Wrexham AFC v Boreham Wood
Saturday 22nd April 2023, 6.30pm
Racecourse Ground, Vanarama National League

Although Wrexham are just three points away from League Two, the Wood can seal their place in the play-offs with victory as well, and head to North Wales intent on spoiling the party as they look to confirm their top seven spot in front of the BT Sport cameras.

IN FOCUS: WREXHAM AFC

North Wales outfit Wrexham are a side on the rise after Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney decided to purchase the club in November 2020. Following their relegation from League Two in 2008, the Red Dragons have struggled to bounce back and have achieved just five top seven finishes since, but have fast become one of the division’s heavyweights. The arrival of Phil Parkinson as manager coincided with their ascent up the division after predecessor Dean Keates failed to guide them into the play-offs at the end of the 2020/21 campaign. Indeed, an improved 2021/22 season under their new manager and a new-look squad saw the Reynolds and McElhenney era get underway, but despite much hype surrounding the future of the Red Dragons, the campaign ended in bittersweet fashion as they narrowly missed out on the league title before falling short in the play-off semi-final to eventual winners Grimsby Town, as well as losing in the FA Trophy Final at the hands of Bromley.

Nonetheless, they reacted by strengthening in the summer with the likes of Elliot Lee, Anthony Forde and Jordan Tunnicliffe arriving from Football League clubs along with Jacob Mendy Mendy and Sam Dalby signing from fellow National League sides Boreham Wood and Southend United respectively, in an attempt to bolster their frontline and ease the pressure from top scorers Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer while also adding even more quality to a defence which conceded the fifth least goals in the division last season. This has seen them make even stronger charge for the National League title this time around, and have looked to secure their place in League Two with the mid-season arrivals of Eoghan O’Connell from Charlton Athletic, Andy Cannon from Hull City, Billy Waters from Barrow and Ryan Barnett from Solihull Moors, as they have added even more quality to their ranks. Additionally, they were able to convince former West Bromwich Albion and Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster come out of retirement to return to the Racecourse Ground 18 years after his loan spell with the club in 2004/05, and this has seen the club thrust into the limelight even more with the arrival of a player who featured in the Premier League less than a year ago. Wrexham have without a doubt turned into a juggernaut of a side over the last two years, and with more than 100 points racked up already, they will be keen to seal the deal and pip rivals Notts County to the Vanarama National League title sooner rather than later.

LAST TIME OUT

Wrexham 3-0 Yeovil Town
Tuesday 18th April 2023
Vanarama National League

Three second half strikes for Wrexham broke the record for the highest ever points total in the National League, in a resounding victory over Yeovil Town that saw the Red Dragons go within one more win of the title.

A game with high stakes for both teams, it began in quick fashion as Anthony Forde had a shot blocked by Josh Staunton before Andy Cannon saw a rasping effort flash past the post, and the visitors would respond as they looked to make their mark on proceedings with Matt Worthington forcing Ben Foster into a smart save. Despite both sides having plenty to play for, neither side were able to make the most of their attacking intent and were unable to make the breakthrough before half time, with Phil Parkinson’s men having the final chance of the half as Tom O’Connor headed over from Elliot Lee’s corner.

Wrexham began the second period the sharper of the two teams, and it was Forde who fired the Red Dragons in front on the hour-mark as his deflected shot looped over Will Buse to finally break the deadlock. It then could have been two mere minutes later as Paul Mullin pounced on a loose ball at the back post, with his shot destined for the top corner before being deflected over the crossbar. However, James Jones did double the lead with less than 20 minutes to go as he met Mullin’s cross before lashing home past the outstretched Buse. The Red Dragons started to turn the screw and Mullin made it three four minutes later, heading Ryan Barnett’s floated cross into the top corner to add gloss to the scoreline and put the result beyond doubt, with Ben Tozer nearly getting in on the act soon after with a thunderbolt of a strike that forced Buse into an outstanding save, tipping the ball onto the post. Although they knew defeat would see their immediate future take place in the National League South, the Glovers didn’t give up and looked for a consolation goal, trying to catch Foster out from distance with the former Manchester United man able to make the save. He was called into action again as he made another strong save in added time, this time denying substitute Chiori Johnson who had cut inside before striking a half volley which he palmed away, and this was enough to confirm a crucial three points that put the hosts within touching distance of League Two, while condemning the visitors to their fate at the other end with a fourth relegation in less than ten years.

RECENT FORM

Yeovil Town (H) W3-0
Barnet (A) D0-0
Notts County (H) W3-2
FC Halifax Town (A) L3-1
Oldham Athletic (H) W5-1
York City (H) W3-0

Wrexham lead the way in the Vanarama National League table for a reason, having established themselves as a force to be reckoned with all season long. However, a couple of recent scares has seen the title race take turn after turn, and their contest with Notts County is without a doubt going down the wire. A comfortable 3-0 victory over York City saw them end March with a fourth win in a row, and this would be bettered when Paul Mullin contributed a hat-trick to a 5-1 victory over Oldham Athletic to kick-off the final month of the season with a bang. However, FC Halifax Town shocked Phil Parkinson’s men with a 3-1 victory courtesy of goals from Mani Alli and Emmanuel Dieseruvwe, the latter coming back to haunt Wrexham after scoring in a 5-4 victory over the Red Dragons for Grimsby Town in last season’s play-off semi-final. This had perhaps come at the worst possible time with a potential title-deciding encounter with Notts County coming three days later, and tensions were undoubtedly at an all-time high. Although the Magpies drew first blood, a wonderful second half display saw Mullin and Jacob Mendy Mendy put them into the lead before Elliot Lee restored their advantage after Kyle Cameron’s late leveller. Recent recruit Ben Foster would prove to be the hero though as he denied Cedwyn Scott from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time to seal an invaluable three points, and although they followed this up with a goalless draw against Barnet last week, a 3-0 victory over Yeovil Town last time out has put them back in the driving seat as the season reaches its conclusion, with just three more point needed to secure silverware.

IN THE DUGOUT: PHIL PARKINSON

After making a name for himself as a player for Bury and Reading, Phil Parkinson switched his attention to management in 2003 when he took over at Colchester United, winning promotion to the Championship in his final season. He briefly joined Hull City before moving to Charlton Athletic initially in assistant and caretaker roles, but departed after three years. Further spells at Bradford City, Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland followed, with his time at the former bringing perhaps his most notable achievement with the FA Cup upset against Chelsea. Parkinson opted to drop down a division for Wrexham in July 2021 and guided the club to the National League play-off final in his first season along with the FA Trophy final, being defeated by Grimsby Town and Bromley respectively.

ONE TO WATCH: PAUL MULLIN

After spending time in the academies of both Everton and Liverpool, Paul Mullin later moved to Huddersfield Town where he progressed through the ranks but was released without making a senior appearance, following a loan spell at Vauxhall Motors. He would join Morecambe and enjoyed further spells with Swindon Town and Tranmere Rovers, however it was with Cambridge United where he began to establish himself with a league-high 36 goals in 56 appearances, helping fire the club to promotion to League One. His exploits saw him named the EFL League Two Player of the Season as well as being included in the EFL League Two Team of the Season, with his impact at the Abbey Stadium even seeing a stand named after him for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign following his record-breaking 25th goal of the season.

Mullin later made a shock move to the National League when he joined Wrexham in July 2021, enjoying an incredibly successful debut season in North Wales as he top scored with 28 goals in all competitions which resulted in him winning the club’s Player of the Season and Goal of the Season awards, as well as the National League’s Golden Boot and Player of the Season awards. His second season has proved even more successful for the Wrexham number ten with his goal tally in the league being bettered only by Notts County’s Macauley Langstaff, having scored a whopping 43 goals from 48 games in all competitions.

