Wrexham were denied a lucrative tie with Newcastle United after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Brighton in an enthralling FA Cup third-round replay.
Craig Mackail-Smith scored the decisive penalty after Peter Brezovan had denied Dean Keates to set up a fourth-round home clash against Alan Pardew’s Newcastle.
It was tough on Wrexham, who had taken a first-half lead through manager Andy Morrell. The club have had well-documented financial problems so to miss out by such a fine margin will be tough to take. The televised tie against Brighton did earn the Welsh club £62,000.
Non-league Wrexham had given the Championship club a real scare in the original tie on the south coast and punters who bet on the FA Cup had tipped an upset in the replay.
That seemed likely when they picked up where they left off at the Racecourse Ground on Wednesday night.
Morrell had already had a shot blocked when he gave the home side the lead after 23 minutes. Danny Wright found the boss on the edge of the box and Morrell curled his shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
Wrexham gained confidence from the opener and went on to dominate large parts of the game. However, the game became stretched towards the end and with the FA Cup betting starting to favour the non-leaguers, Brighton struck a vital blow with just over ten minutes to go. Ashley Barnes put the visitors on level terms with a header from a Matt Sparrow cross.
Both sides had chances to win the game in normal time and again in the 30 minutes that followed, but the game was decided by a penalty shoot-out.
Brezovan saved Wrexham’s first penalty from Keates and Mackail-Smith kept his nerve after both sides had successfully converted their next four penalties to seal the win and a place in the fourth round.