Wrexham AFC: James Jennings takes 'great pride' in National League's best defensive record

Reporter:

Daniel Heald

JAMES JENNINGS believes Wrexham’s exceptional defensive record is the product of a strong collective work ethic.

Along with National League leaders Dover Athletic, Wrexham have shipped the fewest number of goals in the division this term.

Currently third in the league table after conceding only 12 times in 18 games, Jennings insists the miserly goals against tally is a source of pride among Reds players.

And, having signed a two-year deal at the Racecourse in the summer, Jennings has been an integral part of the club’s resolute defensive displays so far.

He said: “It is something that we’re really proud about and rightfully so.

“There have been a lot of games where we’ve had to grind out 1-0 wins, which we’ve done by remaining tight defensively and keeping ourselves in games until the 60th or 70th minute before we’ve pushed for a winner.

“The Dagenham game was a good example of that, I think, where we stuck at it against a strong side away from home and came away with a narrow win after scoring late on.

“We have got some great experienced defenders in this squad and with those players around you it makes your job easier and I’d say this current squad has some of the best defenders I’ve played alongside.

“When people talk about a ‘defensive unit’ they normally mean a small group of players or the regular back four of a team.

“But defending from the front is an important element in our game. The high press up front is equally as important as the tackles made by the midfielders and us as defenders.

“When the whole XI are working well together it makes it easier to keep clean sheets and for us to have a platform to build on and win games.

“So there’s a lot of people who’ve contributed to the defensive side of things and everyone can take credit for the hard work that’s gone into getting us into our current position.

“We work harder than most teams and we pride ourselves on that too. 

“Our mentality is that if every player covers enough distance, the law of averages says you’ll win more games than you’ll lose.

“I think that the games where we’ve not been at it and maybe haven’t worked as hard as usual are the games where we’ve been punished.

“So we know there’s no room for complacency and when we make mistakes, like we did in the Fylde game, we try to learn from them.”

Well-versed in the demands of the National League, Jennings was part of the Forest Green side that won their first nine games of the 2015/16 campaign, but missed out on promotion.

Rovers were eventually overtaken by Cheltenham Town, while Rovers missed out on promotion after a defeat in the play-off final to Grimsby Town.

And while no National League side has forged ahead this season with only six points separating top spot and mid-table, Jennings understands the pitfalls for clubs that peak too soon.

“That was difficult to take after we’d started the season so strongly,” he added.

“But I think it showed that when a club’s form drops, it’s important to keep picking up points because those kind of blips that can happen to all clubs over the course of a season.

“Consistency is the most important factor for clubs who are chasing the league title or promotion and we have to ensure that when we have poor games that we take something out of them.”

Early-season title favourites Tranmere Rovers, who boast Jennings’ younger brother Connor among their squad are one such side to have endured poor form this term.

With both brothers playing at clubs focused on securing a Football League return, James admits that a healthy sibling rivalry often comes to the fore.

And with Wrexham clinching a 1-0 win at Prenton Park only last month, the bragging rights belonged to the Reds man.

He said: “Of course there’s a bit of banter, I think that’s only natural with us playing in the same league.

“We both played in our win at their place but we were on opposite sides of the pich for a lot of the game, but it felt good afterwards to have come away with three points.

“For me Tranmere should have won the league last year and I think there was bit of a hangover there early on from missing out on that.

“They haven’t really hit the ground running this season and have gone through a tough spell, but I’m sure they will be up there at the end of the season.”

Email:

daniel.heald@nwn.co.uk

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