Wakefield AFC close gap on leaders Swinton Athletic after perfect week

Wakefield AFC - undefeated in 11 Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League games prior to the start of last week - went into a double-header of fixtures third in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League, 11 points adrift of title favourites Swinton but with renewed aspirations of closing in on the leaders.

By Tony Harber
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 9:20 am
Wakefield AFC man of the match against Jubilee Sports Cory Woodward: Picture: Steve Biltcliffe Photography
Wakefield AFC man of the match against Jubilee Sports Cory Woodward: Picture: Steve Biltcliffe Photography

They would have been high on confidence, fresh off the back of an impressive 3-2 win away at Dodworth in their last game and it showed, with a glut of goals against Jubilee Sports at home on Wednesday evening, followed by a similarly emphatic display away at High Green Villa on Saturday marking an outstanding week for manager Gabriel Mozzini’s men, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Mozzini, perhaps conscious of a tightly packed schedule, made several changes in the two games; with notable starts for Harley Blankley in both fixtures in the absence of joint top scorer Billy Mole, debuts for Joshua McLauchlan and Joel Blackburn from the bench in Wednesday evening’s match and a welcome return from a stint with Scarborough Athletic for crowd favourite Mohammed Abou.

In and among the two impressive performances, valuable minutes for several players and the mountain of goals scored, it was not all plain sailing as the first game - an 8-1 victory for Wakefield over Jubilee Sports - got off to the worst possible start when the basement side took an unlikely lead in the first minute.

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It was a goal of Wakefield’s own doing, as their impressive, and so far successful, dedication to playing out from the back stung them when goalkeeper Max Child’s short goal-kick left Jock Curran with too much to do under pressure from the surrounding Jubilee attack.

He was robbed of the ball and the Jubilee attacker punished the home side with a smart finish low to Child’s right.

Whether Wakefield needed waking up or not, they did so almost immediately and went on to completely demolish the away side who - aside from striking the bar in the second half - never got close to giving Child anything else to do.

The equaliser came from Danny Youel who, along with Curran, completely dictated the tempo of the game in the middle of the park. In what was almost certainly a cross, Youel delivered a free-kick wide from the left in to the danger area between the six-yard line and the goalkeeper. Runs from several Wakefield players across the face of goal most likely distracted the flat-footed Jubilee keeper, who hesitated and allowed the ball to travel all the way through into the back of the net.

The Jubilee stopper’s night did not get any easier, as minutes later winger Owen Kirman gave Wakefield the lead. Striker Jake Morrison got the first of his three assists in the build-up, laying the ball off nicely for Kirman close to the right edge of the box. The wide man darted in to the area with close control, strongly holding off the chasing Jubilee defender before smartly toe-poking his shot into the near corner of the net.

Not to be outdone by his attacking companions, defender and man of the match Cory Woodward scored his first of the night at the back post from a Youel corner, slotting home the rebound after his initial header was blocked. Woodward, who moved to left-back from his central position in the second half, would have to wait until the closing moments of the game to complete his brace with the goal of the evening.

However, in the meantime Blankley scored his first of the season when he capitalised on good hold-up play from Morrison. He ran on and struck a low shot with his left foot from the penalty area’s edge. In truth, the goalkeeper should have saved it but was unable to prevent the ball rolling under him as Blankley celebrated Wakefield’s fourth of the night.

Two goals either side of half-time marked a return to goalscoring form for Morrison and bizarrely both were near identical free-kicks from the left edge of the area. Each one was expertly curled around the wall and went low to the goalkeeper’s left.

In between those two free-kicks came Kirman’s second of the night midway through the second half. Luke Blackburn played an excellent ball out from the left-back area, which Kirman expertly controlled just inside his own half. He ran on, beating two men as he rode their desperate slide-tackles. The winger then cut inside his third marker just outside the Jubilee box, before firing a wicked shot with his left foot to the keeper's left.

It was hard to believe that would not be the goal of the night but, Woodward had other ideas in the closing minutes. Already with an impressive record for a defender, he scored his fifth of the season in audacious style. Debutant Joel Blackburn made a strong run down the left before cutting the ball back to Morrison’s feet. He reacted well to clip the ball up to Woodward who volleyed the ball from just inside the area, leaving the despondent Jubilee keeper no chance as he capped-off an excellent performance.

Wakefield, and striker Morrison, carried that goalscoring form in to Saturday’s away game at High Green Villa, as the forward scored his second hat-trick of the season in another dominant display, this time capped with a deserved clean sheet in a 4-0 victory.

More changes from Mozzini to the side, including Woodward moving into midfield, did not appear to disrupt Wakefield’s flow as they took an early lead through Morrison.

That first goal was a true poacher’s goal, as he capitalised on a failed clearance from Josh Craig’s excellent cross from wide on the left. The ball bounced off the Villa defender at the back post, which allowed a simple tap-in for Morrison from all but two yards out.

After an array of well-taken goals in midweek, Wakefield’s second against Villa was nearly as scruffy as their first, as Mason Rubie’s shot from the edge of the box was cruelly deflected in off the High Green defender. Rubie will claim it - his fifth of the season - as his shot may have just been on target.

Rubie turned provider moments later for Morrison to get his second, as he ran on to a pinpoint pass over the top from Curran in midfield. The full-back beat his man and then drilled a low cross into the onrushing Morrison, who side-footed another close range finish into the back of the net.

Morrison was not done, as he completed the rout, and his hat-trick, in a largely quiet second half with his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions.

That final act left him with the match ball and man of the match award, while it left Wakefield reflecting on a near perfect week of football.

The week’s victories - aside from moving Wakefield to second in the league, just five points behind Swinton with a game in hand - have done no harm to their league leading goal difference; with the stats emphasising their title credentials, showing them as having scored more than anyone else and also having conceded fewer.

Morrison meanwhile, with his five goals across the two games, has not just reclaimed top spot in his own team, but is now the league’s top goal-scorer with a record of 17 league goals in just 13 starts.

All of this bodes well for a difficult run of fixtures ahead, with games against Swinton and fellow hopefuls Dodworth Miners Welfare crammed among Wakefield’s last six games, to be played in the space of three weeks. The next is Wednesday evening, away at North Gawber Colliery, kick-off 6.15pm.