Wrexham AFC 3 – 1 Boreham Wood
Saturday 22nd April 2023
The Racecourse Ground, Vanarama National League
DRAGONS BURN WOOD
A second half brace from Paul Mullin was enough to seal the Vanarama National League title, with Wrexham coming from behind to beat the Wood in a feisty encounter in front of the BT Sport cameras.
Lee Ndlovu shocked a deafening Racecourse Ground after 44 seconds when he capitalised on a mistake at the back and lobbed the ball over Ben Foster, but Wrexham quickly got themselves back into it as Elliot Lee met Ryan Barnett’s cross to head them level 15 minutes later.
Despite dominating the ball for much of the half, the Red Dragons were unable to penetrate a stubborn Wood defence who were keen to maintain their superb defensive record. However, the hosts’ persistence paid off minutes into the second half, with Mullin bending a fantastic strike beyond Nathan Ashmore after 52 minutes before adding his second of the evening with 19 minutes to go, and proved enough to wrap up the National League title race.
Defeat against the Red Dragons means the Wood aren’t yet able to seal their spot in the top seven, but they remain in seventh with a three-point gap to Southend United and will be looking to get the decisive final point when they host Gateshead on Tuesday night.
Results earlier in the day meant the Wood just needed a draw to secure their place in the National League play-offs, and this meant a clear game plan from Luke Garrard who named an unchanged XI from the side that beat Wealdstone last time out.
Despite all of the pre-match hype surrounding their opponents, it was the Wood who got off to a lightening quick start with an incredibly early lead on the way as they looked to derail the party in North Wales. Jack Payne sent a high ball forward which Red Dragons’ skipper Ben Tozer misjudged allowing Ndlovu the space to calmly lob the ball goalward, and his effort beat Foster with ease with the former Watford goalkeeper in no man’s land to break the deadlock.
Although the visitors will have hoped this would spur them on, it only proved to add fuel to the fire, and the hosts weren’t silenced for long as a spell of pressure soon paid off with Barnett doing well to beat Femi Ilesanmi before standing a cross into the middle which evaded Sam Dalby but met the head of Lee, who got them back level.
Nonetheless, the Wood remained organised and were finding some success from frustrating Wrexham. As a result there were large periods of play where the hosts struggled to create any clear cut chances despite dominating possession, and it was Garrard’s side who went closest next with Zak Brunt finding space to shoot from range with his effort flying just over the crossbar.
This seemed open the floodgates with opportunities being created at a more frequent rate. An acrobatic effort from Mullin saw him attempt to give Wrexham the lead in spectacular fashion with his strike whistling just wide of the far post, before Ilesanmi leapt highest to meet Érico Sousa’s cross but he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Mullin would then go close again soon after as Andy Cannon’s threaded through ball excellently put the striker one on one with Ashmore, with his low shot being saved down low by the Wood stopper. Foster then produced a similar save at the other end moments later, needing to stay alert as Ilesanmi’s low cross almost caught him out at his near post but he was able to make the stop.
This preceded some heroic defending from George Broadbent who produced a wonderful sliding challenge to deny Dalby who found himself through on goal, with a stoppage in play following as the Sheffield United loanee came off worse, and this would be all either side could muster before the half was out, going into the break all square.
HT: Wrexham 1-1 Boreham Wood
With the National League title potentially at stake, the Wood will have expected a fierce test after the interval and saw the first chance of the second half fall to the hosts as Tom O’Connor headed over from Tozer’s long throw-in.
Phil Parkinson’s men will have been keen to maintain control and take the lead sooner rather than the later, and it wouldn’t be long before this became a reality with the ever-reliable Mullin at his best once again. The former Cambridge United man picked up the ball on the byline and showed excellent strength to beat David Agbontohoma and come inside, before lining up to shoot from just inside the penalty area with his effort flying past the beaten Ashmore.
The Red Dragons were in the ascendancy and could have added a third when Cannon found himself free in the penalty area, with the hosts appealing for a spot-kick after he went down under a strong challenge from Broadbent, but the referee waved away the appeals due to the offside flag.
A rare chance for the Wood followed as Sousa delivered a cross that was too close to Foster, although he had to gather at the second attempt after almost dropping the ball, and the hosts will have been grateful with Mullin soon adding the illustrious third goal with an effort that gave Ashmore no chance.
The Red Dragons’ top scorer was indeed at it again as he did well to outmuscle Chris Bush and take control of Jacob Mendy Mendy’s high ball, before evading Will Evans and firing home his 46th goal of the season in all competitions to extend their advantage even more, and leave them within touching distance of League Two.
As a result of the two-goal cushion, chances quickly dried up as the hosts opted to defend in their numbers, and they soaked up a barrage of pressure as the game reached its conclusion which they comfortably dealt with.
And the referee soon signalling the close to proceedings, which instantly brought a pitch invasion as Wrexham finally ended their 15-year absence from the Football League.
FT: Wrexham 3-1 Boreham Wood
Wrexham: Foster; Tozer, O’Connell, O’Connor; Barnett, Jones, Cannon, Lee, Mendy Mendy; Mullin (Palmer 89’), Dalby
Subs Not Used: Howard, Cleworth, Forde, Davies
Goal: Lee 15’, Mullin 52’, 71’
Boreham Wood: Ashmore; Agbontohoma, Evans, Bush; Sousa, Payne (Rees 77’), Broadbent, Ilesanmi; Brunt; Ndlovu (Newton 80’), Marsh (Lewis 70’)
Subs Not Used: Kelly-Evans, Fyfield
Goal: Ndlovu 1’
Star Man: Jack Payne
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