With apologies to Ray Bradbury whose excellent collection of macabre short stories carried this title.
October is a funny month in the football season. The top teams are still working out whether they spent wisely in the transfer window whilst the bottom feeders of the lower leagues are contemplating cup competitions that could bring a sizeable windfall of much needed cash. For Wingate & Finchley the ‘bought wisely’ doesn’t apply – we have a host of familiar faces back and a management structure that looks ready to make something happen with them. It all just needs to gel for us to become safe in the Ryman Premier. Even so, we do have a few new and newer faces. Tommy Tejan Sie has become a regular at number 4 in front of the defence. Farai Hallam has been working alongside Weathers’ and finding his feet. Recently young Jasper Owen was drawn in from neighbouring Harrow Borough – giving us another tall centre-back and bolstering the defence. For the record, Weathers’ is only an inch or so taller than me – thank God he can jump! Ironically then our next match was against Harrow Borough.
I read somewhere via a Tweet that we fear no one (I believe it was in an interview that Ola got dragged into) – from a fan’s perspective the trip to Harrow has become one where we have no fear. Poor old Harrow Borough – it seems we have a Hex on them. We just always seem to win over there at the moment and the match on October 5th was no different. It started with a superb attempt on his own goal by a Harrow defender which was palmed away by his keeper – if they want to score for us, we won’t complain… we’ll come back to that idea again later. Apart from the normal cut and thrust of football, the game contained a really weird two-off… If you went into a bookies and asked for the odds of a shot hitting one post and running across the face of goal before bouncing out off the other post, I suspect they’d be long but not outrageous. Go back in and ask for the odds of both sides doing it in a match! I suspect that the odds would be so long that the bookies would refuse to pay out if and when it happened – but Harrow Borough v Wingate & Finchley saw that unlikely double! Sadly for the home side it was one of these that proved their undoing. The strike by Spencer McCall hit both posts but came out to Ahmet who steamed in and rifled it home before the keeper had any chance to work out where the ball was or what had happened! Harrow were not so lucky – their ‘both posts’ ricochet only found a Wingate defender and was cleared. It was left to Leon who, finding himself free as Harrow attacked to try and equalise, turned inside the only defender and slotted home beneath the diving keeper to administer the coup de grace. As usual, both goals happened while I was straining the greens – Dave and Del will recall me predicting our first goal as I headed off towards the other end of the ground. It’s known as the cameraman’s curse 😦 Think back to my previous report… Lady Luck had again smiled on The Blues and we had a very valuable 3 points in the bag.
This year the fixtures seem at odds – I can’t remember an early season being so disrupted by cup matches. Either we have a cup match of our own or our league match is postponed because our opponents have a cup match. And it gets difficult for us older fans to keep up as a rearranged match is rearranged again for the 2nd or 3rd time! Margate, on a Tuesday night in November (or will it finally happen in December?) doesn’t bear thinking about. In October we have played 2 league games and 4 cup matches. In the past I’m sure we would have played 4 league games in the month. This doesn’t bode well for the latter parts of the season when the fixture backlog will kick in. On top of that, there are a few extra league games this season anyway – I just hope the weather doesn’t create the havoc it did last season or we’ll find ourselves playing 3 or 4 games a week in April 😦 Anyway, enough of the asides. Back to the report…
Missing out a Saturday match because our opponents were playing a cup game, we had to wait from the 5th until the 15th for our next game – a cup meeting with Witham Town. They were flying high in the Ryman North and we were hovering above the relegation places in the Ryman Premier. Not unnaturally it proved to be a very even game. Witham took the lead late in the second half only to be pegged back when Ahmet muscled the ball across the line in injury time. The game went to penalties. Cue controversy as Cain Davies saved the first Witham penalty only to have the referee’s assistant rule it out as he was off his line – the kick was taken again and the Witham player scored. A few penalties later and Ahmet’s effort is saved by the Witham keeper. I’ve looked at the photos numerous times and for the life of me I cannot see any difference in the distance from the line of either keeper so I cannot understand how the assistant could allow this save to stand after ruling Cain’s inadmissable. Perhaps he’d checked the bus timetable and realised he couldn’t wait for another penalty retake – I hope that was the reason because the other alternative calls into question the integrity of the officials and the FA itself. Fair play to Witham Town – they played a good draw on the night and we wished them well for their journey home and their next foray in the cup.
