Dean Keates is Walsall's new manager. Pic: Walsall FC.

Dragons Extend Unbeaten National League Run

Wrexham ended a testing week by extending their unbeaten Vanarama National League run to 14 matches.

The sudden departure of manager Dean Keates to take over his home town club Walsall was a blow for the Dragons, but they earned a 2-2 draw against Woking away.

Joey Jones scored a late equaliser for Woking and Wrexham slipped a place to fifth, but caretaker managers Andy Davies and Carl Darlington took charge of a team who earned their reward.

“It’s disappointing and feels like a loss in a way but as a positive, it extends that unbeaten run,” said Davies. “To score two goals away from home and concede from two set pieces is disappointing for us.

“It’s about the team defensively, it’s not about individuals. We haven’t been opened up, we haven’t been dragged about the pitch. It’s a set piece, But then if I looked back on the amount of opportunities we have missed, we should have got the three points.

“Having got ourselves back into the lead and the number of chances we created, we felt if we had got that third goal it would have been game done. But to be fair to Woking, they carried on going and got that equaliser and in the end it could have swayed either way in the last five or ten minutes.

“That’s a positive for us, that we have continued the unbeaten run but that’s down to the group of players in there. We understand we have to turn draws into wins but sometimes draws away from home just continues to add the points up. We just keep going and aim for that target at the end of the season.”

Teenage goalkeeper Nathan Baxter, a 19-year-old signed on loan from Chelsea, made a series of quality saves including a double stop from Dave Raven and Chris Holroyd.

Josh Staunton headed the opener from close range after 12 minutes, while he was also credited with the own goal that brought Wrexham level (33 mins).

Marcus Kelly put Wrexham 2-1 ahead on the hour, while Jones equalised after 80 minutes.

Six of the top seven teams dropped points and Wrexham are still in the mix for a play-offs finish.

The chances of catching leaders Macclesfield look remote and Wrexham defender Shaun Pearson admitted: “We’d have to win our remaining eight matches and hope the leaders lose four times.

“That’s not impossible, but we have to ensure we finish as high as possible, qualify for the play-offs and have momentum with us.

“If it comes to the last day of the season and we are two points behind Macclesfield we’ll go for it, but right now we are focused on finishing as high as we can.

“It’s frustrating that we didn’t win at Woking. That’s one of our best performances this season, we played really well.

“Two set piece goals cost us ultimately.”

Pearson believes Wrexham will maintain their push for the play-offs despite the departure of manager Keates, saying: “We are a close knit group. The gaffer has gone, but that spirit is still there.

“He brought in players who want to challenge at the top end. They have a winning mentality. That doesn’t change because he has gone.”

The next match for Wrexham is against Maidstone United at the Racecourse next Saturday, while club bosses are busy on their search for a new manager.

Director Spencer Harris said: “My phone has already been busy. The first call I got was five minutes after the news went up on the website.

“We have two experienced coaches in Carl Darlington and Andy Davies, great staff behind them and experienced players.

“They’ve come so far throughout the season that they don’t want to throw it all away before the end of the season.

“They know what they have to do. I’m not worried about the team.”

Wrexham’s directors are meeting today to discuss their quest to bring in a new manager.

Big defender Manny Smith was missing from the heart of Wrexham’s defence at Woking and his absence was a factor in Woking’s two set piece goals.

Shaun Pearson is the tallest defender, but Wrexham’s back four are far from the biggest. The injured Smith and James Jennings, who is suspended, were unavailable.

Woking went ahead after 11 minutes when Ross Staunton headed in from close range following a corner.

The equaliser came just after the half hour when a flowing move ended with Paul Rutherford whipping the ball in behind home defenders.

Rutherford’s low cross seemed to flick off a defender before going in, but he said: “I’ll try and claim it. It did touch the defender, but the ball did not change direction too much.

“Yes, it was a cross. No points trying to lie about it, but I’ll claim the goal.”

Kelly’s beautifully flighted effort flew past goalkeeper Baxter to put Wrexham in front, but they could not hold their lead and when Jones scored for Woking to make it 2-2 it was a major blow for the Dragons.

They almost snatched it in the last minutes when a Rutherford cross was headed down and Boden blazed over from eight yards.

Now caretaker managers  Davies and Darlington, along with their players, focus on Maidstone at home and the chance of extending their unbeaten run to 15 fixtures.

Woking: Baxter, Young (Ramsey 72), Ralph, J Jones, Staunton, Ferdinand, Carter, Charles-Cook, Banton (Saraiva 65), Grego-Cox, Theophanous. Subs not used: Mason, Edwards, Orlu.

Wrexham: Dunn, Roberts, Raven, Pearson, Carrington, Rutherford, Wedgbury, Kelly (Ainge 86), Deverdics (Wright 86), Holroyd, Quigley (Boden 72). Subs not used: Franks, Mackreth.

Referee: R Hulme (Gloucestershire)

Attendance: 1,458 (away 300)

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