WREXHAM’S rapidly disintegrating season plumbed new depths at the Racecourse yesterday after they finished distinctly second best to the part-timers from Altrincham.
In a woeful performance that saw the only goal of the game headed into his own net by home defender Aurelien Collin, the Dragons also had the Frenchman’s defensive partner Mansour Assoumani shown a straight red card in the closing stages.
The dismissal put the cap on a dismal and pointless – in more ways than one – Easter programme and prompted a major post-match dressing room inquest that lasted for more than 45 minutes.
Most fans could have summed it up far more succinctly, one suspects, after witnessing possibly the poorest display of a depressing run that has now delivered just five points from a possible 24.
Dragons boss Dean Saunders clearly expected better after yet again rotating his mammoth squad and making four changes from the starting line-up at Oxford United at the weekend.
Goalkeeper Chris Maxwell, the 45th player used by Wrexham this season, was given his senior debut as a result of the thumb injury suffered by Gunnar Nielsen at the Kassam Stadium, while Aurelien Collin, Wes Baynes and Obi Anoruo were recalled in place of Mike Williams, John Curtis and Jefferson Louis – the club’s leading scorer not even meriting a place on the bench.
Maxwell, who recently won a first Wales under-21 cap, passed his initial tests with flying colours, confidently claiming two early crosses to earn generous applause from a sparse Bank Holiday crowd.
But there was little more to get excited about in the opening exchanges until the 15th minute when Ashley Westwood met a Wes Baynes corner with a powerful header that beat goalkeeper Stuart Coburn, but was hacked off the line by Dale Johnson.
At the other end of the pitch, the Altrincham striker made room for a shot that was again comfortably dealt with by Maxwell, but for the most part it was a scruffy, non-descript contest between two sides apparently doing little more than the low-key occasion demanded.
Wrexham stepped up the pace somewhat in the 32nd minute when Ryan Flynn’s pass gave Anoruo something to chase, but the young striker was blocked by defender Chris Lane and Baynes drove his free kick high and wide of Coburn’s goal.
Silvio Spann went a bit closer with a long-range effort that had the visiting keeper anxiously looking over his shoulder, but in the main it was all very tepid stuff for the remainder of the opening period.
Maxwell was called into action in the 48th minute, making a smart save to deny Johnson following good work down the left by Matt Doughty, but the keeper was caught in two minds four minutes later when the visitors broke the deadlock.
As Doughty’s free kick was lofted into the box, Collin and visiting centre back Greg Young went for the ball, which glanced off the Frenchman’s head and over the stranded Maxwell.
But the home side should have been back on terms within a minute when Spann’s cross reached Collin, whose scuffed shot beat Coburn, but trickled just the wrong side of a post.
The introduction of Michael Proctor and Jamie McCluskey from the bench saw Wrexham pushing forward with more urgency and Andrew Crofts was inches away from turning a Proctor centre past Coburn before Mansour Assoumani’s free header from a McCluskey flew just wide again.
Altrincham substitute Rod Thornley lasted only four minutes after replacing Johnson, an injury forcing him off and Joe O’Neill deputising, but the visitors were dogged at the back, Coburn making a great save from McCluskey.
Wrexham’s flagging fortunes were summed up by the controversial dismissal of Assoumani eight minutes from time, a red card his punishment for an alleged punch on substitute Chris Denham