Wakefield AFC hit the heights In Hepworth to continue winning start to 2022

Wakefield AFC started a run of away fixtures after three wins from three at home in 2022 and Hepworth United were their opposition in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League, high in the hills of the Holme Valley at their picturesque, sloping pitch.

By Tony Harber
Monday, 24th January 2022, 8:00 am
Wakefield AFC manager Gabriel Mozzini on the sidelines during his side's 4-2 win at Hepworth United. Picture: Steve Biltcliffe

Perhaps due to the challenge of that sloped pitch, Wakefield were still looking for their first win at this location, having lost and drawn on their two previous visits. However, the away side went in to the game clear favourites with Hepworth trailing them by 10 points, having played three games more; and the home side also coming into the game on the back of four straight losses, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Manager Gabriel Mozzini made one change to the side victorious over Ecclesfield Red Rose in Wakefield's previous fixture, handing a debut to left-back Josh Craig. Top-scorer Jake Morrison was a notable absentee, meaning Billy Mole moved further forward and captain Luke Blackburn took a vacant midfield slot next to Morgan Butcher.

Despite the absence of their leading marksman the Wakey side were still able to come away with the points from a 4-2 success.

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Wakefield lost the toss and started the match playing downhill. That early advantage did not tell as Hepworth made a strong start and took an early lead in the seventh minute. It came from a foolishly conceded free-kick 30 yards out. In the absence of linesmen for the game, several of the Hepworth players loitered dangerously between the Wakefield defensive line and goalkeeper Henry Kendrick. The initial delivery was half-cleared across goal by the stretching Josh Lockwood towards two unmarked Hepworth players.

The whistle was never likely to blow for offside in such circumstances, but did blow for the goal as an easy tap-in gave United the lead.

Wakefield were seemingly shocked into action from their slumber as, almost straight from kick-off, they grabbed an equaliser. Mole, prolific since his early-season move to Wakefield, added to his four league goals when he completed a flowing move.

The ball had circulated its way back to Cory Woodward in defence, who delivered a pin-point diagonal pass over the Hepworth right-back for debutant Craig to chase. He won the race and nodded the ball down into his path, before crossing to the near post. Mole had timed his run expertly and beat the goalkeeper to the ball to finish at the near post and level the scores.

The goal should have settled Wakefield down but it did not as Hepworth continued to press up the hill and were aided by the continuous gift of free-kicks in dangerous areas.

This pressure led to a corner in the 20th minute that was delivered high to the back post. Again showing their command of set-pieces, the Hepworth player rose the highest to loop a well executed header over Kendrick into the far corner of the net.

There was to be no immediate response from Wakefield on this occasion, but the away side did start to keep hold of the ball better and were able to exert greater pressure on United.

With the game being played more and more in the Hepworth half, Wakefield eventually won a free-kick of their own just outside the Hepworth box on the half-hour mark. Mole and Daniel Youel hovered over the ball, with the former dummying with his left foot for Youel to strike with his right. It was a good choice as Youel struck the ball with venom, curling the ball around the wall and to the inside of the left post.

The keeper couldn’t match the pace of the finish, as Youel saw his shot fly in to the back of net for his second goal of the season.

The visitors smelled blood and for the second time in the half they pounced almost straight from the restart.

The ball was won in the middle of the park and played to Blackburn, who clipped a pass over for Red Bates to chase down the right. Wakefield’s chief creator of goals cut in and crossed over to his opposite winger Owen Kirman, who read the ball well and latched onto it on the edge of the box. His touch beat the full-back and then his thunderous left-foot finish beat the goalkeeper to give Wakey the lead, the goal - his eighth of the season - ending an eight match barren spell for the pacy winger.

Wakefield were the more threatening side for the remainder of the half, although had Kendrick to thank for their lead being intact at the interval when he somehow reached a dangerous low shot with his fingertips to tip the ball past the post.

The second half, with the gradient in Wakefield’s favour, saw none of the end-to-end action of the first and largely passed without incident. The away side were content to keep the ball and, although much of the possession was in their own half, it served to nullify any Hepworth threat.

Wakefield did, however, look threatening on the rare occasions they played the ball forward early, with Mole holding play up well and looking to turn the Hepworth backline when given the opportunity.

The best, and only chance, Hepworth had to equalise was from a free-kick in the 56th minute from an almost identical position to that of Youel’s first half effort. The set-piece was similarly well struck and looked destined for the inside of Kendrick’s left post. The Wakefield shot-stopper showed his prowess, though, as he stretched valiantly to parry the ball away.

The game reached stoppage time with Hepworth still within touching-distance of an equaliser, which prompted anxious glances from Mozzini towards his watch. He need not have bothered, as Mole stepped up again to quell any anxiety and secure the points.

It was another free-flowing move executed on the counter-attack by Wakefield. The ball was played forward to Bates down the left, who ran in behind the Hepworth backline. He had a choice of on-rushing Wakefield attackers to choose from, and wisely decided to play in man of the match Mole who delayed to open up the angle, before sliding the ball past the feet of the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net, the goal being his 12th in just 11 games in all competitions.

With other results not quite going their way Wakefield remain in fifth place, one point behind Ecclesfield. However, the win maintains their all-important momentum in 2022 prior to their next match away to Oughtibridge WMSC on Saturday, kick-off 2pm.