Will Bates’s goal in the final minutes meant that the second derby this year ended in a 3-3 draw. Whilst in the eyes of the neutral spectator, this was probably a fair result, both teams have a right to be slightly unsatisfied and can point to various incidents and missed chances that would have seen the capture of all three points.
As expected from such a game, passions were high and tolerance was low and it wasn’t long before Mr Sales was awarding the first, in what would turn out to be a long line of free kicks with Rangers trying to press home the advantage as the ball was played into the area but cleared by a Wetherby head.
With a strong wind blowing the length of the pitch, kicking and control was always going to be a challenge, and Jonty Smith saw his goal kick fall extremely short of its intended target as it landed at the feet of Wetherby’s Chris Travena. Trying to take the ball back into the area, Travena was forced wide by the combination of Josh Buckley and debutant Craig Hall, with the later wining a free kick following a clumsy tackle.
With free kicks racking up quicker than minutes played, both defences were having to be alert, but neither looked like they were going to wilt under the set-piece bombardment and the action, for the most part, remained in the middle of the pitch.
A quick break down the left by Josh Barden saw Charlie Yates twist into the area, but his initial shot was blocked. The follow up by Conor Buckley was also charged down before a good tackle by Ryan Heptinstall knocked the ball away from Rob Holliday, who had nearly made some space for an attempt on goal.
A free-kick from Wetherby forced Smith to put the ball out for a corner, and then the custodian had to smoother Joe Whitley’s cross from reaching the lurking Travena at the back post.
With 16 minutes on the clock the game produced its first skirmish when Brian Blewitt was on the receiving end of Josh Buckley’s challenge. After the two had been separated, Buckley was shown a yellow card by the referee.
Half chances fell Deighton’s way, with James Woodward’s header being plucked to safety by Darren Hooper, and then Adam Carter’s strike being ruled out for offside. Carter did have a right to be aggrieved by this however, as it looked like he had timed his run well to move onto Holliday’s through ball.
A needless free-kick by Rangers on their left flank allowed Wetherby to take the lead in the 31st minute, when Heptinstall’s perfectly weighted set piece was headed past Smith by the unmarked Travena.
Rangers were handed a slightly fortuitous route back into the game six minutes later when Yates went down in the area following a coming together with Wetherby’s tall centre back. As the referee pointed to the penalty spot, the Athletic player loomed over the grounded Yates and let him know his feelings over the decision! Yates dusted himself down only to see Hooper dive low to his right and parry his original effort, however the ball rebounded back to Yates and he made no mistake the second time, shooting into the roof of the net.
With the game a little more generous in chances, the industrious Holliday picked out Yates, whose shot was deflected into the middle of the area where Blewitt was dispossessed by Joe Straker. His pass back to Woodward ended in a crude challenge from Wetherby’s number five leaving Woodward in a heap. From Barden’s free-kick, Hooper again showed safe hands, taking the ball low to his left.
It was the orange shirts who produced the final chance of the half, when Heptinstall’s goal bound free-kick required Smith to back pedal and push it out of play.
Half-Time: Wetherby Athletic 1 v 1 Kirk Deighton Rangers
Rangers restarted the game on the front foot and a corner was knocked just over the crossbar by Josh Buckley before another Barden free-kick caused consternation in the area, but with no end product forthcoming, the ball was cleared.
The early pressure paid off when Holliday showed great composure in the area to drag the ball past his marker and square it for Carter to score from six yards out in the 54th minute.
Changing their personal around, Rangers brought on their first substitute in the 62nd minute when Joe Turley was introduced for Yates.
Another dangerous free-kick by Heptinstall, who was by far Wetherby’s stand out player, nearly picked out Travena, but this time a combination of Luke Dubery and Hall managed to nick the ball away from him.
With the game teetering on the peripheries of hit and hope, a nice piece of skill by Jonny Dockerty saw him move into the box, take the ball past the onrushing Smith and calmly dispatch it into the empty net in the 75th minute.
Rangers responded well, and it was Holliday who nearly restored the lead when he collected Hall’s long throw, turned his marker and shot over the bar by mere inches.
With Manager Dan Marshall throwing caution to the wind (everything else had been blown away by it!) Will Bates entered the fray in the 77th minute, but it was the home side who were celebrating when, in the 83rd minute, Wilson showed great strength and technique to ride several tackles before drilling the ball past Smith.
With the goal going against Rangers so late on, it would have been easy to fold completely, but some sheer determination by Holliday saw him drive into the area before his pass fell to Carter. Hooper could only beat out his fierce shot, which fell perfectly to Bates, who kept his composure to shoot under the custodian and spark wild celebrations from the Rangers support in the 86th minute.
There was still time for a winner, and it was Rangers who had the best chance when Turley hooked the ball back to Carter, but his shot was saved by Hooper.
Report by Pete Arnett.
Team: Smith, Hall, Buckley.C, Buckley.J, Dubery, Straker.J, Woodward, Barden, Yates, Carter, Holliday. Subs: Turley (Yates 62), Bates (Woodward 77). Unused: O’Brien
Yellow Cards: Rangers - Buckley.J (foul), Yates (dissent) Wetherby Athletic - One Player (foul)
Red Cards: Rangers - None. Wetherby Athletic - None.
Referee: Mr Justin Sales
Kirk Deighton Rangers Man Of The Match (chosen by Manager Dan Marshall): Another superb match from Rob Holliday saw him picked as our MOM. Driving forward at every opportunity, Rob was a constant thorn in Wetherby’s side, and it was his assist that saw Adam Carter score, have a hand in the final goal and come close to scoring himself as well.