Fired-up Ebbsfleet United will travel to North Wales hoping to overturn a nine-year-old record of never having won at the Racecourse Ground. Two draws and three defeats have been Fleet’s lot at Wrexham in the past decade and to change that, Daryl McMahon’s squad will have to overcome the third-placed side and one of the decent bets for promotion before the season began.
Eager to continue from where they left off in a largely superior display in front of the BT Sport cameras, Fleet will not fear high-flying Wrexham and will look to take advantage of a low-scoring home frontline to take the game to Dean Keates’ squad.
With Chris Bush returning from suspension, the Fleet boss will face a selection quandary about a back line that performed admirably against Leyton Orient, Jack Connors in particular giving one of his finest displays in a Fleet shirt as he linked up well with Myles Weston ahead of him. It would be something of a surprise to see too much of a shake-up in the starting eleven, with Luke Coulson’s role tucked in behind Danny Kedwell having paid dividends in recent weeks, leaving the biggest question in midfield over who is left out, with Jack Powell sat on the bench for the Orient clash.
And with Bradley Bubb included amongst the substitutes last week, McMahon knows he has selection headaches coming up in the weeks ahead, with skipper Dave Winfield and Jack Payne set to challenge again either side of the Christmas period. “We’ve got a strong group,” said the Fleet manager. “We’re a tight group and we’re looking forward to the trip. Wrexham are another ex-league team, another big club, and we’ve had plenty of those in recent weeks with more of them to come and the Orient performance has us going there in a good frame of mind.”
Antonio German is one player who won’t be part of that selection equation as his one-month contract came to an end last week and has not been renewed by the club.
Wrexham enacted one of the biggest changes in squad personnel over the summer and it took manager Keates a while to get them performing as they lost three of their opening five games. But the Red Dragons have bounced back since and have shown more than a suggestion that they could end their long exodus from League football. The Welsh side are the division’s current longest-serving members but with just a three-point gap to leaders Dover, they are well-placed to launch a run of good results in the lead-up to Christmas.
Keates’ side aren’t a particularly high-scoring outfit, having not scored more than two goals in any match this season and are oddly, given their position, the joint lowest scorers in the division. That’s offset by the fact they are also the meanest defence alongside Dover and have only lost once in the last 14 matches. That said, it’s a current bone of contention amongst Wrexham fans and Keates missed out on a striker signing earlier this week.
Striker Alex Reid, on loan from Fleetwood Town, has three more games of his 93-day spell remaining and midfielder Akil Wright is another on a temporary stay from Fleetwood. Elsewhere, former Macclesfield striker Chris Holroyd is top scorer with four goals and the 31-year-old is one of several experienced heads in the dressing room, with Wrexham’s squad made up of 10 players aged 28 or more. Burnley forward Ntumba Massanka is another loanee looking to stake a claim in Wrexham’s undermanned front line.
The Welsh side will take a look at the fitness of defenders James Jennings and James Hurst ahead of Saturday, with Mark Carrington ready to step into Jennings’ shoes to keep Fleet’s wide players quiet.
The first goal will likely be crucial at the Racecourse given Wrexham’s mean defensive setup and Fleet won’t fancy chasing the game and having to break down a home side with their noses in front. The Red Dragons have a propensity to sit deep and despite their high league position, they have only won one of their last five at home, with the other four games ending as draws.
The two clubs’ last meeting came at the Racecourse in March 2013 and saw the then leaders Wrexham coast to a 4-1 win in our relegation season. Fleet were as good as down by then and conceded after just 93 seconds, going in at the break 4-0 down. A Nathan Elder goal in the second half was the sole comfort.