Awaiting the start of a new season gets to the fans and players alike. Whilst the Fans look with anticipation or trepidation depending on their mood, the players look at their fitness and how well the team is knitting together. It’s the same at all levels of the game – players and fans unsure of the future…
Saturday saw The Blues line up against Maidenhead United FC of the Conference South – not the MUFC from up north that a couple of fans might have liked to see 😉 These are really solid opposition to be treated with respect and would provide a good workout for the team. This was the first and only home game of the pre-season friendlies too – so the pitch was the first thing to grab my attention. It is a beautiful emerald green, belying the long dry spell that we have recently experienced. There are a few problem areas, or so the groundsman tells me, but overall I reckon it’s the best I’ve seen it. Actually, one of the more immediate problem areas was an erection issue (prescribed medicines weren’t going to solve this one) – the goal at the north end just wouldn’t fit together! I spent a few minutes watching the groundsman and his colleague working under a barrage of incoming crosses from Gavin as new goalkeeper signing Cain Davies warmed up. Gavin is an expert in delivering the under-the-crossbar cross and I wonder if we should consider playing him on the wing occasionally – that would confuse the opposition 😉
I was pleased to see Wrighty and Mark Henry back in our ranks and although Mark didn’t make the final cut, Wrighty came on for a cameo performance late in the second half. Ahmet and Kieron were loitering by the dugout, both with injuries. Ahmet expects to be back to fitness in around 2 weeks whilst Kieron has another 7 weeks of recovery ahead of him. I also bumped into Bobby Aisien in the bar and he has had the same knee issue as Kieron but hopes to be fit again soon.
Anyway, the teams took to the pitch and within the first 5 minutes of the kick-off it was apparent that Maidenhead have class. They looked fast and strong with a good passing game. Cain endured a baptism of fire – forced to make save after save as The Magpies comandeered the just about all of the play. There were occasional forays by Wingate but nothing much seemed to be working and the home side looked like they were still in the changing room. Eventually the pressure told and the inevitable first goal came from a corner in the 30th minute which Malcolm headed home at the near post. One-nil to the visitors but it should have been more!
Finally, The Blues started to string some passes together and get a foothold in the game. Leon had an effort blocked by The Magpies keeper after a pass from Ola sent him clear of the defence and, although Maidenhead continued to have attempts on goal it was Wingate who would score just before the break. The goal came from a penalty, coolly slotted home by Leon, after an inexplicable handball by a Maidenhead defender. It was one of those defensive gaffs that has everyone asking ‘what was he thinking?’ Using his arm to control the ball in full view of the referee – in fact it was so blatant that the ref could have spotted it from North Finchley! An equaliser from a penalty – we’ll take that 🙂
It’s an old soccer adage that a goal just before half time can be a game-changer and so it proved to be. The Blues had much the better of the second half and were unlucky not to take the lead as Spencer McCall struck the crossbar and Lairdy (on as a sub) had a goal disallowed for off-side. Fellow substitute Marcus Milner then forced a fingertip save from the Maidenhead keeper. The Magpies were now on the back foot and few of their attacks posed any real threat. Wingate were unable to get the winner though and the game ended in a 1-1 draw as the weather closed in and the rain began. The second half performance was one to be proud of and the fans were happy. There was only one dissenting voice – the groundsman. He’d have preferred the penalty to have been at the other end of the pitch. Apparently the south end penalty spot is full of sand at the moment – one of those little problem areas he was telling me about 😉
More photos from the match are available here.
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC. Please click on the Wingate & Finchley Badge to visit the Official Club Website.