Wrexham continued their streak of three home league games without a win, after a second-half wonder strike from Gateshead’s Ryan Donaldson’s denied Andy Morrell’s side all three points. Having taken a well-earned lead due to Nick Rushton’s first strike for the club, Wrexham were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal and remain fourth in the table.
Wrexham came into the game knowing that a win, along with favourable results elsewhere, could see them move top of the table. With last weekend’s scorer, Stephen Wright, missing out through injury, there was a second Wrexham debut for loan signing Danny Alfei, whilst Martin Riley and Brett Ormerod returned to the starting eleven after recent injuries, deputizing for Danny Devine and Morrell respectively. A heartening minute’s applause in recognition of Tony Roberts, a former Wrexham youth-player and fan, who died this week, proceeded the game.
During a sluggish opening half an hour, the match was punctuated by sporadic bursts forward from Wrexham. A looping header from Martin Riley hit the bar inside the first ten, whilst the home side should have had their first effort on goal in the 16th minute. Gateshead midfielder Lee Bullock was easily dispossessed by the bustling Jay Harris, but, with Nick Rushton bearing down on goal to his left, Harris overhit the through-ball. It was a passage of play that was indicative of both the muted opening and the lack of cohesion in Wrexham’s attacking forays.
As the first-half wore on Wrexham began to seize the initiative. Riley was denied a certain goal on 23 minutes, but his point-blank header from Dean Keates’ free-kick was directed straight at goal-keeper Adam Bartlett. The away side could so easily have taken the lead, however, just a minute later after Wrexham’s defence failed to clear a corner and Andy Coughlin was forced into two good saves from Bullock and James Curtis.
After missing a host of decent chances, namely through Harris and Ormerod, the home side finally took the lead in the 37th minute with a well-worked goal. A through-ball from Danny Wright found Rushton in acres of space on the left-hand side of Gateshead’s penalty area, who took a touch before firmly side-footing home to give Wrexham a deserved lead. It was just rewards for an encouraging first-half display, yet Wrexham failed to build on their slender lead in the second-half.
They were made to pay for both their profligacy and lack of creative quality in the most resounding way imaginable. After a sedate opening quarter to the re-start, Ryan Donaldson, who had already darted his way through the Wrexham defence just minutes earlier, was allowed to bring the ball forward again before unleashing an absolute howitzer, which took a vicious dip and nestled into the top corner. Not a goal the Racecourse faithful are likely to forget in a hurry, nor one that the 21-year old former Newcastle and England youth international is likely to better in the rest of his career.
The equalizer came out of nothing and seemed to knock the stuffing entirely out of the home side. Wrexham’s determination to find a winner was not matched by the quality of their play and game meandered into a draw. Though Wrexham and Morrell felt hard-done by when they were denied a series of penalty appeals for handballs against Rushton and Cieslewicz, the Heed clung on for a point as Wrexham toiled.
In truth, Wrexham paid for their inability to build up a period of sustained pressure in the second-half. Their first-half play may have been encouraging, but Morrell should be concerned at how the second-half performance drifted into a dispiriting draw. For the second weekend in a row, Wrexham have failed to take advantage of rivals’ slip ups, particularly with Newport County losing a second consecutive league game.
As their inconsistency at home continues it has now been six games since Wrexham kept a clean sheet. A trip to struggling Braintree Town on Tuesday, however, should see Wrexham return to winning ways. As alarming as their recent home form has been, Wrexham have not lost away since the trip to Macclesfield in August.