On FM Scout you can chat about Football Manager in real time since 2011. Here are 10 reasons to join!

Wetherby Athletic: A New Dawn

Started on 16 October 2019 by Jack
Latest Reply on 31 March 2020 by Justice
2021 certainly didn't greet you too well, did it?
Not a win in 4 games is certainly going to hurt your ambitions this season. But as always, I have a feeling you will bounce back. You're just 2 points off a playoff spot, so I'm not gonna worry yet!

By Rhys Wilson for Wetherby News
Sunday, 28th February 2021, 6:00 am

With Wetherby top scorer Henry Jacobs being out of action since he suffered a broken foot in the Integro Cup 2nd Round loss to Alfreton Town at the beginning of December 2020 his absence has allowed back-up striker Rob Harker to blossom throughout February.

Harker, 21, was signed on a free transfer from Burnley in the summer of 2020 following Wetherby Athletic’s title-winning season in the Northern Counties East League. Prior to Jacobs’ injury in December, Harker had only started two games in all competitions under Mark Milne, but the youngster has started every game since.

Wetherby had been going through a tough time of results in December and January as Mark Milne and his players alike struggled to adapt to having no Henry Jacobs to aim for as the main striker, with Jacobs bagging 30 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season.

Throughout February, Rob Harker has been a revelation for Wetherby and he has provided a much-needed goalscoring outlet. Wetherby were 6th place going into February, nine points away from the table toppers Bamber Bridge, but as this month came to a close Wetherby found themselves just three points away from the top. This was almost entirely down to Harker’s goalscoring form this month.

Ramsbottom United were Wetherby’s first opponents and thanks to a Harker brace, Wetherby won the match 3-1. Another brace followed in the next game against Atherton Collieries as Herd and Garfield joined in with the scoring. In the 5-0 win against Skelmersdale United, Harker bagged his first career hat-trick with goals in the 5th, 7th and 46th minutes.

In perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures of the season - the away trip to league leaders Bamber Bridge - Harker netted twice yet again for The Salmons. In a very tight 4-3 victory, he joined Craig Herd and Dylan Mottley-Henry on the scoresheet to drag themselves up the league table.

Wetherby maintained their 100% winning record in February with a 3-1 win against 3rd placed Colne yesterday - Harker scored his fourth brace of the month, meaning he had finished the month with 11 goals in 5 games.

With three weeks remaining until Henry Jacobs returns from his injury, Rob Harker has given manager Mark Milne a selection dilemma with his remarkable form this month.

Scott: There's certainly a bit of lag that comes with the Christmas period that seems to have taken effect - either that or they've all been watching too much of Leeds United!
Seb: Jacobs has been a great loss to our team these past few months after the Alfreton game. That still doesn't warrant not even winning one game in January!
Imagine: Looks like we have rediscovered some form in February, but there's a long way to go! God bless the couple ;)
Justice: Except Jacobs isn't a fraud ;)
Jim: Not the best New Year, that's for certain! I reckon we will come back into the fray, but there's many games to be played yet.
The selection dilemma every manager wants to have! You have to commend Harker for his patience. He has certainly taken his opportunity.
Harker has been brilliant this month and that was much needed. Going to be interesting to see what Milne does when Jacobs comes back.

As the 2020/21 campaign came to an end, Wetherby Athletic found themselves finishing in 4th place - inside the Play-Off places, which came as a huge relief to manager Mark Milne.

As detailed in the previous report in Wetherby News, Rob Harker helped us ramp up our form throughout February with five wins in five games, beating league leaders Bamber Bridge as well as Play-Off hopefuls Colne FC in the process in a month that really rose spirits in the team and fans alike. The most impressive may have been 5-0 demolition job of Skelmersdale United, but the most important was by far the 3-1 victory over Colne.

We entered March in 3rd place but drew our opening two fixtures against Glossop North End and Whickham, the latter being on an extremely good run of form. Rob Harker was back on form after not scoring against Glossop as he netted two consecutive hat-tricks in the 3-3 draw and then the 4-0 win over Prescot Cables. By this time, Henry Jacobs was fit and ready to come back in the fold, but Harker was scoring for fun and earned his starting spot.

Our form continued into the final month of April with a 5-3 win against relegation candidates Runcorn Linnets. However, we suffered a catastrophic finish to the campaign with two losses and one draw in our final three games. What made matters worse is that had we won our final two games, we would have won the title over Bamber Bridge, who had had an equally dramatic ending to the season.

