By Kieran O’Loughlin
Dean Keates believes he can utilise the experience of his Wrexham squad to pull them away from the relegation zone – despite starting his second spell in charge with a draw.
The reinstated Wrexham manager was hoping for a winning return at the Racecourse Ground, but had to settle for a cruel 1-1 draw against a physical Harrogate side.
Bobby Grant scored the first goal for Wrexham just five minutes in, but a costly missed penalty by the midfielder meant he failed to kill the game off.
That allowed Harrogate’s Ryan Fallowfield to lash in the equaliser in the 80th minute to spoil what would have been a deserved win for Wrexham.
The draw means the reds remain in 20th place in the National League, just one place above the relegation zone.
But Keates insisted: “Not wishing to speak badly about the side I inherited last time, but this squad has far more Football League experience and quality in it.
“They just lack a little confidence. A few good result and I’m sure we’ll rise up the league.”
“A lot will be said about the penalty miss, but we had a lot of other chances that we should’ve capitalised on. But we all know about how good a player he is.
“It was a soft goal to concede, a really poor goal, but the players need to adapt and get on with the game.
“We needed to start well, against a well organised side that’s what you have to do and we did do with a good early goal. We just couldn’t see it out.”
Grant’s performance was a good sign for the future, though, after Keates had received a warm welcome from fans.
He was back at the Racecourse Ground after leaving the club just 19 months ago to try and save his boyhood club Walsall from League One relegation.
The Dragons went into the game looking to improve on recent poor form, which had resulted in them collecting only four points from the last five games.
Good form was not something that worried the visitors as they were unbeaten in the last five games, taking 11 points from a possible 15.
Wrexham started brightly and opened the scoring just five minutes in.
Grant netted his sixth goal of the campaign from close range from a perfect low cross by Jason Oswell.
Mounting pressure from the home side resulted in good chances in the first half for Grant to double his tally for the match. But a scrambling Harrogate defence managed to do enough to thwart him.
The second half nearly started like the first with Grant lashing a thunderbolt of a volley which drew a diving save from Harrogate goalkeeper James Belshaw.
Immense hard work from the Harrogate defence kept their side in the game, but their composure finally cracked and they bundled Grant to the ground to give Wrexham a chance from the spot.
A confident Grant stepped up but he blazed the ball over the crossbar. He has now missed his last two chances from the spot.
The penalty miss proved costly as in the 80th-minute right-back Fallowfiel equalised after Wrexham keeper Christian Dibble palmed the ball towards his back post.
Harrogate manager Simon Weaver said: “We were nowhere near our best and got away with it to a big extent.
“Standards slipped, but thankfully Ryan finished off a good move by Jack Diamond.
“We didn’t pass the ball well and failed to start well. We needed those factors against a team who have a new manager. We must have a stronger mentality and felt we needed more belief in the camp.
“I did my best at half-time by venting my spleen and being an angry man. We were sloppy, dozy, and weren’t winning first balls or second balls. There can be dips in performance, but this was a big one.”