Here we go again – once more unto the breach or onto the pitch. The first game of the new season is usually the first view the fans get of the Manager’s preferred formation. It’s less of a guide to who will fill particular places in the long term because some players in the squad have either just come back from holiday or may still be about to go. Additionally, no one is fully match-fit despite the pre-season friendlies.
Our first match this season was against newly promoted Brentwood Town. In past encounters they’ve always been a well drilled physical side – games against them have been tight. In addition, they are now managed by Dean Holdsworth who is a respected ex-professional footballer. So my pre-match assessment was that we were in for a good workout. The game more than lived up to expectations!
One of the things to come out of pre-season was the hit early, hit hard, approach – that’s a bit like the vote early, vote often, only in that game the referee will disallow any additional votes that you score and probably rule you off-side too! 😉 The Blues were out of the blocks very fast and, in only the 4th minute, Kyle Watson lofted a beautiful cross into the box for Billy Healey to glance a header past Martyn Guest in the Brentwood goal to take the lead. Great debut for 2 of this season’s new signings. Brentwood had also been quick off the mark and were enjoying all the early play at the time – so this was a fantastic example of a breakaway goal, 5 passes and 20 seconds from one end of the field to the other!
Brentwood upped their efforts and much of the play was again at the Wingate end until another breakaway which resulted in Hot Karl playing a nicely weighted pass to Healey in the box and then distracting the defence by running for the return pass. Given space as a result, Healey drew back his foot and rifled a low shot across Guest and into the bottom right hand corner to score his second. 16 minutes gone and we were 2-0 up! The wise old heads were saying… we’ve scored too early.
Undaunted, Brentwood Town (ironically also called The Blues – sometimes there’s a lack of imagination amongst footie fans) pressed forwards once more and a sharply dipping cross needed Bobby Smith to palm it away before its flight took it in under the Wingate crossbar. Town finally got their reward with a scrambled goal in the 37th minute – Hope controlling a long header and toe-poking a shot across the area and into the bottom RH corner with Bobby caught flat-footed. 2-1 at Half Time.
The Second Half was all action too with both sides creating chances. If they had all been taken we would have had a 6-3 goal fest! Instead, both keepers did sterling work to prevent any further goals. Brentwood should have equalised when Robbie Rees received a cross from the right and contrived to put his effort over the bar when it was easier to score! Karl Oliyide found himself free in the Brentwood box but was closed down very professionally by Martyn Guest and the opportunity was gone as he dithered. Guest could subsequently have given away a penalty with a late challenge on Mesach Williams in the box after the player had attempted to lob him – Bobby has painful memories from last season when a penalty was awarded against him in similar circumstances – but the referee waved play-on. And so the game closed out with the 2-1 score line from the first half.
It was an entertaining match and a great result for Wingate & Finchley to kick off their season. Manager Simon Lane appeared on the touchline in a suit with a grey and silver striped tie… We’ll have to treat him to one with proper colours – so he doesn’t get confused with the Newcastle manager! As for Brentwood Town, they created some great opportunities and, despite a losing start, the general opinion was that they would take points off other sides and maintain their premier division status come the end of the season.
Tuesday night saw the team away at Hampton and Richmond where they turned a 0-1 score at halftime into a 2-1 win. This time Karl succeeded in getting on the scoresheet and Ahmet, in his Testimonial Season, scored the winner in the 63rd minute. So it’s a 6 point start to the season for Wingate & Finchley and it can only get harder from here!
All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC.