Harold Wilson once said “A week is a long time in politics”. As a supporter of Huddersfield Town he no doubt would concur that the week following a terrible performance by your team is a very long one indeed for the loyal fan. Going out in such an inglorious manner as contrived by the Wingate & Finchley team in the FA Cup 1st qualifying round was certainly something to get the fans worrying, especially coming on the back of two league losses as well. I’m sure we all wondered in some of those few moments that are still free in our modern lives just which Wingate & Finchley was going to turn up for the League game against Horsham FC.
Wholesale changes could have been an option I suppose but sometimes it’s good to see the manager keep faith with the team – I believe it helps to maintain confidence among the players. So the front four lined up again – Lewis, Leon, Lairdy and Murat. Jordan lost out in midfield to Ross Parmenter who made his first start alongside the man of mystery himself, Mark Henry. The back four had the same names but the manager must have done some Origami with the team sheet because Danny Neils’ moved to right-back and Marc Weatherstone moved to centre half alongside Bobby Aisien with Wrighty patrolling the left.
A silence for Alan Mitchell was held prior to the kick off with his family joining the teams and officials on the pitch. The depth of feeling within the club remains and was evidenced the following Monday when a large number of players (past and present), officials and fans gathered in support of Alan’s family at St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery to say their final farewells.
The kick-off saw an immediate display of attacking spirit from The Blues and Horsham were caught cold. In the sixth minute Leon began a dance on the edge of the area, drawing The Hornets defence into a swarm around him before, wrong-footing them, he found a small opening and shot past the keeper to open the scoring. On the scoreboard early doors again – it was this sort of start that won us our first four games 🙂 Leon would get another chance just a few minutes later but this time The Hornets keeper made a solid save.
Around 20 minutes into a half that had become very even between the teams, Horsham scored to equalise with a beautiful strike from outside the box by Ray Freeman that curled away from Bobby and into the net. They could have taken the lead on the 29th minute when The Hornets number 11, Tony Nwachukwu, struck a curling shot towards the top right-hand corner that Bobby Smith was just able to palm away – not sure if Weathers’ touched it with his head on the way through as well (I’ll have to ask him).
On the 33rd minute – or so the official report tells me and confirmed by the time of firing the shutter – Bobby Aisien put Mark Henry through and he was unlucky not to beat the keeper – the shot passing beneath his body but slowed sufficiently by contact with his leg for him to be able push it onto the post at the second attempt. Unfortunately for Horsham, Leon was steaming in and was able to nick his second despite a challenge from the defender. I do feel for Mark – I don’t think he’s ever been on the scoresheet – but he’s had 3 good chances recently and sooner or later it’s going to come good for him 🙂
The Blues then continued to press into the Horsham area forcing a couple of corners then, from another corner in the 40th minute Lewis Jones swung in a well weighted ball towards the players on the edge of the area. The ball found Weathers’, standing around a yard inside the edge of the box. I’d love to do the ‘He rose like a Salmon’ bit at this point but his feet barely left the ground as he stooped to power the ball goalwards with his forehead. We always praise those beautiful clean strikes of the ball that lead to a goal. Headers often get little in the way of praise – it is, after all, Football that the guys are playing. But this was so beautifully timed, in the manner of a stroke by the finest of cricketers, that it carried all the power of the initial cross combined with that imparted by Weathers’ himself to fly into the top corner defeating the best efforts of Hornets keeper Matt Armstrong-Ford, who I think got a glove to it, and the defender on the near post by its sheer pace! An amazing headed goal from so far out 🙂 3-1 at the half-time whistle.
Half-time saw my usual swift pint in the bar replaced by a photographic sojourn on the pitch. Wingate & Finchley were hosting a 5-a-side pan-disability tournament and I was asked to take some photos of the winners and runners-up. This is part of the club’s involvement with Barnet Mencap and the Down Syndrome Association in line with the club’s aim to offer sporting opportunities to as wide a section of the community as possible. Barnet Mencap have been coming to matches a few times a season for a couple of years now and a number of their people are known to us and can be found chatting with the regulars in the bar at half-time. It was great to see the Enfield Mencap crowd again too! It’s good therapy for us all – breaking down the barriers in society 🙂
The visitors were quick to score after the break. A long throw into the area caused so much confusion that the official match reports from the clubs differ as to how the ball found its way to the feet of Russell Eldridge. He had sufficient time to pick his spot at the far post and he side-footed it home leaving Bobby with no chance. Horsham continued to attack and had much the better of the second half creating a number of chances. Bobby Smith made a great save from a point-blank header and also dealt with two one-on-one situations immaculately to keep the lead for Wingate & Finchley. A corner lofted into the area evaded everyone including Bobby and bounced just wide of the far post with Wrighty glad to see it go out – you don’t want balls bouncing around your feet when you’re working the line!
Despite all their efforts, The Hornets were unable to find the equaliser and we were pleased to come away with all the points for a 3-2 victory. We had some sympathetic words with the Horsham players afterwards as they certainly deserved to get something out of the game. I’ve finished off this post on Tuesday and tonight we are at home again to Billericay Town. Lets hope we can carry forward the positives of the result against Horsham and put in a convincing performance on a night when The Blues meet The Blues – confusing isn’t it? 😉
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.