Saunders: 'We can still reach final'

Reporter:

Richard Williams

DEAN SAUNDERS insists that Wrexham’s bid to reach the play-off final is not over yet.

Wrexham suffered a 3-0 defeat in the semi-final first-leg at The Racecourse last night, with rampant Luton Town scoring three goals in the space of 20 first-half minutes.

The second leg takes place at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday and Saunders believes Wrexham are still capable of overturning the deficit, although he admitted his side will probably need to score first - and early.

“At least we came out second half and didn’t concede another goal,” said Saunders. “At 3-0 the tie is still alive, at 4-0 that would be a mountain to climb.
“But if we can get the first goal at Luton, hopefully they play bad.

“I have played in loads of games and been 3-0 up and got beat 4-3 so anything can happen in football. And it is normally when don’t expect it.

“We have got to score first, simple as that. If we can get one early then brilliant, it will be game on.

“But I can’t see many people having a bet on us, the odds are going to be stacked against us because we have let that game slip away from us.

“I have got to say well done to Luton, they played really well and took their chances when they had them.

“And when we had chances they seemed to clear them off the line, or get their head in the way, and on the day they were the better team.”

Saunders was disappointed for his players that they were beaten by such a convincing scoreline after performing so well during the season to seal a play-off spot.

“I’m not angry, I just feel a bit sorry for them because they have just not turned up,” he said.

“To work that hard all season and do as well as they have done, and then to play like that in an occasion like that and it is live on television. We were beaten by the better team on the day.

“We let three goals in but it could have been worse. We had some chances ourselves and we did a bit better in the second half.

“The tie is not dead and buried. If we score the first goal at Luton anything can happen. One thing is for certain – we can’t play that bad again.”

But Saunders believes some of the players were overawed by the occasion, with more than 7,000 attending the first leg as Wrexham attempted to take another step closer to ending their three-year exile from the Football League.

“I just feel a bit sorry for the lads,” he said. “You get opportunities in your career, people don’t just arrive in the Premier League.

“They normally work their way up, do well lower down, then somebody else takes them and they do well for that club and they go up again.

“That was a game today where all of them had a chance to grab the nettle, as they say, and say ‘we can get in the play-offs and play in League Two’, and they have missed the chance.

“For some of them it was the biggest game of their career and some were like rabbits with the headlights.”

And the Reds’ boss thought some, if not all, the goals were avoidable.

“The first goal was definitely a foul on the half-way line,” added Saunders. “The lad has run through and struck it from a long way out, I thought Chris Maxwell could have got to it.

“He looked a bit surprised the lad hit it but I will have to look at it again.

“The second goal was from a throw-in, they managed to get the ball out to the right-winger who was one-on-one with Neil Ashton, he has just beat him and smashed it in the roof of the net.

“And the third goal was from a corner which went to the back post, the lad has come up late, had a touch in our box and still had time to scuff it in our corner.”

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