Oliver Clarke's first Wakefield AFC goal seals winning return to action

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​The inclement weather has wreaked havoc with the NCE Division One schedule in recent weeks, but Wakefield AFC finally returned to action when they travelled to eighth-placed Dronfield Town for their first league game in nearly a month and came away with a 3-2 win.

After Wakefield’s run of eight league victories had seen them up to the top of the division in November, they were seeking a return to winning ways after their impressive charge was halted in their last game; a 2-2 home draw with fellow title challengers Shirebrook Town, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Not much has changed in the intervening football-less weeks for Wakefield; they still went in to this game with a four-point cushion at the top of the table and manager Gabe Mozzini named a largely similar side to that seen throughout Wakefield’s run of irresistible form.

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Ben Holmes did come into the defence for his first Wakefield start to partner Jack Durkin, while captain Danny Youel returned to the starting line-up with Nathan Hawkhead absent. The potent duo of Oliver Rodriguez and Mason Rubie retained their places on the wings, as did Ben Gelder up front.

Mason Rubie took his goal tally to 11 for the season when on target again for Wakefield AFC against Dronfield Town. Photo by Mark ParsonsMason Rubie took his goal tally to 11 for the season when on target again for Wakefield AFC against Dronfield Town. Photo by Mark Parsons
Mason Rubie took his goal tally to 11 for the season when on target again for Wakefield AFC against Dronfield Town. Photo by Mark Parsons

It was a fairly even start to the game, with Dronfield – themselves in the mix at present for a play-off spot – sharing much of the possession and territory.

Wakefield, perhaps a little rusty after their three week lay-off, did show glimpses of the free-flowing football that has reaped 33 goals in their last 10 games.

And they had the best chance of the opening stages after full-back Callum Charlton demonstrated his pace and skill to burst out of defence and accelerate past several opposition players. He then delivered a precise through-ball to meet Rodriguez’s inside run, only for the winger’s attempted shot to fly over.

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Ten minutes later Jaydan Sandhu also sprinkled some stardust on proceedings as he twisted his way into the box around three defenders, but he was denied by some fine goalkeeping from Lewis Naylor when one v one. Gelder’s attempt on the rebound was also thwarted by the Dronfield keeper.

Just as it seemed Wakefield’s momentum was building, Dronfield opened the scoring as Sandhu clattered into the back of a Dronfield player who was about to shoot and the resulting penalty was put away by Max Rhodes.

Wakefield were not phased by the setback and earned a penalty of their own as Rodriguez went down under a challenge from a defender. The Dronfield manager was booked for protesting the decision, but his mood would have slightly improved moments later as Rodriguez saw his spot kick saved.

The visitors’ persistence did pay off just before half-time when Charlton’s menacing cross was met by Sandhu who finished well.

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Mozzini made changes at half-time as Rubie, unusually quiet in the first half, dropped back to right-back for attacker Oliver Clarke to come on in place of Aaron Pilkington while Henry Kendrick also replaced George Bristol in the Wakefield goal.

The positive outfield change worked immediately, with Rubie and Clarke combining down the right, before Sebatian Losa played Gelder in on goal. He took the ball well on the turn, but his shot was too close to keeper who saved well to deny the striker his third goal for Wakefield.

Dronfield did have some half chances of their own, but it was Wakefield who looked the more likely to score and they did so in the 71st minute through yet another goal from Rubie.

He had been finding more joy down the right running from a deeper full-back position and that showed with the goal, as Rodriguez received the ball in midfield and spotted his run.

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The young winger sprayed a wonderful diagonal ball over to Rubie who beat the marker, took the ball in his stride and drilled his shot past the keeper for his 11th goal of the season.

Rubie, who is one game shy of becoming the first player to play 100 games for the club, now seems to score every time he plays, with half of his 22 goals for Wakefield coming in his last 21 games; a new found potency that now means he is the joint top scorer this season.

The points were far from secure for Wakefield, but they seemed to remedy that as the game moved in to the final 10 minutes when substitute Clarke scored his first goal for the club to make it 3-1.

It was a finely crafted goal as Youel picked out Losa who showed incredible vision to flick the ball into the path of Durkin. Although appearing to be through on goal the defender touched the ball for it to fall perfectly into the path of Clarke, who took charge and toe-poked the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.

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Dronfield almost immediately injected some jeopardy back into proceedings with a goal out of nowhere through Oliver Townsend’s long range shot.

That set up a tense final few minutes of stoppage time, but Wakefield held out well to return to West Yorkshire with the three points.

The result means Wakefield are now six points clear, after Shirebrook dropped points. That now means Parkgate – who still have four games in hand, and are arguably still the true favourites for the title until their long awaited first meeting with Wakefield – move up to second.

Wakefield now move into a busy festive period, beginning with a home game against Armthorpe Welfare on Saturday. They then travel to Horbury Town for a Boxing Day derby (12 noon) and host Selby Town on Saturday, December 30.

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