Regardless, Bamber Bridge ran away with the title with a three-point lead over 2nd and 3rd placed Brighouse Town and Whickham. Those two teams enter the Semi-Finals of the Play-Offs as we and Workington comfortably secure a Quarter-Final place in the Play-Offs with a seven-point lead over 6th placed City of Liverpool as Colne dropped from 2nd to 7th in the final couple of months.

It was bad news for Droylsden and Kendal Town who were finally relegated, having both occupied the red zone for the majority of the season. Kendal finished way off survival as Droylsden struggled to make up the four-point gap between them and Ossett United.

Onto individual statistics, even though he missed half of the season out through injury thus losing his spot to Rob Harker, Henry Jacobs still managed to finish as our top scorer in all competitions with 31 goals, despite Harker boasting six more league goals than the 23-year-old.

Craig Herd defeated his own record for assists, creating 29 goals in all competitions this season and also bagging the highest average rating - handing him the Player of the Season award.

Thanks to our 4th place finish in the Northern Premier League North West, we now go into the Regional First Divisions Play-Off Quarter Finals, contested by 16 teams at this stage as five promotion spots via the Play-Offs are open to everyone. At this stage, we have drawn Ismithian League Southern Central side Dunstable Town, to be played out at Eastwood Community’s Coronation Park.

Milne’s Verdict

We have done ourselves proud this season, even if we don’t make it through the upcoming Play-Offs. I predicted that we would be in or around the top five and we have achieved that comfortably so with a marvellous few months of performances by Rob Harker who has deservedly kept Henry Jacobs out of the fray.

Changes will be coming in the summer regardless of what tier we will be playing in for the 2021/22 campaign. I have already signed a new deal, committing me to the club for an extra year until June 2022, much to the delight of our loyal fans. This side has been excellent, but I think a shift in policy will be coming with our new semi-professional status, bringing in a solid recruitment force across Yorkshire and beyond.

I expect us to defeat Dunstable Town, but the prospect of making it through three fixtures unbeaten is a heavy task for the best of teams. There are better favourites for promotion than us, with higher achieving teams in their respective divisions yet to come into the Play-Offs in the Semi-Finals. Whatever happens, I will be proud of my team.

Scott: Indeed! He's waited so long, especially as now he's proved to be one of the most dangerous attackers in the division yet he's been benched behind Jacobs most of the season. A revelation!
Seb: The month that we needed from anyone, but means even more for Harker to be that man.
April must of been heartbreaking month, espeically with how close you came to promotion and winning the league. Interesting to see that Harker has kept Jacobs out of the squad, I wonder if Milne will be able to fit both of them into his side next season, if so we could see a ridiculous amount of goals scored!
Irrespective of what could have been, it's been a remarkable season for all involved with Wetherby. The players need to get ready for the test that Dunstable bring now. The play-off system at this level looks to be a tricky challenge indeed, but Wetherby have the ability to succeed should they play to their best. Good luck!

Saturday 1st May 2021

Going into the play-offs, Mark Milne had done something that he never had done in his time managing Wetherby Athletic from Sunday league level, to where they were today before the quarter final clash against Dunstable Town - he had enforced a ban on his players drinking all the way through the play-off process.

“I know it’s something that you don’t want to hear as it is something that we have always done, but this is a necessity. We need you all in the best state of fitness and mind going into these games.” Mark said to his team after the final match of the league campaign against Pontefract Collieries.

Coronation Park in Eastwood, Nottingham was the venue of the Wetherby v Dunstable match, which worked out almost ideally as the ground was equidistant between the two sides’ towns, a one-and-a-half hour journey on the road for both teams to contend with.

On the Wetherby minibus, Anthony Holt was on the music with a combination of cheesy pop songs of the 1970s and 1980s mixed in with rock’n’roll of the 1960s and 1990s. One or two couldn’t stand the playlist, but the large majority - particularly those who had been with Wetherby for years - loved it.

Mark slapped his brother Karl on the back in his seat as he hadn’t spoken to him on the way to Nottingham yet. Karl sat up, startled by the feeling that someone had made contact with him.

“You alright, lad?” Mark said chirpily, with a warm smile on his face. This smile was quickly replaced by a concerned look as he saw Karl’s face which looked incredibly pale and his eyes glazed over, as if he had had a rough night’s sleep the night before. “Are you feeling well, Karl?”

“Yeah,” Karl said tiredly as he struggled to look his older brother in the eyes. “Yeah! Why?” he reiterated, as if he realised that Mark knew something was wrong with him.

“Just checking up mate, that’s all.” Mark said, smiling again but with the knowledge that something wasn’t quite right with his brother today. He walked down the aisle to the front of the minibus where his seat next to Mike Jackman was. Karl didn’t look like he was in the mood to play today just from what Mark saw in his brief encounter with him. He spent the rest of what was left of the journey to Coronation Park drawing up the starting eleven for today’s match.

