I sometimes hear comments from fellow members of the Wingate & Finchley community that suggest an ‘in denial’ attitude to the fact that we were relegated last season. For example, when playing St Albans City of the Conference South side it was insisted that they are only one step up the football pyramid from us rather than the two that is surely the case as we should be playing in Ryman Division One North. Another asked on twitter how many seasons you have to be in the Ryman Premier to be considered established there? Again, sorry but we were relegated last season 😉 We’re only here by dint of Worksop Town’s unfortunate financial situation that forced them to resign from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League and the FA process for deciding which club should benefit from that in the form of reinstatement at the higher level following relegation. Of course, that’s just me being pedantic whilst others have put on their blue tinted spectacles in readiness for a new season 🙂
Why Wingate & Finchley and not Frickley Atheletic? was another question asked – apparently Frickley had the same points per game ratio as ourselves at the end of the season and presumably would have got the reprieve in their own division under those circumstances. It took me a bit of digging about on the web to investigate why and the differing methods of applying reprieves at different levels of the game doesn’t help. So, as I understand it, Frickley Atheletic were reprieved a couple of weeks before Wingate as a result of the end of season resignation of Vauxhall Motors FC from the Conference North meaning that only 2 clubs were relegated from that division last season. Therefore Frickley weren’t in the pot when it came to deciding who would be reprieved after Worksop Town resigned. Vauxhall Motors are now playing in the West Cheshire League Division 1 and Worksop moved to the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.
After completing the pre-season friendlies it’s time to report on the start of our season proper. If the last season had given us one lesson it was that you need to be scoring more goals (and preferably shipping a few less too)! In the closed season the club had moved to improve the strike force and we took to the field for the first game at home against Leiston with David Knight and Rob Laney up front. There were also proven midfielders Scott Shulton and Leon Fisher and new signing Karl Olayide. That first game was a goalfest with seven scored – sadly with The Blues losing out 3-4 to a solid Leiston side. It could have been different – we had one blatant penalty turned down as well as a probable and effectively Leiston took a 2 goal lead midway through the second half as a direct result of the referee’s lack of support for the penalty claim at that juncture by breaking through while the Wingate boys were still asking why 😦 Unfortunately, at this very early stage of the season I’m already back to questioning the integrity of referees because the guy in this game spent several minutes in friendly conversation with the Leiston number 9 before the game and then kept blowing up every time he fell over regardless of whether he’d been in contact with one of our players or not. Add that to the failure to award the penalty when the Leiston keeper hacked down Nico Muir (came on as sub in the second half) and you have to start wondering about integrity rather than incompetence. No complaints about the Leiston team or fans – very nice people and to illustrate that, I had a great chat with one of their fans in the bar before and after the game about rock bands such as the Hamsters and the Kursaal Flyers 🙂 So we started with a loss but we’d looked likely to score throughout the game which was a major step forward from last season. With a different ref we would probably have won or at least got a draw! Would it continue?
Next game was away to Hampton & Richmond Borough on a Tuesday night – normally I’d have gone to this but currently Epi’s health precludes trips beyond the local area as I can’t fairly expect friends and family to cover for extended periods. Hampton’ are a side that you would usually expect to be upper-mid-table at the end of the season and past experience tells that they are a difficult side to beat at the Beveree Stadium on Beaver Close. As an aside, one of our fans gets all excited at the mention of Hamptons and Beavers so in some ways I was glad to avoid the puns that were guaranteed to be expressed during the visit. This proved to be a walk in the park for The Blues, beating the home side 4-1 with Scott Shulton scoring twice and Ola Sogbanmu scoring as well from central midfield – never afraid to get forward from defensive duties, it’s something he’s been doing well in the friendlies. David Knight made up the 4th goal on behalf of the strikers. This was an unexpected result – a draw was the most likely result based on previous evidence. Looks like the form book is going out the window this year with results like this one!
Away again to old rivals East Thurrock. After last season this was always going to be a dour struggle and unsurprisingly ended in a 0-0 draw. It will be interesting to see how both sides, faced with the prospect of relegation last season, will fare through this one.
The 4th game saw a return to home for Wingate & Finchley and a game against Bury Town on a cooling Tuesday night. For much of last season Bury looked to heading for the play-off spots and then the money ran out. Players left in droves and by the time they came to visit us in the last weeks of the season they were a spent force. Although we only beat them 1-0 on the day with all the pressure of probable relegation on the players shoulders, it could and should have been three or four. What had the summer brought to Bury? Sadly for their fans, not a lot and W&F took full advantage of early indecisiveness on the field; ripping through their defence to score 3 goals in the first 10 minutes. It was youngster Karl who scored the first when played in by a beaut of a ball from The Fish. Rob Laney working hard in front of the opposition defence made the second with a cross to David Knight who smacked it home with ease. Karl Olayide was there again to provide the cross from the wing for Knight to score his second and I believe the fans were checking their pockets at this stage to see if they’d already smoked their spliffs 😉 The storm died then and the game slowed although The Blues always looked threatening and in control. In fact this was a performance of such flowing vitality that the old song expressed by many fans at all levels in England “It’s just like watching Brazil” would not have applied – it was more like watching Germany.. but with flair! The second half saw Knighty complete his hatrick beating the defenders and keeper from a tight angle on the right hand side. The Blues clamped down on the game and controlled Bury to prevent any possible comebacks – a very professional performance.
Looking at the league table currently sees us lying 7th and as joint 2nd highest scorers in the league. It’s early days and we all know that anything can happen – I don’t think anyone would have predicted Hampton & Richmond, Bognor Regis Town or AFC Hornchurch to be in the relegation zone this early in the season. There’s a long way to go and our biggest worry now is other clubs poaching our players – Wealdstone’s manager Gordon Bartlett was present scouting our players during the Bury game 😦