Photos by Jonathan White

Nantwich Town were beaten 5-2 by National League side Wrexham in an entertaining pre-season match at the Swansway Stadium.

In front of a wonderful crowd of 1,427 in the blazing sun, the highest attendance at the Swansway Stadium since the FA Cup 1st Round tie against Fylde in 2019, the visitors struck first inside 10 minutes.

Captain Aaron Hayden rose highest from a corner to power a header in (pictured below) and make the many travelling supporters happy early on.

Jake Hyde should have doubled the lead when he had a free header, he planted it just wide with Louis Grey beaten.

Wrexham unsurprisingly had most of the ball with a side featuring former Dabber Jake Bickerstaff, but weren’t doing too much with it, and the Dabbers were able to fight back because of this.

Making his first start for the Dabbers, former Crewe Alex man Joel Grant was found in space with a good switch of play. On the left flank, he cut in onto his stronger right foot and his fine strike, aided by a slight deflection, flew into the net to make it 1-1.

Less than two minutes later, Wrexham re-took the lead. Wrexham had a trialist starting at right back, and he showed great skill to fire high into the goal, another trialist scoring a brilliant goal past the Dabbers in pre-season.

Dan Cockerline had half a chance before half time but he was leaning back on his weaker left foot and it went well over, so it was Wrexham who lead at the break, just deserved on the balance of things.

The second half really showed the quality of a Wrexham squad that will surely be an EFL side in the near future. They were able to put out a second half XI full of top players, names like Ben Tozer, Ollie Palmer, and the prolific Paul Mullin amongst them.

And this team immediately had a lot more purpose about them and asserted their dominance early on. After hitting the crossbar and missing a couple of other chances, it was a Nantwich goal kick that gave them their third goal.

Louis Grey played it short and this was the trigger for Wrexham to switch on their high press, the ball came to Ritchie Sutton on his Dabbers debut, he had his pocket picked and after a great save by Grey, Kai Evans was able to put in the rebound.

Jordan Davies was the next to test Grey from a free kick, he dealt with it well as it bounced in front of him.

The increased Wrexham pressure saw Dave Cooke switch to 5 at the back after some subs, and this slowed the away side down and forced them to rethink how to break the Dabbers down.

They did this to great effect for their 4th goal, Palmer getting in down the right and playing a delightful low cross that Liam McAlinden couldn’t miss, pinpoint accuracy to put the result beyond any sort of doubt.

Surely the goal of the game though was to come from a Dabbers player. And who else but Dan Cockerline, a simple kick upfield from Grey was nodded into the path of Cockerline who smashed it first time into the top corner from about 20-25 yards (pictured below). The form he has shown in front of goal this pre-season will be getting Dabbers supporters very excited for what he could do in the league this season.

From one ace goalscorer to another, as the brilliant Paul Mullin got Wrexham’s 5th a few minutes from time, a quick turn and finish in the box almost par for the course for someone who scored 32 goals in the National League last season.

That was the end of the scoring on a great day for Nantwich (other than the result). The good atmosphere between both sets of fans really stood out, and as Dave Cooke remarked after the match: “Our lads will have learned a heck of a lot from playing this quality opposition”.

Our hospitality was even recognised by one of Wrexham’s illustrious owners, Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds sending the club a message of thanks on Twitter after the game (below).


Nantwich Town: Louis Grey, Joel Stair (C) (Ritchie Sutton, 46), Matty Devine (Jacob Edwards, 72), Jon Moran, Troy Bourne, Caspar Hughes (Jack Sherratt, 46), Connor Heath (Trialist, 46), Joe Robbins (Alfonso Castellano, 60), Dan Cockerline, Sean Cooke, Joel Grant (AJ Leitch-Smith, 46)

Subs not used: Scott Butler, George Walters

Goals: Grant (35), Cockerline (80)

Wrexham AFC: (1st half): Mark Howard, Trialist A, Callum McFadzean, James Jones, Aaron Hayden, Max Cleworth, Jake Bickerstaff, Dior Angus, Jake Hyde, Tom O’Connor, Dan Davies

(2nd half): Trialist B, Ben Tozer, Jordan Davies, Luke Young, Paul Mullin, Liam McAlinden, Dan Jones, Kai Evans, Dave Jones, Ollie Palmer, Aaron James

Goals: Hayden (9), Trialist A (37), Evans (57), McAlinden (70), Mullin (82)

Attendance: 1,427