WREXHAM'S 1,000-plus travelling fans were treated to the ultimate insult by the home crowd at Prenton Park last night as Tranmere Rovers notched up their biggest win of the season against Brian Flynn's defensivelynaive side.
They were chanting 'Are you Chester in disguise?' long before striker Stuart Barlow completed his hat-trick with 13
minutes of the match remaining and, with the overwhelming problems currently at the Racecourse, who can say how far from the truth that ditty could turn out to be.
With captain Brian Carey ruled out by his hernia problem, youngster Steve Roberts was paired with Dennis Lawrence at the centre o f Wrexham's defence for only the second time this season, but at least the Dragons welcomed back left-back Shaun Holmes, who had missed the Chesterfield defeat through illness.
The chop-change policy forced on them is hardly the stability required of a team which has conceded 19 goals in their opening eight games and Wrexham were fortunate not to see that tally increased after only three minutes.
Darren Ferguson's intended pass to Steve Thomas was intercepted by Welsh international, Jason Koumas, the ball cannoning forward to an unmarked Wayne Allison.
Just onside, the Rovers' striker should at least have tested Kristian Rogers but his shot hit the side-netting.
A 13th-minute booking for Lawrence could store up future problems for Wrexham, the foul on Stuart Barlow bringing his fourth caution of the campaign, just one away from an automatic one-match ban at a time when Carey will still be recuperating from his hernia operation.
Having weathered the initial storm, the visitors looked to get forward more and when Lee Trundle was fouled within Ferguson free-kick range, the midfielder's curling effort after 18 minutes was superbly turned away for a corner by Joe Murphy.
The home side hit back quickly and Ian Sharps was not far away with a header when he met Andy Parkinson's corner at the near post.
But Tranmere were not playing with a high degree of confidence and they were almost punished when Ferguson picked out Trundle whose firsttime shot on the turn was well-held by Murphy, going down to his right.
Rovers were forced into a change six minutes before the break when Allison hobbled off to be replaced by Paul Rideout, who had scored four goals in a 5-4 reserve team success at Wrexham 48 hours earlier, and his introduction fired up the home side, Koumas bringing a fine save from Rogers.
But the goalkeeper was comprehensively beaten by the Rovers midfielder after 44 minutes, a freekick from 25 yards arrowing into the top corner of the net.
Craig Faulconbridge had a rare sight of goal in the 47th minute but failed to get enough power on his header to trouble Murphy and the striker was only inches away from profiting from Trundle's through ball as the home defence, for once, relaxed.
It was Wrexham's most sustained spell of pressure, maintained by by Steve Thomas, whose shot was deflected for the first of two corners. From the second, Koumas came to the rescue with a goal-line clearance from Faulconbridge that proved to be the turning point of the game.
Within three minutes, Tranmere were coasting at 3-0, former Everton striker
Stuart Barlow claiming both the goals. The first, on 53 minutes, stemmed from a Ferguson error which gave him time and space to pick his spot and he then doubled his tally with a fine run past Holmes and a delightful finish.
If Wrexham needed proof it was not to be their night, Ferguson drove a 57thminute free-kick against the inside of a post and Lawrence stabbed the rebounding ball high into the ranks of Wrexham fans behind the goal.
The home side, though, were in overdrive and only a point-blank save by Rogers denied Rideout as Barlow once again got beyond the defence, but the fourth goal came on 64 minutes, Steve Yates powering home an unstoppable header from a corner.
Barlow made it 5-0 after 77 minutes, feeding on Rideout's through ball and then made an early exit to the magnificent ovation his match-winning performance deserved.