SAUNDERS’ ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
In the week that marks his first anniversary as manager of Wrexham, Dean Saunders is convinced he has arrested a long period of decline and is now poised to reap the rewards.
It was 12 months ago this Friday that the former Wales international striker was unveiled as the replacement for previous boss Brian Little and his appointment sparked a five-match winning streak that was ended by Kidderminster Harriers, who entertain the Dragons at Aggborough this evening.
Reflecting on a year of mixed fortunes, Saunders said: “It’s gone quickly but I have enjoyed it and we are making progress.
“The club was sliding in the wrong direction when I arrived but I believe we are now going in the right direction.
“There were a lot of people stealing a living at the club for little effort but there aren’t many of them left now because I believe that if people are being paid they have to earn their money. I want the same effort from everyone here that I am putting in.”
The Racecourse boss admitted he has been disappointed with his side’s indifferent start to the current campaign, but insisted the foundations for sustained progress were now in place.
“I’ve made a difference and I’m continuing along the same road,” he added. ”There is a much stronger work ethic around the place and we are aiming to instil a winning attitude so I have to keep trying my best and keep doing what I think is right.
“Last week we beat the title favourites (Luton Town) convincingly, which is an indication of what we are capable, but we have yet to see the right formula click into place. I can’t expect the players here to be maestros with the ability to spot defence-splitting passes and the rest every time they have the ball, but I can expect effort and determination which we have in abundance.”
With a defensive record matched only by current runaway leaders Oxford United, Saunders believes Wrexham are not far from being the side many thought would be pushing for promotion.
“Defensively we look fine and I think we have conceded only one goal from open play since Frank Sinclair came in,” he said. “He has made a big contribution in that department and now we have to start scoring a few more goals ourselves.
“Against Chester on Sunday we dominated the game in terms of corners, throw-ins and free kicks but we didn’t create many chances from all those set-pieces and that needs to change.
“There are signs that Marc Williams is getting back to his best and I’m confident it won’t be long before he starts banging them in again like he did last season, but we also need more goals from the midfield and wide areas.
“We work on all these things in training because set-pieces are a vital part of the game nowadays but maybe we just need a scruffy goal here or there to get us going, rather than the well-worked goals we’ve scored so far.
“We have made plenty of chances in every game this season and you have to believe that eventually some of them will go in, but sometimes it just boils down to taking even more shots at the target.”
Saunders is planning to name his squad this morning following a fitness check on midfielder Christian Smith, who took a knock on his back during Sunday’s match. Defender Ashley Westwood is available again after injury, but Saunders is loath to change a defence that has kept two successive clean sheets.
“I don’t envisage too many changes at all,” he said. “We’ll see how things are in the morning and although everyone wants to play we will need energy in the team and that is why we have a squad to pick from.”
Kidderminster, who lost 3-2 at York City on Saturday, played 80 minutes with 10 men after defender Dean Caines was sent off. He is suspended this evening but former Dragons’ midfielder Dean Bennett will be available after serving his one-match ban.