In one corner, the manager responsible for Wrexham returning to the EFL after a 15-year exile in non-League whose CV includes leading Tuesday night’s visitors to the 2012-13 League Cup final as a fourth-tier club, beating three Premier League sides along the way.

In the other corner, a local footballing legend for whom many of his early-career highlights occurred here at the Racecourse Ground, including his Wales debut and a goal so spectacular it eventually helped earn him a transfer to Barcelona.

Phil Parkinson versus Mark Hughes, Wrexham versus Bradford City.

The Carabao Cup second-round tie between these two League Two clubs threw up a multitude of sub-plots, including the return of Hughes, who was brought up a few miles outside Wrexham in the village of Ruabon and whose family still live in this part of north Wales.

It proved a happy return for the 72-cap former Manchester United, Barca, Bayern Munich and Chelsea striker, as Bradford made it through on penalties after James Jones and Luke Young missed for the hosts.

The 4-3 shootout loss dashed Wrexham’s hopes of being in the League Cup third-round draw for the first time since 1981, meaning any excitement for supporters over the next few days will have to come via the always hectic end of the summer transfer window.

Compared to their League Two peers, Wrexham’s summer has been a relatively quiet one on the recruitment front.

Just Will Boyle and James McClean have arrived from elsewhere in the EFL, along with League of Ireland goalkeeper Luke McNicholas on a loan deal that can be made permanent in January. The rest of the division has been markedly busier, with relegated Forest Green Rovers leading the way on 14 signings, closely followed by Morecambe (13) and Crawley Town (12).

Wrexham’s tally of new faces being the lowest is partly by design and partly down to circumstances beyond their control.

Their policy of signing proven EFL talent when a National League side meant an element of future-proofing the squad in the event of the promotion they eventually secured in May, with the likes of Paul Mullin, Elliot Lee and Aaron Hayden being easily capable of making the step up. It meant the emphasis could be on quality, not quantity.

Where Wrexham have found frustration is when trying to add genuine quality. They have inevitably met resistance.

The Athletic has been told by a variety of sources, who wish to remain anonymous to protect relationships, that bids are in for several players. A number of these have met the selling club’s valuation but any hopes of further progress towards an actual transfer is dependent on their replacements at those clubs being lined up first.

Until that happens — and as with Wrexham’s hunt for new faces, there is resistance from selling clubs further down the football food chain — the green light is unlikely to be given.

None of this helps Parkinson, who has had to be patient despite the frustrating recruitment delays being compounded by losing top-scorer Mullin to the collapsed lung and four broken ribs he suffered in a game on last month’s pre-season tour in the United States.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster’s shock retirement four games into the campaign was another curveball for the 55-year-old, who remains hopeful further business can be done before Friday’s deadline (11pm UK time; 6pm ET).

“It is a domino effect sometimes,” Parkinson says. “When a team gets a player in, that one deal becomes achievable. If someone comes in, great. But if it doesn’t happen, we will work with what we have got.”

Wrexham’s approach this summer has been to keep tabs on several targets for any position that the manager believes needs strengthening, including having a No 1 choice to fill it.

This worked well in their pursuit of a centre-half.

Boyle, who helped Cheltenham Town to promotion from League Two in 2020-21 before returning to boyhood club Huddersfield Town, now of the Championship, last season was always wanted.

Boyle arrived from Huddersfield (Photo: Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

But options had to be kept open, with talks taking place over a host of defenders following the end of the season. These continued through June and early July, when suddenly it became clear Boyle was available after being left behind by Neil Warnock when the rest of the Huddersfield squad went to Cornwall for pre-season.

Wrexham moved quickly. A similarly swift process brought McClean from Wigan Athletic, the Republic of Ireland international’s move progressing at such a speed that he joined just a few days after being offered the Lancashire club’s captaincy in the wake of their relegation from the Championship.

The hope heading into the final stages of the summer window will see at least one of those pending deals get over the line.

As for Parkinson, the disruption caused by injuries is at least starting to ease.

Mullin’s absence has been felt, even allowing for how Wrexham are League Two’s second-top-scorers after finding the net 14 times in the first five games. But the Liverpudlian is now back training, albeit restricted to non-contact work such as finishing. There is no date as yet for when Mullin will play again.

Jordan Tunnicliffe, out since picking up a calf injury on that U.S. tour, is edging closer to joining McClean and Hayden in a return to action — in the latter’s case, his start last night being his first competitive outing since January. Both performed well in the 1-1 draw that was then decided from the spot.

Tuesday’s tie did provide a timely reminder of how recruitment in the EFL can be far from an exact science.

Jake Young, loaned out by Bradford to Swindon Town, has scored seven league goals this season — three more than the entire squad he left behind at Valley Parade.

That must come as a frustration to boyhood Wrexham fan Hughes, whose personal history with the Racecourse includes the spectacular scissor-kick volley in a World Cup qualifying victory over Spain in 1985 which so caught the eye of the Barcelona scouts that he moved to the Camp Nou from Manchester United just over a year later.

Mark Hughes’ stunning goal for Wales against Spain in 1985 is still astonishing to watch! 😲


— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) October 10, 2018

Parkinson’s challenge is to land a signing capable of making an impact similar to the one Young has had at Swindon.

A big few days lay ahead.

(Top photo: Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)