Cheltenham Town 2-1 Wrexham
Cheltenham Town came from behind to notch another hugely impressive win against high-flying Wrexham and post a statement of real intent at the World of Smile Stadium.
The Robins came through the stiffest examination of their promotion credentials to date, playing their part in an entertaining advert for the Vanarama National League in front of the BT Sport cameras
The Dragons went in front shortly after the break, but Daniel Parslow squared the contest only five minutes later with his first goal in three years.
It would have been a respectable point against the side tipped by many for promotion, but Amari Morgan-Smith popped up six minutes from time to deliver a goal that will live long in the memory to take all the points.
The Welsh side are attempting to reach the Football League at the eighth attempt, proof if needed that this division is competitive and on this evidence, they won’t be far away come May.
But Gary Johnson’s side are starting to put something special together here and are still unbeaten after six matches, matching big spenders Eastleigh and Forest Green Rovers. It's a good time for those missing fans to make their way back up Whaddon Road.
Next stop, Altrincham.
Johnson was forced into one change following George McLennan’s early red card at Torquay United Saturday.
Asa Hall was handed his first start since the opening day of last season, when the midfielder picked up the calf injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.
He was drafted into central midfield, nudging Harry Pell out to the right with Jack Barthram deputising at left back, as he so ably did in the impressive victory in Devon two days previously.
Wrexham were unchanged from their 3-1 success against Halifax which left them second in the table coming into this one.
The Dragons started well in atrocious conditions and created a string of decent chances in the opening 45 minutes, while Cheltenham had most of the defending to do but they created their best efforts at the start, middle and end of the first period.
Parslow was so close to grabbing the first goal as early as the second minute, meeting Jack Munns’ free-kick from the right with a powerful downward header but Cameron Belford, the Wrexham goalkeeper, produced an instinctive stop to clear to safety.
Wesley York almost capitalised on some sloppy defending to give the Welsh side the lead, while Javan Vidal fired wide from n angle down the right in a lively opening. Dominic Vose forced another stop with a 20-yard free-kick, and bent one wide with 12 minutes played.
At the other end, Hall sent a volley well over the target at the midway point after some neat work down the right by Rob Dickie.
Vose was a handful down the left and drew Pell into a sloppy foul on the edge of the box with half-hour played, for which he became the first player to go into the book. It meant Cheltenham had some defending to do, but Cheltenham stood firm for the free-kick and a series of corners
The Robins were indebted to Dillon Phillips to prevent James Gray putting his side in front 10 minutes before the interval with a close range header. Vose fashioned the opportunity with a wicked ball from the left, which the former Accrington Stanley striker met well enough but was denied by a superb reaction save, and miscued the loose ball on the follow-up.
Vose blasted another one wide, and winger York beat Barthram for pace to create an opening but Phillips was quick off his line to cut out the danger.
There was a late chance for Morgan-Smith, whose clever header flew inches wide after a pinpoint deliver from the right by Dickie.
Wrexham could have been in front seconds after the restart, but York couldn’t find a way to goal from close range, with Aaron Downes doing enough to block the wideman’s route to goal.
They eventually broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half through a move down the right, Vidal taking advantage of Storer’s slip to break down the right before delivering a low ball into the box where Gray was on hand to guide the ball past Phillips.
It looked likely to be an uphill battle at that point, but the Robins reacted well to going behind and pulled themselves level within five minutes of the goal to square the match through Parslow.
Munns again was the architect, lifting a free-kick from the right into the box to find Downes who headed it back across goal where the central defender was unmarked and allowed to plant the ball beyond Belford.
Johnson immediately swapped James Rowe for Munns, and later introduced Billy Waters for Hall and the chances kept coming.
Barthram latched onto to Morgan-Smith’s flick on a moment later and called Belford into a save at full stretch.
Gray also went close for Wrexham, heading Vose’s corner inches wide.
Morgan-Smith saved the best for last, producing a goal of real quality to snatch all the points six points from time.
The striker brought down Phillips’ long ball forward, skipped away from from Vidal, the former Manchester City man, and surged towards goal before bending a precise 20 yarder inside the right post to send the damp home faithful into delirium.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (4-4-2): Phillips; Dickie, Parslow, Downes (c), Barthram; Pell, Storer, Hall (Waters 73), Munns (Rowe 59); Morgan-Smith, Wright (Cooke 83). Subs not used: Vaughan, Lovett (Gk).
WREXHAM (4-5-1): Belford; Vidal, Smith, Fyfield, Newton; York (Smith 75), Evans, Moke (Jackson 90), Jennings (c), Vose; Gray (Hudson 88). Subs not used: Fowler, Carrington.
REFEREE: S Bennett
ATTENDANCE: 2,827 (528 from Wrexham)