The Racecourse played host to a humdinger of a Blue Square Premier League clash as Wrexham were held to a 2-2 draw by Tamworth. Twice the home side, who saw captain Dean Keates sent off for two bookable offences in the second half, took the lead through Brett Ormerod and Danny Wright, but the visitors dug deep for a hard-fought draw, with the equaliser coming just five minutes from time.
On the back of their resounding 4-1 defeat of Tamworth on Boxing Day, Wrexham made a breathtaking start to the match. Jay Harris, Joe Clarke, Brett Ormerod and Martin Riley all came close to opening the scoring in the opening 8 minutes; a combination of desperate last-ditch defending and excellent goalkeeping prevented the home side from breaking the deadlock.
After an electric opening in which Wrexham should have opened the scoring, Tamworth gradually grew into the game, a result of their uncompromising tactics. Striker Tommy Wright was booked in the opening two minutes for a leading elbow and was locked in an eternal struggle with referee, Anthony Backhouse, to emerge as the afternoon’s leading pantomime villain.
As the half wore on Tamworth noticeably adopted an overtly physical approach, which increasingly unsettled the home side, who struggled to find their passing rhythm in the middle third. As it was, Wrexham took the lead in the 26th minute totally against the run of play. Neil Ashton’s piledriver from distance struck the frame of the goal, leading to a goalmouth scramble. After Rushton’s initial shot was blocked, the ball fell kindly to Ormerod, who not for the first time this week, found himself in the right place at the right time to give his side the lead.
Ormerod’s intelligent positioning could not be further from the state of Wrexham’s defence, who criminally gifted Tamworth an equaliser just three minutes later. Former England international Lee Hendrie’s cross from the right hand side found Connor Gudger, who was afforded the freedom of the six-yard box by Wrexham’s defence, and made no mistake as he buried his header past the despairing Joslain Mayebi.
Player-manager Andy Morrell was visibly frustrated by his side’s inability to hold on to their lead until half-time, but the complexion of the game was changed irreversibly after the break. As the ball broke loose in the middle of the Tamworth half on 54 minutes, Dean Keates was first to react but after playing the ball out wide to Ashton he clattered into Peter Till. Though Keates visibly played the ball and Till’s challenge was late, the Wrexham captain was awarded his second yellow card of the afternoon and his marching orders to the incredulity of the home crowd.
Keates’ tackle was a firm and strong one, but he won the ball fairly. It was an outrageous call for Backhouse to make, especially considering he failed to punish Tamworth striker Tommy Wright for repeatedly leading in with his elbow for aerial challenges. Though the dismissal changed the complexion of the afternoon, it galvanised the home side. Morrell shifted his pack, bringing on Johnny Hunt in place of Neil Rushton as his 10-men reverted to an unfamiliar 4-3-2 – the Christmas Pudding formation.
The sending-off galvanized the title-challengers; fuelled by a sense of injustice, Wrexham pummeled the Tamworth goal. Danny Wright rattled the woodwork with a header from a Harris corner, which came shortly after Ormerod was unable to reach a cutback across goal from the energetic number 8.
As the home side pushed for the breakthrough and Tamworth retreated, it was Danny Wright who provided the magical moment in the 74th minute. A cross-field ball from the tireless Ormerod found Wright, who, running onto the ball chested it down before volleying home from inside the six-yard box. Goalkeeper Tony Breeden’s positioning was questionable, but Wright’s finish was empathic.
The Racecourse erupted. The raucous erupted failed to subside even as the away side laid siege to the Wrexham goal. Corner kick followed corner kick, substitute Adam Cunnington hit the side netting but Mayebi held firm. Morrell shuffled the pack again; Ormerod departed to a standing ovation and Wrexham reverted to a 4-4-1, with Wright acting as one-man battering ram up front.
Tamworth had failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage, so it was fitting that their equalising goal came from a set-piece. Johnny Hunt gave away a needless free-kick in the 85th minute, in a central position that was almost 20-yards from goal. Scott Barrow drilled the free-kick low and hard, it beat the wall and seared past the motionless Mayebi. Question marks will be raised about the goalkeeper’s reactions and the role of the wall, but it was a needless free-kick to concede.
The timing of the goal knocked the stuffing out of the home side, who were unable to muster a barnstorming end to the game. A pulsating game drifted to an anti-climactic end, but Wrexham will take a point having played with ten men for nearly half an hour.
With both Newport and Grimsby’s games postponed due to the weather, Wrexham missed the opportunity to climb into second in the table. Whilst Wrexham remain free-scoring, they continue to leak goals at the back. Though the referee’s intervention denied the home side a crucial victory, they have the opportunity to make immediate amends as they travel to Telford for the first match of 2013 on Tuesday.