It’s been a disrupted start of the football season for me. I usually try to get along to three of the preseason friendlies to get an idea of how the squad is shaping up. But this year a number of things have conspired against me. The first friendly at Rowley Lane – clashed with Alasdair’s Grade 4 Clarinet exam. The Thamesmead game was moved to a noon kick-off making it impossible to get there in time. I suffered a twisted knee which put me out for the away game at Royston and the Home game against Slough. I finally made it to the evening home match against Hemel Hempstead, but then couldn’t get to the final friendly against Ware because of a clash with family commitments.

So, just one match for me in pre-season. It was a good one though with The Blues having the best of the first half. Early pressure produced a scoring opportunity for Rob Laney on the 5th minute. He raced the Hemel keeper for a looping deflection of a parried shot by Mesach Williams. Legs-eleven Laney had the pace to get there first and push the ball into the net from close range.

Wingate & Finchley then contrived to give away a penalty after ten minutes allowing Hemel to equalise. The Blues continued to press forwards. Karl Oliyide was unlucky not to score with a deft chip that Hemel keeper Jamie Head read well and saved. Rob Laney could have had a second but was denied by a superb save. 1-1 at half time.

The first minutes of second half saw the visitors starting on the front foot and Jack Metcalf was forced to make a couple of fine saves. However, the Hemel pressure told from a corner with Rees allowed a free header at the near post which he nodded down onto the ground and into the opposite corner of the goal giving Jack no chance to save. Free headers in the box have been one of our frailties over the years and I’m sure Danny Neilsen had steam coming from his ears at this one.

Pressure returned to the Hemel end of the field. Big Ola (Sogbanmu) did just about everything right on the 70th minute, getting behind the defenders and beating the Hemel Keeper at a sharp angle only for the ball to strike the inside of the post and drift across the front of the goal before the imparted spin carried it out of play beyond the far post. The effort deserved a goal and on another day it would have spun in!

The last 20 minutes saw both sides creating opportunities and Hemel could have gone 3-1 up when Jack was called upon to demonstrate his coolness in a one-on-one situation by forcing the on-rushing Jemal Lowe (ex-Barnet) to take the ball wide and buying time for Keiron Street to get in position and block the subsequent shot on the goal line. Then Micah Jackson burst through their offside trap and crossed the ball for Nipper (Jack) Read to score an equaliser for Wingate on the 89th minute and salvage a draw – a good result against a club from the Conference South 🙂

The general feeling after the game was that it had been a good performance and, although friendlies don’t really give a good impression of how the final 1st team will perform once the league fixtures kick off on August 8th, they do look well prepared for the season and Rob Laney said as much in a post-match interview. As for the cameraman… I feel not quite match-fit – my anticipation is about a frame short of where it needs to be!

It was also the first time I’d seen our new Manager. A bit of a surprise. We’re used to tracksuits, football boots and a slightly dishevelled appearance on match-day. There he was in skinny-fit fashionable jeans, a sharp jacket and shiny winkle-pickers. I wonder if he’s raided the Chairman’s wardrobe 😉 It’ll never last – wait till we go to Bognor! I wonder what he’ll be wearing for the Team Photo on Thursday evening.

All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.