Saturday 25th July 2009
Wrexham 2-1 Manchester City XI (pre-season friendly)
As City’s first team were taking on South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs over 5,000 miles away, the reserve side were visiting Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. The choice between watching an internet stream and going to a game is not a choice at all, so off to North Wales we went.
Although they now find themselves in the Blue Square Premier, before 2008 Wrexham were members of the Football League for 87 consecutive years, and the Racecourse Ground befits this history. The Mold Road Stand is an impressive sight from the inside and outside, and that’s where we were situated for the game. There was a pocket of City fans in the upper tier of the opposite Yale Stand, but we were with a Wrexham supporter so instead sat with the home fans. These two stands were the only ones in operation for the game, and I was disappointed that the terraced Kop Stand was closed pending re-development.
City’s reserve side is mainly made up of players from the previous year’s youth team, who reached the 2008 Youth Cup semi-final and went the entire league season unbeaten. However, there was one famous face in the form of Kasper Schmeichel, who can already count a Manchester derby victory and a penalty save at Arsenal among his career achievements. Wrexham’s line-up featured a former City man in left-back Sam Williamson. City had recorded good results at Hyde United and Northwich Victoria in previous friendlies, but the trip to Wrexham signified a step up in quality.
With that in mind, it was no surprise that City struggled to get to grips with the game in the opening period. Chances were at a premium, with the only action of note being apparent Racecourse favourite Silvio sending a free-kick narrowly over from 30 yards.
Slowly, though, City began to take the initiative and were rewarded with the opening goal on 19 minutes. Slovakian striker Robbie Mak was sent tumbling by the Wrexham keeper, and Karl Moore placed the resulting penalty into the bottom left corner. City dominated the remainder of the half and could have doubled the lead on more than one occasion. However, it remained 1-0 when the referee blew for the interval.
The missed chances proved crucial as Wrexham took control after the break. A minute after the restart, substitute Wes Baynes made an immediate impact by firing an unstoppable free-kick past Schmeichel from some way out. Ten minutes later, Silvio completed the turnaround when he took advantage of slack marking from a corner to head home.
From then on, Wrexham looked the more likely to score again, with Baynes looking to repeat his long-range exploits more than once, but to little effect. Although City managed to carve out a couple of opportunities, the most significant falling to David Ball, there could be few complaints when the referee’s whistle signified a 2-1 victory for the home side, and the end of a rigorous workout for the visitors.
Though I can’t profess to being an expert on non-league football, Wrexham surely won’t find themselves out of the Football League for long. The Racecourse Ground certainly deserves to host games at a higher level, but I can’t help but feel it will lose something when (or indeed if) the Kop is re-developed. In the meantime, the Wrexham fans certainly created a good atmosphere, despite only the two side stands being populated.