Clancy slays the Dragons

Fleetwood Town v Wrexham. Sean Clancy scores past keeper Chris Maxwll.
Fleetwood Town v Wrexham. Sean Clancy scores past keeper Chris Maxwll.
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Fleetwood Town 1, Wrexham 0

A close-range goal by Sean Clancy early in the second half secured three vital points for Town, which moved them up to sixth spot and just two points outside the play-off places.

Fourth-placed Dragons arrived at Highbury in confident mood, comfortably inside the play-off zone after losing just three of their last 22 league games.

Town boss Micky Mellon was unable to call on in-form striker Gareth Seddon, who had not recovered from an ankle injury sustained against leaders Crawley the previous weekend, and would not risk Jamie Milligan from the start, ahead of his knee surgery.

Right-back Shaun Beeley returned after missing two games with hamstring trouble, while Nathan Pond started his first league game for more than four months.

Top scorer Magno Vieira was relegated to the bench as George Donnelly, a scorer in the last two games, got the nod up front alongside Keigan Parker, who lined up against his former Seasiders team-mate Andy Morrell.

The match kicked off 10 minutes late due to crowd congestion outside the ground, as the Highbury gate topped 2,000 for the eighth time this season.

The home goalmouth had the first nervous moment, as Morrell charged down a Hurst clearance, but the ball ran wide after five minutes.

Town’s first shot came four minutes later, Donnelly firing straight at keeper Chris Maxwell.

Seconds later, Wrexham were threatening in front of the Memorial Stand, but Hurst gratefully caught a back header from Steve McNulty.

Junior Brown was causing most early concerns for the Dragons’ defence with a series of incisive runs down the left, and his shot on 12 minutes was blocked by ex-Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair.

Just before the quarter-hour, Donnelly linked up well with Parker and Clancy, but shot well wide of Maxwell’s left post.

Anthony Barry then forced a corner, from which Maxwell turned the ball on to his crossbar.

Town had the better of the opening half-hour and Maxwell was much the busier keeper, but a defensive mistake nearly let Wrexham in on 36 minutes.

Andy Mangan scooped the ball over after it ran loose in the box following a save by Danny Hurst.

Wrexham’s joint-top-scorer Mangan had two more chances before the break, first denied from a tight angle by Hurst after Beeley’s slip had freed Keates down the left.

On the balance of play, the first half was Town’s, and they got their reward two minutes into the second.

The ever-alert Clancy forced the ball home at the second attempt at the far post. It was his second league goal of the season, greeted with jubilation by the Cod Army behind the goal.

Donnelly soon received his second booking of the season for a challenge on the keeper.

The Wrexham management, without a stopper on the bench, were relieved to see Maxwell get up.

Wrexham responded well, Mark Creighton firing over from close range during a period of more sustained pressure.

Hurst was Town’s saviour after 62 minutes, blocking a Mangan strike as the Dragons sought the equaliser in their best period of the game.

Their fans behind Hurst’s goal went up expectantly when the ball was forced over the line by Sinclair, but referee Adcock blew for a foul on Town’s keeper.

Jamie Mullan replaced Parker after 65 minutes and was immediately on the ball, forcing a corner off Sinclair.

Maxwell caught the cross and delivered quick ball to the lively Mangan, but Town’s defence cleared. A Donnelly shot from distance was deflected wide by McGuire on 72 minutes.

The Dragons continued to move forward, but Town’s defence handled the pressure well and a large cheer came from the Cod Army as Mangan fired over in added time.

A wayward free-kick proved to be Wrexham’s last attempt, and Town could have added a second at the death when McGuire fed Mullan, but the shot was delayed and Maxwell saved.

The whistle went moments later and Town had recorded a vital ninth home win of the season in front of 2,207 spectators.

The victory moved Mellon’s men above York, though Town have played two games more, and one more than Wrexham and fifth-placed Kidderminster.

Six of their remaining seven opponents are in the lower half of the table, starting with Saturday’s visit to Hayes & Yeading next Saturday.

Having lost three of their previous four this win was most welcome, and could prove a highly significant one in the club’s play-off quest.

David Mitchell

Fleetwood: Hurst, Beeley, McNulty, Gregan, Brown, Barry, Pond, Clancy, McGuire, Parker (Mullan 66), Donnelly; not used: Davies, Milligan, Vieira, Rowe

Wrexham: Maxwell, Obeng, Ashton, Blackburn (Taylor 87), Sinclair, Creighton, Keates, Fowler, Mangan, Morrell (Cieslewicz 74), Pogba (Williams 74); not used: Andrews, McMillan

Ref: J Adcock; Att: 2,207 (802 away)