Junior Roberti off to impressive start as Wakefield AFC boss after departure of Gabe Mozzini

A lot can happen in a week and that saying is never truer than in the game of football; more specifically in the NCEL Division One where Wakefield faced two big games after taking just one point from their two fixtures the week before.
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The difference was night and day as Wakefield first demolished Retford FC 8-2 in midweek before a highly impressive, accomplished 3-1 victory over many people’s title-favourites Parkgate, writes Austin Ainsworth.

And there was a different man in charge for the victories, as assistant coach Junior Roberti took the side in Gabe Mozzini’s absence on Tuesday before Wednesday saw the club announce that move was to be made permanent.

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There is no doubt that Mozzini leaves the club having made an indelible mark on Wakefield AFC, with his accomplishments set to remain in the memory for years to come; a title-winning, promotion achieving first season; free-flowing, fluid football; 103 games and 64 wins, with a win percentage of 62%; five or more goals scored on 17 different occasions; and an astounding total of 266 goals scored, with an average of 2.6 per game.

New Wakefield AFC manager Junior Roberti encourages his team. Picture: Scott MerryleesNew Wakefield AFC manager Junior Roberti encourages his team. Picture: Scott Merrylees
New Wakefield AFC manager Junior Roberti encourages his team. Picture: Scott Merrylees

But, however fondly Mozzini will be remembered, things move quickly in football and Wakefield did so with an eye-catching, emphatic and energetic week of expansive football under Roberti.

Making some slight tweaks, he switched Wakefield to an attack-minded 3-4-3 formation; with attacking-midfielder/striker Sebastian Losa dropping into a midfield role alongside Jaydan Sandhu, while Ben Gelder was the striker in a fluid front three also comprising Oliver Rodriguez and Slater Barnes.

The former put in a man of the match turn against Retford, opening the scoring with a goal of the season contender, before later bagging a hat-trick of assists.

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The goal, in just the sixth minute, was a work of art as the winger latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box before three perfect touches saw him juggle the ball over not one, but two, defenders. He then touched and accelerated past the third and final defender and finished from an angle with a precise shot, low to the far corner.

Jaydan Sandhu puts away a penalty for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate. Picture: Scott MerryleesJaydan Sandhu puts away a penalty for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Jaydan Sandhu puts away a penalty for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Rodriguez turned provider 10 minutes later, when he delivered a perfect cross for Gelder to head in his ninth goal of the season.

Defender T’nique Fishley later made it three from almost the same spot, this time from a Sandhu corner with a powerful header for his first Wakefield goal

Retford did throw a spanner in the works either side of half-time, pulling the score back to 3-2 from a corner then a well taken free-kick.

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Any new sense of jeopardy in the game for Wakefield was quickly dispelled, however, with yet another headed goal inside the six-yard box, this time from captain Jack Durkin.

Mason Rubie on the attack against Parkgate. Picture: Scott MerryleesMason Rubie on the attack against Parkgate. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Mason Rubie on the attack against Parkgate. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Sandhu added the fifth, with a finely dispatched penalty-kick following a foul on Mason Rubie in the box.

And, with so many people in on the goalscoring action, it would have been a miracle had second half substitute Lewis Stephens not added his name to the scoresheet. He did not disappoint, heading home his third goal in five games in the 79th minute.

There was still time for Rubie – top goalscorer this year, having added a clinical edge to his game – to take his tally to 18 with two late strikes.

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The first was a deflected shot after a wonderful Rodriguez pass and the second was a great demonstration of skill, when he controlled a Jack Cairney clearance perfectly with his back to goal, turning, and in one smooth motion unleashing a pinpoint strike with his left foot.

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The crushing performance from Wakefield was a return to form after a difficult couple of games and it meant they went into the game against Parkgate with a spring in their step.

That showed as an unchanged Wakefield side were superior to the visitors in every department. However, as in last month’s 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture, Wakefield nearly gifted Parkgate an early lead through a loss of possession on the edge of their own box.

Goalkeeper George Bristol saved his side with a fine save, before Losa opened the scoring moments later.

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It was a brilliant move as Sandhu excellently kept the ball on the right wing, evading several markers before passing to Losa. He executed a quick give-and-go with Barnes, before finessing a curling shot just inside of the far post to move into double figures for goals scored this year.

Wakefield were largely dominant, and ingeniously overcame what – on paper, at least – appeared to be an overly attack-minded midfield, through wing-back Callum Charlton inverting to seamlessly alternate between his wide role and a deep-lying midfield, playmaker role.

The tactics worked and Parkgate were kept at arm’s length before Wakefield’s achilles’ heel of defending set-pieces again showed itself right on half-time; Ross Duggan heading home, unmarked inside the box from a corner.

The scoreline was not a true reflection of the level of Wakefield’s performance and the home side saw to that in an even more impressive second half.

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They returned to the lead just after the hour following the award of a penalty, after Rodriguez’s elusive movement saw him fouled in the box. Just as in midweek, Sandhu stepped up and, just as in midweek, he expertly curled it into the net to the right of the goalkeeper; the goal his 14th of the campaign.

Such was the confidence and composure of Wakefield’s performance, even with just the one goal advantage against a team of Parkgate’s calibre, they always seemed in control and never looked to sit back or soak up pressure.

Their positive football was rewarded close to the end when Barnes capped off another fine performance with his 11th goal in just 13 games, smashing a loose ball high into the net from close range after Parkgate failed to clear a corner.

That was enough to secure the points for Wakefield in a win that displayed their promotion credentials against one of the league’s best sides.

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The victory sees them remain hot on the heels of leaders Shirebrook, three points adrift having played a game more.

Wakefield now turn their attention to another opportunity to consolidate their play-off position when they visit fellow promotion-chasers Wombwell Town in their next fixture on Saturday.

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