Andy Morrell reflected on a useful learning experience for his youthful Wrexham side, after they were defeated 2-1 by Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Kidderminster on Saturday evening.
A spectacular second-half volley from Danny Wright was not enough to gain a result for another experimental line up, which contained five academy graduates, not including substitutes Bradley Reid and Jay Colbeck.
Morrell felt his side’s lack of experience was ruthlessly punished, “I thought it was tight, there wasn’t a lot between the two teams. Two mistakes on our part have given them two goals,” he said.
“Joe (Clarke) could’ve cleared the first one, Dave (Artell) didn’t have to dive in to give the free kick away. And the second one is a mistake between three – the young lads not talking, they’ve nicked it off Brad (Reid) and it’s one long ball through and Leon’s (Clowes) a little bit asleep because the ball’s up the other end.
“He’d been great all day, he played really well today and that’s how important it is this league that you don’t get caught sleeping because you’ve got to concentrate for the full 90 minutes.”
But that took nothing away from Morrell’s praise for the youngsters, who he believes are emblematic of the impact from Wrexham’s Centre of Excellence, which is now bearing tangible fruit on the pitch.
“I’m really pleased. Of the starting eleven six have come from our academy, or Centre of Excellence, we had two more on the bench as well that got on. It’s a great sign for this football club, a great sign for the future and the importance of our Centre for the future of this club.
“I think all of them equipped themselves really well. I’m really pleased for Robbie (Evans) who got on the ball and created a few bits and bobs up the right end of the pitch. Bradley was the same, he’s a right threat he’s got some pace. And then you’ve got your steady-eddy’s – your Johnny Hunt and Declan Walker. Leon stood in again and did great, and with the old heads around them I thought we did okay.
“We maybe could’ve been a bit brighter in the final third but we still had chances. We maybe didn’t work the ‘keeper enough but I thought it was a fairly equal game, but in this league if you make a mistake you get punished for it.”
The player-manager conceded that the youngsters have given him something of a selection headache in the buildup to the play-offs, with some members of the regular set-up still sidelined while the team searches for form and momentum.
“I’ll try and find out how many I’ve got of those tried and trusted before I return to them. We’ll assess it over the weekend, but none of the young lads have done themselves any harm with regards to their futures.”
“We’ll the show the young lads a few bits from the DVD, because I think that’s important for their learning process and development. But we need to get back out on the training pitch with some bodies and make sure we’re right going into the play offs in a week’s time.”
When asked if he, as a young manager, felt better equipped for the play-offs this year, Morrell replied, “I’ll tell you in two weeks. You’ll probably be able to assess that. Hopefully I’ve got a little bit more experience. We’ll see and give it another go.”
For this side to even be contesting the play offs is, he insists, a great achievement.
“It’s a great achievement what we’ve done. We’ve not been able to win the league which has been a little bit out of our grasp, but we’ll give the play offs another go and hopefully go up that way. It’s what we want, it’s what the whole club wants. We need to push and strive our hardest to do it.”
Yesterday’s defeat to Kidderminster was the club’s first at the Racecourse since Hereford in November, yet they have drawn 6 of their 13 home league games in that time. That is not lost on Morrell, who admits the home form has not been good enough to help the Dragons replicate their total of 98 points last season – a total which would have seen them win the league outright this year.
“We haven’t won enough games, there have been too many draws maybe,” the 38-year old admitted. “We’ve let a few leads slip and our home form’s probably not been quite where we want it. I think we’ve probably let three or four games in the last couple of minutes slip into draws and defeats, and it can hurt you. It’s important we make sure we put that right.
“I’d back us over two legs over anyone in the league. I think that’s Kidderminster’s strongest team out there and we’ve had six under-21s playing. They’re a good team, who know how to finish a game off, but I think we can give any team a game when we get our bodies back.”
Part of the problem at the Racecourse has been, in his eyes, down to a pitch which is not fit for purpose.
“It’s been a concern for a while now,” Morrell said, “but there’s not a great deal we can do about it. Unless somebody’s got £750,000 to lend us – I won’t pay them back – to get us a new pitch. I don’t think that’s going to happen, we just have to get on with it. We may have to look at it in the summer.”
You can read Wrexham.com’s match report of the game by clicking here.