Via Wrexham AFC
One to look back on, as Wrexham claimed all three points against Maidstone with a stoppage time winner.
Even with the recent upturn in away performances and results, a struggling Maidstone would be hard to overcome with new manager George Elokobi and the new manager bounce it provides.
With over a week’s break from the league, Phil Parkinson made ten changes in a turn back to the usual starting eleven. Birthday boy Ollie Palmer was the only one to miss out, due to a modified training programme as a result of an abductor issue. This coupled with the cold weather affecting overall training and Maidstone’s astro pitch, saw Parkinson opt to start Sam Dalby instead.
United, on the back of a FA Trophy win away to league leaders Notts County, would come out of the blocks positively. In a tit-for-tat first 20 minutes, they found room in the Wrexham box, but failed to capitalise with poor finishes and final decision making.
The space for Wrexham in the first half came down the right-wing through Anthony Forde. The high-flying wing-back was far from hugging the touchline, as he found room in the Stones’ box on three occasions. A shot would prevail every time, but a clawed save and an excellent block on the run would keep the scoreline goalless.
Last ditch blocks were a feature of the Stones’ first half. George Fowler sliding on the line to block Forde’s shot in the 23rd minute and Joe Ellul’s block inside the box from a sweeping Paul Mullin effort in the 25th showed Maidstone’s resolve.
Wrexham were heavily knocking on the door though and it just had to break down.
Paul Mullin constantly ran the channels in this game and when Dalby headed him through on the left wing amongst a rash Sam Bone, the number ten couldn’t help but run through on goal. An impressive Yusuf Mersin would rush out and save Mullin’s low shot with the underside of his body, only for the ball to balloon up to Luke Young more than 20 yards out. The Wrexham captain instinctively lofted the ball back, with the loop perhaps summiting Yr Wyddfa, before it plummeted down to land perfectly into the back of the net.
A deserved lead in a half that Parkinson would have been happy with.
The second-half started slowly, but Mullin will always prove a handful for defenders whatever the situation.
After a tussle commencing outside the area, Ellul grabbed Mullin and thus brought him to the floor, where referee Aji Ajibola gave an instant decision.
There is no doubting Mullin at the penalty spot, as he walloped the ball into Mersin’s bottom right corner to give the Red Dragons a 2-0 lead at the hour mark.
Young admitted post-match that the boys were comfortable at this stage, but far from cruising.
The introductions of Christie Pattinson and James Alabi certainly started to bring some impetus back into the play of Maidstone, allowing one to see a doggedness nature to the defending of Wrexham. Players would hunt in packs in an attempt to relieve Maidstone players of time and space.
The goals did however come for Maidstone and both through Jack Barham.
With the ball bouncing around in the area, anything can happen, and this led to the ball falling to Barham in the 72nd minute, who couldn’t help but tuck the ball away.
Regan Booty would then cross from the right-wing to find the head of Barham, who placed his header to perfection past Mark Howard with a little over ten minutes left.
After building the platform to have a comfortable position in the game, Wrexham would now have to dig deep in search of a winner.
Parkinson waited five minutes before choosing to take of centre back Jordan Tunnicliffe and replace him with James Jones.
The switch-up to the formation had an instant impact in the comeback win at home to Bromley and the same effect was felt at the Gallagher Stadium.
Wrexham earned a corner, right as four minutes were announced for stoppage time. With Tom O’Connor’s corner curled into the six-yard area perfectly, Aaron Hayden would converge, while Mersin would wrestle his way out to the ball. The strength of Hayden would prevail though, as he used Bone almost as a human body shield against United’s keeper, as the centre back directed the ball into the back of the net with an outstretched foot fetching the ball from behind.
Maidstone would concede yet another goal in injury time and Wrexham would claim yet another victory in the league.
This side just does not know when to say die. The winning mentality of Parkinson’s team to annihilate, comeback or grind out games is truly remarkable.
With the postponement of Notts County’s game at Chesterfield, Wrexham now sit level on points with the league leaders, only behind on goals scored with a game in hand.