Times are hard at Summers Lane – results of any sort, draws or wins, are hard to come by. It needs something to change – something that will give the team the chance to build confidence because football is a game of confidence and poor results tend to breed more poor results. It would be wrong to say we’re playing badly compared to the other teams – the games have been poor this season with even the best teams not looking that stylish. It is an irony of my position that I often get better action shots in games that were bad examples of footballing excellence! Perhaps it’s due to the ball travelling around the field in a slower, less certain, fashion and players dwelling too long on the ball? Anyway, we come to look back on two matches, seven days apart that may set a new course for Wingate & Finchley’s season.
Hampton & Richmond were a good side last season – expected to finish in the play-offs, they fell just short whilst Wingate languished in the almost relegated zone. The fixtures list threw up one of those anomalies where we would play them at home on consecutive Tuesdays – once in the League and then in the Middlesex Senior Cup. Looking at the table at the time I was surprised to find that they were actually below us! That certainly didn’t fit with their previous season’s form. I had that gut feeling that the the league game was going to be tough and with just the 2 wins so far this season it didn’t bode well.
That league game proved to be a bit of a damp squib in terms of match performance by both sides – lots of huffing and puffing but no real advantage to either side for much of the first half. Then suddenly, from nothing they scored. In truth, it was a gift as we failed to defend a corner properly. A near post header – Bobby will feel that perhaps he should have been closer to that near post to do a block but equally the ball should not have got to an attacker on the near post to start with 😦
To make matters worse, from the off we gave the ball away and then allowed the Hampton players to stroll through the defence leaving Bobby on his own to face the striker who struck home cleanly. 2 Goals given away in as many minutes 😦 It says a lot that there is no official report of this game on the club website – it was a capitulation to a side that were not very much better than us. The second half saw a much improved home effort with The Blues looking a little more like a cohesive unit than an Avro Shackleton (a bunch of rivets flying in close formation). It resulted in a well taken goal by our No.6 – Farai Hallam. The same young lad I travelled back from Biggleswade with, whose name I couldn’t recall at the time and who is strangely absent from Profiles section of the club website – I know he exists, I’ve photographed him and I’ve talked with him. He’s scored a goal for the club!… He’s real! Webmaster, please sort it out! ps – he’s not the only one who’s missing 😉
The team fought out the rest of the match but couldn’t find the equaliser and, on a rare breakout, Hampton could have made it 3-1 if their striker had not been so determined to upset the sleeping pigeons behind the goal. It ended 2-1 to the visitors but there were positives. The key one was (and remains) that the guys can play well together. All they have to do is to maintain it for the full 90 minutes rather than the 20 to 30 minutes currently. Sadly, I suspect that it’s going to be a season of grinding out results if we ever get on something resembling a winning streak. Anyway… that was the first Hampton Game… A week later, they were back.
Cup matches are a difficult scenario to predict – depending on what the manager/club target is, the team that is fielded may be full strength, half strength or the kids being blooded. Apart from their keeper, Hampton & Richmond look to have played a mix of second team with a couple of regular 1st team choices. The Blues lined up with mainly the regular back four (Ryan stepped in for Wrighty) but midfield saw Mark Henry starting whilst still getting back to fitness. Ahmet pulled on the number 9 shirt and Leon was rested as was Dan McGonigle – who has been very honest about his legs getting a bit tired when there are too many matches. He’s put in some great, if not entirely pretty, performances in the last few games!
The upshot was a battle between the sides but Wingate shaded it in the first half. Unlike some other recent games it was also a pleasure to watch as the play ebbed and flowed with both sides in it. The second half was the key part of the game. The Blues pressed well and suddenly looked the part. Even so, it would require something to break our way for a win to happen. It’s a known ‘fact’ in football that when you’re down the luck always goes against you (as do the refereeing decisions!). But, if Lady Luck smiles upon you, your whole season can turn around! Tuesday 1st October may have been one of those nights. Getting a lot of good attacks down the right wing, a great cross in from Josh Kennett found Ahmet loitering on the far post. His powerful header in would normally have been enough but it was blocked on the line. And that was the point at which the Lady of ill-repute placed her finger on the game. For the first time that I can remember the deflected ball came out to one of our players – it normally goes to an opposition defender and I’m not kidding… I truly can’t remember a ball bouncing out to one of our attackers! This one did – It found Mark Henry and he smacked it home in glorious style to give us the lead.
After that we had much the best of it and a few minutes later Scott Shulton, in a rare appearance as sub, struck a bouncing ball into the right hand corner of the goal from the edge of the area to make it 2-0. It hadn’t been a great performance but we suddenly had a result and I wondered how much Lady Luck would prove to be a Wingate & Finchley supporter in the future. The following League game might give a response to that thought… of which more later 😉 But, at the end of that game whilst applauding our team we also had some kind words for the Hampton keeper – a number of us thought he was man of the match and unlucky to have been beaten twice.