Wakefield AFC back to winning ways as debutants shine in 5-goal showing against Yorkshire Amateur

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​With two losses and a draw in their previous five NCE Division One games, Wakefield AFC have been experiencing a wobble of sorts after an imperious run had seen them rise to the top of the table.

After dropping to third, Wakefield started a run of away fixtures at Yorkshire Amateur, looking for a confidence boosting performance and result, writes Austin Ainsworth.

On paper, the Leeds side were ideal opposition; struggling this year after relegation from the Premier last season, with just two wins in their last 10 and with the memory of a 7-0 mauling at the hands of Wakefield earlier on in the season.

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And Gabe Mozini’s men took their chance to impress again as they were four up by half-time and ran out 5-0 winners to move back up to second.

New Wakefield AFC signing Slater Barnes had an impressive two-goal debut against Yorkshire Amateur.New Wakefield AFC signing Slater Barnes had an impressive two-goal debut against Yorkshire Amateur.
New Wakefield AFC signing Slater Barnes had an impressive two-goal debut against Yorkshire Amateur.

Wakefield had reinforcements in the form of three new signings in the last week. Slater Barnes, Jordan Helliwell and Alexander King – all with varying degrees of experience at this level and higher – joined the club since last week’s loss to Harrogate Railway, with Barnes and Helliwell drafted straight into the starting 11.

Callum Charlton made a welcome return behind Barnes on the left, while Nathan Hawkhead and Ben Gelder also returned to the starting line-up in defensive midfield and attack respectively.

It did not take long for Barnes, occupying a wide-forward role on the left, to leave his mark as he immediately showed his pace, physicality and directness to cut in and fizz a shot past the far post, before then making a key contribution for Wakefield’s opening goal in the 11th minute.

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Barnes executed a quick counter-attack as he drove down the left and beat his man on the outside, before delivering a low cross to the back post. Mason Rubie had timed his run almost to perfection, applying pressure that led to a deflection towards goal, with Gelder showing his poacher’s instinct to make sure of the goal as he smashed it in on the line.

Only four more minutes had passed before the away side doubled their lead as good pressure of the defence, first by Gelder, then by Jaydan Sandhu, led to Gelder running in to execute a beautiful, first-time finish into the top corner.

There was some confusion as to who was credited with the first goal, Gelder eventually taking credit for it, but there was none about his second as the brace now means he has five goals in 10 games since joining the club.

Aside from an off-the-ball incident that saw Sandhu wrestled to the ground, in which he appeared unfortunate to share a booking with the Yorkshire Amateur player, all of the action was in front of the home goal.

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Wakefield almost completely restricted the Leeds side to being mere spectators, as two more goals would follow in an utterly dominant first half.

Rubie got his name on the scoresheet and it again came from a combination of Wakefield’s effective high-press and a badly misjudged defensive header on Yorkshire Amateur’s part, with Rubie on hand to intercept a defender’s attempt at a headed back-pass before slotting the ball around the keeper.

Rubie’s excellent first half contribution means he now has 13 goals and seven assists in 30 games so far this campaign.

It was Wakefield’s other winger, new-signing Barnes, who was catching the eye, however, time after time driving at the Yorkshire Amateur backline to create chances for himself and others in a man of the match worthy debut performance.

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He was rewarded with goals either side of half-time for his efforts, his first coming in the 32nd minute when he was quickest to react to a pearl of a Hawkhead free-kick, drilling the ball into the back of the net after the goalkeeper had initially tipped the set-piece on to the post.

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Wakefield’s pace slowed in the second half with the game all but won, as the match began to look more and more like a training exercise for the away side.

Barnes grabbed Wakefield’s only goal of the half to make it 5-0 in the 61st minute when he was on hand to finish into an open goal, after Gelder’s stretching touch to reach a Rubie cross at the near post had set up the opening.

The winger could have had a hat-trick too, as he was responsible for most of Wakefield’s other efforts on goal, his best coming 10 minutes from the end when his inside run was met by an inch-perfect Charlton through ball, but the winger could only drag his shot wide of the near post.

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Were it not for a couple of speculative long shots late on that did nothing to trouble Wakefield goalkeeper George Bristol, Wakefield would have left the ground with a legitimate claim to not having given Yorkshire Amateur a kick.

In truth, the assuredness and superiority of their all-round performance wasn’t far off from that assertion, with the five goals and a clean sheet sending them back up to second in the league, while Yorkshire Amateur remain 20th, just two points above the drop zone.

Amateur’s struggles should take nothing away from the level of Wakefield’s performance, which contributed more to the one-sidedness of the game than anything the home team did wrong.

Wakefield’s focus will be on sustaining those levels, as they did throughout late 2023 in their march to the top of the league, in the knowledge that results, and the league, should take care of themselves if they play to their maximum.

Wakefield now turn their attention to tougher tests ahead, starting this Saturday with a trip to mid-table Retford FC.

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