Riley hails Wrexham FC's defensive effort


Richard Williams

Martin Riley believes having one of the best defensive records in the division is a fantastic achievement considering how many centre-backs have been used by Wrexham this season.

Wrexham have conceded just 14 goals in 15 league games – four of those came in the last league outing when Lincoln triumphed  4-2 – despite using six different players in the heart of defence this season.

A hamstring injury sustained against Lincoln meant Riley was ruled out of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie against Southport but 20-year-old debutant Danny Devine came into the side and helped Wrexham secure a 2-0 victory.

“Brilliant, a clean sheet without me! Maybe the gaffer is not too bothered about me getting fit for Saturday,” said Riley. “The back four were solid, Danny came in and played really well.

“I wonder how many different centre-back partnerships we have had – it has got to be a fair few. Considering that, we have done really well to have the defensive record that we have got.

“It was right up there before the Lincoln match so it is credit to all the defenders.”

Mark Creighton, Chris Westwood, Stephen Wright and Neil Ashton, as well as Riley and Devine, have operated as centre-backs with injuries forcing player-boss Andy Morrell to shuffle his pack.

But Riley is winning his fitness battle and hopes to be available to face Braintree Town at The Amlin Stadium on Saturday.

“I have been running the last few days and it is feeling okay so it is coming on nicely,” said Riley.

“I never like missing games so if physio Ritson Lloyd gives me the go-ahead for Saturday I will be buzzing.

“I have only missed the one game so I will take that, it has not been too bad, but hopefully I won’t miss another game this season.”

Riley only lasted five minutes before he was forced off in the defeat against Lincoln, a result which saw Wrexham surrender their 12 game unbeaten run, but he insists he made the right decision.

“I have had this injury in the past. I know that the longer you stay on the pitch it is going to make it worse,” said Riley. “You can’t play on with a hamstring so unfortunately I had to come off quite early on.”

Although eager to be back playing, Riley insists he will not return to action until he has made a full recovery.

“I have had a few problems with my hamstrings in the past so I am always a little bit wary when it comes to them,” said Riley.

“At Cheltenham, I had a lot of problems after coming back too quickly so I need to make sure it is right before I do come back.”

Riley joined Wrexham from Mansfield in the summer after both clubs saw their promotion bids end with defeat in the play-offs.

It had been a two-horse race for top spot before Fleetwood pipped Wrexham, with Mansfield finishing nine points behind the Reds in third spot despite a strong second half to the season.

Wrexham are currently second, four points behind leaders Newport County, but Riley does not see any side running away with the title.

“It is a tight league and it is probably going to go all the way down to the end of the season,” said Riley. “It doesn’t look like there is going to be a runaway team this year and I am sure we are going to be right up there in with a shout.

“It is always good to be up there at the top of the table and winning games.

Obviously everyone knows it is such a hard league to get out of but we have got to make sure that we are going to be number one come the end of the season – we want to be going up as champions.”

Hoping to continue the promotion charge with victory at Brainree, Riley added: “It is not a nice place to go but the boys will go down there and be professional. And whoever plays, we have got to get three points – it is a must for us.”

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