If recent history has shown anything in the Yorkshire Amateur League, it’s that Wheelwright are fairly unstoppable.
In just four years, the Dewsbury-based side have climbed from the mire of Division Five all the way up to Division Two, where they are once again gunning for promotion.
Wheelwright have won all but one of their 12 games this season, propelling them to second in the league.
Founded in 1931, things looked bleak for Wheelwright just a few years ago when the first team disbanded completely and the second team left to become Norristhorpe, leaving just the third team behind to continue the legacy of the club.
It’s that third team that have become so successful though, winning a trophy every season for the last three years, including the Third Division crown last year, the Supplementary Cup in 2013, and the League Cup in 2012. On top of those successes, the club have also lost just a solitary home game in the last four years – a remarkable feat at any level, especially considering the entirety of that defeat was spent trying to get the two players who hadn’t scored that season to register a goal, with only one managing to find the back of the net.
For all their hard work in the opening part of the season, manager Richard Davies is remaining cautious about the second half of the campaign and knows that a couple of injuries to their small squad could be a big blow.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this division, and if there’s a few injuries then anything can happen,” explained Davies.
“I think we have the smallest squad in the league. It makes my life easy when I’m picking a team because it often picks itself, but it does mean we struggle to put out three subs most weeks.
“We rely on people being able to get time off work and not getting injured, because our squad is so small.
“We got lucky over the Christmas break because we had our last scheduled game called off, and three of our lads went to Thailand for Christmas and were due to miss it.
“Subject to injuries though, I believe we can keep this form up. It’s been a pretty good season so far, to be honest.
“We’ve got a few difficult games but if we take our chances, we can beat anyone.
“We started to get some consistency with the players, but away form is key. Because we play on a small pitch, which I think is the smallest in the league, when we play on a big pitch it can be tough.
“We played Huddersfield Amateurs early on in the season, and they have the biggest pitch in the division. We lost 4-1 and came off saying ‘They were very good.’ But then we beat them 3-0 at our place about three weeks later on our smaller pitch.
“We have a lot of confidence at the moment. We’re good at adapting our style if we need to, especially on muddy pitches where we can’t play our usual game.
“But our style of play allows us to become more competitive and more open in midfield when we want to be, and we brought in a couple of players to make up for the two we lost.
“I’d like to say it’s through my good man management, but it’s usually more luck than judgement!”
Despite their small squad, Wheelwright seem to be set all over the park; they are second-top scorers in the division, averaging over four goals per game, and statistically have the best defence across the board, conceding just over one goal per game. Not bad for a team with no real left back.
This is not exactly out of character, though, with last season’s Division Three-winning side, which included the “hugely influential” Mike Davies, scoring a mighty 101 goals in just 26 games last season whilst shipping 44. Davies has since been replaced, with two new faces coming in to shore up any gaps in the team.
And whilst the phrase ‘defence wins championships’ could ring true here should Wheelwright continue their fine form and reach the summit by May, it’s not necessarily something that Davies, who has been involved with the club for 12 years, has put much focus on this season.
“It’s a bit of both focus and a bit of it just happening,” he continued.
“Our centre-backs complement each other’s play because one likes to attack the man and the other adopts more of a sweeper role.
“Our left back was missing for a lot of the season so we put a right back there and brought in a new right back to cover him.
“It’s not just the defenders though; the midfielders work hard to stop any attacks early, and when it looks like an opposing player is in a position to take a shot, the defenders tend to stop it.
“I would also say we have the best goalkeeper in the division in Sam Jackson, and I’d say our front three is the quickest in the league. Pace is our weapon.”
Davies is refusing to look too far into the future, though, saying he’ll “take it as it comes” even if his side do win promotion this season.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen because running a club is all about finances and how much money we have. We are hoping to bring in a second team next season.”
A reserve side may take a while to top the successes of the current team, however if they can find players that all live around Leeds then they’ll be doing better than the first team in that regard.
“One player lives near Hull, two players live in Haworth, and we have one guy from Manchester,” he added.
“It’s difficult for us all to get together because we all live in different areas. We actually had a mid-season party in December after our last game, but it was a bit of a damp squib.”
League: Yorkshire Amateur League Division Two
Ground: Thornhill Cricket Club, Dewsbury
Social Headquarters: Thornhill Cricket and Bowling Club
Roll of Honour: Yorkshire Amateur League Division Three Champions (2013/14), Supplementary Cup (2012/13), League Cup (2011/12)
Captain: Jay Campbell
Coach: Richard Davies
Top scorer: Jonny Beverley