Elliot Lee shows Wrexham value of transfer patience as he targets ‘another promotion’


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Elliot Lee is proof that patience amid a transfer window can bring the ultimate reward.

The 28-year-old, Wrexham’s goalscorer on an afternoon when a 1-1 draw at AFC Wimbledon brought a first point in the EFL since 2008, took some convincing to drop to non-League when the Welsh club came calling last summer.

He had umpteen offers from clubs in divisions above, as was to be expected after five years at Luton Town that included back-to-back promotions and impressive spells on loan with Charlton Athletic and Oxford United in League One.

Parkinson, just as he has been during this transfer window, was determined to wait for his man. That patience was rewarded with 12 goals and eight assists as Wrexham won the National League in record-breaking fashion.

Now back in League Two, Lee was at it again on an afternoon when Wrexham adopted a new attacking set-up to try and minimise the loss of Paul Mullin to injury.

With Ollie Palmer playing as a lone frontman on his first return to Plough Lane since leaving for the Racecourse Ground in January 2022, Lee and debutant James McClean were given the job of playing off the £300,000 ($380,900) record signing.

There were teething troubles with the system, especially in the first half when Palmer tore into McClean for not reading a dangerous flick-on. The Irishman returned the favour within 60 seconds when Palmer failed to reach his left-wing cross to earn a similar rebuke.

On the whole, though, Parkinson took encouragement from how his players adapted to a formation that may be the way forward for the next few weeks as Mullin prepares to see a specialist on Monday to assess his recovery from suffering a pneumothorax — effectively a collapsed lung — and four broken ribs.

“We changed things round slightly to try and give us a bit more threat on the counter,” the 55-year-old Parkinson said after Ben Foster had saved one penalty from Ali Al-Hamadi only to later be beaten from the spot by James Tilley.

“At times, we looked dangerous. Just needed to show a bit more calmness (as a team) in the hurly-burly of a scrap.”

On Lee, the Wrexham manager added: “I thought Elliot was excellent. He showed real quality in a difficult game. It was tight and physical, with the ball going back to front really quickly.

“But I thought when the ball went to Elliot, he gave us that bit of quality. We just needed a bit more of that to create opportunities.”

For Lee, this was his first goal at this level since helping Luton to promotion in 2017-18 by finding the net 10 times. And he continued the rich vein of form that proved so important in ending Wrexham’s 15-year stay in non-League.

He finished third in the club’s 2022-23 tables for both goals (12) and assists (8). Only Mullin with 38 goals and nine assists beat him in both categories, while Palmer found the net 17 times and Luke Young provided 11 assists.

Perhaps most importantly, Lee was in clinical form when the stakes were high during the run-in. He netted six goals in the final eight matches, including what proved to be the winner against Notts County and the leveller on the night promotion was sealed via a 3-1 win over Boreham Wood.

His strike against Wimbledon wasn’t quite on par with those two. In fact, it owed plenty to a wicked deflection off Joe Lewis that took his on-target effort beyond the reach of goalkeeper Alex Bass.

But maybe Lee’s intelligent positioning, pulling away from his marker to find sufficient space to meet Jacob Mendy’s pull-back, earned that good fortune. He came close to adding a second in the final quarter, first when stretching to meet another Mendy cross and then a curled free-kick that Bass did well to beat away.

His work rate across the 104 minutes played by referee Darren Drysdale couldn’t be faulted, either, with Lee rarely letting James Tilley out of his sight as the Wimbledon right winger made regular forays forward.

No wonder the 1,200 travelling fans sang Lee’s name loudly to underline their admiration. The feeling is clearly mutual, with Lee long since having realised he made the right decision when opting to drop down from the Championship to the National League.

“Joining this club was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he says. “It is so exciting. It is incredible how the town is buzzing. From living there for a year, I find when the football club is doing well then the whole city is happy.

“I probably didn’t expect it to be like it has. I’ve played at higher levels, so I had to drop down a few leagues. But it was something I wanted to do. I saw the ambition of the owners. Same with the manager and the whole town.

“It is a fantastic feeling being part of this club. Anyone who asks me what it is like to be at Wrexham, I say it is a brilliant place to be. Not just having the owners but having the environment that the manager has created throughout the club.

“We are not just resting on what we have done. We want to go and win the next league, we want another promotion.”

Lee’s happiness over making the move to Wrexham will be music to Parkinson’s ears after biding his time last summer when Lee was weighing up his multitude of options as a free agent.

With the clock ticking down towards the window closing on September 1 this time around, Wrexham are clearly still in the market for new additions. They need more players to join McClean, Will Boyle — who had an excellent debut at Wimbledon despite being harshly adjudged to have fouled Alex Pearce for the first penalty — and Sligo Rovers’ goalkeeper Luke McNicholas, who joined on a short-term contract last Friday with a view to signing permanently in January.

“If we bring someone in — great,” says Parkinson after admitting nothing was close in terms of recruitment. “We will know more about Mulls on Monday, so for now I am happy to focus on what we have got, as we have good players and there is more to come.

“Good players are hard to get. Teams don’t want to give players up but we will keep working at it and get the quality addition or two in before the window closes.”

(Top photo: Elliot Lee celebrates his goal against Wimbledon. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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