Wrexham were held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited Braintree Town, but their play offs hopes have been dealt a severe blow after Danny Wright sustained a dislocated elbow, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
The Dragons’ leading scorer sustained the injury in the fifth minute after landing awkwardly, following a coming-together with a Braintree defender. The result has rendered Wrexham’s chances of finishing third, and playing the second leg of their play off tie at home, impossible.
The club now find themselves level on points with fifth-placed Grimsby Town, and facing the very real possibility of a two-legged tie against the one of the runaway duo Kidderminster Harriers or Mansfield Town.
The game itself, beginning against the backdrop of a sun drenched evening in North Wales, had begun with such earnest and urgency. Wrexham, initially pegged back after a succession of early Braintree corners, opened the scoring in spectacular style after just three minutes through player-manager Andy Morrell.
Running on to a ball over the top from Neil Ashton, the 38-year old profited from a lapse in concentration from Braintree defender Dean Wells, who missed his clearance. Bearing down on goal and on the edge of the penalty area, Morrell opted to dink a delicate chip over the onrushing Nathan McDonald, with the ball nestling in the bottom corner.
The perfect start for Wrexham soon turned sour. Minutes later Braintree’s Ben Wright curled an effort from 20 yards against Chris Maxwell’s post, before the ball went up the other end, and Danny Wright collapsed in agony.
It was all rather innocuous, with Wrexham’s leading goal scorer tripping over and landing awkwardly on his side. The full consequences of this trivial sequence of events were laid bare almost immediately, as Morrell paced the Racecourse turf with his head in his hands.
The injury knocked the stuffing out of Wrexham’s early energy and incision. Instead it was Braintree who dictated terms, enjoying long periods of sustained possession. The pressure eventually told, when on 18 minutes Ben Wright volleyed an Alex Woodyard cross past the despairing dive of Chris Maxwell and into the Wrexham net.
The Dragons were reduced to 10 men for 13 minutes of the first half after Jay Harris was forced to trudge down the tunnel to receive treatment to his head; returning with a full on bandage across his forehead.
As the first half descended into a non-event, Wrexham emerged for the second half with renewed vigour, and created enough chances to seal a deserved victory. They were frustrated, however, by a combination of their own profligacy and smart reflexes from Braintree ‘keeper Nathan McDonald.
Particularly prominent was goalscorer Andy Morrell, but he the most culpable for missing chances, flashing a couple of shots across the face of goal and volleying straight at the goalkeeper from 10 yards out.
Jonny Hunt perhaps should have given Wrexham the lead 12 minutes from time, but was only able to side foot Bradley Reid’s dissecting cross woefully wide. Reid had come close himself earlier in the half, after being sent through on goal by Brett Ormerod, but after slipping the ball past McDonald, his trickling effort was cleared off the line by Sam Habergham.
As the final whistle blew, to end another disappointing 90 minutes at the Racecourse, thoughts quickly turned to the opening stages, and another freak injury that looks to define the end of Wrexham’s season.
That Wright’s injury was so innocuous only adds to Morrell’s frustration; his rotation policy of recent weeks has borne fruit with young players, Rob Evans in particular, gaining vital playing time, and key components, like Jay Harris and Dean Keates, gaining some invaluable rest time.
Whilst Wrexham’s past few games have been largely uninspiring fares, there has been a worthwhile cause behind the experimental team selections; damage limitation. Tonight was a vindication of Morrell’s previous caution.
Having previously insisted that he will do everything to protect his players and make sure they’re fit and firing for the play-offs, the Wrexham player-manager was dealt the cruelest blow as news filtered through that Danny Wright had dislocated his elbow.
But as the play offs loom ever larger, the need to integrate these players back into the first team setup has been necessary and the risks of this strategy became apparent in the most brutal way imaginable for Morrell.
Only a positive result at Mansfield on Saturday, coupled with a Newport victory over Grimsby, will see Wrexham avoid the two form teams of non-league football in 2013. Wrexham’s task to rejoin the Football League has become significantly more arduous.
You can read the in depth post match thoughts from manager Andy Morrell by clicking here!