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MK Dons spoil Wrexham’s long-awaited EFL return

05 Aug 2023 3 minute read
Wrexham goalkeeper Ben Foster (right) applauds the fans after the Sky Bet League Two match at the Racecourse. Photo Jacob King PA/Wire

Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney and fellow Hollywood star Hugh Jackman watched Wrexham’s long-awaited English Football League return end in a 5-3 home humbling at the hands of MK Dons.

Saturday’s encounter was an emotional occasion in north Wales as a sell-out crowd watched their side play their first Sky Bet League Two game since 2008.

But Wrexham returned with a bump in front of ambitious owners Reynolds and McElhenney, with the dominant Dons becoming the first side to win at the SToK Racecourse since November 2021.

These sides were two divisions apart just three months ago and the visitors quickly showed their quality, taking a two-goal lead just 10 minutes into Graham Alexander’s first game in charge.

Ben Foster could not prevent Eoghan O’Connell’s own goal or Mohamed Eisa’s excellent solo effort, with Jacob Mendy reducing the deficit just before half-time as Wrexham celebrated a first EFL goal in 5,572 days.

New era

But the start of what manager Phil Parkinson called a “new era” proved a chastening one, with Jonathan Leko drilling home from distance and then beating Foster again as the Dons pulled further ahead.

Wrexham grabbed one back through hometown hero Jordan Davies, before the Dons’ Daniel Harvie and home substitute Anthony Forde completed the scoring in stoppage time.

The hosts were without injured star striker Paul Mullin and new signing James McClean at the Racecourse, where Parkinson’s men looked nervy and went behind in the sixth minute.

O’Connell headed Ethan Robson’s free-kick into his own goal, with MJ Williams soon seeing a shot hit the post before the Dons’ second arrived in the 10th minute.

Eisa showed excellent skill and perseverance before eventually prodding underneath Foster to stun the Racecourse faithful and delight the 1,115 away fans.

Ryan Barnett had cut in to flash a strike over at the other end shortly before, but Wrexham struggled to deal with the two-goal gut punch and created little in the way of clear-cut chances.

Foster did well to stop a Leko effort from the edge of the box as MK Dons pushed for a third, only for Wrexham to reduce the deficit in the 42nd minute.

Billy Waters saw his effort denied by Dons goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, with Mendy firing home the rebound and restoring hope.

Wrexham looked to kick on when the second half got under way, only to fall further behind to a thumping 51st minute Leko strike as referee Tom Reeves allowed play to continue despite Andy Cannon being left in a heap.

Parkinson made a triple change but his side were soon further behind, with impressive Leko beating the offside trap and then Foster to net his second of the afternoon in the 64th minute.

Substitute Ollie Palmer saw an effort smothered and fellow introduction Davies flashed narrowly over as Wrexham looked to pull one back, with the latter finally burying home a stunner in the 82nd minute.

Wrexham pushed for more and Forde curled home brilliantly in stoppage time, although Harvie had just extended the visitors’ lead as the Dons ran out deserved winners.

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