LAST TIME WE MET

Boreham Wood 1-1 Wrexham
Saturday 22nd October 2022
Vanarama National League

The Wood sealed a point against title hopefuls Wrexham as Danny Newton shocked the Red Dragons in an action-packed first half, before Aaron Hayden tapped home mere minutes into the second to cancel out his opener.

Although it was the hosts seemed to get into better areas as they looked to break the deadlock, there was little to separate the two sides during the opening stages and it was Wrexham who produced the first genuine chance of the match, as Elliot Lee broke away after Anthony Forde evaded a challenge from George Broadbent before sending a tame effort into the grateful arms of Nathan Ashmore. This begin a brief spell of half chances as both sides grew into the game, with Newton seeing a volley deflect back off his own teammate following a corner minutes before Paul Mullin found space on the edge of the box to shoot, with Ashmore able to comfortably gather. Action began to liven up as the game approached the half-hour mark and the Wood went ever so close to taking the lead when Cameron Coxe did brilliantly to breach the Wrexham defence and get a shot away, with the ball deflecting into the path of Newton who’s follow-up was blocked, before Wrexham went up the other end and created an extremely similar chance with Mullin and Forde both being denied. Bodies were put on the line again shortly after with Coxe and Jack Payne having successive shots blocked once again, but the deadlock would soon be broken as the Wood finally struck first, as Newton was picked out by Dennon Lewis before stroking the ball into the far corner to send the hosts into the break ahead.

Wrexham were fired up and came out of the blocks quickest in the second half, with a golden chance just minutes into the half as Mullin rounded Ashmore before firing goalward from a tight angle into the open goal, where Ilesamni was perfectly positioned on the line to head over the crossbar. The Red Dragons took advantage of the subsequent corner though, with the ball being cleared as far as Mullin on the byline who squared the ball into the path of Hayden to tap home and seal the equaliser. The hosts thought they had restored their lead almost immediately when Tyrone Marsh cut the ball back to Newton in the box, but the flag went up for offside on the former to cut the celebrations short after Newton had fired the ball into the bottom corner. Looking to pile the pressure on, Wrexham responded with Ollie Palmer appealing for a penalty after going down in the box under a challenge from David Stephens, before Mullin drilled a powerful delivery across goal with nobody there to divert it home. James Jones later had a strike whistle over the crossbar from distance before Palmer fired a shot that curled inches past the post, with Broadbent also sending a free kick over the crossbar as a rare Wood chance went amiss. Mullin then controlled a high ball before sending a shot straight at Ashmore as Wrexham looked to take the lead, and the visitors continued to make life difficult for their opponents into added time with Jordan Davies sending a free kick into the danger area, with the hosts being saved by the offside flag. The Wood remained resilient, and saw one last throw of the dice as they looked to nick a winner with Broadbent sending the ball forward, but it was overhit before the referee brought a close to proceedings.

HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE? JACOB MENDY MENDY

Although his time in Hertfordshire proved to be short-lived, Wood fans won’t be forgetting Jacob Mendy Mendy’s efforts during the 2021/22 campaign in a hurry. Former Atlético Madrid youth player Mendy joined the club for a record transfer fee after the Wood activated his buyout clause, with the Gambian-born Spaniard having impressed whilst at Wealdstone and he became a key figure under Luke Garrard. Featuring 49 times in all competitions on the left flank, Mendy was an ever-present for the Wood throughout the 2021/22 season and helped the club produce a title-challenge during the first half of the campaign. Although they would end up missing out on the play-offs all together, a historic FA Cup run ensured the campaign was still a success with the wing-back appearing in all but one stage as the club reached the Fifth Round, and he would play 90 minutes at both the Vitality Stadium and Goodison Park in two of the biggest games in the club’s history against AFC Bournemouth and Everton respectively. Offering plenty of pace and power out wide, Mendy was regularly touted by his manager as the best player in his position in the division, with Wrexham taking this into account when they announced his arrival in North Wales last summer, signing a three-year deal, and he has gone on to feature 28 times for the Red Dragons as they have mounted a title charge.

OUR CLUB. OUR TOWN. OUR COMMUNITY.

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