Wakefield AFC show title credentials in key week in NCE League

After drawing their previous two games, Wakefield AFC were under pressure when they went into their two games in the last week in second place in the NCE Division One.
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But a battling point against their main title rivals followed by a convincing 3-0 victory have sent the Falcons back to the top of the table, writes Austin Ainsworth.

A big test awaited in the midweek trip to Parkgate to play opponents three points behind them in third place prior to the game, but clear favourites for top spot as they had seven games in hand.

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The game drew Parkgate’s season best attendance, a vast contingent of which were Wakefield fans hoping to see their side become just the fifth team to take points off Parkgate and the first since Horbury Town managed a draw back in November.

Mason Rubie was on target for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate and Athersley Recreation to take his goal tally up to 16 for the season. Picture: Scott MerryleesMason Rubie was on target for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate and Athersley Recreation to take his goal tally up to 16 for the season. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Mason Rubie was on target for Wakefield AFC against Parkgate and Athersley Recreation to take his goal tally up to 16 for the season. Picture: Scott Merrylees

As expected, there was a ferocious intensity to proceedings right from kick-off, with goal scoring opportunities at a premium.

Parkgate, notable for their relentless and perfectly synchronised pressing, garnered most of their first half joy in transition when winning the ball high. And, despite there being little to separate the two sides in the first half, the home side did find themselves in front through that high press, when Silas Valladolid-Collins pounced on Joel Spence’s under-hit back-pass to finish past Wakefield keeper George Bristol when one-v-one.

Wakefield managed to step things up a gear in the second half and, aside from a couple of scares on the counter-attack, they were the superior side; so much so that Parkgate resorted to delay tactics very early on in the half.

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They were unable to stop Mason Rubie, however, who took matters into this own hands in the 75th minute when he thundered a vicious, swerving shot from 25 yards out that left the Parkgate goalkeeper with no chance.

Wakefield had the bit between their teeth but, even with a numerical advantage in the closing stages – after Parkgate’s goalscorer Valladolid-Collins saw red for a foul on Oliver Rodriguez – were unable to muster any real chances on goal; Jack Durkin going closest just before time with a shot that fizzed wide from distance.

Parkgate seemed happy to settle for the point and that was testament to the caliber of Wakefield’s performance in a dominant second half.

Although the solitary point was of little use with regard to any hopes of Wakefield pipping Parkgate to first spot, it did move them back to the top of the league for the time being, with the caveat of those games in hand that the sides below them have.

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Nonetheless, confidence was rightly brimming ahead of Saturday’s trip to Athersley Recreation, with Wakefield also bolstered by new signings in the form of goalkeeper Ryan Musselwhite and centre-back T’nique Fishley, both of whom went straight into the starting 11.

Defender Aaron Pilkington also regained his starting spot in what was his 70th appearance for the club.

After a confident and commanding start which saw good chances for Ben Gelder and Slater Barnes, Pilkington marked his landmark with his first Wakefield goal in the 19th minute.

It was a crisp move as Jaydan Sandhu dropped between the centre-backs to drill a pass up to Rubie on the edge of the box. Just as Wakefield’s manager Gabe Mozzini had instructed Barnes to “tuck-in”, Rubie’s deft flick found the winger, who turned and played Pilkington in on goal. The defender dummied on to his weaker foot before finishing well to the near post to put the visitors ahead.

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Despite boasting the lion’s share of possession and having several half-chances, Wakefield had to settle for just the one goal half-time lead.

That lead was doubled soon after the re-start and came just as Athersley had had their best, and only, sight of the Wakefield goal with a glancing header that went just wide.

The Falcons went straight up the other end via a beautiful ball out from Durkin that played Barnes in behind the Athersley defence on the left. He crossed to the back post, where Rubie – continuing his goalscoring trend – was on hand to head home his 16th goal this season.

Rubie could have extended his position at the top of the Wakefield goalscoring chart moments later when the Atherlsey goalkeeper made a fine double save at the near post to deny him and then Ben Gelder.

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The third Wakefield goal did come shortly after the hour mark through the returning Sebastian Losa, substituted on for Gelder just moments before.

The goal was another fine demonstration of Wakefield’s ability to progress from back to front with a lightning change of pace, as Sandhu again dropped deep to play a perfect pass out to Rubie. The latter then added an assist to his goal, by squaring for Losa to finish with his first touch of the game.

It could have been 4-0 to Wakefield were it not for a tight offside call that denied captain Durkin a diving-headed goal in the closing stages. But ultimately, Losa’s seventh goal of the season, in his first appearance for more than a month, was more than enough to secure the deserved three points.

After three draws in a row, it was a welcome return to winning ways for Wakefield; a result that sees them remain top of the league, now two points ahead of Shirebrook who moved up to second.

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Wakefield will now seek to start another winning streak, with an inviting run of fixtures ahead after the tests of recent weeks. The first of those comes this Saturday at home to 16th placed Worsbrough Bridge Athletic, kick-off 3pm.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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