Mixed feelings for Wakefield AFC after red card woes

Oliver Rodriguez was on target for Wakefield AFC against Brigg Town, but was sent-off in the previous match at home to Glasshoughton Welfare. Photo by Mark Parsons
Oliver Rodriguez was on target for Wakefield AFC against Brigg Town, but was sent-off in the previous match at home to Glasshoughton Welfare. Photo by Mark Parsons

It did not quite to according to plan with a win and a defeat although they scored five goals and had to contend with finishing both games with 10 men, writes Austin Ainsworth.

First up were Glasshoughton who were the visitors to the Be Well Support Stadium in midweek. They gave the home fans a fright when they took the lead in just the third minute; the bounce of a long ball catching the Wakefield defence out, before George Munashe Mwale drilled the ball through Wakefield goalkeeper George Bristol’s legs from an unlikely angle.

Wakefield, having endured a couple of difficult results, gave no sign of their heads dropping as soon after captain Danny Youel fired a pinpoint free-kick around a defensive wall from 25 yards, leaving the goalkeeper no chance as the ball nestled into the back of the net.

With any nerves settled, the pattern of the game went much the same way as previous Wakefield fixtures have, as they dominated proceedings and had numerous chances to take the lead.

They got the all-important second just before half-time through top scorer Billy Mole, the attacking midfielder bagging his 10th goal of the season when he did well to get his body across his marker to latch onto a loose ball in the box, before rotating himself around and side-footing in to the far corner in one slick movement.

The expectation would have been for Wakefield to build on their lead in the second half but, they again fell foul of questionable refereeing when winger Oliver Rodriguez saw red not long after the restart.

He was unfortunate as, having been felled on the edge of the box, two Glasshoughton players saw fit to shove him back to the ground. Rodriguez responded by flailing an arm in defence and was sent-off for the retaliation, the Welfare players somehow avoiding being carded at all.

Wakefield’s composure and control with 10 men was commendable, however, and they remained the better side, sealing the points in the 75th minute through defender Jack Durkin’s excellent finish at the back post from a Jaydan Sandhu corner.

The result left Wakefield fourth in the league and set them up nicely for the visit of Brigg Town on Saturday.

The visitors - 15th at the start of the day - had not won a league game in well over a month.

Wakefield manager Gabe Mozzini made only two changes to the side victorious in midweek, Nathan Hawkhead coming into the centre of defence for the injured Cory Woodward and Kieran Ceesay replacing Tuesday’s debutant Oliver Clarke in attack.

There was no shaky start this time as Sandhu – arguably Wakefield’s best player this season – hit the post in the fourth minute before coming up with an assist for the opening goal on nine minutes.

Wakefield’s other star man Mole started the move with a brilliant turn and drive from midfield to beat two men, before Sandhu received the ball and slipped a perfectly weighted through ball into Rodriguez on the right wing. The wide man cut inside onto his left foot but then smartly fooled the goalkeeper by instead shooting to the near post with his right for his third goal of the season.

Wakefield were dominant throughout the half but, as in previous games, could not capitalise on their superiority and were probably disappointed not to test the Brigg goalkeeper Miles Fenty more on an increasingly wet and slippery afternoon.

Early in the second half it looked like Wakefield had upped things a gear, but they somehow failed to double their lead with two great chances.

First, Mole and Sandhu combined again as the former completed a fine run by squaring for Sandhu, who touched and shot from close range but saw his strike towards an open goal blocked by a last-ditch tackle from the sliding defender.

Moments later Mole was in again, but saw his stretching shot go wide when the better option would have been to pass to substitute Clarke on his right, who likely would have had the simplest of tap-ins to open his Wakefield account.

Wakefield ultimately paid the price for not taking their chances when Brigg player-manager Brett Agnew gave his side the equaliser when unmarked on the six yard line to head home into the far corner.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side almost straight after kick-off when Wakey keeper George Bristol came rushing out for a free-kick but got caught in no-man’s land as Peter Winn’s header looped into the net to give the visitors a shock lead.

The flurry of goals was not finished there, however, as Wakefield responded immediately to level through Sandhu.

He had the elements to thank as substitute Cameron Barnett’s cross was spilled by the Brigg goalkeeper; Sandhu alive to the mistake as he took a touch to round a defender before slotting the ball into an open net.

Wakefield, second-best in the last part of the game despite that equaliser, saw any chance of a late winner thwarted in the 85th minute when Hawkhead was sent-off for a second yellow card; the incident a predictable event on another day were Wakefield fell foul of inconsistent refereeing.

Brigg made their man advantage count with two minutes to go when this time Bristol, just as his opposite number had been, was a victim of the conditions as he spilled a long cross into the box, allowing Stephen McCarron to steal the ball on the goal line and pass for substitute Scott Hutchinson to score with the easiest tap-in he is ever likely to get.

That three points had turned to one would have been disappointing enough for the home side, but one point turning to none so late on was sufficient to sour a damp and miserable day even more.

Manager Mozzini was philosophical in defeat.

He said: “We did have to make subs due to injuries but, being honest, we do have depth on our bench and we should have kept performing at a higher level even after subs, but we were not able to.

"Missing chances in the first half definitely cost us. A positive is that we did create loads; if we do that on a regular basis, we will win most games.

“Towards the end we lost control of the game, which does happen in football. But we need to be mentally stronger when that happens. We need to deal better with that.”

On yet another Wakefield red card, he added: “(The) referee was definitely poor, but it's the standard in our level, mainly with the current shortage of referees.

"I tend not to blame referees for our losses and I prefer to look at what we can improve. Had we taken our chances in the first half, no poor refereeing would take our win away.

"Or, had we kept our head in the second half, we would still go home with a win.”

And, after the recent departures of Brad Swain, Ashley Flynn and Jack McGahan, Mozzini had this to say about any concern around player turnover and morale: “When we aren't able to give solid playing time to a player, we always co-operate with them if they decide to leave and that's what happened recently.

"We have a big and competitive squad. And, with less injuries than last season, naturally some players end up being out of the 16, and we can understand if they decided to leave if it's the case.”

Despite the indifferent results of late and the aforementioned comings and goings within the squad, barring injuries, the spine of Wakefield’s team and the starting 11 remains largely consistent thanks to the form of those players.

They will look to match that with a win when they return to action against Athersley Recreation, who are the visitors to the Be Well Support Stadium tonight (Tuesday).