Wrexham 0-0 (4-2) Wigan Athletic: Latics crash out after shootout at STōK Cae Ras

With the EFL season now underway, it was time for a brief pause as the Carabao Cup returned for the first time in the 2023/24 season. A place in the second round was at stake at STōK Cae Ras, with the League Two newcomers, Wrexham, hosting Wigan Athletic on Tuesday. 

Wrexham were given a rude awakening in their League Two opener against MK Dons, as Phil Parkinson’s side were on the wrong side of a 5-3 defeat – this Carabao Cup tie saw the manager make eight changes to his side. Ben Tozer, Jordan Davies and Jordan Jones were the only players to retain their places from Saturday’s loss.

Shaun Maloney’s Latics fared better in their League One curtain-raiser at Pride Park on Saturday, narrowly defeating Derby County 2-1, thanks to two goals from frontman Charlie Wyke. The striker was named on the bench for this tie, while Callum McManaman was named in Wigan’s starting XI, as was Liverpool loanee James Balagizi in four changes from the on-the-road triumph. 

WRE: Howard; McFadzean, Tozer, Davies, Young; Palmer, Forde, O’Connell; Jones, Cleworth, Bickerstaff

WIG: Tickle; Hughes, Morrison, Watts; Adeeko, M. Smith, Balagizi, Pearce; Humphrys, McManaman, Sze

Wrexham started, and remained, the more threatening side over the course of the first 45 minutes – and were unfortunate not to find the opener throughout. Ben Tozer’s low shot from a corner ebbed wide of the near post, and Jake Bickerstaff’s bicycle kick floated just over the bar – both efforts came with not even four minutes gone. 

Wigan then had a chance of their own a few moments later, as Stephen Humphrys stormed into the Wrexham box and forced a save out of Mark Howard with a fizzing effort.

Welsh-born Jordan Davies also attempted to find the net for the hosts via a free-kick, but his effort was tame and straight into the arms of the goalkeeper, Sam Tickle.

Red Dragons captain Tozer went down just inside the half-hour mark needing treatment, but was back up shortly after – had he needed to come off, Wrexham would have lost yet another centre back to injury, following the loss of summer signing Will Boyle.

With almost ten minutes to go until the break, Wrexham could have opened the scoring once again as Ollie Palmer met the ball with his head and directed it just over the bar, before another chance saw a low hard strike from James Jones being deflected into the path of Callum McFadzean, who from a few yards missed the back of the net!

Latics forward Chris Sze was probably fortunate to not see a red card for a studs-up challenge on Max Cleworth just before the first half finished, but referee Sam Allison deemed it worthy of a yellow card. 

Four minutes into the second half, Palmer was in on goal for Wrexham again. The forward cut inside with the ball and looked to curl a strike into the far corner, but instead the effort whistled just wide. A few moments later, Wrexham would see Bickerstaff’s low shot saved wonderfully by Tickle in the Wigan goal – who then denied Jordan Davies on the rebound. 

Palmer almost opened the scoring again on the 65th minute, as his teasing, curling effort just evaded the top left corner and drifted wide of the goalmouth. It was slowly starting to look like one of those nights for the former AFC Wimbledon striker, and it wasn’t to be anyway, as Sam Dalby replaced him eight minutes later. Shortly after Palmer’s effort, Bickerstaff tried his luck from just inside the box but Tickle collected the attempt comfortably. 

The final clear chance of the 90 minutes fell to Latics substitute Charlie Wyke, who got his head onto a beautiful ball into the Wrexham box from Charlie Hughes and glanced it just over the bar – and when that final whistle blew, it meant that penalties were on their way.

After three successful attempts from the hosts, Latics‘ Charlie Hughes and Thelo Aasgaard missed Wigan’s next two penalties – which allowed Sam Dalby to send Wrexham into the hat for the second round. 

Both sides return to league action this Saturday, when Phil Parkinson’s side will travel to AFC Wimbledon, and Shaun Maloney’s men return home to the DW Stadium to take on newly promoted Northampton Town. Wrexham now wait to find out their opposition in the second round, with the draw taking place ahead of Burton Albion’s clash with Leicester City on Wednesday.

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