That was the Ryman League Cup. Next up was the FA Trophy and a visit by Hitchin Town. Deja vu – we played them last season in the same cup at the same stage! It was a 2-2 draw at home and they won 3-0 in the replay at their place. We wondered how this year-on replay of last years events would pan out. Hitchin looked the better side in the first half and took the lead after 20 minutes when a beautiful cross into the area that found Robbie Burns unmarked and he headed it home whilst writing some ditty about a Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie – at least it seemed like he had the time to do so! 10 minutes later he found a round object stuck under his foot on the edge of the area and in trying to shake it off succeeded in chipping it over Bobby to score a second… Ok, it’s true that the ball stuck under his foot but he took the opportunity to read the situation and produced a glorious chip which gave Bobby no chance. It didn’t look good from a home fan’s point of view. The team had looked disjointed and unsure of themselves. The second half was very different. Whatever they give the players in the changing room at half time needs to be distilled and sold in the bar. The Blues ruled the field after the break. But they still struggled in the final third and couldn’t put the ball away. It took a superb cross in by Ola to break the deadlock. You may recall my suggestion that Gavin should play down the wing occasionally because he can put in that deadly cross that drifts under the crossbar – the one that bugs the hell out of keepers? Ola’s cross was one of those and the keeper was caught between covering the advancing forwards and the goal – stranded, he could only wave a despairing glove at the ball as it crept into the top corner. Now Ola is the biggest poseur in the team (currently) in wanting to get his photo taken… But, did he wait to be photo’d celebrating? Not a bit of it – he was off like the proverbial jack rabbit back to his position at the back and the only celebration was a hand slap with Weathers’ when he got there! The equaliser came when Hector Morante was tripped in the area and a penalty was awarded. Spencer stepped up and put it away with a minimum of fuss. 2-2 and a replay required at Hitchin Town on the following Monday – so the Tuesday game against Margate (who the hell wants to go to Margate on a winter Tuesday?) is moved to another date 😦
So, a re-run of last season – Who’d have bet on that? Would the replay see another win for Hitchin? Sadly I would only find out about the replay second hand as I was on a Scout Leaders training course that Monday. It may have been another turning point in the season as the guys took the lead when Ahmet struck just before half-time and, despite being reduced to 10 men when Wrighty was sent off for a second yellow card offence, held on for a win.
So we come to the second league game as The Blues entertained The Rocks – Bognor Regis Town. Before the kick off there was some chat about how the league had changed in the period between the win at Harrow Borough and Bognor’s visit. At the time there were just a couple of teams hovering close to the relegation zone whilst three of the relegation places looked to have names pencilled in already. But in the intervening period the danger zone had grown markedly with teams in mid table looking to be in the same battle as us. Not that this was a worry for Bognor – they were sitting just below the play-off places. But, it’s early days yet and the commonest phrase you hear in the bar is ‘anyone can beat anyone in this league’. Who knows what the table will look like in the final weeks of the season. Bognor’s position suggested that it was going to be hard for us to get a result and most fans were muttering that a draw would be a good result.
The game began with a number of efforts to win a free kick by the Bognor number 10. He was flopping around on the pitch like a wounded seagull, going to ground before he even reached the player he was hoping the ref would believe had brought him down 😦 The ref was having none of it though and consistently motioned to him to get up whilst waving play-on (even on the one occasion when he was genuinely brought down). Eventually the penny dropped and we were able to get on with playing football! The first half was as much a battle with the elements as between the teams with heavy drizzle and a stiff breeze making the conditions unpleasant. Your cameraman chose to loiter in the shelter of the Jack Fisk Stand close to the halfway line for the first 15 minutes or so until the drizzle stopped. Time for a brisk walk round to the terraces on the main stand side of the pitch. I wanted to get a couple of shots of Keiron playing his first competitive match for more than a year after he missed the whole of last season with a knee injury that required surgery.
Wingate began to look the more dangerous of the sides and on the half hour mark took the lead from a Spencer McCall corner. The ball evaded the head of Weathers’ at the near post and was cleared out to the edge of the area only to find Mase the Pace (Dean Mason) who drove the ball low through the crowd of players into the bottom left hand corner. Whilst the play remained very even following the goal The Blues always looked the more likely to score. After the halftime break Wingate & Finchley racheted up the pressure but couldn’t find the killer pass to put Leon or Ahmet through on goal. Possibly the turning point in the match, though it didn’t result in a goal came in the 12th minute of the second half when a Bognor defender passed back to his keeper – the ball was woefully short and it became a race between Ryan Sellers and the keeper as to who would get there first. In the end the keeper just made it but his attempted clearance struck Ryan and could have gone anywhere! It actually went for a corner but it could have gone in the goal. I think that fright unsettled the keeper and when he received another back pass 5 minutes later and saw Leon bearing down on him he tried to make some space by taking a touch. Unfortunately his footwork let him down on the greasy pitch and he mis-kicked the ball over his own goal line to make it 2-0 to The Blues. Just a couple of minutes later, a hoofed long ball intended for Ahmet came off the top of the challenging defender’s head and looped gracefully over the stranded keeper to complete the rout. If the keeper was partly to blame for the first own goal he was blameless in this one – it was just one of those accidents that happens from time to time. Wingate now settled down to close out the game keeping the ball well in the midfield. The Rocks had the occasional foray into Blues territory and might have had a penalty when Ola’s interception of a through ball bounced up off his boot and struck his hand – I’ve seen those given but on this occasion the ref deemed it was ball to hand and waved play-on. In the second half Wingate had made Bognor look very ordinary and simultaneously brought an end to a two month unbeaten run. The key lesson from it all was pressure brings rewards – chasing keepers and defenders can cause them to make mistakes and, as in this case, win the game for you 🙂
Saturday will see another FA Trophy game against Daventry Town FC who play in the Calor Division 1 Central. They have been having a great season so far and beat their last opponents 6-1 so it promises to be a tough game – here’s hoping we can get a result 🙂
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.