Morrell leads brave fight but Wrexham fall at the last

Wrexham 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1 (aet; Brighton win 5-4 on penalties)

Not quite echoes of the January day precisely 20 years ago when 13,000 packed the Racecourse to the rafters to see the Football League's bottom side defeat the reigning champions Arsenal, but here was a night to add to Wrexham's rich tapestry of FA Cup occasions.

Brighton took the win, converting their full set of penalties after Wrexham's Dean Keates had missed the first of the shoot-out, but Wrexham took the night by every other indicator – goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi's loopy Bruce Grobbelaar-style routine at the death encapsulating the energy they had delivered. The last non-League side in the competition certainly did not deserve to leave it.

They at least took away goal as resonant of Mickey Thomas' legendary strike against George Graham's side. It was struck from the right boot of player-manager Andy Morrell, just a few paces to the left of the spot where Thomas hit his free-kick, to give his side the lead they held for almost an hour. "That's the furthest I've ever scored from. I didn't know I had it in my legs," Morrell joked late last night, though he was selling himself short. Leading the line at the age of 37, his influence lasted until he departed to an ovation on 104 minutes.

Morrell, more than anyone, knew what a fourth-round home tie with Newcastle United would have meant. The economics of this occasion were much the same as the day Arsenal were sent packing when Wrexham's then chairman, Pryce Griffiths, told Brian Flynn's players that a win would buy a stronger squad. The club's still fragile hold on existence meant that fans stumped up £250,000 for a bond assurance last summer, to ensure the side could get their Blue Square Conference registration. The money was repaid only this week by a club now taken over by the Wrexham Supporters Trust.

The ambition displayed last night showed why, amid such uncertainties, that club have still risen to the top of the Conference and the burly Danny Wright did the early damage. His pace was consistently too much for right back Romain Vincelot, though it was Inigo Calderon left sitting on the turf when Wright bisected two men and laid back for Morrell to unfurl his exquisite, curling 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner.

Jay Harris and Adrian Cieslewicz made big names for themselves, too, though the balance shifted when Wright was carried from the field just before the hour with a dislocated elbow. His replacement Glen Little might have immediately extended the lead but blasted over the bar after Morrell's precise lay-off.

There were other chances too. Mark Creighton called down a save of the highest order from Peter Brezovan after rising to meet a corner, before a deflection took a shot from the influential Little fractionally wide. Harris, a force all night, rose to head a cross, agonisingly, against the bar at the end of extra time.

"It needed that last touch that shot on target or header on target," Gus Poyet, the Brighton manager, said of Wrexham, yet he knew he had escaped. "It was a Cup tie, a proper one," he added. "Some times players don't like them but you need to be in [this country] to know what it means." Morrell, heading back to his car-and-mouse chase with Fleetwood at the top of the Conference, tried to look ahead. "We've got bigger fish to fry getting out of this league," he said. "This should kick us on now."

Wrexham (4-2-3-1): Mayebi; Obeng, Creighton, Knight-Percival, Ashton; Harris, Clarke; Cieslewicz, Tolley (Keates, 100), Wright (Little, 59); Morrell (Hunt, 104). Substitutes not used Maxwell (gk), Clowes, Anoruo

Brighton & Hove Albion (4-4-2): Brezovan; Calderon, Dunk, Hall, Vincelot; Buckley, Bridcutt, Navarro (Barnes, 66), Sparrow; Mackail-Smith, Hoskins (Agdestein, 66). Substitutes not used Ankergren (gk), Harley, Kasim, Sampayo, Rodgers.

Referee C Webster (Tyne & Wear).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk