High on the ecstasy of last weekend’s record attendance for the last-minute victory over local rivals Horbury Town, Wakefield had maintained their laser like focus with one of their best wins of the season in midweek away at Selby Town, writes Austin Ainsworth.
In a hard fought game, Wakefield were a goal down at half-time but top scorer Billy Mole equalised close to the hour mark.
Cory Woodward marked his return to the starting line-up with an excellent long-range strike to put Wakefield ahead, before Wakefield capitalised on their superiority in stoppage time when Mole added a second and his midfield partner Jaydan Sandhu bagged his third goal of the season to complete an accomplished team display.
The result was perfect preparation for Saturday’s home game against Clay Cross Town and, on paper at least, the odds were good for Wakefield’s momentum to continue; Clay Cross going in to the game in 17th place having taken just seven points from their opening nine games.
Wakefield manager Gabe Mozzini largely stuck with the side victorious in midweek, making only one change as centre-back Robbie Miller returned from suspension to replace Jack Durkin, who was missing his first game of the season so far.
Just as in midweek, things did not initially go to plan for Wakefield as Clay Cross raced in to a shock lead inside four minutes.
The warning signs had been there as almost straight from kick-off Wakey keeper Henry Kendrick was forced in to a fine save one-v-one after the away side cut through the Wakefield defence.
He could do little about the opener after initially stretching to punch a corner kick up into the sky under heavy pressure from the away attack. As the ball fell back towards him he was blatantly shoved out of the way by eventual goalscorer Jamie Damms, who simply let the ball drop in to the back of the net as Kendrick lay in a heap, shocked that the goal was not disallowed.
Although the home side seemed to lack some of their pizzazz of recent matches, the remainder of the half was played in Clay Cross’s half and a boat load of Wakefield chances followed. The best of those early chances fell to the likely candidate Mole, whose good run from the right was spotted by Aaron Pilkington who had first done well to intercept the ball in midfield before sparking the attack with a pinpoint pass.
The busy Clay Cross goalkeeper raced out quickly, though, and blocked Mole’s angled shot.
Kieran Ceesay, again playing as somewhat of a “false nine”, also had a good chance when was slipped in by the lively Oliver Rodriguez after good work between him and Mole on the left wing; however, Ceesay opted to shoot first time and dragged his shot just wide.
The inevitable equaliser did come just before half-time when right-back Pilkington drifted into midfield to receive the ball and then played Mason Rubie in to the space down the right wing.
Rubie showed great speed and strength to get himself to the goal line before cutting a cross back to the near post. Luck then fell Wakefield’s way as the ball ricocheted off a Clay Cross defender and forced goalkeeper Rio Alberry in to a fine save. It was in vain however as the Clay Cross defence then clambered over each other to clear, one of who somehow heading the ball in to his own net.
If it seemed as though Wakefield had good chances to score in the first half, the second half was on another level as chance after chance came and went; a mixture of lackadaisical finishing and excellent goalkeeping the only barriers to Wakefield taking the lead.
Mole, lively as ever, had more chances than most, with his first coming shortly after the re-start when the ever-developing telepathy between him and Sandhu saw a quick one-two in the box lead to the no.10 curling a shot just over the far corner.
Those two were at the heart of everything good about Wakefield, Sandhu himself having a goal chalked off for a tight offside and Mole testing the keeper on several more occasions to no avail. Mole probably thought he would finally get his 10th goal of the season in the 72nd minute with the award of a penalty for a foul on Sandhu in the box. However, on a day where nothing went right for him or Wakefield in front of goal, his spot-kick was saved well by the Clay Cross keeper.
As is always the worry, Wakefield were quickly punished for the failure to capitalise on their superiority when moments later, with their only attack of the half, Clay Cross re-took the lead.
The goal was poor from a Wakefield perspective, with Clay Cross attacker Reece Clegg afforded too much time and space to receive a long ball in the Wakefield box after beating the offside trap. Nonetheless, the skill and execution from Clegg was exquisite as, with his back to goal, he took some of the height of the bounce off the ball with his first touch, before firing an overhead scissor-kick past Kendrick who had been wrong-footed by the audacity of the effort.
Although Wakefield have been masters of the late goal this season – eight of their 28 league goals coming in the last 10 minutes of matches – the Clay Cross sucker punch knocked the wind out of their sails and the chances dried up in the closing stages of the game; a late Clay Cross red-card not enough to stop the away side from claiming all three points.
After the game Wakefield manager Mozzini said: “I’m not satisfied with the performance at all.
"Although we did create chances, although their first goal was a clear foul, and although someone could say that we deserved more goals, our attitude as a team was nowhere near where it needs to be.
"It looked like Clay Cross Town wanted to win much more than we did, and when a team wants more, things tend to work out. So even though they didn't have many chances, they managed to score two. That's where we lost the game.
"The mentality has been strong overall this season, mostly after our third league game, when we lost against Beverley Town. But it went back to how it was at times last season; low energy, low intensity, low drive. But, I am highly confident that the lads will go back to our strong mentality straight away, starting this Tuesday in our cup game against Beverley Town.”
In a game in which Wakefield had 24 shots on goal - 11 of those on target - and completed more than three times as many passes as their opposition, that Mozzini was unsatisfied speaks volumes of the lofty standards that have been set this season.
As in his words, the expectation is now that his side - now down to fifth in the league - will bounce back immediately when the first round of the League Cup commences in midweek. With it also comes the chance to avenge their early season loss to Beverley Town, who are the visitors to the Be Well Support Stadium; kick-off 7.45pm tonight.