Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup.

Wrexham Youth Plan Proves Scottish Cup Winner

Wrexham 1, Ayr United 1

Wrexham won 6-5 on penalties

Bryan Hughes gave youth a chance against Ayr United and reaped the rewards with a hard fought win against Scottish Championship club Ayr United.

Dragons’ manager Hughes gave six players their first team debut, with from the start or from the bench, including 16-year-old Cian Williams and said: “We finished the tie with four 17-year-olds and Cian aged 16.

“The youngsters were excellent and that is a massive positive. This competition is a distraction, but a good distraction.

“It gave us the opportunity to make changes and introduce youth players. They were all excellent and gave them an experience factor.

“Ayr had possession and were probing at times, but it was great to see young boys really stepping up.”

Wrexham were one of three Welsh clubs playing in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup.

They won 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw against Ayr United at the Racecourse, while Cymru Premier team Connah’s Quay Nomads beat Highland League Cove Rangers 1-0 with Michael Bakare scoring the winner.

Nomads’ fellow Cymru Premier club The New Saints lost 3-1 on penalties at Stenhousemuir after a 1-1 draw.

The draw for fourth round ties will be made soon after midday on Tuesday, September 10.

Wrexham set up with a three-man central defensive unit – Max Cleworth, Jake Bickerstaff and Doug Tharme – in front of Polish debutant Dawid Szczepaniak in goal.

“Max was excellent alongside Jake and Doug in the back three,” said Hughes. “He used to play in midfield and you can see that. He steps in looking for the right passes, while he is defensively solid and is growing stronger. Max has only just passed the age of 17.

“Dawid was accomplished in goal throughout, his kicking improved as the game went on and made an excellent penalty save. He came through his debut with flying colours.

“Overall this is a big confidence boost for the whole club, but our priority has to be the league.”

Paul Rutherford, a former Liverpool youth player who is from Moreton on the Wirrall, was named Wrexham captain for the match against Ayr.

The midfield player, who was in Barrow’s 2009-10 FA Trophy winning team at Wembley, said: “Being captain was brilliant for me, a proud moment.

“We all have a good relationship with the manager because he is open and honest with everybody. If the team shape changes or the gaffer may see somebody ahead of you in certain areas, but this was a chance to show where we can impact the first team.

“Winning breeds confidence. On Monday morning our club will be a happy place.”

Wrexham went ahead after 70 minutes against Ayr when Bickerstaff swivelled and fired home on the half volley, while Sam Roscoe equalised for Ayr.

That sent the tie into a penalty shootout and both teams scored from their first five penalties. Then Luke McCowan’s effort was saved and Jake Lawlor netted from his split-kick to give Wrexham the victory.

Wrexham made 10 changes from the starting line-up against Maidenhead United on Tuesday night. Ben Tollitt was the only player to keep his place.

History was made by the Dragons on two fronts. Wrexham played their first game in a Scottish competition, while former Bangor City youth centre-back and Wales under-17 international Williams, at 16 years and 149 days, became the second youngest Wrexham player in the club’s history when he went on as a substitute.

Bickerstaff, meanwhile, became the 14th 17-year-old to score for Wrexham.  

Wrexham: (3-4-2-1): Szczepaniak, Barnum-Bobb, Lawlor, Tharme (Beaumont 86), Cleworth, Rutherford (capt), Barton, Redmond (Jones 80), Tollitt, Bickerstaff, McIntosh (Williams 72). Subs not used: Dibble (gk), Huxley, Parry, Robinson-Murray

Ayr United: (4-4-1-1): Hare-Reid, Muirhead (Ecrepont 15), Kerr, Roscoe, Geggan, Moffat, Doolan (McKenzie 72), Forrest, McCowan, Bell, Docherty. Sub not used: Graham (gk)

Referee: Steven Gregg

Attendance: 1697 (421 away)

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