On Saturday The Blues travelled to Kingstonian for their next league match. Both sides have been struggling in recent weeks though The K’s had a good win away at Harrow Borough the previous Tuesday. I travelled to the ground using public transport – it’s actually a relatively quick journey from Finchley to Norbiton using the Underground and South West Trains. Leaving my home at 12:30 I was at the ground just after 14:00 despite stopping to take a few photographs on the way from the station. An easier journey than the one to Hornchurch! Ironically, Noel and I were on the same train without knowing it – he took a wrong turn somewhere and arrived at the ground a few minutes after me without stopping to take photos! I commiserated with him over a pint as we watched the end of the Arsenal v Chelsea match on tv 🙂
The first thing that becomes apparent to the visiting fan is that this venue is also home to AFC Wimbledon of League Division 2 – a professional club with some history. Those who don’t know anything about this particular slice of English football history should look up Wimbledon FC, MK Dons, Dave Beasant and the 1988 FA Cup Final as a starting point 😉 The advertising around the ground includes hoardings for that most compulsive of computer simulations – Football Manager by Sports Interactive. They have been the main sponsor of AFC Wimbledon since the club was formed. All of which means that we would be playing on a pitch as good as if not better than our own – now that’s an unusual scenario! Note to self – who did Wimbledon beat in the 1988 cup final? Liverpool… Uh Oh! I’d better give Noel a wide berth after he’s read this 😉
Inside the ground and as anticipated, the pitch did not disappoint – it was like a billiard table. The main stand area does not permit standing. Such is the way with English terminology at football grounds…You want to stand, you go to one of the other three sides of the pitch! A stroll towards the west end of the ground revealed that the area in front of the terraces is sunken, giving a nice low angle view of the players. I would ask the Chairman for similar facilities at Wingate but I suspect he’d have a fit of apoplexy 😉
The game kicked off with bright sunshine over 3/4’s of the pitch but deep shadow at the south-western end where Wingate were defending. An early chance fell to Kingstonian with a headed attempted that was struck too sharply downwards and bounced way over the bar with Bobby watching it carefully. With play moving fluidly from end to end another chance fell to The Blues at the other end as Tony Burke pinched the ball and made a crisp pass to Ahmet who made the most of the opportunity of a one-on-one with the keeper to score!
As the play moved briskly around the pitch it became apparent that the referee was having trouble keeping up with the play and there were some odd decisions that the players and fans struggled to understand. Kingstonian were unlucky when Bobby Traynor struck the woodwork with an outrageous volley, struck with both feet off the ground. Somehow he kept it down and it would have been a wondrous goal had it been a couple of inches to the right! A couple of other shots went close too but an injudicious tackle by a K’s defender on Mark Henry in the 25th minute caused the ref to blow up for a free kick. I thought it was a bit harsh personally.
The resulting free kick was struck firmly by Tony Burke and the spin imparted by his boot created a strong curve to the shot which carried it around a Kingstonian player and pulled it back far enough to strike the inside of the right hand post before burying itself into the side netting on the left – never mind bend it like Beckham… Bend it like Burke was the order of the day! A second goal for The Blues and the irony is that if the defender hadn’t moved it would probably have struck his left leg – but the act of jumping bent it sufficiently to allow the ball clear passage 🙂
The refereeing decisions continued to amaze though… On the 31st minute, Jordan strikes a ball forwards in the midfield and an opposition midfielder runs into him after the ball has been cleared and falls over. The ref blows up to give a free kick to the K’s and books Jordan – what was that all about? It’s a ridiculous piece of refereeing and smacks of total incompetence. It was one of many decisions taken throughout the match that had both sides players and fans frustrated and confused.
The rest of the first half passed without futher incident and we all retired for a 15 minute break before returning to the fray. Although the day was progressing towards evening it was still a warm and bright late October afternoon as the teams returned to the pitch. The shadow over the south-west end of the ground had lengthened almost to the halfway line and the weather was hinting at overnight rain as occassional patches of cloud blotted out the sun momentarily.
What followed was almost a mirror image of the first half. The refereeing continued to give cause for concern as at first the ref blew his whistle for almost anything that happened and then, for some reason, stopped blowing for anything at all. There was a period of around fifteen minutes when it was like a no-holds barred wrestling contest out there with players tugging each other to the ground and not a single peep out of the referee! It is a credit to the players of both teams that nothing really silly happened as the ref ran around ‘in absentia’ – with different teams playing it could have degenerated into a brawl 😦
Both teams continued to have chances though Kingstonian now looked the better of the two. In the 68th minute the home side clawed their way back into the game with a beautiful strike from Sam Clayton that gave Bobby no chance. Only a couple of minutes later, the referee remembered where he’d put his whistle and blew up for a foul by Jordan on the edge of the area. He waved the yellow card followed by the red for a second bookable offence. Of course, the first offence didn’t actually happen except for somewhere in the dark recesses of the referee’s troubled mind but that doesn’t matter – he had to go 😦 Tom Bird fired home the equaliser for the K’s and the sides were level on the scoresheet but Wingate & Finchley were down to 10 men.
The rest of the half initially saw chances at both ends but as the game wore on The Blues gradually conceded space to the home side and the play mainly concentrated in their half. Kingstonian pressed but were unable to find a winner and the game ended at 2-2. For the Wingate fans it felt like a draw had been snatched from the jaws of victory whilst the K’s fans felt that they should have gone on to win after the sending off.
There was a certain symmetry about the match: –
2 goals scored in each half.
2 of those goals scored from free kicks.
All the goals scored at the same end of the pitch.
The fans of both sides united in the belief that the refereeing performance was very poor.
The singular thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the sending off. I have to feel for Jordan. He can be a bit of a ref-magnet and sometimes it is his own fault – retaliating for a punch in a match against Enfield town for example, which earned him a straight red card. But on this occasion he was innocent of the offence in the first half for which he received his first yellow card and having struggled to get back into the side after a hamstring injury finds himself facing an immediate one match ban. Unfortunately there is no appeal process for the two yellow cards sending off 😦
A point from a possible three then, but I think that with some of our recent results the fans were ultimately happy with that. Despite the refereeing performance the teams put on a compelling game of football for our enjoyment and I look forward to the return fixture later in the season as I expect it to be a fine match! Next Saturday sees us playing Concord Rangers at home – almost certain to be a rough and tumble game that one, if past meetings are a guide.
One of the below is a foul – I’ll let the armchair referees amongst you decide which…
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.