Wheatley AFC 2 Angel FC 2
What a difference a week makes.
Reeling on the back of a 7-1 thumping last week, Wheatley AFC displayed a truly rousing performance – both collectively and individually – to restore some pride and impress the biggest crowd of the season so far. It was vital for the home team to inject some self-belief into their game, and manager Mark Powell will be proud of his valiant players – Wheatley enjoyed the majority of possession and showed true grit to come from behind twice.
Angel FC had an encouraging start though, beating the off-side trap and forcing new keeper Chris Head to makes the game’s first save. For the past few weeks Wheatley have struggled to maintain a regular man between the sticks, but Head would later show his natural prowess with a flurry of fine blocks.
For the next fifteen minutes, Wheatley seized the initiative. What was evident in this passage of play was the determination to attack. Andy Hibbert’s thunderous right foot caused problems all morning and it was the defender’s long ball that released the bubbly Danny Bott down the right flank. Eager for an early shot, the young midfielder struck the keeper’s legs, with striker Ben Woods coming close with the follow-up. Moments later sprightly left winger Al Hey whipped in an inviting cross that had the Angel defence in turmoil. Central midfielder Andy Wheeler was bold in the air and although his header was directed straight at the opposition keeper, Wheatley were now taking the game by the scruff of the neck. This was highlighted further by Wood’s attacking partner Rick Arundel muscling his way past the gain-line, his shot fizzing despairingly wide. A fantastic period for Powell’s men, and Angel were undeniably rocked. A new and improved Wheatley model had definitely turned up today.
With a Wheatley team seemingly saturated with strikers, hot-shot Nick Cockcroft was given a run on the left wing. Fleet of foot and determined to boot, Cockcroft had a solid game and contributed with some nice touches and effective short passes. But the home team’s strength was not solely exhibited by the attacking options. Johnny Turnbull’s work rate at the back was at times staggering – his reward came on 20 minutes with a brilliantly executed tackle in his own box. Angel’s cries for a penalty were deplorable – make no mistake, this was defending of the highest order. Right-back Chris Lloyd never seems to have an average game, and his consistency reached new levels today. How long could Wheatley keep this up?
Angel FC’s attacks were largely ineffectual in the first-half. Keeper Head made two fine saves, but it was his opposite number that was working overtime. Hey’s trickery baffled both opposition and spectators alike – during one display of skill you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Copacabana Beach and not Ilkley. Although the half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for the weary Angel, the away team had to endure a genuine scare when Arundel blasted a shot from the right. The industrious striker’s effort skimmed the cross bar as the crowd gasped in agony.
Despite the surges of pressure heaped upon Angel, it was the away team that had the clearest opportunity in first half. A lucky ricochet meant keeper Head was left stranded with his goal unprotected. With the ball straight at Angel’s feet and an open goal fifteen yards out, the ball should have hit the net. This it did, although the net in question belonged to an angler relaxing on the banks of the River Wharfe thirty yards away.
0-0 at half-time, although the home team definitely deserved more.
Wheatley approached the second-half full of confidence. Andy Wheeler – live and unleashed – harassed and hounded, whilst his enforcing partner in the middle of the park, Chris Quaife, put the boot in on several occasions to defuse Angel’s momentum.
Then a moment of controversy. An Angel thrown-in looked illegal even from the far touch-line although referee John Reeves waved play on. As disputed as the thrown-in was, Angel’s striker allowed himself to rock back on his heels and hit a sweet shot on the turn. Chris Head was powerless to intervene and the ball found its way into the bottom right corner. A fair shot from unfair means. A kick in the teeth for Wheatley, no doubt, but they had the character needed to overcome such set-backs.
Five minutes later Wheeler, who impressed throughout, took charge of a free kick yards outside the Angel penalty area. His curling delivery was achieved with precision, causing the Angel keeper to flap behind his defenders. An alert Bott pounced on the parry and knocked in from close range. 1-1 with half an hour still to play.
Angel were quiet now, and Wheatley sensed blood. Woods and Arundel both came close and Bott saw three long-range efforts go wide from the outside of his boot. Nevertheless, Wheatley were on the attack.
But in sport nothing is guaranteed. All of a sudden the balanced shifted when Angel poached a lucky goal out of nothing. Bemused as they were, Wheatley responded by bringing on fresh legs in the form of Adam Emmott, taking over from the resilient Woods. The extra pace proved a tonic as Bott was released into the penalty area, only to be crudely upended by an over-zealous challenge. No penalty, and Bott was left fuming. Angel had been let off.
Chris Quaife was taken off on the 75 minute mark and replaced with Eric Bana. Wheatley would not give up. Arundel came close again with a speculative shot, and skipper Hibbert led the way with a superlative sliding tackle that epitomised the doggedness of this Wheatley side.
In an attempt to ply the opposition with more pressure, winger Cockcroft was promoted to playing alongside Arundel up front. This was inspirational. Bana just managed to stay on-side from an Arundel flick-on and let fly with a good effort that was saved well by the keeper. That said, the ball couldn’t be collected cleanly and fell sweetly to Cockcroft’s muddy feet. To say the striker’s shot was well struck would flirt dangerously with exaggeration. A fumbled effort was all that was required, however, as the ball trickled into the net.
A thoroughly deserved goal to draw level and Wheatley could consider themselves unlucky for not coming away with a victory. Well done to all.
Written by Joe 'Lager' Varley