Wrexham 2 - 0 Oxford Utd

Last updated : 23 August 2008 By Dylan Gallacher
Match Report from the Daily Post

A SECOND home win of the season last night lifted Wrexham into the upper echelons of the Blue Square Premier, but they made hard work of securing maximum points against a gritty and durable Oxford United.

Brian Little's side had numerous opportunities to make the margin of victory more comfortable than it was against a U's side forced to play with 10 men for all but the opening 15 minutes, but their profligacy in front of goal ensured that they were never able to relax until Jefferson Louis made the game safe in the final minute.

Having missed the opening three matches of the season due to a suspension carried over from last season, Kyle Critchell was given his Dragons debut in the only change from the side that drew 1-1 at Rushden & Diamonds on Sunday.

Surprisingly, though, it was wide man Simon Brown - praised by manager Brian Little following his performance at Nene Park - who made way for the Wales under-21 international.

Critchell, an unused substitute for Brian Flynn's U21 side at the Racecourse just 24 hours earlier, slotted in on the right side of midfield in a straight swap for Brown, who set up Wrexham's equaliser for Shaun Whalley on Sunday.

Opponents Oxford, too, showed just one alteration to the starting line-up that earned the club's first win of the season at the weekend.

Midfielder Eddie Hutchinson, a substitute for injury victim Joe Burnell in the 6-3 victory over Eastbourne, kept his place, despite the fact he has been placed on the transfer list.

Pushing forward from the first whistle, the visitors won two early corners, the first of which was delivered with pace by Chris Carruthers and caused a few flutters in the Wrexham defence.

But the Dragons took a vice-like grip on proceedings in a promising riposte that resulted in United defender Luke Foster being sent off after 15 minutes.

Louis, whose physical struggle with centre back Barry Quinn was an early feature of the contest, met Carl Tremarco's free kick with a looping header that beat goalkeeper Jake Cole.

The ball rebounded from the bar and, although the keeper recovered well to parry Whalley's follow-up, Wrexham maintained the pressure and when the pacy little striker got the wrong side of Foster, the defender pulled him down in the penalty area.

As the last man, the Oxford man was shown a red card, yet Wrexham failed to capitalise, Louis driving the penalty straight into the keeper's body.

It was, it has to be said, a poor spot-kick, but United were rattled.

Levi Mackin, Sam Aiston and Critchell all found room for shots that were not far off target and when Aiston surged to the byline, his cross was flicked on by Whalley to the far post where an unmarked Critchell just failed to make the decisive connection.

United's charmed existence lasted until the 29th minute before their defence was breached, Steve Evans scoring with a diving header from Tom Kearney's corner to register his first goal of the season and his first since the game against Macclesfield in April.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, United were not backward in coming forward with the speed of Yemi Odubade, in particular, being employed to good effect.

But they didn't cause too many problems for the home defence, although they might have equalised in the 32nd minute when slack marking at a corner allowed Quinn a free header that flew a yard wide of Gavin Ward's left hand post.

Louis, who gave an indifferent display at Rushden, was having a much better evening in using his height and strength to good effect, even though some of his passing left a lot to be desired.

And as the visitors were penned back, Darran Kempson ventured forward to try his luck from 35 yards with a screamer that fairly whistled past Cole's upright.

In a bold move, United manager Darren Patterson changed the system for the second 45 minutes, sending on defender Chris Willmott in a back three behind four midfield men.

And United almost immediately carved out a chance, Odubade benefiting from a poor defensive header for a snap shot that fortunately flew straight at Ward.

But it was not long before the Dragons were breathing fire again and Cole kept his side in with a shout with a fine save from Mackin.

Within minutes, though, the Wrexham keeper more than matched his counterpart when he flung himself low to turn away Lewis Haldane's curling free kick.

And as long as the sides remained separated by a single goal, the home side could not afford a shred of complacency, despite dominating possession and looking the more likely to find the net again.

The 64th minute brought another opportunity to seal the points when Critchell ventured inside to set up Louis, whose first-time effort again failed to trouble Cole,

The United keeper excelled once more in denying Mackin with a one-handed save and from the subsequent corner Kempson flashed a header wide before the visitors broke clear and had two chances to level.

An Evans mistake let James Constable in for a shot that flew across the face of the goal and when Wrexham failed to clear the danger, Haldane saw his effort blocked by Ward.

It was Constable's final act before Patterson made his last throw of the dice with two substitutions that also saw Carruthers leave the field and Sam Deering and Alex Fisher come on in a bid to provide fresh legs.

Wrexham continued to flirt with danger and when Aiston failed to pick up a lurking Haldane, Critchell bravely flung himself in the way and took the subsequent full-blooded shot straight in the face.

But the home side's nerves, and those of the Racecourse supporters, were finally settled in the final minute of the match when Louis capitalised on a defensive error by Oxford and drove his low shot into the bottom corner of the visitors' net.