The period before the first FA Cup games is always hectic with most Ryman League clubs playing on Saturdays and Tuesdays through August and early September. Having made a good start over the first 4 games of the season it was important to push on and consolidate our position. Especially as Autumn is here and old man Winter is not too far away now – the weather can bring serious disruption to fixtures, skewing results and breaking up the momentum created in the early part of the season.
The first match in this sequence was the Bank Holiday Saturday home game against Tonbridge Angels. It was the first time our sides have played each other so it was a bit of a journey into the unknown for everyone. As an aside, it occurred to me that a great Halloween fixture would be Tonbridge Angels v Crouch End Vampires 😉 Tonbridge had the better start with the sun beaming down on them and Keiran and and loanee James Kaloczi (of St Albans City) were very busy for the first 20 minutes of the game, doing a good job of protecting Bobby in the Wingate Goal. Then, against the run of play, The Blues broke free with a crisp pinpoint pass from Fish to find Karl Oliyide on the wing. He steamed forwards before delivering an excellent pass to David Knight on the edge of the six yard box. Knighty made no mistake, smashing the ball past the diving keeper and into the top right of the net. Buoyed with confidence from the goal The Blues now pressed forwards, winning three corners in quick succession, and only 5 minutes later TeeJay collected a loose ball following a scramble in the area and spun 180 degrees to smack it home past the helpless Merson in the Angel’s goal. And that was that – Wingate settled back to soak up the pressure with their 2 goal lead and although there was plenty of action it was the last of the scoring. Another 3 points for the home side.
Bank Holiday Monday was a local derby against Enfield town at their Queen Elizabeth Stadium. I haven’t begun attending away games yet as Epi is still recovering from her operation. On this occasion I was pleased to be constrained to staying at home – the weather was ‘typical August Bank Holiday’ – A Biblical deluge which had me worried that the car would float off the drive! From the match report I see that Wingate took control of the match in the first half, scoring 3 goals with Karl Oliyide, James Kaloczi and Rob Laney each finding the net. Then things took an unsavoury turn with the Enfield Town manager being sent off by the referee on the stroke of half-time. It would appear that this was as a result of a remark of an anti-semitic nature and it speaks volumes that the Enfield Town board moved quickly to dismiss their manager following the game. The matter is now in the hands of the FA via the match officials report. The second half proved to be different from the first with Enfield staging a comeback which just fell short of attaining a draw – the game ended 3-2 to the visitors. Another, sadly tainted, 3 points.
Next up was a visit by our old sparring partners AFC Hornchurch. The Urchins have been one of our bogey teams for a while – I can’t remember when we last beat them. It often looks a bit ‘David & Goliath’ – they’re a big bruising unit of a team. This season though, things would be different. The Urchins were sitting bottom of the table and as one of their fans remarked “We can’t buy a goal for luv nor money”. It doesn’t help that they haven’t been able to play games at their own stadium because the floodlights are in the process of being replaced – so every game has been an away game. You have to feel sympathy for a team and its supporters in that situation 😦 Anyway, true to form, the game was a bruising one with two Wingate players having to be substituted with injuries and a flurry of 8 yellow cards issued by the referee – ironically 5 of them to our players who were often on the receiving end of illegal challenges that the ref seemed blind to. The result of an even game, in which both teams had good chances, hinged on a single quality long pass by TeeJay through the midfield to find Karl on the left wing. Angling in towards goal he rode an attempted clattering of a challenge from an Urchins defender before lobbing the keeper to score on the 18th minute and earn The Blues the points. Maybe that’s finally broken the Hornchurch Hex?
After this game The Blues found themselves looking down from the lofty heights of third in the league. I’ll continue the story of the next three matches in another post – in the meantime here are some images from the games against The Angels and The Urchins…