Record crowd sees Wakefield AFC come up with a late winner in derby thriller with Horbury Town

​Wakefield AFC – on an excellent run of four wins and an aggregate score of 18-0 in the NCE Division One – faced arguably their biggest game of the season so far when they took on Horbury Town.
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The stars had aligned such that their local rivals were the perfect visitors for what was Wakefield’s first Saturday afternoon home game at Belle Vue, in glorious sunshine and on a day free from Premier League and Championship football, writes Austin Ainsworth.

With attendances already progressing this season for Wakefield, the ingredients were there for a record attendance and this is what it turned out to be with an astounding crowd of 1035.

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The fans, many first-time attendees enticed by the lure of a derby, were not disappointed. As with all real rivalries, the day had everything; a healthy animosity among some of the players, goals galore, a red card and a late, late winner.

A record attendance saw Wakefield AFC's home derby with Horbury Town. Photo by Scott MerryleesA record attendance saw Wakefield AFC's home derby with Horbury Town. Photo by Scott Merrylees
A record attendance saw Wakefield AFC's home derby with Horbury Town. Photo by Scott Merrylees

Wakefield’s team is starting to pick itself thanks to recent form, however manager Gabe Mozzini had to make some enforced changes thanks to defender Robbie Miller’s suspension and the absence of striker Ashley Flynn. Nathan Hawkhead came in to an otherwise unchanged back four, whilst Kieran Ceesay, ex-of Horbury Town, replaced Flynn up front. The ever-improving midfield triumvirate of Jaydan Sandhu, Danny Youel and Billy Mole started their sixth game in succession with the fast-becoming undroppable Oliver Rodriguez on one wing and mainstay Mason Rubie on the other.

For the first half at least, the match never promised anything like the drama that would unfold; Wakefield continuing the trend of their recent matches by exerting utter dominance over Horbury in all the key metrics of intensity, possession, territory and chances created.

The goals quickly followed as top scorer Mole moved to seven for the season inside 10 minutes.

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Ceesay dropped into the hole and displayed outstanding vision to drill a teasing ball out to the right wing for Rubie to chase.

Rubie won his race with the full-back and the ball was worked back to Sandhu – Wakefield’s creator-in-chief and current leading assist-maker – who rolled a pass inside to Mole on the right edge of the penalty area.

Mole let the ball run across his body before unleashing a first-time strike with his left foot that continued to pick up speed as it curled beautifully all the way out to the far corner of the goal.

A second goal quickly followed and came courtesy of yet another highlight in Rodriguez’s expanding reel, when he displayed excellent close-control with his back to goal to receive a bullet pass from Mole, before shooting on the half-turn with a strike that curled around his marker and then just back inside the post.

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Wakefield continued to dominate, but had to wait until just before half-time to add a third goal. As if scripted, it was Ceesay who bagged his first of the season in a game that perhaps had extra meaning to him, given there is seemingly no love lost between him and his old side.

The attack came from a Horbury slip in midfield, which allowed Rubie to latch onto the ball. He spotted a smart, well-timed run from Ceesay from the right to thread a pass through to him, with Ceesay then side-footing a shot that just crept under Horbury keeper Paul Hagreen and into the back of the net.

Ceesay, who had already been involved in an off the ball exchange with Horbury defender Thomas Brook in which the latter was lucky to escape a card, let his emotions overcome him as he controversially chose to celebrate by running to the Horbury bench and, with a grin on his face, attempted to shake hands with the coaches.

Unsurprisingly he was given short-shrift but, although some would argue it was in poor taste, it was nonetheless a memorable moment and demonstrated the needle that this local derby has about it even after only three games between the two sides.

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For Wakefield, bearing in mind the size of the occasion, it was a perfect first half and even the most optimistic of Horbury fans would not have envisaged any form of second half comeback.

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Wakefield AFC hit goal trail ahead of big home derby with Horbury Town

Derbies are a different game, though, and, showing no sign of throwing in the white towel, Horbury manager Darren Barnes made four changes at half-time along with a shift in formation in an attempt to spark his side into life.

The changes worked and the shift in purpose and intensity from Horbury was immediately recognisable from kick-off. Town went direct and, while Wakefield still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the half, the home side, at times, struggled to get to grips with Horbury’s attack.

Almost immediately from the restart the away substitutions paid off as Gibril Bojang met a mammoth goal-kick from Hagreen just on the right edge of the Wakefield box. He slalomed inside on to his left foot and curled a wicked shot over Wakey keeper George Bristol in a goal that bore striking resemblance to Mole’s first half strike.

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Horbury added a second soon after through another substitute James Cusworth.

Wakefield had initially dealt with a long ball well, forcing the attack out to Horbury’s right where Cusworth met the ball. He twisted and turned towards the centre of the pitch, just outside the Wakefield box before using his marker to shield his curling shot from Bristol’s view, who dived to his right but could not stop the ball curling just inside his post.

Chances were at a premium for Wakefield, although they did continue their passing carousel and could have had a penalty on the hour when a slick move saw Rodriguez slide a ball through to Mole, who ran into the box and was bundled over when trying to shoot.

Just as the home side appeared to have reasserted some semblance of control on proceedings, Horbury achieved the unthinkable with 20 minutes to go when they found an equaliser through super-sub Bojang.

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There was again nothing complex about the build-up, as Wakefield failed to press the Horbury centre-back who punted a ball all the way into Wakefield’s area.

The Wakey backline appeared to be caught in two minds as to dropping off or playing the offside trap and that allowed Bojang in behind who took the ball in his stride then fired his shot in at the near post.

Wakefield, who had made several substitutions of their own, were sparked back in to life by the unlikely equaliser and had several half-chances as the game headed into stoppage time.

As the clock ticked down, Horbury were reduced to 10 men when Abdul Asamoah received a second yellow card for a late lunge on Rodriguez down the wing.

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The afternoon’s drama was not over as, deep into stoppage time, Wakefield substitute Cameron Barnett popped up to make an unforgettable day even more memorable with his first goal for the club.

Considering the pressure of the closing moments of the game, the build-up to the goal was a true demonstration of beauty, composure and skill, with a string of 14 passes involving all but one of Wakefield’s outfield players leading to the winner.

After patient possession Wakefield moved up a gear to find striker Jake Morrison who laid the ball off for Sandhu. The latter’s touch took him into the penalty area where he passed to centre-back Jack Durkin who had initially moved into Wakefield’s attack from an earlier free-kick.

He crossed low across the box to Sebastian Losa, who showed enough vision to pass to Barnett rather than shoot himself, in doing so fooling the goalkeeper into diving early and allowing Barnett to turn and shoot to the opposite side of the net.

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The big crowd erupted as Wakefield’s management joined in the celebrations on the touchline; the late goal securing Wakefield the three points in a much more exciting, if not stressful, manner than the half-time score would have initially suggested.

The result ensures Wakefield remain in third place in the league, just two points behind early pacesetters Wombwell Town and Parkgate, while Horbury stay 19th, one point above the relegation zone.

Wakefield’s victory and the league standings aside, of greater significance on the day was that attendance of 1035, which is not just a victory for Wakefield, but one also for Horbury, the league and non-league in general.

Wakefield return to action tonight at Selby Town when Horbury are at home to Dronfield Town.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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