Wrexham 1, Blackpool 2. THERE was no four-hour ceremony, no Sir Paul McCartney and it certainly didn’t cost £27m, but Saturday was the opening of what Ian Holloway and his men hope will be yet another memorable journey.
But despite it being the first outing for the first-team squad, a family wedding meant the boss wasn’t able to witness it.
Instead, Pool were in the hands of assistant manager Steve Thompson, who named two teams to face former Seasiders favourite Andy Morrell’s Conference side.
The first half saw new signing Scott Robertson start with Ludo Sylvestre and Barry Ferguson in midfield.
Craig Cathcart partnered Alex Baptiste at the back, and Kevin Phillips had Tom Ince and Elliot Grandin either side of him in attack.
And the Seasiders started like a house on fire. Wrexham couldn’t live with Pool’s passing in the early stages.
So when Kevin Phillips blasted home a penalty after being brought down by Neil Ashton on 15 minutes, you thought we could be in for a goal-filled afternoon.
However, as the half went on, Wrexham, featuring Pool legend Brett Ormerod in attack, grew in confidence and deservedly got themselves on level terms on the half-hour.
Defender Martin Riley leapt highest in the box to power a John Hunt corner past Matt Gilks from five yards.
With half-time approaching, it looked as though Pool were running out of steam.
And the Seasiders looked to have got lucky on 40 minutes, when last man Cathcart pulled down Hunt right on the edge of the box.
The referee waved the striker’s claims away, much to the fury of the home crowd.
New boy Robertson was keeping things ticking over in the middle, and despite looking a little short of fitness, he seems a useful addition to the squad.
And it was he who handed Pool the lead at the break.
After both Baptiste and Sylvestre had forced decent saves out of the home keeper, Robertson made no mistake with the second rebound.
After the break, it was all change for the Seasiders, as only Gilks, Baptiste and Neal Eardley returned, and Pool fans got their first look at new signings Isaiah Osbourne and Tiago Gomes.
Gomes, a 26-year-old midfielder who played in Spain’s La Liga last season, really caught the eye.
The Portuguese star dictated play, took set-pieces, and created chances for Matt Phillips and the lively Tom Barkhuizen. Wrexham in a pre-season game may well be a million miles away from a top Championship clash, but he looks a real prospect.
Talk from the Portugal training camp was that Matt Phillips has been on fire in front of goal, and you could certainly see a new-found confidence on Saturday.
He tested the keeper on numerous occasions, his closest effort came on 55 minutes, when he forced a good save from the keeper after a crunching tackle by Osbourne in the middle.
To the right of Phillips was forward Barkhuizen, who spent much of last season on loan at Hereford.
The striker is highly rated by Ian Holloway, and on Saturday he showed why.
He’s quick, has a decent touch, and looks sharp in front of goal. All he appears to be lacking at the moment is that little bit of composure when it really matters.
First, he raced on to a neat chip through by Bob Harris, only to fire his effort just wide.
Then he was on the end of two further chances when Gomes and Angel Martinez had created openings.
Baptiste had Pool’s other notable chance, when he saw a header rattle the bar.
If only the Seasiders could have turned to the strikeforce Wrexham fielded as the game drew to a close, when Ormerod was joined by Pool’s ‘Perfect Ten’ hero from 2007 Morrell. Ten years ago, that pairing would have had defenders shaking in their boots.
All-in-all, a good afternoon’s work for the Seasiders. Bring on Everton on Sunday.