Wrexham player-manager Andy Morrell inspired his side to a thumping 5-0 victory over Evo-Stik League Northern Premier outfit, Rushall Olympic, in the first round of the FA Trophy. Rushall gave a decent account of themselves on a sodden afternoon at the Racecourse, but were ultimately made to rue the brainless dismissal of striker Hakeem Islam and the questionable fitness levels of their semi-professional players.
The home side began the contest with a lively start and found themselves 2-0 up inside the opening 20 minutes. They could have opened the scoring twice in the first two minutes; a panicked clearance from the away side almost let in Adrian Cieslewicz, returning to the starting line-up following his goalscoring contribution at Braintree Town in midweek, but his goal-bound effort was blocked, before Rob Ogleby spooned a near-post effort over the bar after a foray down the right-hand flank by Danny Alfei.
The deadlock was eventually broken 15 minutes later as Morrell profited from another upfield surge from Alfei, making no mistake as the ball broke loose in the six-yard box. The home side then doubled their lead a matter of minutes later – youngster Ogleby sprinted through Rushall’s defence before regaining the ball and supplying his unmarked player-manager, who connected beautifully to slot the ball into the bottom corner.
The sparse Wrexham crowd could have been forgiven for expecting the proverbial floodgates to open, but, to their credit, their part-time opponents rallied commendably. Wrexham were seemingly content to sit on their two goal lead and allow Rushall to dictate play for the remainder of the half. Their tenacity, yet clinical lack of a cutting edge, was epitomised by mercurial striker Ahmed Obeng, who, in the 24th minute, had two goal-bound efforts blocked before drilling a third shot high and wide. As complacency crept into Wrexham’s play, they were fortunate to maintain their two goal cushion until the half-time whistle as Rushall continued to pressurise, yet without ever looking particularly dominant.
Indeed, the away side came closest to scoring during a sedate opening quarter to the the second period as Islam’s thunderous drive from a half-cleared corner-kick was well saved down low by Joslain Mayebi. Islam’s attacking cameo was sandwiched in between two appalling challenges, which brought the striker two deserved yellow cards and an early bath on the hour mark. It proved to be the real game-changer as an already tiring Rushall Olympic side were made to pay for their numerical disadvantage.
Just seven minutes later the Blue Square Premier outfit extended their lead and effectively ended the game as a contest. Morrell, whose between the lines play was outstanding all afternoon, threaded a defence-splitting ball into the path of Ogleby, who unseflishly set up his second goal of the game for Cieslewicz, whose improvised back-heel slowly crept over the line. After being on the periphery of first-team action for the last few weeks, the Pole was lively throughout, his goal a just reward for his endeavour and flair. Ten minutes later Morrell came within a whisker of his hat-trick after exchanging a sumptuous one-two with Alfei, only to see his effort blocked on the line by Gavin Caines with goalkeeper Gemmell stranded.
The three goal margin looked harsh on the semi-professional side, but as they tired and toiled in the final ten minutes their precarious fitness levels were brutally exposed. Morrell, having just been announced as man of the match, sealed his hat-trick with another easy tap-in after Gemmell flapped at a Declan Walker corner.
Walker was then granted the final say as he put an emphatic gloss on the scoreline, sliding the ball under Gemmell in the third minute of added time after more intricate build up play from his player-manager. Though comprehensively overwhelmed in the final stages, at no point were Rushall Olympic outplayed and the part-timers can take great heart in their efforts.
As for Wrexham this was a welcome return to winning ways at the Racecourse; their first victory at home since the FA Cup qualifier against Southport over a month ago, which was, coincidentally, the last time the side had kept a clean sheet. Rushall’s inexperience and naivety was brutally exposed by an attacking unit which appears to be growing in confidence after repeating their five-star performance at Braintree Town in midweek. As the game wore on, Rushall grew more deflated, whilst their opponents looked like scoring from every attack.
Lying joint top of the Blue Square Premier, this is exactly the confidence building result that Wrexham needed – especially considering their recent paucity at home – and they will travel to Kidderminster Harriers next weekend with burgeoning attacking options, led by their hat-trick hero player-manager.