WREXHAM paid the price for poor defending as the Reds’ FA Cup adventure came to an abrupt end at The Racecourse on Saturday.
Favourites to advance past fellow Conference side Alfreton, Wrexham suffered a 4-2 defeat in their first round tie despite getting off to the best possible start as they took the lead within just two minutes thanks to Neil Ashton’s third successful penalty of the season.
But goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi gifted Alfreton an equaliser before the break and the Cameroonian’s dismisal following an apparent elbowing offence after 60 minutes was the turning point.
Alfreton converted the resulting penalty and went on to take a 3-1 lead following some slack defending, although striker Danny Wright pulled a goal back as Wrexham’s leading scorer netted his fifth goal of the campaign.
Wrexham rallied but Alfreton took advantage of a lapse in concentration at the back by scoring a fourth goal in added time to secure their place in the second round.
The visitors actually finished the game with nine men as Dan Bradley, who converted his side’s penalty but was lucky to be on the pitch at that stage, was shown a second yellow card with Alfreton leading 2-1, and two-goal Ben Tomlinson was also booked for a second time after celeb-rating his second strike in added time.
Referee Nick Kinseley had hardly basked himself in glory and made a number of controversial decisions on a day to forget for the official.
He did not help Wrexham’s cause but, in truth, the Reds only had themselves to blame for their exit.
Wrexham had chances to have built up a healthy lead at the interval after having the better of the first half but Mayebi’s red card really did hit the Reds hard when the tie was evenly balanced.
It all went pear-shaped after that, even though Wrexham did have a chance of getting something out of the game when Danny Wright reduced the arrears with six minutes to go.
This was the second time in three home games that Wrexham have conceded four goals. That is not like Wrexham who have proved to be difficult to break down and tough to beat so player-boss Andy Morrell will be eager to get back to keeping clean sheets.
Wrexham reached the third round last season where they suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion having already accounted for League One outfit Brentford in the previous round.
There will be no cup heroics this season but with just the league to concentrate on now, as well as the FA Trophy, hopefully getting knocked out at such as early stage will have a positive effect on the Reds’ promotion push.
No-one wanted the cup run to end so soon. Wrexham earned the plaudits following their exploits last season and also earned the club a decent amount of money but Morrell would surely swap a decent cup run for a place in the Football League.
Wrexham are well placed in the Conference table so hopefully they can crack on and embark on another lengthy unbeaten run in the coming months.
The starting line-up showed one change from the side that beat Southport in the previous round a fortnight earlier.
Striker Brett Ormerod, who scored his first Wrexham goal in the 2-0 victory, was ruled out with a hamstring injury so Morrell was restored to the starting line-up in his place.
Centre-back Martin Riley and striker Rob Ogleby had both recovered from injury that had ruled them out of previous matches but they had to be content with a place on the substitutes bench.
Just 16 seconds had elapsed when Wrexham, who kicked-off proceedings, were awarded a penalty.
Danny Wright was bundled over in the area as he attempted to get past Anton Brown and Ashton made no mistake with his spot-kick in the second minute.
Dean Keates saw a free-kick saved by Jon Stewart as Wrexham continued to press and the keeper also made a smart block to deny Stephen Wright after he met Johny Hunt’s pull-back.
Danny Wright’s deflected header from Dean Keates’ corner just cleared the bar but Alfreton were back on level terms in the 26th minute after Danny Devine was booked for commiting a foul outside the area.
Mayebi spilled Josh Law’s free-kick and Paul Clayton put away the loose ball.
Alfreton had come close with a couple of half chances, Law not far away with a 25-yard free-kick the best of them, but Wrexham looked the more likely to trouble the scoreline and Devine’s 25-yard drive was parried by Stewart.
Wrexham made a strong finish to the first half, a Harris effort was blocked by a defender and Stephen Wright’s shot was saved on the line by Stewart.
The first opportunity of the second half fell to Danny Wright but he headed over from Morrell’s centre but Alfreton came more into it and Clayton’s header was cleared off the line by Ashton.
And Alfreton took the lead in the 60th minute when Leigh Franks went down in the area after Mayebi’s apparent elbow having just gathered a cross, with the keeper seeing red for his acrions, and Bradley converted the resulting penalty past substitute keeper Andy Coughlin.
Alfreton were also reduced to 10 men just two minutes later when Bradley was shown a second yellow card following a late challenge while Wrexham went in search of an equaliser and Danny Wright was thwarted by Stewart.
But it was Alfreton who took a 3-1 lead on 79 minutes, Daniel Meadows darted into the area and picked out an unmarked Tomlinson who slotted past Coughlin from close range.
However, Wrexham gave themselves hope by pulling a goal back with six minutes remaining.
Danny Wright charged forward and played a neat one-two with substitute Nick Rushton before firing past Stewart.
Buoyed by the goal, Wrexham went in search of an equaliser and Danny Wright was unable to put away the loose ball after Ogleby’s initial shot was blocked.
Devine also brought a superb save out of Stewart as Wrexham kept the pressure on, although referee Kinseley missed a blatent hand-ball, but Alfreton made it 4-2 in added time when Tomlinson found the net before receiving a second yellow card for his celebrations.
That was the final nail in the coffin and Wrexham’s interest in the competition was definitely over.
WREXHAM (4-3-3): Mayebi 6; Stephen Wright 7 (Rushton 76), Devine 7, Westwood 7, Ashton 7; Harris 6, Keates 6, Hunt 6; Cieslewicz 6 (Coughlin 59), Morrell 6 (Ogleby 76), Danny Wright 8. Subs not used: Riley, Clarke, Colbeck, Morton.
ALFRETON TOWN (4-3-3): Stewart 7; Law 7, Franks 7, Killock 7, Brown 6; Meadows 7, Bradley 6, Streete 7; Tomlinson 6, Arnold 6, Clayton 7 (Quinn 88). Subs not used: Barnes, Russell, Worsfold, Taylor.
Referee: Nick Kinseley.
Attendance: 2,409 (129 from Alfreton).
Match Rating (1-5): **
Moan of the Match: Joslain Mayebi’s moment of madness which resulted in his sending off.
Magic Moment: Danny Wright played a one-two with Nick Rushton before finding the back of the net.
Man of the Match: Striker Danny Wright was Wrexham’s biggest attacking threat and he scored a well taken goal.