A screamer from Charlie Yates and a close-range strike from Joe Wilks, saw Rangers beat neighbours Wetherby Athletic 2-1 in an entertaining opening game of 2019. The derby certainly had elements of everything, goals, controversy and a brawl that ended in a red card for Athletic and a frantic final five minutes as the visitor’s launched everything as they searched for an equaliser!
Following a scrappy ten minutes that saw neither team obtain dominance, the game came alive when Dan Slater slipped the ball to Danny Grannon, who in turn picked out Yates. Shifting his weight, he released a shot from twenty yards out that flew past Darren Hooper in the Wetherby goal and nestled into the back of the net via the inside of the post in the 11th minute.
Wetherby almost a fashioned an instant reply as a searching long ball nearly found Josh Wilson, but at the last moment, Jonny Richards intervened to head clear.
Rangers were using the wings well and several promising moves were forged as Slater, Grannon, Yates, Wilks, James Woodward and Joe Turley all had a hand in plays that had the visitor’s stretched, but the final ball proved to be more problematic and Hooper was often able to punch or catch with very little pressure on him.
Wilson was proving to be a handful for the Rangers defence with his pace and constant willingness to take on his man. Having little luck against Richards and Conor Buckley, he swapped sides and drew a foul from Luke Dubery that earned the defender the first yellow card of the match.
Clumsy challenges from both teams were causing the punctuation of the air by the referee’s whistle and from one such infringement on Grannon, Wilks floated in a deep cross that needed Hooper to punch clear to the edge of his area.
Dubery showed his aerial capabilities when a free-kick from Ryan Heptinstall nearly reached Chris Travena, but beating him to the ball, the centre back managed to head the danger away.
The visitors were taking the game to Rangers and defying their lowly position in the league. A superb full length run from the number seven was only ended by a well-timed sliding tackle by Richards and minutes later Jonty Smith made his first diving save of the game when Wilson latched onto a deflected ball just inside the Deighton area and placed his shot to the right, however reading the situation well, the ball was pushed round the post by Smith.
Rangers pushed back and a spectacular overhead kick by Slater went wide, whilst the duo of Woodward and Richards were close to connecting to Dubery’s header, but were beaten by Hooper.
With the first half ending, it was Smith who was called into action again when Travena sent a dipping shot goalwards, diving high, the custodian twisted, got his hands to the ball and pushed it wide.
The blue shirts started the second half on the front foot and a one-two with Turley saw Grannon try to take the ball round Hooper, but the keeper did well to block his path and came out on top.
Another piece of wing play by Deighton saw Wilks put in a cross that came back out to Woodward. Closed down quickly, the midfielder lost the ball and a quick pass to Travena saw the tall Wetherby striker called offside.
Wilks was causing Wetherby’s defence issues on the right, and a couple of searching crosses needed a Rangers player to be more daring, but they were either claimed by Hooper or bounced untouched through the area.
Hooper was having a superb match for the visitors and he was first to the ball following Grannon’s flicked header into the area, before pulling off a diving save to his left to push Wilks curling shot wide of the post.
Wetherby escaped a strong handball claim when it appeared that former Rangers player, Brian Blewett, had used his arm to control the ball, however, despite the chorus of shouts, Mr Parker was unmoved and waved play on.
A surging run down the left of the pitch nearly paid dividends for Wetherby, but getting to the final pass first, Smith cleared the ball into touch, but it was a timely reminder that there were still two teams on the pitch!
The first of a trio of substitutions happened in the 71st minute when Josh Barden replaced Turley. Soon after, Dave McKay came on for the industrious Straker before Woodward was forced to leave the pitch injured and was replaced by Rob Holliday.
Finally, after a spell of threatening, Rangers doubled their lead in the 74th minute when Wilks was first to react to Grannon’s back header and diverted the ball high past Hooper into the net.
Three minutes later, Wetherby had pulled one back when a long ball from defence picked out Wilson and he outpaced the defence and rolled the ball past Smith. With the Rangers defence remonstrating with Mr Parker that Wilson had been offside when he received the ball, the referee brushed them away and the game restarted.
Wetherby had the ball in the net in the 81st minute when a free-kick had evaded Smith and been fired into the roof of the net from close range. However, in the build-up, the referee’s whistle had indicated an infringement and a free-kick was given to Deighton.
An unnecessary challenge on McKay sparked a mass confrontation of players and once Mr Parker had restored order, he dismissed Wetherby’s Darren Harrison and booked McKay for their part in the proceedings.
A break down the pitch by Yates saw him helped by both Barden and Slater as Rangers kept the ball by the clubhouse touchline for the final minute of the match and come the final whistle, a mighty roar was heard from the Rangers team to signal that they had gained their first win in five matches!
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Smith, Wilks, Buckley.C, Richards, Straker.J, Dubery, Slater, Woodward, Turley, Grannon, Yates
Subs: Barden (Turley 71), McKay (Straker 75), Holliday (Woodward 79)
Not Used: Abbott, O’Brien
Yellow Cards: Rangers – Dubery (foul) Woodward (foul) Wilks (foul) Athletic – Blewitt (foul) Woods (foul) Harrison, Dan (foul)
Red Card: Rangers (none) Athletic - Harrison, Darren (violent conduct)
Referee: Mr James Parker
Rangers Man of the Match chosen by First Team Coach Ben Lawrence. There were a few players who could have been considered for this accolade, but due to his powerful display in defence, both in producing some timely headers and tackles, but also in setting attacks going with his passing, this one was awarded to Jonny Richards.