Last Sunday Woking FC won promotion via the play-offs from the Blue Square South. What’s he talking about, my UK footie readers will be thinking – it’s not even halfway through the season! I was, of course, playing as manager of Woking FC on Football Manager – the SI Games computer simulation 🙂 Very pleased to have gained promotion but that’s the fantasy part of this post (or, at least, I hope it is!). The Fun came in two bursts – the first was on Tuesday Night and the mention of Football Manager was deliberate because on Tuesday we played AFC Wimbledon in the London Senior Cup and the makers of Football Manager are their sponsors. Hows that for a lead in? TV and Film people thoughout the world – eat your hearts out 😉
This was an eagerly anticipated match for Wingate & Finchley both as a potential spectacle and as a money spinner. Sadly, I don’t think it met the latter criteria as the attendance was not particularly good but as a match it was a good one 🙂 It began with lots of pressure from Wimbledon who were playing a good proportion of their first team squad rather than their reserve and youth teams. Under this initial pressure our defence looked uncoordinated and the visitors took advantage when Ryan Jackson got clear for a second time and was able to round Gavin in goal to score the opening goal on the 17th minute. There could have been more goals too but for some excellent keeping by Gavin, in for Bobby Smith who was serving a 1 match ban for the professional foul at Margate. After the goal The Blues defence got their act together and the game settled down to become a more even contest. Almost before we knew it the whistle was blown for the end of the first half – always the sign of a good match!
In the second half Wingate & Finchley had the better of the play and put a great deal of pressure on the Wimbledon defence, who rose to the challenge. Even so, it looked like The Blues had the chance of taking the game to extra time or possibly even winning it! Gary Burrell had an excellent chance to strike after Josh found him on the edge of the area but hesitated and the gap closed. When he did shoot, the ball lofted high off a defenders leg and fell towards Leon in the middle of the area. You could feel the tension as he rose to head it in company with two defenders. He beat them to the ball but couldn’t get over it and his header looped over the crossbar and landed on the roof of the net. It was one of those moments when you’re left thinking ‘anyone but Leon’ – He has scored one with his head this season but it’s definitely not his weapon of choice. I think all his goals last season were scored with his feet.
It was an ‘if only that had fallen to Ahmet or Weathers’ moment – of course there’s no guarantee that they would have scored either and maybe I should just put it down to good pressure by the defenders that caused the miss 😉
Managers sometimes look for players that can get on the end anything in the penalty area when there is a melee in front of goal – they usually refer to such a player as a ‘Fox in the Box’. Wingate & Finchley had their own Fox in the Box in the second half – I suspect his name was Basil and he had a brush for a tail. In fact two Foxes entered the pitch on the west side. Realising there was a game going on, one jumped back over the wall and left the ground at that point. The other ran straight through the penalty area in front of the bemused Wimbledon keeper and Wingate Fans before ducking out through the groundsmans gate and leaving via the main entrance. I don’t know if Aron was able to get his signature on the way past 😉
It was left to Josh – architect of the previous chance – to level the match. Pouncing on a defensive error outside the box with 10 minutes to go, he got clear of the centre-half, clocked that Turner was off his line and let loose a delightful chip over the stranded keeper and into the back of the net. 1 – 1 and the feeling that if Wingate could find a gap in the defence, Wimbledon were there for the taking. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialise and the fans were faced with another 30 minutes of extra time on a night that was rapidly becoming frosty – shades of the Harrow matches of the previous season, when we were debating abandoning the match in favour of settling the tie with a game of darts in a local hostelry!
The first 15 minutes of extra time presented a copy of Josh’s wonderful strike when Keiron lost his footing on the dew covered turf allowing Brendan Kiernan to get a clear sight of goal. Spotting Gavin off his line, he too executed a delightful chip to score from almost the exact same spot as Josh! Sadly that was to put an end to any giant killing dreams of The Blues faithful. The only things of note in the second half of extra time were a floodlight failure, caused by a spike on the mains when the streets outside the ground suffered a power cut (the lights were successfully restarted) and the sending off of Ahmet with a second yellow card – the challenge was probably not deserving of a card and certainly looked worse than it was. But the ref, having let Ahmet off for a previous dodgy challenge after Danny Neilson intervened, clearly felt that enough was enough!
So we dropped out of the London Senior Cup. Losing 2-1 to a professional team 4 divisions above you can only be viewed as an honourable defeat and the players should be proud of their efforts. Our next match would be a league game at Carshalton Athletic – I intended to go to that match but on the evening before I attended the Lords Christmas Gathering (that second bit of fun mentioned at the start). It’s a once a year event where those of us who worked in the telephone exchange on Hall Road get together to discuss old times over a few beers. My good intentions of staying for a couple of hours went out of the window and I wound-up leaving somewhat later than intended. The result was that I decided not to travel to the Carshalton game after all. I didn’t miss much!
We were defeated 3-0 after Ahmet (again) got himself sent off in the first half. The story behind the incident is that one of the opposition players punched Ahmet in the face and he then protested to the referee. The ref told him to go away – presumably because he hadn’t seen the offence and therefore couldn’t act on it. At this point Ahmet swore at him and received a straight red card for Foul and Abusive Language 😦 When you see Ahmet in action you can see the latent skill that saw him playing as a regular in the England Under 17 squad. He should really be playing at a much higher level than with us. It is this lack of discipline that has let him down so that in his mid-twenties he finds himself playing non-league football. The trouble is that while we were playing in Division 1 North the occasional indescretion was not too difficult to cover for. Now we’re in the Premier Division, we can’t afford such luxuries. Ahmet has been with the club so long now that he is very much a part of the family and perhaps it is time for the head of the family to quietly explain to him the responsibilities of adulthood – over to you Mr. Chairman, Sir!
In the meantime, the club continues to struggle after the good start. I have a view on a couple of contributing factors that I hope to discuss in a separate post.
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.