DEAN KEATES was left frustrated by Wrexham’s first-half performance against Nantwich Town as the Reds slumped to their first defeat of pre-season.
The Reds boss was critical of a lacklustre opening 45 minutes at Weaver Park in which Town’s Jordan Davies netted what proved to be the winner in their 1-0 victory.
The result ended a run of five successive friendly victories, with Keates admitting he was relieved that his side’s defensive frailties had been exposed before the start of the National League season in less than two week’s time.
He said: “Massively disappointed with the result, but glad it’s happened to be honest. In the first half our performance was nowhere near and when we went in at half-time I asked for a reaction and we were a bit better second half.
“But we had three clear chances and didn’t take them, while they had one shot on goal and scored. It’s basic stuff but as long as you’ve got clean sheet, you’ve always got a chance.
“The goal we conceded was really disappointing, especially because we’ve set good standards recently. They’ve trained well this week and I didn’t see this result coming.
“The mentality I want at this club is to win football matches and obviously there was a little bit of a reaction second half, but not good enough."
“We didn’t play great the other night at Warrington but we ground out a win. Today, particularly the first half was nowhere near good enough so it give us something to work on.”
Things had begun well enough for Wrexham, who showed plenty of attacking enterprise in a lively start.
The visitors’ first incursion into Town’s half almost saw them score when Scott Boden found himself unmarked inside the box but fired straight at keeper Fabian Speiss.
Minutes later, a raking pass from full-back James Jennings found the on-running Boden, who took the ball in his stride but was denied by a timely interception from Nantwich centre-back Joel Stair.
But despite enjoying the bulk of possession, the Reds soon found themselves trailing after a costly defensive error by Olly Marx.
The young centre-back failed to deal with an aerial ball and was robbed of possession by Harry Clayton on the edge of his own box.
Clayton worked the ball to former Prestatyn striker Davies, who showed his class as he took a touch before rifling the ball into the corner beyond Christian Dibble.
Having conceded from a similar aerial ball against Warrington in midweek this proved to be another costly lapse for Wrexham.
Rain midway through the first half created a slick surface and it was the hosts who made best use of it.
Nantwich worked the ball patiently with the well-organised Northern Premier side making themselves difficult to break down.
But they were let off the hook twice in quick succession, with two chances falling for Akil Wright.
The Reds’ imposing central midfielder did brilliantly to steal possession from Stair, but when through on goal skewed his effort narrowly wide of the upright.
Then on 31 minutes, French trialist Gime Toure’s measured through-ball found Wright who shot well over from range.
Soon after, Leo Smith’s arrowed free-kick was punched away by Speiss, before right-back James Hurst followed up but saw his effort blocked again.
A triple-substitution soon after the break saw Keates switch to a more attack-minded 3-5-2 set-up.
It nearly paid dividends when debutant Kevin Roberts whipped a superb cross into the box but Toure’s acrobatic effort lacked accuracy.
Another fine delivery, this time from Leo Smith, created a goalmouth scramble but no Wrexham attacker could get the decisive touch and the danger was cleared.
Wrexham struggled to create any clear-cut opportunites and he best chance for an equaliser fell to Mark Carrington on 73 minutes, but his goalbound effort was superbly deflected away by Town substitute Alex Lingard.+
Toure then spurned a golden chance to snatch a draw late on when, after good work to dispossess Clayton Macdonald, he fluffed his finish when one-on-one with Spiess.
Despite continuing to press in the game’s dying stages, there was no way through a resolute Nantwich defence.
Wrexham will look to atone for the defeat when make their third trip in seven days to to face Altrincham on Tuesday night.
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