Wakefield AFC extend their lead at top of NCE Division One

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The temperature is starting to plummet as the Toolstation NCE Division One season nears December, but Wakefield AFC are getting hotter and hotter, having gone from hunters to the side being hunted at the top of the table after a run of irresistible form.

The latest side to stand in their way were mid-table Staveley MW who, having faced all of the four sides below Wakefield in their last five fixtures, had picked up just four points in their previous five matches; their solitary win coming against Brigg Town, the only side outside of the play-offs they have faced, writes Austin Ainsworth.

With that difficult run of fixtures providing context to Staveley’s recent run of results, Wakefield would have had no illusions about the stern test they would face in Chesterfield just as they had done in August’s reverse fixture, where two late goals for Wakefield secured a hard fought win after little had separated the sides.

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They ran out 2-1 winners this time, the score being maybe closer than the game was at times.

Mason Rubie's ninth goal of the season sealed Wakefield AFC's victory at Staveley MW. Photo by Mark ParsonsMason Rubie's ninth goal of the season sealed Wakefield AFC's victory at Staveley MW. Photo by Mark Parsons
Mason Rubie's ninth goal of the season sealed Wakefield AFC's victory at Staveley MW. Photo by Mark Parsons

Gabe Mozzini’s team is picking itself at the moment, such is the level of performance, however captain Danny Youel did return to the starting line-up in place of Sebastian Losa in what was the only change from last week’s impressive 5-0 victory over Retford United.

Wakefield’s confidence is rightly high of late and it showed as they made a good start, taking possession of the ball and rarely giving it back in a dominant first half where the home side were bossed in their own backyard.

No two players epitomise Wakefield’s swagger more than midfield creator Jaydan Sandhu and wing-wizard Oliver Rodriguez and those two combined to open the scoring inside five minutes.

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Wakefield initially switched the play for Aaron Pilkington to drill a pass up to Sandhu. With one glance over his shoulder the midfielder executed a deft flick with the outside of his boot for Youel to receive the ball in midfield. He chipped it back over for Sandhu on the turn, who then advanced toward the Staveley box and played Rodriguez in on the left edge of the penalty area. The winger cut inside on to his right foot and curled an unstoppable shot to the far corner for his fourth goal in as many games and seventh overall this season.

The visitors continued to peg Staveley back with Sandhu and defender Jack Cairney drawing good saves from Zac Walker in the Staveley goal; first when the former fired a 20-yard shot towards goal and then when the latter met a corner with a strong header that was just too close to the goalkeeper.

Wakefield were well worth their half-time lead, but could have been pegged back just before the whistle when George Bristol came rushing out of the goal to clear but missed the ball; Jack Durkin preserved his side’s lead with some good anticipation to mop up on the goal-line and prevent a Staveley tap-in.

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Five alive Wakefield AFC march on at top of NCE Division One

The second half was an entirely different affair to the first, with the home side showing great character to make proceedings much more even. Wakefield were not afforded the kind of free-reign they were given in the first period, becoming somewhat looser in possession as Staveley found some joy playing in behind their high line.

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Wakefield, aided by the exemplary contributions of the entire back four, stood up well to the test although they were fortunate to see a well executed lob go just over the bar in the 48th minute.

Bristol also made a couple of good saves, one when Staveley again managed to play a ball over the top to create a one-v-one opportunity which the Wakefield keeper excellently thwarted with a fingertip save onto the post.

Wakefield still had chances of their own, particularly after Losa was introduced in the 65th minute. He made an instant contribution when he won the ball deep in Staveley’s half, controlled well and played Callum Charlton in on the overlap. The full-back opened up his body and attempted to finesse the ball to the far post, however he was denied by the outstretched toe of the Staveley goalkeeper.

The Staveley keeper also made another excellent save as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, somehow stretching to push a thunderous half-volley from Nathan Hawkhead wide.

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Wakefield did finally secure the points in the second minute of stoppage time through a wonderful team goal finished off by Mason Rubie, who continued his best goalscoring season with his ninth of the campaign.

The move was started with a pinpoint goal kick from Bristol to Rubie on the right wing. He squared to Losa whose skill and composure allowed him to receive the ball under pressure and play it out to Rodriguez on the left. The winger delayed and then played it back to Losa who threaded a first-time pass through to meet Charlton’s perfectly timed overlapping run.

Charlton then squared to the back post where Rubie had positioned himself perfectly to touch and fire the ball home.

The three points and Wakefield’s ninth win in succession were just about secured with that goal, however there was still time for a consolation from Staveley when Jay-Jay Cutts received the ball on the left before cutting inside to curl a shot beyond the reach of Bristol.

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The goal, only the fourth they have conceded in their last nine, will have done little to dampen Wakefield’s mood; their best ever run of results seeing them extend their lead at the top of the table to five points with the added bonus of their closest challengers Parkgate – who still have three games in hand – dropping points with a draw at home to Horbury.

Wakefield can only think about themselves, though, and will look to take each game as it comes. The next is at home to fellow promotion chasers Shirebrook tonight (Tuesday), kick-off 7.45pm.

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