Heartache In Hillsborough as Wakefield AFC let lead slip to suffer first loss
Wakefield AFC suffered their first defeat of the season when they were on the road for the first time in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League.
After two wins from two at home - with 12 goals scored - Wakefield went into the game with Ecclesfield Red Rose 1915 FC at Hillsborough College, Sheffield in good form, but came up against opponents also unbeaten in their previous three games.
Adam Lockwood named an unchanged side from the previous 5-0 win and, although the team may have been the same on paper, they were unrecognisable on the pitch as they were disappointing in defeat, Ecclesfield coming from a goal down to win the game 2-1 at the death.
Wakefield were faced with all of the usual challenges that they are likely to come up against away from home in the 11th tier of English football; a poor pitch, questionable refereeing, no linesmen and most importantly of all a strong, physical and determined home side who were willing to leave everything on the pitch to achieve a win. And, at times, Wakefield struggled as Ecclesfield were ultimately deserving of their win.
For a long time the greater numbered away support were hopeful of a positive result, as Wakefield went a goal up in the 27th minute after a largely uneventful start to the game.
Red Bates was the scorer - perhaps fortunately - as he cut inside from distance after receiving a drilled pass from midfielder Luke Blackburn. On his weaker left foot, Bates opted to try a speculative shot from the edge of the area. The ball bobbled through on the artificial pitch and, in a moment the home keeper will hope to forget, found its way through his legs and in to the back of the net.
The goal was the first time Wakefield’s wide men - goalscorer Bates and Owen Kirman - had impacted the game. So deadly in their previous two matches, it was hoped that the away side would have built on their lead and start to display some of the free-flowing attacks so familiar in the early stages of the season.
But Wakefield suffered a big setback when, in the 30th minute, both Kirman and midfield anchorman Blackburn departed through injury.
In the ensuing minutes Kirman’s replacement, Cain Tailford, did nearly help Wakefield to a second goal; first when he crossed for the previously isolated Wakefield striker Jake Morrison, who headed just wide of the post and then when Tailford himself tried his luck with a bouncing ball from distance on the half-volley. The crowd stood, mouths agape, as the looping shot had the Red Rose keeper well beaten, only to clatter off the crossbar.
The danger signs were present up to half-time when Ecclesfield had several good chances, all stemming from errors at the back.
The hosts were all too happy to allow Wakefield to play the ball around their own backline and on three occasions at the end of the first half pounced on to misplaced passes. The best chance came with almost the last kick of the half, when the Ecclesfield striker ran clean through on goal from a misplaced midfield pass. Wakefield, perhaps forgetting the offside trap is a difficult tactic when there are no linesmen, were saved by the onrushing goalkeeper James Leverton, who clattered through the ball and man to preserve the away side’s half-time lead.
Ecclesfield came out buoyed by their strong finish to the first half and were comfortable getting the ball forward quickly at every opportunity in the second half, also assisted by their Rory Delap impersonator who was bombarding James Morris and Bradley Swain in defence with his dangerous long throws.
And, aside from a 10 minute period around the hour mark where Wakefield finally started getting the ball higher and wider to exert some pressure on the home side, Ecclesfield had the better chances and looked most likely to score.
The equaliser would have come in the 49th minute were it not for an awe-inspiring save from Leverton, as he somehow kept out what should have been a tap-in for the Ecclesfield player who had latched on to a dangerous cross.
Red Rose did level in the 65th minute with the goal stemming from another long ball into the box, this time from a free-kick. Morris, who up to that point had commanded his area by winning every ball, was punished as the referee blew for an apparent foul when tussling with the home forward. A penalty followed and Carlton Carty left Leverton with no chance when he sent him the wrong way.
Captain Jack Burton almost got Wakefield back in front when his chipped shot in the box was tipped o to the crossbar by the keeper minutes later, but realistically that was Wakefield’s best chance of the half. They would have perhaps been happy to settle for the draw after a fiercely contested and challenging match, but Ecclesfield had other ideas when they grabbed the winner in the 90th minute.
The goal was a moment to reflect on, as the Wakefield defence were caught flat footed when Ecclesfield countered and set Carty in behind. He charged through on goal and sat the chasing Mason Rubie down with a smart cut-back onto his right foot. Leverton, who had opted to remain on his line, had no chance as Carty side-footed the ball in to the side-netting of the far post.
Wakefield had no response, with the 2-1 defeat leaving them sixth placed in the league on six points, while the jubilant Ecclesfield were sent up to second behind league leaders Swinton who are now six points in front of Wakefield having played a game more.
Wakefield will look to bounce back in their next game, another away fixture, this time in the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, when they visit Huddersfield LH at the Laund Hill Community Sports Complex on Saturday, kick-off 2pm.