Wrexham’s double delight: Penalty win over Wigan and injured Mullin set to fly home from U.S.


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It was double delight for Wrexham on Tuesday as a notable scalp was claimed on their return to League Cup action after 16 years and Paul Mullin was finally given the all-clear to fly home from the U.S.

The 28-year-old striker suffered a pneumothorax — effectively a collapsed lung — and four cracked ribs in a game on the club’s pre-season tour in the States, meaning he had to stay behind when the rest of his team-mates jetted back across the Atlantic to begin their season proper.

Now, though, Wrexham’s goalscoring talisman is on his way back to the UK after belatedly leaving California on Tuesday night. His flight meant missing the end of Wrexham’s penalty shootout victory over Wigan Athletic, the League Two side prevailing over their visitors from the division above after an entertaining tie had finished goalless.

But Mullin was able to watch much of the game on TV and he cannot fail to have been as impressed, as a much-improved performance from the weekend’s damp squib ensured progress in a competition that wasn’t overly kind to Wrexham before their 2008 relegation to non-League football suspended their involvement.

In front of the live-broadcast Sky Sports cameras and the competition’s distinctive three-handle trophy, which positively gleamed under the new floodlights at the Racecourse Ground, memories of their rather rushed and panicky efforts in the 5-3 opening-day league defeat at home to Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday were banished.

Where manager Phil Parkinson had to continually urge his players to “calm down” during that match, here he was able to enjoy a much more composed display, against opponents who were playing three divisions above Wrexham last season, in the English game’s second-most-important knockout competition. Much like in the iconic FA Cup, it sees the 92 sides from the top four divisions compete across seven rounds of single-elimination ties until one of them lifts the trophy after the final at Wembley in early spring.

With Luke Young pulling the strings in midfield and Ollie Palmer bringing a welcome presence to the forward line, the north Wales club were full value for a 4-2 shootout win that represented yet another notable triumph for Parkinson in the League Cup.

A little over a decade ago, Parkinson made history as the first manager to lead a basement division club to a major Wembley Cup final.

Along the way, his Bradford City side beat Premier League trio Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan. The latter, who just six months after that shock exit against Bradford on penalties would beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup, have fallen a long way since those heady top-flight days and started this season in the third tier on minus-eight points as a punishment for problems paying wages.

Nevertheless, Shaun Maloney — coincidentally the scorer of two goals the last time the Racecourse had hosted League Cup football, as Aston Villa ran riot to win 5-0 in August 2002 — has built a dangerous side, a point underlined by their opening day win away to League One title favourites Derby County.

A Wrexham side featuring eight changes from the weekend to the visitors’ four being able to negate that threat so effectively pleased Parkinson.

“It was important we responded to an uncharacteristic Wrexham performance at the weekend,” he says. “We put in a very structured and disciplined performance to get our season up and running.

“A few players have done themselves no harm tonight. I now have decisions to make for the weekend.”

Progress to the second round followed the encouraging news Mullin had been given the go-ahead to fly after having to stay behind when his team-mates flew home form the USA tour.

After suffering his freakish injury in the July 25 friendly win over Manchester United in San Diego, Mullin had to stay overnight in hospital following the collision with goalkeeper Nathan Bishop to allow the lung to repair itself. He remained awake throughout those 13 hours linked up to an oxygen mask.

Co-owner Rob McElhenney offered to put Mullin up at his Los Angeles home but instead he opted to stay in a beachside apartment with two friends from Liverpool who had flown out for the final leg of the tour. His final full day in the States on Monday was spent convalescing on Malibu Beach before getting the all-clear to fly.

As that was happening, Parkinson was putting his squad through their paces back in Wrexham. He had already decided before Saturday’s opening day defeat to that wholesale changes would be needed after the club’s pre-season plans had been disrupted by bad weather.

Thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area meant Parkinson’s intention going into the final fixture of the U.S. tour to give his first-choice XI as many minutes as possible against Union’s second string had to be abandoned.

After a two-hour delay that meant play only resumed at 11pm, the Wrexham manager felt he had no alternative but to name a different line-up for the second half. Such was the disruption caused by the hold-up that first-team coach David Jones was even pressed into action after the break.

In his debrief after the MK Dons loss, Parkinson felt this lack of anyone in his squad playing a full 90 minutes during pre-season had been a factor in his side’s sluggish start. He also felt his side had got caught up in the emotion of the club’s return to the EFL fold after 15 years away.

Young’s return to anchor the midfield ensured there was no repeat against Wigan, in the process surely playing himself into contention for at least a place on the bench at AFC Wimbledon this weekend.

Palmer, a £300,000 record signing from the south London club in 2022, is another who will have given his manager plenty to consider ahead of the trip to Plough Lane.

Having been troubled by a niggling pelvis problem in the second half of last season — during which he played through the pain, only missing one game — Palmer underwent a series of injections over the summer.

The value of that treatment and plenty of rest could be seen not only in Tuesday night’s display but also his efforts from the bench against MK Dons. Whether Palmer starts or not against his former club remains to be seen but Mullin is hoping to travel with the squad.

He is unlikely to be available for sometime yet with the four broken ribs still causing him discomfort when in the States, Parkinson adding:  “Paul will go see a specialist when he gets back and only then will we know how long he will be out.”

But, just by flying back to the UK as Wrexham claimed a first League Cup win in 16 years, Mullin has surely already given fans a big tonic.

(Photo: Alex Livesey/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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