Wakefield AFC avoid cup upset as Abou nips in for late winner
Saturday brought the beginnings of what is hoped to be a long run in the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup for Wakefield AFC and with it an opportunity to get back to winning ways after the disappointment of league defeat to Ecclesfield Red Rose 1915 FC.
Wakefield were again away, with their first round opposition, Huddersfield LH, from Division Two of the West Yorkshire League – two levels below them in the 13th tier of the football pyramid.
The match turned out to be another non-league classic, with favourites Wakefield narrowly avoiding a cup upset as they twice came from behind to eventually run out victorious 4-3 thanks to a last minute Mohammed Abou winner.
Manager Adam Lockwood made two changes to the side beaten the previous week – both in midfield – as Morgan Butcher replaced Jack Burton and Daniel Youel dropped back from his usual attacking midfield position to partner him in the engine room. That meant a first start of the season for Lucas Stubbs, who partnered Jake Morrison up front.
Wakefield created three early chances, the best falling to Morrison, who had his header from a Red Bates cross well saved.
In the first twist of the day, it was the home side who took a surprise early lead from a corner as a knock down was not cleared.
The away side responded well and appeared to be back to their attacking best; Red Bates and Owen Kirman providing menace down the wings and combining to level the scores as Kirman showed his pace by blasting past the Huddersfield defender down the left before showing good composure to cut-in and set up Bates to score at the back post.
Wakefield were in the ascendancy and looked likely to find their own route to a second goal before long. They were ultimately given a map and directions by the home side in unfortunate circumstances. Calamity is never far away at this level of football and it seems no player is more at risk than those brave enough to be a goalkeeper.
That was the case as Morrison, hungry for his fifth goal in four matches, chased a back-pass towards the home keeper and was rewarded as the shot-stopper completely missed the ball, leaving the Wakefield goalscorer to run past him for a simple tap-in.
An error from opposite number in the visitors’ goal James Leverton handed Laund Hill a way back as he misjudged a cross-cum-shot from a free-kick, the ball sailing over his head and into the back of the net via the faint touch of his stretching fingers.
Huddersfield were given life by that late first half equaliser, and were the better side for much of the second half. Always sharp in the tackle and quick on the break, they would have retaken the lead just short of the hour mark were it not for Leverton who more than redeemed himself as he rushed out to stop a shot when one-on-one with a Laund Hill striker.
The relief was shortlived as the home side made it 3-2 in the 64th minute with a clinical goal.
For a moment, Wakefield appeared shaken and descended into strife; with the manager and players all verbalising their obvious frustration at how the game appeared to be moving away from them. What followed was a gallant display of character as they never gave in and found a way to survive.
Morrison, so often isolated up front, continued to chase and harry the home defence. And, having been rewarded with his fifth goal of the season in the first half for pressing the goalkeeper, he was rewarded with his third assist of the season in similar fashion in the 78th minute.
The goalkeeper had struggled to deal with a lively back-pass and his touch pushed the ball into the path of the on-rushing Morrison who squared for Kirman, who timed his run to perfection to score his fourth goal of the season.
The tie looked to be heading for penalties, but late Wakefield substitute Abou had other ideas in the dying embers of stoppage time when he latched on to a Lucas Stubbs lay-off from a quickly taken Mason Rubie throw-in.
Abou turned twinkle toes and rushed past three defenders into the box from the right. With a place in the cup at stake, he showed the ice in his veins as he smartly side-footed past the devastated Huddersfield keeper to win the game 4-3 for the jubilant away side.
Wakefield now await the second round draw and in the meantime turn their attentions back to the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Senior League as they welcome Stocksbridge Park Steels Reserves to the Featherstone’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday (3pm).