Wakefield AFC dig deep to stay in title hunt as late goals seal victory over North Gawber

Wakefield AFC moved on to the next stage of a tricky and tightly packed run-in in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League, with a 3-0 win in a challenging away trip to North Gawber Colliery.

By Tony Harber
Monday, 18th April 2022, 12:01 pm
Updated Monday, 18th April 2022, 12:04 pm
Owen Kirman opened the scoring for Wakefield AFC in their latest victory, which came away to North Gawber Colliery.
Owen Kirman opened the scoring for Wakefield AFC in their latest victory, which came away to North Gawber Colliery.

With 19 goals in their last four games - all victories - Wakefield were on good form with growing aspirations of an unlikely overhaul of table toppers Swinton Athletic, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Gawber - still technically the reigning league champions from the last completed season in 2019 - promised to be an entirely different prospect for Gabe Mozzini’s men, however, themselves resurgent with five wins in their last seven undefeated games prior to the match.

Wakefield were boosted by the return of Billy Mole, scorer of two goals in the previous fixture against Gawber which was a 4-0 home victory for Wakefield. Joel Cowan also came into the side for his third start of the season between the sticks, hoping to keep up his run of keeping a clean sheet in each of the games he has played this season.

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That desire for defensive resolve proved necessary for Wakefield, as it was obvious almost straight from kick-off that Wakefield were unlikely to enjoy the dominance that they had in their two previous fixtures; North Gawber showing some good early pressure and nearly punishing Wakefield for a sloppy defensive pass with a shot that just went wide.

The away side grew into the game, though, and approaching the 20 minute mark started to see their increasing command of the ball rewarded with several chances to take the lead. Mole had the best of the early opportunities with a diving header that went straight at the goalkeeper, after Jock Curran and Josh Craig had combined on the right to see the latter deliver a pinpoint cross.

A host of blocked shots and narrowly missed chances ensued for Wakefield, who played the latter part of the first half largely inside North Gawber’s defensive third, before Owen Kirman came closest as he rattled the crossbar with a trademark left-footer after cutting in from the right.

The young wide man was not to be denied his 13th goal of the season, however, as he gave Wakefield a half-time lead. The goal was a fine team move that started close to their own corner flag on the left. Craig’s throw-in was won by Mason Rubie, who set off down the wing before laying off to Mole, who played the winger back in for him to carry the ball deep into North Gawber’s half. He then laid the ball on a plate for Kirman, who had charged towards the back post, to complete a tap-in.

For all Wakefield’s goalscoring prowess in recent times, the old adage that defences win titles was never truer than in the second half as North Gawber came out with more purpose and aggression after the break and forced the visitors back towards their own goal.

Testament to Wakefield’s defensive solidity, Cowan still only had one real save to make, when he expertly tipped a menacing Gawber free-kick over the bar in the 68th minute.

The home side did have the ball in the back of the net as Cowan again reacted well to claim a dangerous cross under pressure from the North Gawber attack. The ball was knocked from his grasp and rolled across the line before Wakefield were rightly saved by the referee’s whistle, much to an increasingly vociferous home side's distain.

Having weathered the storm, Wakefield started to see some attacking opportunities in the last minutes of the match. And, his defensive work almost complete, it was man of the match Brad Swain who was on hand to secure the points in the 88th minute with his second goal of the season. He was unmarked at the back post as he headed the ball in after a smart flick-on from Mole, who had met Danny Youel’s in-swinging corner-kick.

The win now in their sights, there was still time for a stoppage time bonus as Bruno Bagi christened his return to the club with his second goal of the season - his previous one coming in his last game for the club, all the way back in Wakefield's first game of the campaign.

It was a simple goal, as he was perfectly positioned to meet the rebound after Mole himself was denied his 19th of the season when a defender blocked his close range shot.

Now unbeaten in 14 league games and with five victories on the bounce, Wakefield remain second in the league, eight points adrift of Swinton but with them still to play and with two games in hand.

Belief is now growing in the Wakefield camp and that will be required as they move on to a congested schedule of tough fixtures once a 10 day rest over Easter is complete; with their next game away to Stocksbridge Park Steels Reserves on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.