Town 0-0 Wrexham
An early-season promotion battle ended in stalemate at Kenilworth Road, as neither the Hatters nor Wrexham could come up with a goal. The point sees the Town stay fifth, two points off Macclesfield at the top of the table.
In a tight match-up between two sides who ended last season in the playoffs, both teams had chances to win but in the end had to share the points, with the hosts especially grateful to goalkeeper Mark Tyler’s fantastic late double save, which made sure of the clean sheet in the game’s dying moments.
John Shaw, returning to the starting line-up after a three game suspension, and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner both went close to scoring in the second half for the Town, with Janos Kovacs also having a couple of good efforts from corners, but ultimately the solid visitors were able to shut out Paul Buckle’s men.
The Town lined up in a positive 4-2-1-3 formation and started the match with attacking intent. With JJ O’Donnell and Alex Lawless shielding the back four, the returning Scott Rendell was able to link up with the dangerous-looking front three of John Shaw, Stuart Fleetwood and Andre Gray. As the Hatters pressed forward in the opening exchanges, O’Donnell tested his range with a left footed free-kick into the wall, before sending a fierce shot just over from 20 yards after seven minutes.
There was a huge let-off for the hosts on 18 minutes, as Adrien Cieslewicz wriggled free of Jake Howells in the box and found himself with only Mark Tyler to beat. The Hatters’ number one managed to get just enough on the Wrexham winger’s effort to give captain Ronnie Henry time to get back and scramble a clearance off the line. The Town survived, but Howells was injured in the process, and had to be replaced by Rowe-Turner.
Kovacs was putting in a dominant display at the back, and almost popped up with a goal at the other end on 24 minutes. O’Donnell sent over a curling back post free kick, but the giant Hungarian couldn’t quite direct his diving header on target.
As the first half progressed, the two strong sides increasingly began to cancel each other out, with neither team able to fashion anything like a goalscoring chance, despite the best endeavours of Hatters’ man of the match Lawless, who was passing the ball around with some style, and Gray, who won a number of corners as he threatened on the right wing.
The second half began with heavy pressure on the Hatters goal, as the visitors began to sense an important away victory. Dragons’ captain Dean Keates fired just wide from twelve yards, the ball breaking free for him after Dean Beckwith executed a well-timed sliding tackle on Danny Wright, and minutes later Kovacs had to welly the ball out for a corner as Johnny Hunt’s miss-hit shot zipped across the six-yard box, Cieslewicz having worried the Town with a tricky run through the middle of the pitch. Rowe-Turner was the next to come to the home side’s rescue, clearing in the six-yard box after Cieslewicz and Neil Ashton combined well on the left wing.
Buckle brought on Dan Walker for Fleetwood in the hope of adding vim to the Town’s attacking display, and the young forward tried to make an early impact on his first appearance of the season as he turned and cut in from the left wing. He was crowded out by Wrexham defenders, and Rowe-Turner’s subsequent right-footed striker flashed high and wide. Shortly afterwards, Kovacs had another back post header from a corner blocked as the hosts belatedly began to get a foothold on the second half.
Walker was impressing on the left wing, and delivered a perfect cross for Shaw on 79 minutes. The big striker, possibly seeing the ball late in a crowded goal mouth, elected to control the ball on his chest rather than head it first time, and Wrexham’s Martin Riley was able to hack clear.
The Town’s best move of the match almost resulted in a goal for Rowe-Turner on 83 minutes, as Walker and fellow substitute Yaser Kasim linked up smartly before releasing Henry on the right wing. The skipper’s low cross carried right through to Rowe-Turner on the far post and the left back connected well with his first-time effort, only for it to be deflected out for a corner.
Wrexham responded with a spell of pressure of their own. Henry had to make an excellent last-ditch tackle on substitute Brett Omerod, before Jay Harris fired a shot just wide from outside the area.
Tyler emerged as Town’s saviour in the dying moments of normal time with a top class double-save, first stretching to tip Omerod’s shot wide before springing to his feet to snuff out Andy Bishop’s effort on the rebound.
The save proved particularly important as the referee blew his whistle shortly afterwards, calling time on a tight match in which neither side could ultimately find a breakthrough.
And so the Town trudged off at full time, applauding the 6,675 fans inside Kenilworth Road, rightly pleased with a clean sheet against one of the league’s best sides, but disappointed not to have found a goal themselves to seal a home win.
LATEST: TOWN 0-0 WREXHAM
Into four added minutes here, Wrexham pushing for a winner here and the Town have had Mark Tyler to thank for a fine save to keep out a Bishop shot.
Seven left, almost 1-0 Hatters, Rowe-Turner free in the box drives a shot goalwards that takes a deflection behind for a corner.
79 mins - Chance for the Town, Walker hangs up a perfect cross for Shaw but after chesting the ball down six yards out he can't poke home.
77 mins - Second Town sub, Gray replaced by Kasim.
Fifteen minutes left here for one of these sides to find a winner.
20 minutes left here, Wrexham bossing things but neither keeper called into any serious action.
63 mins - 6,695 inside Kenilworth Road today including 319 shouting for Wrexham.
First Town sub, on the hour, Dan Walker replaces Fleetwood.
Wrexham upping it now. After Rendell sees a header saved, they break up the other end and Hunt sees a cross-cum-shot cleared by Kovacs. Keates side-foots high and wide from the edge of the box. 58 on the clock and still 0-0.
Almost 1-0 Wrexham, Keates fires a left-foot shot just wide from 12 yards.
Off for the second half here, no changes here.
HALF-TIME After a bright start it's goalless here at the break. The visitors have come closest to taking the lead. Back in 15 minutes for the second half.
40 mins - Don't worry, we've not gone anywhere, just few chances in the last 15 minutes.
25 mins - Oh, close to 1-0, O'Donnell bends a lovely free-kick to the back post for Kovacs but he can't get enough on his header.
20 mins - Howells has taken a knock for the Town and is going to play no further part. On comes Rowe-Turner.
17 mins - First major chance of the afternoon and it goes to the visitors. Winger Cielsewicz sees a shot saved well by Tyler. The ball though bounces goalwards and is hacked off the line by Henry.
15 mins - Had quarter-of-an-hour here, still all the Hatters but visiting goalkeeper not tested as yet.
7 mins - Totally all the Town so far, well on top and they've gone close with efforts from O'Donnell and Gray in these opening few minutes. Positive stuff but no goals as yet.
1 min - And we're off as Wrexham get us off and underway.
14:55 TEAMS OUT
Town in orange, Wrexham in green. Almost set.
Welcome to Kenilworth Road, it's a bright and sunny day here.
Town boss Paul Buckle makes three changes to the side that lost at Alfreton last Saturday.
Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell and Stuart Fleetwood all start with Adam Watkins, Jake Robinson and Greg Taylor missing out.
TOWN: Tyler; Henry, Beckwith, Kovacs; Lawless, Howells, O'Donnell; Rendell; Gray, Shaw, Fleetwood. Subs: Rowe-Turner, Kasim, J. Robinson, Essam, Walker.
WREXHAM: Mayebi, S. Wright, Ashton, Riley, Cieslewicz, Harris, D. Wright, Keates, Hunt, Walker, Bishop. Subs: Ormerod, Morrell, Ogleby, Little, Westwood.