What Goes Around… Goes Around Again (Part 2)

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?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

When I visited Zimbabwe after meeting my Wife I stayed on my Mother-in-Law’s farm. Each day I found myself involved in the day-to-day activities of the farm and got to know several of the workers personally. The initial barriers of being the Son-in-Law were broken down by my willingness to get involved in the activities that the workers were required to do. It gave me an understanding of the difference between their lives and my own – between semi-mechanised arable farming and getting hi-tech telecomms services delivered to major businesses, between living in a suburban street and living in a circular mud hut. Their life was so much physically harder than mine but I suspect that mine was significantly more stressful with responsibilities that they did not have. The hardest thing I had to overcome was getting them to understand, “I’m not Boss… I’m Martin”

Sadly, AIDS is rife in southern Africa and I know that several of the people in these images have passed on in the years since they were taken.

You can read about the Weekly Photo Challenge at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/humanity/

What Goes Around… Goes Around Again (Part 1)

The period before the first FA Cup games is always hectic with most Ryman League clubs playing on Saturdays and Tuesdays through August and early September. Having made a good start over the first 4 games of the season it was important to push on and consolidate our position. Especially as Autumn is here and old man Winter is not too far away now – the weather can bring serious disruption to fixtures, skewing results and breaking up the momentum created in the early part of the season.

The first match in this sequence was the Bank Holiday Saturday home game against Tonbridge Angels. It was the first time our sides have played each other so it was a bit of a journey into the unknown for everyone. As an aside, it occurred to me that a great Halloween fixture would be Tonbridge Angels v Crouch End Vampires ;-) Tonbridge had the better start with the sun beaming down on them and Keiran and and loanee James Kaloczi (of St Albans City) were very busy for the first 20 minutes of the game, doing a good job of protecting Bobby in the Wingate Goal. Then, against the run of play, The Blues broke free with a crisp pinpoint pass from Fish to find Karl Oliyide on the wing. He steamed forwards before delivering an excellent pass to David Knight on the edge of the six yard box. Knighty made no mistake, smashing the ball past the diving keeper and into the top right of the net. Buoyed with confidence from the goal The Blues now pressed forwards, winning three corners in quick succession, and only 5 minutes later TeeJay collected a loose ball following a scramble in the area and spun 180 degrees to smack it home past the helpless Merson in the Angel’s goal. And that was that – Wingate settled back to soak up the pressure with their 2 goal lead and although there was plenty of action it was the last of the scoring. Another 3 points for the home side.

Bank Holiday Monday was a local derby against Enfield town at their Queen Elizabeth Stadium. I haven’t begun attending away games yet as Epi is still recovering from her operation. On this occasion I was pleased to be constrained to staying at home – the weather was ‘typical August Bank Holiday’ – A Biblical deluge which had me worried that the car would float off the drive! From the match report I see that Wingate took control of the match in the first half, scoring 3 goals with Karl Oliyide, James Kaloczi and Rob Laney each finding the net. Then things took an unsavoury turn with the Enfield Town manager being sent off by the referee on the stroke of half-time. It would appear that this was as a result of a remark of an anti-semitic nature and it speaks volumes that the Enfield Town board moved quickly to dismiss their manager following the game. The matter is now in the hands of the FA via the match officials report. The second half proved to be different from the first with Enfield staging a comeback which just fell short of attaining a draw – the game ended 3-2 to the visitors. Another, sadly tainted, 3 points.

Next up was a visit by our old sparring partners AFC Hornchurch. The Urchins have been one of our bogey teams for a while – I can’t remember when we last beat them. It often looks a bit ‘David & Goliath’ – they’re a big bruising unit of a team. This season though, things would be different. The Urchins were sitting bottom of the table and as one of their fans remarked “We can’t buy a goal for luv nor money”. It doesn’t help that they haven’t been able to play games at their own stadium because the floodlights are in the process of being replaced – so every game has been an away game. You have to feel sympathy for a team and its supporters in that situation :-( Anyway, true to form, the game was a bruising one with two Wingate players having to be substituted with injuries and a flurry of 8 yellow cards issued by the referee – ironically 5 of them to our players who were often on the receiving end of illegal challenges that the ref seemed blind to. The result of an even game, in which both teams had good chances, hinged on a single quality long pass by TeeJay through the midfield to find Karl on the left wing. Angling in towards goal he rode an attempted clattering of a challenge from an Urchins defender before lobbing the keeper to score on the 18th minute and earn The Blues the points. Maybe that’s finally broken the Hornchurch Hex?

After this game The Blues found themselves looking down from the lofty heights of third in the league. I’ll continue the story of the next three matches in another post – in the meantime here are some images from the games against The Angels and The Urchins…

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