So there we were – somewhere in Saxon England. Middlesex to be precise or maybe not as nowadays that former county (once the second smallest in England) exists only as an optional line in postal addresses and in the names of certain revered bodies such as the Middlesex County Cricket Club. In truth, we didn’t need to come to Harrow to find evidence of our Saxon heritage as Finchley was also a part of Middlesex and still displays the Three Seaxes on some of its bridges, but we had to come anyway to fulfil a fixture in the London Senior Cup. Then, we’ll be back again next Tuesday to play each other in the Ryman League Cup. It’s somewhat ironic that the one cup we’re not meeting in is the Middlesex Senior Cup – perhaps next season?
Being a cup match we knew we were in for the long haul, extra time and penalties if it was a stalemate. There was an immediate surprise for us Wingate & Finchley supporters as the teams took the pitch – no Gavin in goal – a new keeper we’d never seen before was pulling on the gloves!
The first half was pretty even with both sides creating chances in a game that was enjoyable end to end stuff. The Boro’ scored first with a looping header defeating our keeper under the crossbar and would have had a second soon after but for a spectacular fingertip save. ‘Your keeper’s good’ said a Boro’ supporter – ‘I dunno, we’ve never seen him before’ was my response.
The second half started much the same as the first, end to end, though it was W & F’s turn to get a goal with Lewis smacking home a pass from Ahmet. Gradually W & F got the upper hand and the later stages of the half were mainly at the Boro’ end with them trying to hit us on the break. Both keepers got to make some more good saves. But the feeling among W & F fans was that we should have won it then with Sam’s strike from the edge of the area being beaten out by their keeper.
While the players chased the ball back and forth, the mercury plummeted and a few white flakes drifted ground wards. Groups of supporters from both sides were now begging for someone, anyone, from either side to score! It was suggested that we should retire to the pub and decide it over a game of darts. Then the moment we were all dreading, the final whistle and extra-time.
As the players gathered around their respective coaching teams, the referee and his assistants sought some neutral ground near the centre of the pitch and the supporters ducked off to the toilets (the cold shrinks the bladder, or at least that’s my excuse). While waiting for play to restart, I watched a Chinese sky lantern drift overhead – a lucky omen for someone? – perhaps for Boro’ – they have a young Japanese player who looks frighteningly fast down the wing!
With neither side able to press home any form of advantage, though Leon went close for us, the minutes of extra time ground down to the bitter conclusion – penalties.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Bobby Smith stepped up to the plate to become an instant W & F legend making 3 saves to put us through to the next round. Gavin, you may have finally got some real competition for that jersey!
Anyway, after a trip to the other Seaxe county on Saturday (weather permitting) we will return to Harrow Borough next Tuesday – when they will no doubt be seeking payback :-0
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.