Before letting his side off the bus, Mark read out the team sheet which saw Karl Milne back on the subs bench: “Holt, Hosannah, Garfield, Casey, Downing, Jackman, Gibbon, Meeson, Herd, Mottley-Henry, Harker. You’re all starting.

“That leaves Elliott, Thornton, Turner, Scholes, Hudson, Jacobs and Karl on the bench.” Mark looked up at Karl in his seat as he read his name off the paper. He still looked pale and tired which was a large reason as to why he was on the bench. Karl rolled his eyes and hung his head down towards his Adidas trainers.

All eighteen players warmed up to the side of the pitch as the staff of both sides of today’s game greeted the officials. Mark still couldn’t keep his eyes off his younger brother during the warmup though - he looked slow and sluggish and on the whole simply foreign to his usual self.

It was Dunstable who were to kick the game off in this play-off quarter-final with Kavanagh passing it back to Evans in midfield who lumped it diagonally forward to the hopeful run of left-winger Domingo-Carrington. Bryce Hosannah met the ball in the air under limited pressure, nodding it inside to Jackman.

Play progressed quickly in the middle of the park between the three central midfielders. Seth Meeson lumped a ball over the top towards Craig Herd’s run down the right. After what was an inch-perfect pass, Herd brought it down incredibly well as he soared towards goal, one-on-one with the Dunstable keeper after just one minute of play. Herd finished off the quick move with a finish to the keeper’s near post as he wheeled off to celebrate before the ball had even crossed the line.

“Get in there Herdy!” Mark exclaimed as the Wetherby staff all came together in a huddle of joy on the sidelines, with fans on the other side of the pitch cheering in delight at Meeson and Herd’s great play.

Dunstable Town 0 - 1 Wetherby Athletic
Craig Herd (2’)

Dunstable looked shaken up after the first goal as the Wetherby side pressured them straight from the restart after the 2nd minute opener. Dunstable could barely break into the Wetherby half without a hopeless clearance or misplaced long ball over the top to one of their striker pairing.

Dunstable’s inability to get past the orange midfield protection as Wetherby’s ball retention was killing off Dunstable without even breaking the ten minute mark. Next came a corner as a Rob Harker shot was deflected past the post. Bryce Hosannah rushed over to take it to try capitalise on Dunstable’s tiredness from the constant defensive stints. With an inswinging ball, Cleminshaw headed it clear, but only as far as Dylan Mottley-Henry who greeted the ball with a half-volley into the vacant bottom-right corner of the net.

Wetherby had doubled their lead and ten minutes had not even passed in this quarter-final.

Dunstable Town 0 - 2 Wetherby Athletic
Dylan Mottley-Henry (9’)

Dunstable were still struggling to make anything out of their efforts with the ball as they had been doing all game. The opposition manager was screaming any cliché that he could in order to get some rhythm in his players, but it just wasn’t working - Wetherby were running them ragged.

The killer blow was dealt to Dunstable in the 21st minute as Craig Herd cut a ball back to the edge of the area for the in-form Rob Harker, who prodded the ball onto his favoured right foot before his strike his Denny’s shins and deflected past the desperate Leighton Smith who had just conceded his 3rd goal of the game, all within twenty minutes of play.

Dunstable Town 0 - 3 Wetherby Athletic
Rob Harker (21’)

Wetherby began to relax and start passing the ball around rather than their typical all-out-attack mode. They had lost the ball a couple of times in doing so but it paled in comparison to Dunstable’s players losing their heads at each other as well as at Wetherby’s possession and quality on the ball. Oliver Casey received a booking in the 43rd minute as he tugged back Jamie Forrester’s shirt whilst the ball was in the air and that was all the action up until half-time as Wetherby led 3-0.

After a stirring, complimentary teamtalk by Mark Milne who was fulfilled by the football he had seen in the first half of this clash, the Wetherby side didn’t change going into the second half of the game. This soon changed as Wetherby were reduced to ten men as centre-back Oliver Casey was given his second yellow and marching orders in the 51st minute. This dismayed Mark Milne who had desired a thoroughly professional performance for the whole 90 minutes.

Dylan Mottley-Henry was forced to come off as a result of the red card, replaced by centre-back Will Thornton.

Four minutes after the red card and the substitution bringing Mottley-Henry off the field, Wetherby conceded their first of the match, causing Mark Milne to build up in anger as he thought his team was slowly beginning to lose their heads after a three-goal lead and having a man sent off.

