On the 14th of January The Blues travelled to Billericay – it was an away game that I couldn’t get to due to some essentail things that needed doing at home. It was always going to be difficult to get a result there – Ballericay are challengiong for the title – but the end result at 2-0 wasn’t exactly as bad as it looks. No one likes to lose and it doesn’t help when you have a penalty given against you in the first half – we’ve been making a habit of giving those away recently However, there were two positives. At least the first one is and the second may be. Those fans that were able to get there tell me that the team looked much more solid in possession and had most of the play – the concensus was that on another day the result might well have been different. Both the ‘Ricay goals came from set pieces. The pundits often say that it’s easier to defend against a set piece and they usually get on the backs of a team that fails to prevent a goal in those circumstances – personally I think they’re talking out of the wrong end of the microphone – the attackers have all the advantage on their side and usually have some well practised moves to gain the upper hand. So positive number 1 – Much more solid performance and plenty of attacking without being opened up at the back.
What was the second positive? Billericay are the last match for a while against teams at the top of the table. Ahead are matches against teams that are sharing the Davey Jones’ Locker end of the table with us. All the matches will be genuine 6 pointers with every chance to build some clear blue water between us and them.
First up then last Saturday were Leatherhead, one place below us. We should have played them away much earlier in the season but due to cup commitments that game was postponed so we’re actually going to play them twice in the next few weeks. Anyway, they duly turned up at our ground with a good number of fans in tow. The importance of the match was not lost on any of us but that didn’t stop some friendly discussion before and during the game.
Wingate & Finchley lined up with a slightly unusual formation at the back – Weathers’ moving to the centre alongside Bobby Aisien while Danny Neils’ moved to right back. In the central midfield, new signing Gazmend Dauti lined up with Ross Parmenter whilst Lairdy partnered Leon up front.
The first half proved to be a great attacking performance by the home side and The blues had so much control of the game that the Leatherhead manager could be heard Shouting at his team words to the effect of ‘Are you having a joke with me!’ He was clearly incensed with their performance and often stepped beyond the bounds of his technical area – twice invading the pitch itself and having to be called back by the linesman. Even our own manager was gripped by the sense of occasion and spent more time on the edge of his technical area than is normal!
Leon scored for The Blues on the 9th minute according to Harvey’s watch (the camera says it was the 7th, but it may be a couple of minutes out! Ross Parmenter battled with the opposition right back before hefting in a cross against the brisk southwesterly wind from close to the corner flag. Leon, challenged by two defenders got his head on the ball. It may then have taken a deflection off one of the defenders, as it bounced without much power into the bottom right hand corner of the goal with the keeper unable to get to it.
Cue immediate protests from the Keeper and defenders – they were certain that the flight of the ball had taken it over the byline for a goalkick. It didn’t matter, the linesman felt that the ball was good and the referee pointed to the centre spot. Our fans, lined up behind the goal, conceded that the visitors may have been right. But we’ve had so many decisions that have gone against us this season that we’ll take the odd one that goes our way As to the header – I don’t remember Leon scoring with his head at all last season and I think that’s his third this time around so it’s getting to be a habit! Must be an area of his game that he’s been working on
The rest of the half was all Wingate… I don’t think Bobby Smith touched the ball more than twice. It was a fantastically solid performance by the defence and midfield upon which a string of attacks were built. David Laird could easily have had a brace of goals, hitting the left hand upright with one shot and squeezing the ball just wide of the right hand post on another occasion. Leon nearly doubled his tally when he and the Leatherhead keeper challenged for the ball on the edge of the area – the ball squeezed out to the right hand side but fell kindly for one of the chasing defenders. Bobby Aisien – briefly abandoning his defensive duties – couldn’t quite wrap his foot around a fast moving ball to put it away at the near post. There were other chances too! Going in at half time the general opinion was that we could have been 3-0 up rather than 1-0. Looking at the photos from that half, I’d say that was a conservative estimate! On another day…
Fans standing in the queue for tea at half time reported that the opposing manager could be heard quite clearly through the walls of the away dressing room giving his team the ‘Ferguson’ hairdrier treatment. Meanwhile, in the home dressing room Danny Neils’ was substituted by Ola after injuring his hamstring late in the first half – he reckon’s it just a tweak and he should be fit for the next match. We had a giggle about all the extra running he was doing down the wing, but it was probably a stretch to keep the ball in play that caused it.
The second half was more of the same with The Blues having most of the play. Much of it came to nothing as the fired-up Leatherhead keeper put on a great display – often nicking the ball off Leon’s toes as he rushed in. There was one scare for the home side when one of the leatherhead forwards broke free and advanced at speed towards goal. It was dealt with by the Bobbies – Aisien putting in enough of a challenge to buy Smith time to come out and make the block. It was the only real save that Bobby had to make in the whole match!
In the final minutes Lairdy took to holding up the ball near the corner post to run the clock down. This resulted in a moment guaranteed to give the fans a laugh. He passed to Tony Burke who, seeing an opportunity to win a corner off one of the defenders, smacked the ball back very hard. It missed the defender but struck Lairdy and he doubled up in agony before collapsing on the ground – a serious injury? No but very painful and I don’t think he’ll be bothering the young ladies for a couple of days! He left the pitch after the match doing a good impression of the SuperMac stride
So, a 1-0 victory and lots of positives to take from the game. Solid defending and good challenging prevented Leatherhead from getting a foothold in the game whilst providing a good springboard for the attackers. Only a single goal, but the team showed that they could hold onto that lead while still creating attacking opportunities. More performances like this one and the goals will come – there’s no doubt about that
Today, we’re off to Harrow Borough. The last three times the teams have met the games have been draws. Who’s to say that this time Wingate & Finchley can’t come away with the spoils… Fingers crossed!
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.