Wakefield AFC suffer painful end to encouraging week
The Last week provided Wakefield AFC with a great opportunity to make up some ground in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League with a double header of home fixtures, writes Austin Ainsworth.
First they welcomed North Gawber Colliery to the Millennium Stadium for a Wednesday evening kick-off, before league titans Swinton Athletic FC were the visitors on Saturday for the match everyone had been waiting for.
Wakefield, fresh off the back of a record 15-0 win in the cup in their previous match, made a perfect start to their return to league action with four unanswered goals against a well beaten North Gawber side.
The first half was a slow-burner, with Billy Mole the scorer of the only goal as Adam Lockwood’s men took their time to work up to the dizzying standards of their previous match.
After a host of missed chances from the home side, the increasingly penned-in North Gawber defence were punished when Mason Rubie – benefiting from a tactical switch of wings with Red Bates – cut in from the left and saw his shot saved by the keeper, who could only parry the ball into Mole’s path for an easy tap-in.
North Gawber became frustrated at the metronomic control of the impressive home midfield of Morgan Butcher and Daniel Youel; their response an increasing array of cynical fouls, that eventually saw the away number 11 sin-binned for dissent after a yellow card.
Wakefield were unable to capitalise on their brief 10-man advantage at the start of the second half. But Jake Morrison’s arrival off the bench gave them a boost with the striker showing strength and awareness as he received the ball down the left channel, holding off the defender as he turned in on goal. He could have shot, but smartly crossed the ball to the back post to provide Mole with his second tap-in of the evening.
The third goal was more comedic than crafted, as Josh Lockwood – making his first league start – scored his first goal of the season as he bundled in off his back from an inswinging Bates corner.
Morrison then put the icing on the cake as substitutes Mohammed Abou and Owen Kirman combined to provide the striker with a well deserved goal.
As Wakefield were completing their emphatic win, news filtered through of a shock 5-0 loss for Swinton away at Stocksbridge Park Steels Reserves – their first defeat since the 2018-19 season.
But Wakefield found Swinton in no mood to lose again last Saturday although they made a great start as Morrison, given a starting role in place of Jordan Turner in attack, nodded in his 10th goal in seven matches in all competitions to provide lift-off to a rapturous 243-strong home crowd in the 17th minute.
He was able to rise above the away goalkeeper to bravely head in from a Bates cross, after the terrier like Morgan Butcher had snatched the ball from a Swinton defender on the 18-yard line.
The goal was nothing less than Wakefield deserved from a composed and controlled first half in which the away team struggled to get out of their own half and were second to every ball. The lead could have been bigger, but Morrison was inches away from his second.
Swinton were always likely to respond and they did so in the second half as they displayed all of their experience, organisation and character to largely dominate possession as Wakefield tired.
Nonetheless, Wakefield still had great chances to provide themselves with some much-needed elbow room, the best seeing a wicked Bates volley at the back post fly just wide.
Frustratingly, Mole was also denied what appeared to be a certain penalty in the 67th minute when the referee failed to blow for a push in his back in the box.
With the game not put to bed, Swinton equalised nine minutes from time as forward Curtis Wilkinson got in behind down the left, cut in and with a deadly strike left keeper George Bason no chance.
The misery was repeated in the last minute when Swinton capitalised on a weak Wakefield clearance into an increasingly stretched midfield area. Enzo Guarini subsequently received the ball 20 yards out and his smart, chested first touch – deemed not to be a hand by the referee despite roars to the contrary from players and fans alike – instantly played himself in on goal. He won the race to the ball and with a similarly clinical finish to the first Swinton goal, his low, powerful shot beat Bason with ease.
Wakefield deserved more from the game, with large portions of the match providing evidence that a team still in their infancy are more than capable of matching, and even surpassing, a side of Swinton’s largely unrivalled dominance.
Wakefield will now look to take the many positives from the week’s fixtures into their next league game, which is away to Jubilee Sports at The Jubilee Sports Ground, Sheffield on Saturday, 2pm.