Dunstable Town 1 - 3 Wetherby Athletic
Ajani Domingo-Carrington (55’)

Following this goal, Mark decided to tighten the pitch in the middle, bringing the opening goalscorer Craig Herd for top scorer Henry Jacobs in the 56th minute. Switching to a 4-4-1 Diamond formation, Henry Jacobs fitted in at number 10, just behind Rob Harker.

The change in tactics and personnel on the field worked wonders as it stifled almost all Dunstable attempts at getting the ball past the midfield and allowed the midfield more central options, in turn bringing Dunstable’s wingers inside and allowing Wetherby’s full-backs a lot more space out on the flanks if they were needed.

Wetherby had dominated the game for near enough the full 90 minutes as the referee called time on the quarter-final as Wetherby celebrated subtly, knowing that a big celebration is earned by winning another two consecutive games in these play-offs.

Dunstable Town 1 - 3 Wetherby Athletic

Wetherby advance into the Play-Off Semi-Finals

Seb: When I saw Bamber Bridge lose that last game, I was crushed. Harker has deserved every minute he's played since February, an incredible streak of form.
Scott: It's undeniably been a great season to come straight up and finish in fourth. Now is the time to go one further!
Great work in that first game, despite a slightly disappointing ten minuets after the half time break, leading to that goal. But nonetheless, into the semi-finals and one step closer to promotion. Worrying to see that Karl still seems to be struggling, at least Mark has somewhat noticed now.
One step closer! A terrific victory.
One down, two to go. In Mark Milne we believe!

He could power the entire UK if he used those ears as wind turbines.

By Oliver Crawford for Wetherby News
Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 6:00am

Just short of 3,000 spectators poured into The Shay yesterday evening as Brighouse Town suffered a heavy defeat to Wetherby Athletic in the Regional First Divisions Play-Off Semi-Final in Halifax.

The two sides had been divisional rivals throughout the league campaign in the Northern Premier League North West as Brighouse finished as runners up to the eventual title winners Bamber Bridge. Due to their finish in the league, they were automatically granted a spot in the Play-Off Semi-Final rather than having to win in the Quarter-Final stage like Wetherby had to do against Dunstable Town on Saturday afternoon.

Wetherby manager Mark Milne started out with an old face returning from injury as striker Henry Jacobs got his first start since his injury suffered against Alfreton Town back in December. Rob Harker had since taken his starting spot due to a great run of form, but Milne made the call for Jacobs’ return.

WAFC: Holt (GK), Hosannah, Garfield, Thornton, Downing, Jackman, Gibbon, Meeson, Herd, Mottley-Henry, Jacobs.
BTFC: Porter (GK), Salmon, Bartle, Lazenby, Hirst, Khan, Cham, Skidmore, Maddison, Smith, Armstrong.

The game got off to a flier similar to the previous round against Dunstable as Wetherby scored the opener in the 2nd minute of play, scoring a close-range header from a Craig Herd cross. Wetherby’s lead was doubled in the 11th minute as former Tranmere winger Dylan Mottley-Henry volleyed in Wetherby’s 2nd of the game past Brighouse’s Porter.

An error from Anthony Holt - Wetherby’s starting goalkeeper - allowed Brighouse Town striker Rhys Armstrong to pass the ball across Holt’s body to grab a goal back for his side in the 26th minute, making the score 2-1 after half an hour of play.

The referee’s whistle after the half-time break sounded like a signal for Henry Jacobs to grab two quick goals in succession as he made it 4-1 to Wetherby in the 47th and 48th minutes with two tidy finishes from around the penalty spot area of the box.

Former Leeds United academy graduate Cole Gibbon made it 5-1 to put the game beyond all doubt with a placed shot from the edge of the box on 55 minutes.

Henry Jacobs returned to the scoresheet to complete his hat-trick with a tap-in supplied by Herd on the right-wing on the hour mark, before bagging another goal just two minutes later in the 62nd minute.

With the scoreline sat at 7-1 going into the final ten minutes of normal time, Rhys Armstrong pulled one back from 20 yards out in the 81st minute to make it 7-2 but by that point everybody knew that the goal was no more than a consolation despite a mistake by Sean Garfield almost leading to a 3rd goal for Brighouse straight from the restart.

As Wetherby celebrated their qualification into one of the Play-Off Finals to take place this Saturday, other results started coming in as they found out they would be playing Whitehawk who had beaten Mickleover 1-0 in their Semi-Final.

