WREXHAM'S newest signing Juan Ugarte, came off the bench to help send Wrexham into the last 16 of the LDV Vans Trophy competition last night.
The non-contract import, signed up the previous day because of a long Racecourse injury list, came on in the 73rd minute of a second half dominated by visitors Stockport County and transformed the Dragons, who had been desperately hanging on to a 1-0 lead.
His pace, skill and direct aproach gave Denis Smith's side fresh impetus and, although he did not score, Ugarte made a decisive contribution for the Danny Williams goal which made the game safe.
The home side, who have reached the last 16 on just three occasions since the competition was first staged 20 years ago, made one change to the side who drew with Hull City at the weekend, striker Hector Sam deputising for Chris Armstrong, who was rested in anticipation of being fit to face League One-leaders Luton Town on Saturday.
But the visitors arrived in North Wales with history on their side. Despite currently propping up the table, they had won five of their last seven league games at the Racecourse and they were immediately into their stride.
County's first meaningful effort after six minutes caused no problems for Dragons' goalkeeper Matt Baker as Jim Goodwin skied his shot from the edge of the area and Matt Crowell at least tested Neil Cutler in the visitors' goal with a swerving shot as Wrexham countered.
Stockport enjoyed a slice of luck in the 13th minute when Lee Cartwright was penalised for a foul on Williams 25 yards from goal and Darren Ferguson's free-kick struck the base of a post. However the Dragons had the bit between their teeth and went ahead six minutes later.
A Ferguson corner was headed out, but only as far as Steve Roberts, whose looping volley evaded Cutler and rebounded from the crossbar to fall handily for Dennis Lawrence who registered his fifth goal of the season from close range.
Trinidadian Sam was his usual enigmatic self, displaying superb skill to shake off a defender on the by-line before attempting to beat Cutler from an impossible angle when he might have looked for a team-mate in a better position.
And he was not far away with a first-time effort which rounded off a neat interchange of passes also involving Matt Crowell and Simon Spender.
But Wrexham could not afford any lapse in concentration and they were very nearly punished nine minutes before the break when ex-Tranmere striker Stuart Barlow drove a fierce shot against the crossbar.
Twice in added time the home side could have settled their nerves but a glancing header from Williams drifted just wide and when Sam was put clean through by Chris Llewellyn, he was foiled by the bravery of Cutler who went down at the striker's feet to smother the ball.
County seemed determined to up the pace from the restart and Wrexham's ponderous build-up play gave their opponents plenty of scope to attack the ball in numbers.
The Dragons, who appeared to be a yard off the pace, needed a boost and they so nearly got it on the hour when Sam's cross was knocked down by Spender, but the ball failed to come down for Llewellyn, who was quickly dispossessed.
County's rapid break almost produced dividends but Le Fondre's cross-shot skidded wide of the far post and they maintained their momentum, winning two corners in quick succession. Baker saved well from Lee Mair from the second flag kick and Wrexham then introduced Alex Smith for Crowell in a bid to boost their flagging midfield.
He was joined soon afterwards by Spanish striker Ugarte for his debut, the Racecourse newcomer replacing a lightweight Sam and the ex-Real Sociedad reserve's first direct run was halted only at the expense of a corner.
County's failure to clear effectively gave Llewellyn a half-chance and his fine effort was well-saved by Cutler, who had been a spectator for virtually the whole of the second period.
Another good run by the Spaniard then created an opening for Ferguson who pulled his shot wide but it was the visitors who were now on the back foot.
And Ugarte played a decisive role in Wrexham's second goal eight minutes from the end, racing on to Ferguson's pass to bring another fine save from Cutler at the expense of a corner. Ferguson took the set-piece and it was Williams who crept in at the near post to plant a firm header into the net.
WREXHAM: Baker; Pejic, Roberts, Lawrence; Spender, Crowell (Smith 69), Ferguson, Williams, Holt; Sam (Ugarte 73), Llewellyn (Jones 86). Subs: Mackin, Evans.
STOCKPORT COUNTY: Cutler; Hardiker, Jackman, Griffin, Mair; Allen (Lambert 83), Welsh, Goodwin, Cartwright; Le Fondre (Bailey 83), Barlow. Subs: Williams, Feeney, Spencer.
REFEREE: Tony Bates