Dean Saunders is optimistic Wrexham will get season back underway

WREXHAM manager Dean Saunders gave the club’s groundsmen a helping hand yesterday, turning up at the Colliers Park training ground at the crack of dawn to commence snow-clearing operations.

The Dragons boss was behind the wheel of a tractor at 7.30am and, before his players arrived for training, had cleared the snow from one full-sized pitch in the hope that it can be used tomorrow and Friday to better prepare for the scheduled Blue Square Bet Premier match at Altrincham on Saturday.

And Saunders is a bit more optimistic about the prospects for a resumption of league action at Moss Lane than he ever was for the club’s two Christmas games – against the Robins at the Racecourse and at Barrow – both of which fell victim to the harsh weather conditions of late.

Surveying yesterday morning’s efforts, he said: “We’ve cleared a bit of snow but the ground underneath is still rock-hard. Hopefully it will be playable on Thursday and Friday.

“With this thaw we might have had a chance of the Barrow game going ahead had it been scheduled for tomorrow. The forecast is looking good and we are beginning to see grass again.”

Wrexham last kicked a ball in anger on December 11 when they knocked Kidderminster Harriers out of the FA Trophy with a 2-0 victory at the Racecourse, but Saunders denied the recent spell of inactivity could be seen as the equivalent of an official winter break.

“We don’t switch off, we don’t stop training and we have the tensions of preparing properly for a game, only to find there’s nothing there at the end of the week,” he added.

“When I was playing we used to play in the snow and I particularly remember playing for Wales against the Republic of Ireland at the Racecourse, when the pitch was as hard as a car park.

“This cold spell has come earlier this year than it did 12 months ago when we fell well behind in terms of games played and were then under pressure to play catch-up. This time, at least, everyone’s games are being called off and we are all pretty much in the same boat.”

Wrexham’s all-weather pitch, although not to everyone’s taste, has enabled the Dragons to enjoy plenty of work with the ball and if the weather continues to improve those sessions will transfer to the grass later this week.

“I have given some of the older players a day off today because I don’t like them training to many days in succession on the artificial surface,” said Saunders. “Fingers crossed it will be better later in the week so that we are able to play both Altrincham on Saturday and Bath on Monday. We will be looking to take six points from the two games.

“That’s absolutely possible if we perform as we know we can and go into the games in the same right frame of mind that we had against Kidderminster last time out.

“It wasn’t talent so much that won us that game as attitude because we worked hard to establish a 2-0 half-time lead and that enabled us to then have an easy afternoon.”

Disappointed to have lost two holiday games to the weather, Saunders spared a thought too for equally disappointed supporters.

“I fell really sorry for the fans,” he added. “It’s our job to come in and train but these games have been called off at a time that we’ve been in a bit of form.

“The fans look forward to the Christmas programme and they plan ahead for the games. With them being called off, there’s a chance people will fall out of the habit of coming and find themselves something else to do.”

One silver lining for Saunders as a result of the last three postponements is that from January 1 players will only be liable for suspension once they have accumulated 10 bookings. Defenders Chris Blackburn and Frank Sinclair (four apiece) would have been banned for one match had they picked up another caution before the year-end.

As it is, only Curtis Obeng, banned for one game, and Andy Mangan who has served the first part of his three-match ban, are unavailable to the Dragons manager this weekend.