike a handful of fans who staged a post-match demonstration against Guterman's proposed return to the Racecourse, Smith took a more pragmatic view. "Apparently Mr Guterman's bid includes the local council taking over ownership of the ground, and that's a safeguard I think we should be happy with," he said..
"And as far as I'm aware Mr Guterman is now the only person out there prepared to do it. If that means the club is saved we've got to go along with it. Personalities should not come into it, because the club has got to come first."
The Racecourse boss, however, understood supporters' concerns, adding: "I've never been daft enough to tell fans what to do, because that back-fires on you.
"All I'm doing is quoting what I believe are the facts. They are that if the council owns the ground the club is safe. If someone else wants to come in and do it, fine - who knows, the next one might be worse. But if it's Mr Guterman, we've got to go along with
Smith, who has been closely involved in the behind-the-scenes activity of recent weeks, admitted it had come as something of a relief to concentrate solely on football in the 48 hours leading up to Saturday's match. And he paid tribute to the professional manner in which his players avoided a potentially embarrassing banana skin as they thrashed Hayes 4-0.
"We prepared right and came down yesterday, which was necessary to prove it was an important game," he said. "We had to get it right to give ourselves the opportunity, if this was going to be our last game, to ensure that we would go out on a high. And that's what we did."
While it was not a vintage performance from the Dragons, it was comfortable enough. Smith's side withstood an adrenalin-charged opening spell from their Conference South opponents before exerting a vice-like grip on the game to score three goals in the opening 45 minutes.
But a nail-biting afternoon might have ensued had Willy Wordsworth's plucky part-timers taken the early chances that came their way. Twice in the opening 10 minutes midfielder Kevin Warner had sight of Matt Baker's goal - but his first shot was blocked by Andy Holt and the second flew just wide.
Once Wrexham had settled their nerves, though, it was a very different story. Skipper Darren Ferguson, Holt and the lively Hector Sam were influential as the balance of play swung in the visitors' favour.
Hayes goalkeeper Kevin Davies made an incredible save to deny the Trinidad striker after 15 minutes, but Sam then pierced the home defence two minutes later to pick out Holt, who opened the scoring with a low shot into the corner.
Maintaining the pressure, the Dragons could have put the result beyond doubt but more good work from Sam saw Chris Llewellyn's effort blocked before Davies came to his side's rescue with another excellent stop from Sam, plucking Holt's knock-back off the head of the waiting Chris Armstrong.
Hayes went further behind in the 29th minute when Matt Crowell lofted the ball forward to Dennis Lawrence, whose header rebounded from the upright, the big defender following up to bundle the ball over the line.
It should have been all over, but the home side dug deep and responded bravely with a brief flurry that produced an ambitious overhead kick from Kieran Knight that narrowly missed the target, before Simon Spender was in the right place to block an on-target effort by David Warner.
The young wing-back then got forward to claim an assist for Wrexham's third goal on 37 minutes, delivering the cross from which Sam rose unmarked to head past Davies. Hayes were fortunate not to concede a fourth in the 44th minute when Davies parried Sam's effort. Armstrong's shot was blocked on the line by Adam Everitt and the goalkeeper finally managed to hold a third attempt from Sam.
The second half unfolded in similar fashion to the first, with the home side starting well before fading as quickly as the previously bright sunshine had broken out.
Mark Molesley tested Baker for only the second time in the game before the keeper did well to block a shot from Kevin Warner, who drove the rebound over the bar, and central defender Matt Gray should have at least put his header on target with an hour gone.
But Ferguson in particular shook Wrexham out of their reverie and the visitors dominated the final 20 minutes. On the break, Llewellyn fired over the bar despite having an unmarked Armstrong alongside him. Crowell's fierce effort was deflected away for a corner and Davies again thwarted Sam with a good save.
The Hayes defence was breached once more with eight minutes left.
Spender picked out Llewellyn, who took an age to balance himself before poking the ball into the net.
Disappointed Hayes boss Wordsworth said his side had not done themselves justice, but praised their non-stop effort and commitment.
"We've got no complaints," he said afterwards. "I thought we had two or three decent chances in the first few minutes and all season we've been pretty tight at the back.
"We knew all about the potential of their front two but we gave away some sloppy goals.
"It's the first game we've lost in nine or 10 but the finishing was the difference between the two teams. I don't want to take anything away from Wrexham, but you have to take your chances when they come against a professional club.
"Their third goal before the break killed the game and we've never been in that position before this season.
"But when you are chasing the game you are bound to leave gaps at the back, and they took advantage with their fourth goal."
HAYES : Davies; Collins (Goodall 73), Everitt, Yeboah, Gray, Case, Williams, Molesley, D Warner (Scott 63), Knight (Dean 53), K Warner. Subs: Bixby, Watkins.
BOOKED : Everitt, Molesley.
WREXHAM : Baker; Pejic, Lawrence, Roberts, Spender, Crowell (Smith 77), Ferguson, Llewellyn, Holt, Armstrong (Mark Jones 70), Sam (Ugarte 79). Subs: Mackin, Michael Jones.
BOOKED : Spender.
REFEREE : Kevin Wright
ATT : 1,751
* MAN OF THE MATCH ... Darren Ferguson
When he plays well, so do Wrexham. He worked harder than anyone