Regional First Divisions Play-Off Semi-Final

Harlow Town 1 - 0 Worcester City

Whickham 2-0 Aveley

Brighouse Town 2 - 7 Wetherby Athletic

Leek Town e3 - 2 Sittingbourne

Basingstoke Town 0 - 1e Halesowen Town

Whitehawk 1 - 0 Mickleover Sports

Westfields 1 - 1p Cambridge City

Bedford Town 1 - 1p Workington

East Grinstead Town e1 - 0 Evesham United

Highworth Town p1 - 1 Winchester City

Seb: I will take any win, especially in a play-off environment where it’s every team’s cup final. The conceded goal was disappointed and something to work on, even in this game above.
Scott: On our waaaay!
Jim: Two down, one to go!
Justice: Should’ve won the title so we could’ve compared them to the trophy’s handles.
Brilliant result to make it into the final. The decsion to bring back Jacobs clearly paid off (unsurprisingly) and Wetherby are seemingly only getting better as the playoffs go! Great work!

Friday, 7th May 2021

The Corn Mill was very empty for a Friday evening and had been for the past week as Mark had imposed Wetherby Athletic’s drinking ban throughout the Play-Off period for the squad. He had gone in tonight to pick up his kit bag from the pub as he had left it with the landlord Paul Lamb to look after while the team trained for the Play-Off Final against Whitehawk on Saturday.

Paul was unaware of the drinking ban that Mark Milne had imposed on the Wetherby players, although he did suspect something as none of the players had come in since Wetherby’s last league game against Pontefract at the back-end of March.

“I’ll just have a Coke, Paul, cheers,” Mark said as he stood at the bar. Although he was in the pub and he wasn’t playing for the team, Mark was allowed in the pub but he stuck to his demand to the team by not consuming alcohol over this period.

As Paul filled up Mark’s glass of Coke Zero from the mixer tap and Mark left the money on the table to head to the toilet. Stood at the urinal, the window above him was slightly open so he could hear any conversations from outside in the beer garden. It was a popular time, around 7pm and the sun still out in the May evening to sit in the garden for a drink and Mark almost felt bad for denying his player’s this opportunity to get out and have a drink in the beautiful early summer weather.

He could hear a few conversations going on outside but Mark wasn’t generally a nosey person so most of it went over his head.

Mark was stood by the sink, washing his hands under the cold tap, pressing on the soap dispenser when his ears pricked up from something he heard outside. “Here we are lads! I know you two shouldn’t but we’re already on it - rather hung for a sheep as a lamb! Get ‘em down you.”

Paul smiled at Mark as he exited the toilet, expecting him to come over for a chat as they always did at the bar whenever Paul’s workload was low on an evening. “Just a second, Paul, I’m just nipping outside for a fag.” Mark said as he pulled out his pack of Sterling Dual cigarettes.

Mark didn’t want to believe what he thought was going on in his head but it all came true as he peered around the corner into the beer garden. It was his brother Karl, sat with Scott Scholes - another Wetherby player - as well as a mutual friend who Mark had known of, but never got to know personally.

Mark wasn’t sure whether to head over now to tell them to stop drinking as he spotted four trays on their table, presumably used for shots as the table was loaded with the small glasses. The other option would be to enforce his punishment on his brother and Scholes tomorrow on matchday in the club’s most important fixture to date - the Play-Off Final.

Mark didn’t even finish half of his cigarette before heading back inside. “Alright Paul,” he said, approaching the bar casually. “Have Karl and Scott been here long tonight?” Mark asked, concerned.

“Yeah, they both came with their mate - Liam, or whatever you call him. They’ve been here a few hours now but I’ve got to say, when you let him away from your sight he can become a bit of a C-word, let’s say.” Paul said with a face as if he was understating the situation.

“I’ll be honest, I knew that you’d organised something to do with the team because nobody else has been in apart from them two all week - not even one of the other lads have come in for so much as a meal up here. Karl’s been at it all the way through that period and I thought it didn’t add up.”

Mark sighed, but underneath he was burning with anger. He had led this team initially as a bit of fun before it began to get serious at times like this, when fitness needed to be protected under the means of discipline. Now his own brother, rather than anybody else had betrayed him. Mark had helped bring up Karl as a child in the most brotherly sense possible, yet it felt as though Karl had thrown it back in his face by thinking that he was too good for the rules that Mark had implemented, that everyone else seemed to have followed - bar Scott Scholes.

Mark made the decision to quietly make his way home with his kitbag rather than make a scene at the pub, in front of Paul’s other customers. He would deal with Karl tomorrow and thereafter.

Seb: Certainly a lot of going hitting the back of the net and great to see Jacobs back on form! Just one more to go now!

You are reading "Wetherby Athletic: A New Dawn".

FMS Chat

hey, just wanted to let you know that we have a fb style chat for our members. login or sign up to start chatting.