A commanding first-half performance from Wrexham saw them run out comfortable 4-1 winners over struggling Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday night. Dele Adebola got the ball rolling for the home side in just the third minute, with further first-half strikes from Brett Ormerod, Kevin Thornton and Rob Ogleby confirming their dominance. A second-half consolation from Nathan Elder was nothing more for an Ebbsfleet side staring down the barrel of relegation.
Player-manager Andy Morrell selected an unchanged line-up from Saturday’s disjointed performance against Alfreton Town, but the starting eleven repaid his faith with a stunning 45-minute exhibition.
Wrexham began with a real intensity that saw them 2-0 up inside eleven minutes. An early flurry of Dean Keates corners in the first three minutes paid dividends when Dele Adebola profited from some pinball inside the penalty area to knock the ball in off the post. The home side never looked back. The points never looked in danger.
The home side looked slick, far more fluid than they had at the weekend. The second goal arrived less than ten minutes after the first, and was one of the finest team goals the Racecourse ground will have witnessed this season.
It was vintage, one touch pass and move. Neil Ashton found Dele Adebola on the edge of the Ebbsfleet, who produced a perfect lay off for the left-back to run onto into the penalty area, before finding a centrally positioned Brett Ormerod who swept the ball home at the near post. It felt, even then, like game over. It became a question of how many.
The home side continued to pressurise and carve out chances; Dave Artell had a header acrobatically saved by Preston Edwards, before Dean Keates – who made a solid return to form – flayed an effort from the edge of the 18-yard box high and wide.
On 29 minutes, the ever-impressive Kevin Thornton added a peach of a third, curling the ball left-footed into the goalkeeper’s top right-hand corner after Ebbsfleet’s flailing defence failed to clear their lines. It’s now three in three for the ginger-haired prince of the non-league, rapidly becoming the most important cog in Wrexham’s engine room.
Adebola, for his part, also looked a cut above the non-league level. As off-the-pace as he was at the weekend, he was integral to everything positive that Wrexham did in that scintillating first half-hour. But that was to be the tip of his contribution, as he was replaced on the half-hour mark by Rob Ogleby, with Morrell later confirming it was a minor back problem.
Without Adebola, the next hour of play from Wrexham was rather less sparkling than the 30 minutes which preceded it. But the 37-year old’s half-hour cameo had ensured the three points for The Dragons, who added a fourth before half-time, through his replacement.
A sweeping counter-attack almost brought the fourth, with Keates switching play elegantly from left to right to Ogleby, who played in Joe Clarke, but his heavy touch was easily intercepted by the on rushing Edwards in goal. As the ball then broke loose in the middle of the park, Neil Ashton suddenly found himself through on goal mere seconds later, unselfishly squaring to the subsitute Ogleby, who couldn’t miss the gaping net.
Compared to the first, the second 45 was a damp squib. The points were assured, and the drive for more goals countered by the fact that bigger challenges remained in the coming weeks. Wrexham continued their habitual inability to keep a clean-sheet at Racecourse, conceding another sloppy goal, which bore uncanny similarity to Alfreton’s equaliser on Saturday, when subsitute Lanre Afeez found Nathan Elder unmarked at the far post in the 77th minute.
Morrell gave himself a 40 minute run-out in place of a visibly weary Danny Wright, whilst Glen Little (pictured attacking) was afforded an extra ten minutes on the pitch than he is accustomed to. The home side continued to create chances, but not with the same gusto as previously.
Joe Clarke and Kevin Thornton both came close, before Wrexham carved out their best chance of the half when Little, in his own half, gave himself time and space to pick out Thornton 20 yards upfield, who in turn fed Ogleby, but the youngster contrived to miss the target when through on goal.
After a rampant first-half performance, a sedate second-half was due reward. To increase goal difference would have been a luxury, but not to the detriment of energy levels in the run in to the end of the season.
If tonight confirmed anything for Andy Morrell, it is how significantly stronger the squad appears than it did a few weeks ago. Dave Artell has slotted in seamlessly to the back four, whilst Thornton and Adebola have enormously enhanced the side’s attacking options, when others, Joe Clarke and Danny Wright, are appearing jaded.
Morrell faces something of a selection headache when first-team regular Jay Harris returns from his four-match suspension against Luton at the Racecourse on March 16th.