Firstly an apology to those of you who may be wondering about how Wingate & Finchley are getting on. I’ve been short of time in the past couple of weeks and the blog has had to take a back seat to a large extent. Anyway, finally, here we go…
The ten days previous to last Saturday’s game saw two away league matches and a cup match for The Blues. Away to Leatherhead proved to be a disappointing draw after Wingate & Finchley had held a 2 goal lead for much of the match. The Saturday match away at Aveley resulted in a 2-1 victory and a much needed 3 points giving a total of 4 points from a possible 6. I’ll try to cover the cup match later.
Blues fans will recall with a degree of angst the visit to a misty Margate earlier in the season which resulted in a drubbing by the 12 men playing for the home side. With their return visit to the Abrahams Stadium, it was to be hoped that the game would see a much more even handed refereeing performance which, in turn, would allow The Blues to play their football.
Every game of football is unique – ok, the laws of the game provide a semi-rigid structure that is largely repeated in each match. But once the referee blows his whistle for the kick off you have no idea what is going to follow. There have been some brisk starts this season but nothing to compare with this one. In the time it took for me to swap lenses and set up the camera Margate had advanced down the field and scored on the 26th second! Then from the restart The Blues had returned the favour with Leon heading home over an advancing keeper. barely 3 minutes into the match and a 1-1 score line.
The match then settled down and both sides concentrated on playing their football. The quality was good from the teams and it was very much an even end-to-end match. On the 25th minute there was controversy when Leon was tackled in the area. The defender didn’t make contact with the ball at all as he wrapped his leg around Leon to slow his progress into the 6 yard box. The end result was Leon going to ground and the keeper gratefully diving on a slowly rolling ball. I can’t for the life of me see why it wasn’t a penalty – a clear foul on the player in the area without any contact with the ball and a scoring opportunity denied. It was one of those where you’d really like the referee to talk to the fans afterwards and explain what he saw that caused him to wave play on. Knowledge dispels fear – or in this case, doubts about the referee’s competence!
The game returned to the same cut and thrust by both teams and whilst attacks were plentiful, few of them made it into the area or troubled the keepers. It was going to take something a little special to score. It came for The Blues on the 43rd minute. Skipper Danny Neils’ floated in a sublime cross for Gaz, at full stretch, to tip past the keeper with the outside of his boot. We thought it was going to trickle wide but it just crept inside the right hand post.
The chairman has subsequently turned down transfer requests from the Royal and Bolshoi ballet companies – apparently they haven’t got a male lead that can do the splits like that without developing a very pained expression
The Blues could have had another in the dying seconds of the half when another great cross from Danny found Leon Skinner whose header passed agonisingly over the bar. The ref blew for half time and Wingate & Finchley took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room. Whilst the manager talked to the troops in the dressing room, the non-penalty formed a discussion point for fans in the bar.
The second half promised to be yet more of the same. Both sides made good chances early on but as the half wore on Wingate had the better of them and began to dominate the play. Sadly, it was a litany of missed opportunities compounded by stout keeping by Margate’s Simon Overland. Leon Smith had two good one-on-one chances which Overland smothered. Gary Burrell had a great shot tipped over the bar and another blocked by the defenders. There were quiet rumblings of alarm amongst the fans. Leading by a single goal is never a safe position to be in and missed opportunities tend to come back to bite you
Sure enough, in the dying minutes of injury time, Max Mitchell was deemed to have handled in the area by the referee – though most people thought it was ball to hand rather than the other way round – and awarded a penalty to the visitors. 2-2 and barely enough time to mount an attempt to regain the lead before the final whistle was blown. The home side will rue not taking their opportunites – 2 points thrown away as Margate snatched a draw. Plaudits were given to the Margate keeper who kept his side in the game throughout the second half allowing them the opportunity to get a point. Home fans will still feel that the score should have been 3-1 at half time had the referee given Leon’s penalty and once again decisions have played a part in our season. 5 points from a possible 9 in the last three matches but there’s no doubt that a draw is better than a defeat and helps us to retain some distance between us and the relegation zone.
At this time of the season there are often late changes to playing and managerial staff at all levels of the game. A few weeks ago Josh Cooper left to persue his career elsewhere after not getting much first team football. The fans were sorry to see Josh go as he always put in a good effort and punched way above his relatively small size against towering opposition defenders. Quick down the wing with a good crossing foot we’ll miss him. Also leaving is Assistant Manager Tony Faulkner. An opportunity to manage has appeared at near neighbours Cheshunt and we wish him well in his new role.
Coming in on the tail of Gaz Dauti and Leon Fisher is returnee Leon Skinner – (All we need is Leon Osei to come back and we’ll have a full house!). Leon started out at Wingate and Finchley as a 17 year old and has spent time at Potters Bar, Berkhampstead Town and Broxbourne Borough, where I had the chance to photograph him in blue during a pre-season friendly. He looked a good defender then and I’m sure he’ll do a good job for us – this time with the right badge on that blue shirt
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.