My astute readers will have concluded that this report was originally going to be all in a single post ;-) I realised that it was going to be overly long and decided to split it – so the title may have seemed a bit irrelevant to part 1 but hopefully it will tie in nicely with part 2. My reports of the Witham and Lewes away games is from necessity drawn from the match reports provided by Peter Rebak and Paul Lerman. So prior to moving on to the reports I need to announce that Bobby Smith picked up an injury at work and was pronounced unfit at the Witham match. Jack Metcalfe, our under 21 keeper, stepped in for that game. With the club reduced to just the one keeper, Warren Carter has been signed on loan from Wealdstone and made his debut against Lewes.
One trueism in football is that winning runs come to an end – and a Tuesday night in darkest Essex playing Witham Town ended the sequence. It had become a bit embarrassing as some of the fans were asking what had become of ‘Their Wingate’… The side perpetually struggling in a relegation dogfight! We’re not used to beating most of the sides that we’ve shredded so far this season. It was left to Witham Town to bring us back down to earth. One of the newly promoted sides, they have held their own at this higher level by a win and 5 draws and were sitting in mid-table at the time of our visit. Everything about their record so far speaks of a solid defence and our players were to find out how solid as chances proved very difficult to convert with Martyn Guest in the Witham goal putting in a great display during the first half. Shortly after the break Witham took the lead on the 51st minute and could have doubled it during a period of sustained pressure that saw them finish the game as the better side.
Worse was to come on Non-League Day (Saturday 6th September). Our Game at Lewes was picked to highlight the Kick It Out and ‘Fans for Diversity’ campaigns. The Wingate Disability team met their Lewes counterparts for a match prior to the league game at The Dripping Pan and the fans were treated to a 5-5 draw. So far, so good. But the main game was marred by refereeing decisions that skewed the result. The match was very even through much of the first half with both sides having goals disallowed for off-side. Then there were 2 penalty shouts – our David Knight was brought down in the Lewes Box and the referee waved play on and minutes lated Ronayne Marsh-Brown clipped Lewes’ Nathan Crabb in the penalty area and the referee awarded the penalty and sent Ronayne off, reducing the visitors to 10 men. Looks like we’re back to the One-Armed Bandit system of refereeing :-( After that the game became Lewes’ to lose and they made sure of the 3 points by scoring twice in the second half. Wingate didn’t lie down as the 3-0 scoreline may suggest – they created chances throughout the match but couldn’t find the back of the net :-(
On Tuesday (9th September) The Blues were at home for a local derby match against Harrow Borough. Teams and fans always want to win a local derby to have bragging rights over the opposition so in much the same way as with Hendon and Enfield Town, the desire to beat Harrow Borough is very strong – though quite when we get to do the bragging is open to debate ;-) Derby games are usually tight affairs and the results tend to be relatively evenly shared between the rivals over a number of seasons. This is true of Hendon and Enfield Town versus The Blues but Harrow Borough are a different story. Over the last four seasons the teams have played 6 times in the league and twice in cup matches. Of those games one was a draw and the other 7 were wins for Wingate & Finchley. It is a very unusual sequence of results and one that has some of the Boro fans more than a little bit hacked off. Anyway, after the losses at Witham and Lewes the W&F fans and players were keen to get back on track.
The visitors started very brightly with ex-Wingate & Finchley player Spencer Bellotti leading the line. Lofted long balls over the defence were the initial Harrow tactic but The Blues back line made good use of the off-side trap to nullify the tactic. Meanwhile, the blues attacked on the ground through midfield and down both wings. New signing Carl McCluskey twice had opportunities within the area – having one shot cleared of the line and sending another just wide. He also got involved in some of the scrapping in the opposition box when Hot Karl (Oliyide) had the ball pinched off his toes after a good run into the area. On the 19th minute (according to the timekeeper) The Blues took the lead after Ahmet lofted a cross to Nico Muir on the far side of the area. His header looked for all the world and, crucially, to the Harrow keeper like it was intended for the fast approaching David Knight but it was too far ahead for Knighty to be likely to get on the end of it and he’s not that tall anyway! With the keeper stranded by the confusion, the pair of them watched as the ball dipped into the bottom left of the goal and bounced in off the mound of grass around the base of the post. The keeper made a belated diving attempt to hook the ball back over the line but it was already so far over that even Roy Carroll woudn’t have got away with it!
Harrow got a life line on the 25th minute when new Blues keeper Warren Carter had an indecisive moment and left it too late to come for a ball that Weathers’ expected him to close earlier. It resulted in Warren colliding with the Harrow skipper in the area and the referee had little option but to show the red card and send him off while Harrow’s captain received extensive treatment after having the wind knocked out of him. The Penalty was duly awarded and it fell to Jack Metcalfe as substitute keeper to pick the ball out of the net after the spot kick was successfully converted. 1-1 and The Blues down to 10 men. Harrow Borough now pressed on seeking to take advantage of their one man advantage but Wingate weren’t about to crumble under the pressure. They held on to half-time and we all retired to the changing rooms, bar, cafe or conveniences as most appropriate to our needs.
The second half should have been easy for the visitors but it proved to be anything but. Driven by a desire to set the record straight from the previous two games and to demonstrate that the resiliance from earlier games in the season was still there, The Blues drove forwards at every opportunity and The Boro found themselves consistently on the back foot. One of their few attacks was thwarted by Metcalfe who sped forward from his goal and slid in to steal the ball from Bellotti’s feet and prevent any scoring opportunity whilst on another occasion he demonstrated his shot stopping ability by parrying a fierce strike over the bar. It took the entry of Rob Laney as substitute to tip the balance – his pace terrified the borough defence as he chased the whole width of the field. No one was safe on the ball at the back and his persistence wrought dividends as the Harrow defence failed to clear a number of crosses into the area from both wings. In the end some brisk passing involving TeeJay and Marshy gave Fish the opportunity to put a tempting cross in to the box and Laney was there to tap it home to give W&F the lead. Worse was to follow for the visitors as fellow substitute Scott Shulton was presented with a lovely ball from Carl McCluskey and smacked home from close on 20 yards beyond the keeper’s gloves. 3-1 to the home side and a great all round team performance in the face of adversity.
Sometimes you get strange coincidences in sport. In the same fixture last year – Wingate & Finchley finding theselves down to 10 men went on to beat Harrow Borough 3-1. It infurated some of their fans at the time – one of them enough to post on their fan forum the immortal words… “I’m sick and tired of losing to Wingate. They’re utter dross but yet we lose to them every time we play them.” – All I can say is ‘Oh Dear!… Dross down to 10 men and it’s 3-1 again!’ What goes around… Goes around again! Let’s see if we can continue the run of results over at Earlsmead when we meet them again later in the season?