Full time report
United’s brave FA Cup run will continue into the Third Round after they came from behind to beat Wrexham this evening. Trailing to a Joe Clarke goal in the first half, United hit back with two quick-fire goals from James Constable and Ryan Williams to set up a trip to Charlton on January 4th.
United were able to bring the excellent Johnny Mullins back to skipper the side after an ankle injury, Tom Newey reverting to his more familiar left-back role in place of David Lynn after a promising debut at Gateshead in the previous round. Mullins was soon in the action, heading a series of dangerous crosses clear as the home side started strongly. Midfielder Jay Harris flashed their first effort across the face of goal when he ghosted into the box to volley first time at goal but other than that shot there was little to trouble Ryan Clarke in the opening 20 minutes.
United meanwhile had started confidently themselves, Williams moving through the gears with a couple of positive early runs and Dave Kitson linking things together with some intelligent movement and passes. A Kitson flick caused a fumble from home keeper Andy Coughlin after 17 minutes under typical pressure from the ever-willing Constable, one of several questions asked by long throws from United’s right. Another on 21 was flicked on at the near post for Mullins at the back stick but his hooked effort clipped the top of the bar with Coughlin beaten, before a Rose effort on 28 went straight at the keeper from the edge of the box
United had looked good but the home side had defended well and on 29 minutes took advantage of the first clear opening of the game to take the lead. Dean Keates caused all the problems in the middle of the park, finding acres of space as he ran at the United back line. The crowd urged him to shoot but instead he had the vision to clip an inviting pass to his right over the United defence for Joe Clarke to take the ball in his stride and smash a volley past the helpless Ryan Clarke for a nicely constructed and well-taken opener.
It had been an absorbing first half and with an upset on the cards it promised to be an exciting second 45 minutes, especially when Johnny Hunt had the chance to double his side’s lead inside the first 15 seconds of the restart. Fortunately for United, Ryan Clarke has been a model of consistency ever since he played for them on this ground back in the Conference, and when called upon was able to get down to his right and spread himself expertly to save when all seemed lost. Great keeper, great save and on such moments a cup run is built.
United knew they had had a let-off and started to build momentum as they tried to book a second visit to the Valley this season. Williams, a constant thorn in Wrexham’s side, dragged one wide and then inside two minutes they were in front .
On 54 they were level as Constable made it 1-1 with an expert finish. Kitson, of course, was the supplier with a ball across the face of the Wrexham defence. Constable running to his right went round the side of the back line and then could not have been more deadly with a shot across the keeper and into the far corner of the net for his 102nd goal for the club.
It was greeted by silence by the stunned home fans and within two minutes their half-time optimism had been burst as Williams made it 2-1. A simple throw in from the left from Davies was allowed to travel into the box where Kitson made a nuisance of himself at the near post. In doing so he drew a defender away and that allowed Williams, booed roundly by the Wrexham fans for almost having his leg taken off in the first half, to have his revenge by applying a simple finish inside the six-yard box.
With Kitson finding space and moving defenders all over the place and Rose and Scott Davies patrolling the midfield United looked composed. Youngsters Josh Ruffels and Matt Bevans added youthful exuberance to a hard-working display and with David Hunt looking as though he could play sweeper for the next ten years alongside Mullins, they took the sting out of a difficult situation perfectly. It may not have been spectacular but United are at their best when given a problem to solve and once again had come through with flying colours.
Wrexham tried to rally but just couldn’t find that extra gear. Quite where The U’s found the energy to see it through is a good question after an energy-sapping 120 minutes at Gateshead on Thursday night and a drive through the night to get home and start preparing for this trip to Wales. This was not a vintage free-flowing performance – they just don’t happen in the FA Cup - but was instead a win based on courage and sheer determination.
A trip to Charlton will be an added bonus in January, but the real goal remains the same. See you on Saturday when the League 2 leaders welcome Dagenham & Redbridge to the Kassam Stadium. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher Stats by OPTA
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