Fleet’s wait for a win at the Racecourse goes on after Paul Rutherford’s solo strike a quarter of an hour from the end decided the three points in the favour of the home side, writes Mark Halliday.
In a game short on quality that looked destined for a goalless draw as Wrexham toiled to finish the chances they did create, it took that one piece of exceptionalism that the Dragons’ substitute showed to make the difference.
Having dispensed with their manager’s services in midweek, Wrexham were out to win back the favour of their home following and they welcomed back former Bromley striker JJ Hooper from injury as he took his place on the bench.
Ebbsfleet were unchanged from their welcome 3-0 dismissal of Barnet in midweek, former Wrexham striker Alex Reid looking to build on his recent scoring streak.
Wrexham came flying out of the traps with an attack on the Fleet goal straight from kick-off. But in a quick-tempo start, Ayo Obileye headed just past the post from Tyler Cordner’s flick-on and then James Ball’s persistence won possession and he sent a decent shot just off target.
Wrexham goalkeeper Christian Dibble got an early introduction to Reid as the Fleet striker was almost through on goal but Jazzy Barnum-Bobb got an important challenge in as Dibble needed treatment for his collision with Reid’s boot.
Wrexham came back into it from the 10th minute as they forced a couple of corners and from one of those Jake Lawlor was left unmarked but saw his effort sneak wide.
Fleet were clearing their lines with conviction but in windy conditions, the passing fluidity wasn’t quite there to the front men and Wrexham were able to get their wide men involved. Barnum-Bobb in particular created problems while Luke Summerfield in the middle was looking to get the home side forward.
Wrexham had a chance to open the scoring on 16 minutes when Barnum-Bobb’s powerful run to the edge of the box released Mark Harris but he wasn’t clinical enough with the strike.
James Jennings’ overhead kick then narrowly evaded Lawlor’s head until Lawrie Wilson cleared as the home side struggled to test Jordan Holmes. That frustration boiled over when Lawlor bundled the Fleet goalkeeper to the ground, though Holmes was fit enough to get his head to a ball to break up Wrexham’s next attack.
Fleet tried to use their width positively and both Wilson and Jamie Grimes attempted to get players further forward into the game but up top the visitors needed more threat.
At the other end, Shaun Pearson had to be alert to nick an Obileye delivery off Josh Umerah’s toes before the end of the half became bogged down in rather scrappy play, heightening the frustrations of home fans, some of whom booed their side off at the break for their lack of a cutting edge.
Wrexham made a double substitution at half-time and they refused to give Fleet an inch in the second 45, though were still found wanting when it came to a killer ball.
It took them 10 minutes to fashion a solid chance, Barnum-Bobb again the threat with a robust run and he played in substitute Bobby Grant whose goalbound shot was blocked by a blue shirt.
Wrexham were slowly beginning to turn the screw and they got what they thought was their breakthrough on 63 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty for an apparent shirt tug that Fleet protested to no avail.
Holmes faced up to the fifth penalty of his short Fleet career as Grant piled it down the middle and for the fourth time, the goalkeeper was celebrating as he got a strong hand to it and the rebound was hacked away.
A couple of substitutions by either side saw Gozie Ugwu and Alfie Egan introduced, but Hooper’s appearance for Wrexham proved pivotal. He was only on the pitch four minutes when he wriggled between two blue shirts to supply fellow sub Rutherford with a pass and the latter struck a finely weighted shot that curled into the top corner to give his side the crucial breakthrough.
The home side looked to starve Fleet of possession in the final act of the game, though they began to exhibit a few nerves as they sought to erase a record of eight games without a win.
The visitors sent on Botti Biabi late as they tried to throw men forward and forced a couple of set pieces and a good spell of pressure but nothing really troubled Dibble. At the other end, Holmes punched a cross away from Jason Oswell’s head and Hooper fired narrowly wide as Wrexham were limited to counterattacks but the home side held on.
EUFC: Holmes, Wilson, Grimes, King (Biabi 86), Cordner, Ball (Egan 68), Sutherland, Weston, Umerah (Ugwu 60), Reid. Subs not used: Palmer, Achuba
WFC: Dibble, Barnum-Bobb, Pearson, Lawlor, Jennings (Hooper 70), Summerfield, Young, Carrington, Redmond (Rutherford 46), Harris (Grant 46), Oswell. Subs not used: Szczepaniak, Wright
Attendance: 3,627 (47 EUFC)