Wrexham 2 Barrow AFC 1

Barrow AFC were punished for not making their first-half chances count as Wrexham came storming back after the break to condemn them to defeat on the opening day of the season.

The Bluebirds were deservedly ahead at half-time through Josh Granite’s header and could have gone into the dressing room further in front, with a repeat of last season’s victory at the Racecourse Ground very much on the cards.

However, their habit from pre-season of going half by half in terms of performances was taken into the campaign for real, as they struggled to get to grips with the Dragons.

In the end Bobby Grant’s header proved to be decisive in North Wales, as Wrexham sent a reminder as to why they’re expected to challenge again for promotion from the National League.

For AFC, meanwhile, they will need some home comfort when Harrogate and Eastleigh visit Holker Street next week.

There were competitive Barrow debuts for full backs Brad Barry and Patrick Brough and striker Scott Quigley while forwards Jack Hindle, Olly Dyson and Byron Harrison were all named on an attack-minded bench.

Dior Angus provided the first real threat to either goal when he drove in from the right wing before his shot was blocked by Wrexham captain Shaun Pearson, just in front of his goalkeeper.

Just as last season, the Bluebirds opened the scoring through a set-piece, as Lewis Hardcastle whipped in a peach of free kick from the left that was flicked in by Granite in the 13th minute.

It was the skipper’s first goal for AFC and it rewarded a bright start as well as quickly answering Ian Evatt’s call for his defenders to chip in with more goals this season.

JJ Hooper should have done much better with his team’s first big chance when he scuffed Mark Carrington’s cut-back horribly wide after 31 minutes.

A lightning counter attack then should have led to Barrow doubling their lead when Patrick Brough broke clear into acres of space from his own area before putting Angus in the clear, but Christian Dibble came out to make a crucial save.

Another good opening was passed up when Quigley miskicked in front of goal after a last-ditch tackle from Carrington had prevented Josh Kay from getting on the end of John Rooney’s through ball.

Barrow were made to pay less than three minutes into the second half, as Luke Summerfield’s free kick was headed back across by James Jennings and Hooper found the net from close range, despite Joel Dixon’s best efforts.

The Bluebirds stopper then prevented his team from falling behind when he did well to tip a long-range effort from Mark Harris over the bar.

AFC were having a rocky first 15 minutes to the half and survived again when Summerfield curled a free kick from 25 yards wide after Brad Barry had bundled over Harris.

But Wrexham had the bit between their teeth and took the lead in the 62nd minute when Hooper held off Granite down the left before hanging up a cross that Grant headed in at the back post.

The hosts almost had a third when Summerfield’s free kick was nodded across by Jake Lawlor before Jennings couldn’t keep his header down, but Barrow badly needed to get a grip back on proceedings.

Evatt emptied his bench by bringing on Harrison, Oliver Greaves and Hindle and the changes did help to stabilise the visitors as the match moved into its closing stages.

However, Wrexham had the chance to wrap things up when former Bluebird Paul Rutherford teed up Hooper, who took his time but couldn’t find a way past Dixon.

Angus then came close to levelling it up with six minutes left when he whipped a shot wide from the edge of the area with Dibble rooted to the spot, but this was the only late chance Barrow had.

Wrexham (4-2-3-1): Dibble, Carrington, Pearson, Lawlor, Jennings, Summerfield, Young, Grant, Redmond (Rutherford 76), Harris (McIntosh 86), Hooper (Oswell 90+4) Subs not used: Szczepaniak, Chambers.

Barrow AFC (4-3-3): Dixon, Barry, Hird, Granite, Brough, Rooney, Taylor, Hardcastle (Greaves 67), Angus, Quigley (Harrison 67), Kay (Hindle 71).

Subs not used: Brown, Dyson.

Referee: Rick Hulme

Attendance: 5,941 (283 away)