Wakefield AFC rue missed chances as they are held to draw at Sheffield Town

There was to be no Christmas cheer for Wakefield AFC as they travelled to face Sheffield Town FC in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League, as both had to settle for a hotly contested draw.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 8:00 am
Wakefield AFC man of the match against Sheffield Town Morgan Butcher. Picture: Steve Biltcliffe

In what was both sides’ last fixture of 2021, Wakefield saw no repeat of their previous incarnation’s prolific past visits to Fir Vale with new faces and - having rebranded from Burngreave FC since the two sides last met - a new name providing a new challenge; Sheffield Town were more than a match for Wakefield throughout, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Adam Lockwood made three changes to the side victorious in the cup two weeks ago; as new signing Henry Kendrick made his debut for the club in goal and Owen Kirman came in for Mason Rubie on the wing. Top scorer Jake Morrison was absent, which meant Billy Mole moved further forward into a traditional number nine position and Daniel Youel came in to support him.

Kirman had the first chance of the game almost from the start, as he showed electric pace to run in down the left and test the goalkeeper with a stinging shot at the near post. That was a sign of Wakefield’s intent, as they looked dangerous down both channels every time either Kirman or Red Bates ran at the Sheffield backline.

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Sheffield had their own chances early on too, twice finding time and space in the box to call Kendrick into action with two good, close range saves. Sheffield’s biggest chance of the first half was not an attempt on goal, though, as the referee denied them from gaining a man advantage in the 23rd minute when James Morris was fortunate to evade a red card for a high, late and robust tackle. Town protested as their player went off injured, but the referee was unmoved as captain Morris saw only yellow.

Both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the remainder of the half, until Wakefield started to get a foothold in the game later on. Bates and Mole both had good chances but for the final end-product letting them down after good, incisive moves. The two did eventually combine in the 40th minute, however, as Mole scored his seventh goal in as many games.

Bates was the creator with yet another assist in a season full of many from him, as he found space on the left to cross towards the back post. The Sheffield goalkeeper could only parry the cross in to the path of Mole at the back post and he finished with a tap-in into the net.

Roles reversed moments later when Wakefield had a big chance to grab a two goal cushion before half-time. Mole nodded the ball down to Bates in the box, whose audacious half-volley went flying past the face of goal.

The warning signs were there for Wakefield going into the second half, with missed chances in previous games showing the danger of slender leads. That was the case as Mole failed to capitalise when he beat the keeper to the ball on the edge of the box. With the net wide open, but the ball bouncing; his attempt at a difficult half-volley on the run went narrowly wide.

Sheffield started to build into the game, pushing further forward and becoming more aggressive in their press. Their reward came in the 56th minute when they levelled the scores. Hendrick initially made an excellent save from close range, which Wakefield were unable to clear. The Town goalscorer was then able to open up space for himself in the box when latching onto the rebound and left Hendrick no chance as he smashed the ball in to the back of the net.

A concerned Lockwood had seen enough and switched the side’s formation to a 3-5-2 around the hour mark as he made changes. Wakefield did slightly shade the play from then on and as the game moved in to the last 10 minutes had several moments that will have ultimately left them feeling as though they might have won the game.

First, they were denied what seemed a certain penalty as Blackburn ran to the edge of the box on the overlap. He was first to the ball and touched past the Sheffield defender, who clattered into him; prompting wild protestation from the away side which fell on deaf ears.

Substitute Mohammed Abou was then heavily involved in stoppage time, when he first ran onto a Billy Mole volleyed cross at the back post. Wakefield had the win in their sights as Abou headed the ball down, but the impressive Sheffield goalkeeper somehow scrambled to save with his feet.

That was not even the last chance as, right at the death, Abou appeared to be knocked off his feet by a late challenge when about to shoot from close range. The ball fell to Mole, who had a difficult shot on the turn saved as the penalty shout was ignored.

In the context of the game, the result should not be too much of a disappointment for Wakefield given Sheffield’s own missed chances and the away side’s slight fortune in escaping an early red card. However, in the context of the league the result will leave more of a sour taste as Wakefield missed the chance to move up another position, remaining in seventh, one point and one place above Sheffield Town.

Wakefield now do not return to action until the New Year, when they have a home draw in the County Cup against Middleton FC at the Millennium Stadium, Featherstone on Saturday, January 8, kick-off 2pm.