Wrexham 3 Northwich Victoria 3
SUPER-SUB Patrick Suffo rescued Wrexham from embarrassment on Tuesday with a 94th-minute penalty equaliser – just minutes after Jefferson Louis missed from the spot on a night of incredible drama at the Racecourse.
The Cameroon striker, unlike team-mate Louis, kept his cool from 12 yards to deny rock-bottom Vics their first win in 10 Blue Square Premier matches.
It was a win which would have been gifted to them by three pieces of disastrous defending from second-half corners.
Little wonder then that assistant manager Terry Darracott conceded Suffo’s last-gasp leveller could not disguise the fact that it was two points dropped in the Dragons’ push for promotion.
Darracott, holding fort while boss Dean Saunders was at the bedside of his seriously ill father, said: “To concede from three set-pieces is diabolical. We’ve got defenders who we ask to defend and pick up a man on long throws, corners and free kicks and we just haven’t done that. We simply won’t win games defending like that.”
Dominant Wrexham would have led at the break had it not been for Ryan Clarke, who made a fine stop from the lively Marc Williams, and the bar, which Nathan Woolfe rattled with a superb 30-yard free kick.
Indisciplined Northwich, who had six players booked but somehow survived having a man sent off in a stormy border derby, went closest through captain Simon Grand, who headed Lee Elam’s corner over when totally unmarked.
And it was a warning the hosts did not heed as substitute Mat Bailey was allowed to head the visitors into a 60th-minute lead from the first of a trio of telling Elam deliveries.
Saunders’ side restored parity four minutes later when Steve Evans, in for suspended skipper Ashley Westwood, tapped in after Clarke turned a Louis header on to the post, before they went in front 14 minutes from time when Williams hammered home after Clarke spilled Jonathan Brown’s free kick.
But Northwich responded six minutes later when Steve Robinson prodded the ball over the line after an almighty goalmouth scramble, before, amazingly, Bailey nodded them ahead with four minutes to play.
Back stormed the Dragons and, in the first of seven minutes of injury-time, Williams was hauled down for a spot-kick which Clarke saved from Louis.
Suffo, who has signed a contract until the summer, showed no signs of nerves, however, after hero-to-villain Bailey bizarrely handled in the box.
Defensive linchpin Westwood will make a welcome return for Saturday’s FA Trophy third-round tie at Blue Square North’s Workington (3pm).
If Wrexham win through to the quarter-finals it would worsen their fixture pile-up problem as the crucial trip to runaway leaders Burton Albion on February 21 would have to be rearranged.
The Dragons now need to find new dates for five league games after Tuesday’s scheduled visit of Barrow was postponed.
Darracott, who said the club’s thoughts are with Saunders and his family, revealed new Ghana defender Patrick Gyan is in line for his debut at Workington.