A LONG hard week for Wrexham saw them finish third in the Isle of Man Tournament although they needed a penalty shoot-out to beat Nationwide Conference side Carlisle United in Douglas.
The fact it was the Dragons fourth match in less than six days and Carlisle's third in five went a long way towards explaining why both sets of players were running on empty. Neither team could find the energy to break a deadlock which had been established from the time Karl Hawley's 10th-minute goal cancelled out Wrexham's lead provided by Mark Jones just three minutes in.
Assistant boss Kevin Russell afterwards admitted that the performance was little better than average. Injuries and Wrexham's friendly against Liverpool on Wednesday curtailed their tournament challenge.
And Carlisle's meagre resources were so stretched that club physiotherapist Neil Dalton found himself named as one of the substitutes.
"I thought both teams looked very tired" said Russell. "It took us a bit of time to get the journey back and forth to the island out of our legs but the attitude of all the lads has been fantastic.
"They did not want to be beaten and the younger lads particularly like Levi Mackin, Simon Spender and Matty Done have been tremendous. If we can continue to bring them on the future of the club looks very healthy indeed."
Russell also singled out midfielder Danny Williams for praise. The former Wales under-21 international is embarking on his second spell with the club and was the pick of the Wrexham players on view.
"He's been outstanding in every game he's played," added Russell. "He's worked really hard since the start of pre-season and he gives us an extra presence in midfield. He puts his foot in well and if he carries on the way he's playing he'll be a very big player for us."
A bumpy pitch at the National Sports Centre combined with a fresh breeze made life difficult for everyone and the uneven surface contributed to Wrexham's early goal.
On the counter-attack a Williams pass should have been intercepted by defender Lee Andrews but the ball spun wickedly away to Jones whose first-time shot carried too much weight for goalkeeper Peter Keen.
But the Cumbrians picked up the gauntlet and for a while threatened to overwhelm their opponents. John Hawley equalised with a tap in after Matt Baker had done well with an outstretched foot to block Kevin Henderson's effort. And the Dragons keeper held an effort from Carlos Roca two minutes later.
Twice in the first half Hawley went close, firing just wide then stinging Baker's hands again.
Spender and Darren Ferguson kept the keeper busy as the Dragons began to use the ball better but the match was becoming so pedestrian that a draw seemed inevitable long before the end.
For the record, Wrexham's successful penalty takers were Ferguson, Lawrence, Llewellyn and Williams.
* WREXHAM Supporters Trust is urging fans to attend a public meeting this Monday at the Miners Institute on Grovesnor Road, starting at 7.30pm.
Trust secretary Simon Johnson said: "We believe the future of the club hangs in the balance. At the present time the club is stating that there is no alternative but moving from the Racecourse. We will aim to show fans that there is a sound case for staying.
"The sell out crowd of 15,000 at the Liverpool match demonstrates the value of the Racecourse for Wrexham and North Wales."
WREXHAM: Baker, Whitley, Holt (Done 46), Pejic, Carey, Lawrence, Spender, Williams, Jones, Ferguson, Llewellyn.
CARLISLE UNITED: Keen, Andrews, Cowan, Murphy, Hawley, Gray, McGill, Billy, Preece, Henderson (Farrell 60), Roca (Rundle 67).