Eight days and three matches into the Blue Square Premiership season, manager Brian Little reckons his Wrexham side will be among the contenders for honours in nine months time.
The Dragons boss admitted he was disappointed with yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Rushden & Diamonds, but believes his players are coming to terms with the level of competition after facing three of the teams that are fancied to do well.
Bouncing back from a below-par display at York City on Thursday where Wrexham lost 1-0, they dominated proceedings at Nene Park only to find home goalkeeper Alan Marriott in inspired form.
“I think we might have got all three points today,” said Little. “We talked at some length about Thursday night when we were disappointed with the overall performance and felt we should have got a draw, so there was a lot we said about being sharper, brighter and working to the system we believe in.
“We went back to some basic work on the training ground yesterday to remind people what we are about and, to be fair, the lads responded today.”
But they did it the hard way, conceding a goal against the run of play before fighting back to earn a draw after Little had sent on substitutes Wes Baynes and Neil Taylor in place of Sam Aiston and the disappointing Jefferson Louis.
“We got sucker-punched again, I’m not sure how,” conceded the Racecourse boss. “So it was a poor goal from our point of view and we could have lost again, but we gambled.
“We have little variations in the team and we decided to put on some small, pacy players against them.
“At the end playing the way we did got us back into the game but there were a lot of things we did earlier prior to their goal that could have seen us win the game.
“Their keeper has made a couple of saves and overall I thought we were the stronger side.
“So I was pleased with the performance on the back of Thursday and a bit disappointed we haven’t won. But these four opening games are against the tougher sides in the division and the two away from home particularly so.
“It would be nice to have got something more from them but the good thing was that we showed we can vary our play and that got us something from today.
“There were some good performances and in the second half the two centre-backs had to defend well and were generally strong. Tom and Levi did okay, particularly Tom who was really solid and kept the team going.
“We are looking to him to keep people together and we felt he could have done that better on Thursday so that they closed down quicker.
“That was better today and it was a definite improvement. It would have been nice to get that first away win but at 1-0 down with 15 minutes left we’d settle for the draw.”
Although Wrexham’s equaliser was scored by Shaun Whalley, Little praised Simon Brown’s part in the build-up.
“Simon went up front and showed he’s got great energy and perhaps playing on the right is not best suited for him,” he added
“A lot of praise should go to Simon for Shaun’s goal. If the situation was reversed I know Shaun would have shot but Simon was clever to pass the ball and create a simple goal for Shaun. I’m not so sure if it had been the other way round it would have happened like that.
“From a manager’s point Simon is a player who gets in there and sometimes fans don’t see that side of a player. Today he showed his worth for us, which was pleasing,” the manager added.
Ahead of Thursday’s visit to the Racecourse of Oxford United in a televised match, Little claimed his players would be better prepared than they were at York.
“Rushden’s manager told me that a lot of teams in their league will raise their game against us, particularly on television, and that was the case at York,” he said.
“I’m not quite sure we were ready for that because it took us too long to adjust and too many players did not play well there.
“We’ve seen enough now in three games to know that if we are not at our best we’ll have a hard time but if we are at our best we’ll give anyone a good game.
“This result was important in terms of coming from behind and while we are not top of the league there’s a long way to go and we have learned quite a lot.
“Oxford showed at the weekend they have something about them and their strike force will be potent if they click. It will be another hard game for us and there won’t be any easy ones.
“But as time goes by I think there will be a group of eight or nine clubs that look stronger than the rest and the most important thing is for us to be among them.
“After a few years of struggling the signs are that we will be competitive this season.”