STOKE CITY 1 (Walters)
JONATHAN WALTERS scored on his return to the Racecourse Ground on Sunday afternoon to help the Potters to a third successive pre-season victory.
The former Wrexham front-man volleyed home the decisive goal for visitors just minutes after being introduced from the bench during the half-time interval.
The margin of victory undoubtedly should have been greater as Mark Hughes’ side were guilty of spurning a number of good opportunities during the 90-minute workout.
Hughes, who returned to his hometown for the game, included Jermaine Pennant in his starting line-up for only the second time after he was forced to sit out the nine-day tour of the United States.
The former Liverpool ace started on the right hand side of a five-man midfield, alongside Steven Nzonzi, Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam and Matthew Etherington.
Asmir Begovic ushered a back four that comprised of four full internationals in America’s Geoff Cameron, England’s Ryan Shawcross, Germany’s Robert Huth and recent Dutch acquisition Erik Pieters.
Peter Crouch got the nod to start in attack, with Hughes opting to name the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Walters amongst the substitutes.
A lack of cutting edge was illustrated on more than one occasion during the opening 45 minutes as the Potters dominated proceedings but were ultimately left frustrated having failed to turn opportunities into goals.
It took no longer than five minutes for the visitors to carve open the Wrexham rearguard with the impressive Erik Pieters linking up well with Charlie Adam to tee Peter Crouch up eight yards out, though he was unable to make contact with the Dutchman’s drilled centre.
Adam, who has recently been recalled back into the Scotland squad for next week’s international showdown with England, then used true class to free Crouch through on goal only for the linesman to incorrectly adjudge the forward to have been in an offside position.
Etherington was causing a nuisance of himself down the left flank, but he himself was guilty of spurning two glorious opportunities of breaking the deadlock – firstly by blazing over from 6-yards, before hammering an effort into the side-netting from an equally as inviting position.
Adam’s willingness to try his luck from range almost caught Dragons ‘keeper Joslain Mayebi napping on the half-hour mark, but the stopper was more alert to thwart Crouch from close range soon after.
Skipper Shawcross had to be on his toes to make a last ditch header to clear away an in-swinging Jay Harris free-kick which had initially looked to have been heading towards the far corner of Begovic’s net in a rare Wrexham attack.
The interval brought with it five changes for the Potters with the likes of Walters, Wilson Palacios and Michael Kightly being introduced.
The impact of Republic of Ireland international Walters was instant as he had already gone close on two occasions before netting the only goal of the game with a well executed finish from Kightly’s corner.
The visitors pressed in search of a second with both Kightly and Jones testing Mayebi from range, whilst Walters saw another effort blocked by the outstretched leg of former Stoke defender Stephen Wright.
As the game wore on the hosts gradually began to cause problems of their own with former Blackpool man Brett Ormerod coming close to levelling matters with a header that dropped inches wide of the post.
Shawcross and Huth combined to thwart Andy Bishop as he looked to fire an effort goal-wards, before Thomas Sorensen, who replaced Begovic during the break, comfortably gathered a long range Joe Clarke effort.
Further changes were made midway through the half as Hughes looked to give playing time to the likes of Marc Muniesa, Marc Wilson and Andy Wilkinson.
Those changes disrupted the fluent Potters who were almost made to pay for their missed opportunities by Adrian Cieslewicz, who went agonisingly close to drawing his side level in stoppage time.
WREXHAM: Maybebi, Tomassen (Carrington 62), Ashton (c), Wright, Hunt, Clarke, Harris, Evans, Reid (Cieslewicz 65), Ormerod (Bailey-Jones 71), Bishop (Rushton 80). Subs (Not Used): Coughlin, Stephens, Thornton, Ogleby.
STOKE CITY: Begovic (Sorensen 46); Cameron (Wilkinson 69), Shawcross (c), Huth, Pieters (Muniesa, 69); Pennant (Walters 46), Whelan (Jerome 69), Nzonzi (Palacios 46), Adam (Wilson 69), Etherington (Kightly 46); Crouch (Jones 46). Subs (Not Used): Shotton, Cuvelier.