… and into the Dripping Pan! I can’t believe that I’m just sitting down now to write up a report of last Saturday’s game against Lewes. I guess I’ve just had too many other things to do in the past week and it’s just as well that we don’t have a match today! All I can do is apologise to those of you who kindly take an interest in the ups and downs of Wingate & Finchley FC.
Throughout a season – mentioned a couple of months back – there are inevitable changes in playing personnel. Players come and go for a variety of reasons but mostly because they want to be playing every match and that just isn’t possible. We were recently informed that Joe O’Brien had left the club – sent off in the Wealdstone match, he has not been able to get back into the first team. Popular with the fans, Joe’s cheeky grin will be missed. The rumour mill also suggests that David Laird may have moved on too – I hope that is not the case as he provides a good foil to Leon’s pace with his ability to hold up the ball. Sam Sloma left a few weeks back – again, almost certainly due to not enough first team football. Murat has been sent out on loan to Harlow Town so that he can get more playing time. Meanwhile, Lewis Jones is coming back from injury and is nearly fully fit. Gary Burrell returned from loan to aid recovery following an operation on his foot. So that sets the scene for our match against The Rooks.
After the previous week’s debacle at Margate we travelled south perhaps hoping for something better – well, at least a referee that would give the game a chance and allow football to be played. Once again I travelled on a service from Victoria, this time on a Southern class 377 electric multiple unit – actually very much a member of the same family as the class 375 that I included a photo of in my previous post. Arrival at Lewes was slightly delayed following the failure of a preceding service at Wivelsfield but we were still in plenty of time for the match with the ground being only around 200 yards from the station. The South Mimms transport minicoach was sitting in Station Road, so we knew the team had arrived safely ahead of us 🙂
I had been looking forward to visiting The Dripping Pan – Lewes FC’s home since 1885 – for quite a while. Their exploits are faithfully recorded by one of their fans through The Ball Is Round. It is clear from his writings that Lewes FC and their fans have a great attitude to football – I felt that we would feel welcome there. I was not disappointed – Good beer in the bar; Approached by a local fan with some friendly guidance about the facilities; Excellent home made mammoth sized Scotch Eggs from the tea bar – Supporter heaven 🙂
Let me spoil the tension at this point by revealing to those not already in the know that the match turned out to be a 0 – 0 draw. It is a habit in the UK media and amongst fans to describe such a result as being a ‘Bore Draw’. Nothing could have been further from the truth in this match. We were treated to a fine end-to-end game with each side having good chances to score. In the first half The Rooks had the best of the play and probably should have gone ahead in the 13th minute when they put the ball in the net only to have the goal disallowed for offside. My gut reaction from behind the camera was that is was a fair goal. Talking to Dave (father of defender Marc Weatherstone) immediately afterwards as play resumed with a free kick, he also felt that the goal was on side and that the linesman had got it wrong. In fairness it was a very tight decision and we were pleased to get the benefit of the doubt after last weekend’s rubbish.
Although Lewes continued to have the better of the play, Leon pulled a great individual maneouvre out front to find some free space and struck a beautiful shot that deserved a goal but struck the inside of the upright with the keeper beaten to come back out again on almost the same trajectory – we’re talking millimetres here between a ball that comes out or ricochets in! Almost before we knew it the ref was blowing for half time – that’s the measure of a great match! Back to the bar for a second pint of the excellent local brew – Harvey’s Sussex Old Ale 🙂
The second half saw a change in fortunes. It was now Wingate & Finchley who created most chances. Lewis Jones who had returned to the line-up for the first time after injury gave way to Gary Burrell – see above. Lewis was a bit disappointed by this and we had a quick chat as he passed me on his way from the changing room back to the dugout. I commiserated but reminded him that it was his first game back and half a match was better than no match, which seemed a reasoned response whilst trying to wave a heavy piece of glass around 😉 I’m always happy to talk with the players and actually very surprised/pleased that some of them want to talk to me so if that sounds like a put down, it wasn’t. It was just a statement of fact that my days work was ongoing with photos to be captured for the club. I can be a bit short in those circumstances 😦
As The Blues pressed forwards Gary had a great chance of a one-on-one with The Rooks keeper. It came down to a matter of centimetres as to who got to the ball first but the keeper beat him to it and Gary wound up doing a base over apex as he was tripped by the keepers gloves. This was a great example of the beauty of the game played that day – no silly refereeing or linesmans decisions. At the Margate Match this could well have been a penalty and a sending off but here the referee looked at the challenge and made the correct decision – no foul. He didn’t get everything right – see the disallowed goal in the first half – and he missed a clear penalty for Ahmet late in the second half but his performance in the game was generally excellent. He allowed the game to flow and only blew up for a foul when it was absolutely necessary – isn’t that what football is about? For 85 of the 90 minutes he was invisible whilst retaining control of the game – that’s what the fans expect from a referee! In the end the refereeing performance resulted in both teams having the chance to win whilst allowing the game to flow – well done Ref and assistants 🙂
Talking to one of the Lewes fans in the last minutes of the game, he felt that we should have won it. Leon had chances that perhaps he should have taken – but my photos show very good closing down by the Lewes defenders so that’s a moot point. We all know that strikers go through periods where it just doesn’t happen for them and Leon appears to be having one of those at the moment. He did score in a cup match the following Tuesday, so hopefully that will kickstart his scoring again.
In the end 0-0 was a fair result. I can only reiterate what a great bunch of fans the Lewes faithful were – they applauded good play by both teams and were open in seeking a chat with the visiting fans. The ground was swarming with children – evidence that their encourage families policy is working 🙂 What a great place to visit and watch football!
After the game we were treated to an unusual experience as our manager – usually very reticent – gave an insight into the relative funding for managers of clubs at this level. Without going into the true figures that he mentioned regarding other managers budgets it was clear that, by comparison, Wingate & Finchley is run on a shoe string (supplied by Soccerkits?) and the currency seems to be Farthings 😉 In truth, the club is largely run on the premise that new talent can be brought through by having a positive youth policy. I happen to agree with the chairman that growing your own players is the right way for the club as money doesn’t grow on trees – the club can’t afford debts if it is to survive. It’s fair to say that a few of the fans don’t agree with this policy – there’s always room for debate! All of which means a lengthy struggle this season but I have to praise the players, both in the first team and in the reserves, for their response through the first third of the season. Those who aren’t seeing as much first team as they would like at present will almost certainly find themselves in the front line as the injuries and suspensions kick in.
Game over and farewells to The Rooks done, Noel and myself found ourselves being dragged up a fiercely steep hill by Dave to catch up with some of the Manc brigade who’d decamped earlier to watch the match on tv in town. They all legged it after the televised match finished leaving Noel and myself to wander back via another hostelry before catching our train by which time the mist was coming down over a fine afternoon and evening’s entertainment. Lewes is a great old town – I’m looking forward to another visit next season if we can stay up!
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.