Wakefield AFC's debut in the FA Vase proves shortlived with defeat to Droylsden

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Wakefield AFC, in just their fifth season as a football club, experienced another first in their short history when they made their bow in the FA Vase.

Entry in to the competition had been secured by last year’s largely successful first full campaign at step six level and their opposition – Droylsden – also came from the same level as they play in the NWCL, writes Austin Ainsworth.

Although on paper the two sides were evenly matched in terms of comparative league standings, Droylsden had the greater history on their side, with their pedigree not in doubt having played as high as the National League in their recent history and only dropping to step six this season after ceasing operations during the covid pandemic.

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Unsurprisingly, manager Gabe Mozzini named a strong squad to make the journey across the Pennines, although there were several changes to the side so brilliant away to Harrogate in their previous match.

Mason Rubie scored Wakefield AFC's consolation goal at Droylsden.Mason Rubie scored Wakefield AFC's consolation goal at Droylsden.
Mason Rubie scored Wakefield AFC's consolation goal at Droylsden.

George Bristol started in goal for the third time this season behind a much changed back four, including regular winger Mason Rubie at right-back and left-back Jack McGahan in central defence.

The midfield was unchanged, while Sebastian Losa made his first

start for the club on the left-wing, alongside striker Jake Morrison – in for Ashley Flynn – who was deemed fit enough to make his first start following injury.

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Wakefield edged what was an evenly fought first half in front of 590 fans and certainly had the better chances.

The first came after just five minutes when top scorer Billy Mole – shrugging off a broken hand to play – showed his strength to meet a good pass from midfield to close in on goal.

He slightly delayed his shot and that allowed the chasing defender just enough time to block the shot.

It was a similar story five minutes later when Losa and Morrison combined neatly on the left wing with a quickfire one-two to release the former down the wing. Losa dribbled well and turned in to the area. As before with Mole, he delayed his shot, perhaps seeking to create the angle for a finessed strike with his right foot, but that again led to the effort being blocked with some last-ditch defending.

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Droylsden – comfortable on the ball – sought to invite Wakefield in with some composed passing at the back, before bypassing them with accurate long balls over the initial press.

They found some joy with that and nearly got in on goal several times in the half. However, their only real chance came after a free-kick was played out to the left edge of Wakefield’s box before the subsequent cross found a Droylsden player unmarked on the six-yard line.

Luckily for Wakefield, the Droylsden player somehow headed the chance over the bar.

Wakefield thought they had the lead, and perhaps should have done, when captain Danny Youel slotted the ball home in the 19th minute.

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Losa, dangerous down the left, pulled off his marker and met Oliver Rodriguez’s pass, after the latter had worked his way inside with some great one touch football.

Losa squared for Youel, who had drifted in to the area unmarked before finishing with aplomb, only to be disappointed when the linesman raised his flag for a very tight looking offside in the build-up.

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The second half, played on a rapidly deteriorating pitch thanks to the inclement weather, was a vastly different affair to the first for Wakefield, although could have started so well when half-time substitute Flynn raced in behind the defence, but saw a shot off the outside of his boot saved by the Droylsden keeper.

Things were shaping up to be just as tight as the first half, until a fatal 12 minute period midway through the half that saw Droylsden score four goals.

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The first came when Mole thought he had been fouled on the right touchline. Wakefield, guilty of stopping for a whistle that never came,

then failed to recover when the Droylsden winger ran through and squared for a simple tap-in from George West.

The second goal also came in the blink of an eye when a good ball from midfield was met by an unmarked Neilson Vann who ran through one-on-one to finish smartly at Bristol’s near post.

Although Droylsden’s third was much more pleasing on the eye – West bagging his second goal of

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the game with a fine run in from the left and a beautiful shot fired in to the top corner – it was again avoidable from a Wakefield perspective, with the away side failing to track a simple one-two exchange close to the left touchline.

Vann then compounded Wakefield’s misery with his second, and Droylsden’s fourth, in the 68th minute. It was route one stuff as a long goal kick went unchallenged in midfield. The headed knock-on seemed to bamboozle a confused Wakefield defence, allowing the striker to break through into the box and finish smartly past Bristol.

Wakefield did pull one back with 10 minutes left when Rubie completed a fine solo run down the right wing to cut in and finish low past the Droylsden goalkeeper from all of 20 yards out.

Wakefield ended with 10 men when McGahan’s frustrations boiled over when protesting against the official, subsequently turning his yellow card into a sin-bin.

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Wakefield manager Mozzini thought his side were made to pay for not taking their first half chances.

He said: “We should have taken our chances in the first half and that has been a recurrent problem.

“But we were strong in the first half.

"In the second half we were not as mentally strong. Their first goal… Billy (Mole) tried to receive the ball and their defender was physical. Billy fell and a few of our players simply stopped, assuming that the referee was going to call a foul.

"The referee didn't call it and when we reacted it was too late.

"After that first goal, as a team we put our heads down.”

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Mozzini added: “The other aspect was that our high press did not work well. They could move the ball around us sometimes and whenever they went long, oftentimes they were dangerous.

"So we need to work on syncing our high press better and choosing our triggers more wisely.”

Despite the disappointing defeat and exit from the cup, the game will go down as another milestone in Wakefield’s short history.

If Wakefield can take anything from the game, it’s that the scoreline was not reflective of their performance. The stats are telling; Droylsden scoring four from four shots on target in a contest of otherwise equal chances and equal possession.

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Ultimately, the scoreline is the most important stat and Wakefield will now look to iron out the errors that led to the goals before they return to league action against Yorkshire Amateur at the Be Well Support Stadium tonight (Tuesday), kick-off 7.45pm.