Start of a new month and time to take part in Brian’s Last on the Card challenge.

I joked with Brian that I would be sending 2 football shots this month because I changed cameras late in the month. I’ll start with the Canon EOS5D mkIII and a nothing shot at the end of a 2-2 draw at East Thurrock…

For the next match I had to use the Canon EOS7D mkII as I had to take the awards night shots after the game and needed to have fill-in-flash available. I kept that camera for the last game of the season against Hornchurch because it has longer reach due to the APS-C crop factor and Hornchurch’s ground is surrounded by a running track. We beat them 2-1 and this is a shot of the players celebrating the end of the match and the season…

…Survived for another year! 😀👍

On the Fuji X-Pro2 I was sorting out some shots for Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge. I had some bottle tops with stars but, as there was camera shake, I discarded the shot…

Finally, on the Moto g50. Catching a wonderful event as Wingate & Finchley welcome a new fan to the fold…

I guess that merits a “Congratulations on your addition to Squad”👍 Oh! and apologies to Brian – that’s 3 football shots from last month 😂

Today we can reflect on yesterday’s final games of the Isthmian League season. There was change in the play-off places as we beat Hornchurch, demoting them to 4th and handing home advantage to Enfield Town – I think The Towners owe us a beer 😂 It was a good battling performance with defender Jake…

Hornchurch 1 vs Wingate & Finchley 2 (2021/22)

…scoring our winner early in the second half👍 But as I foretold yesterday, all eyes were on what was happening at the foot of the table. And, in the unusual circumstances of the reshaping of the leagues by the FA, everyone had to watch the key Salisbury vs Kings Langley game in the Southern League Premier South as well. Peter, our kitman, was keeping us up to date as best possible as we watched our own match and I made sporadic clattering sounds with the camera shutter😉

All of our 4 lowest teams knew they needed a win because if Kings Langley were able to overturn Salisbury… I’ll let that one hang🤣 Cray Wanderers took an unexpected lead against Bishops Stortford but ultimately would lose 3-1. Merstham and Carshalton are near neighbours so, although Carshalton had nothing to play for, it was expected to be a battle for bragging rights. Merstham lost 2-1. East Thurrock played well against us last Saturday and came back from 2 goals down for a deserved draw. If any team should have been able to beat the drop it was them, but they met Cray on Wednesday and were beaten 4-1. Playing at home against an erratic Horsham team, I thought they should be able to get a draw and even push on for a win. But, in the end, Horsham snatched an injury time winner and the game ended 3-2 to the visitors. Leatherhead had the easiest final game, at home to Potters Bar. Before the kick-off I predicted that Potters would capitulate and I was proved right with Leatherhead finishing 2-0 winners.

Over in the Southern League, what was happening with Kings Langley? They took a 1-0 lead on the 16th minute. Salisbury should have equalised with a penalty on the 77th minute when Kings Langley were reduced to 10 men – presumably for a bad challenge in the area? Kings Langley’s keeper saved! Then, having weathered the storm with 10 men, ‘Langley pinched a 2nd in the 91st minute. That was a 2-0 win and gave them 37 points.

The effect of Kings Langley’s win was devastating. Merstham and East Thurrock were already relegated as a result of their last day defeats. A quick note here about Merstham. When they came to visit us on the 18th for the penultimate game of the season, they were clearly a depleted side. They didn’t even have a Physio with them. So I guess they were already bowing to a sense of inevitability? East Thurrock paid the penalty for a poor performance at Cray though they came close to getting a win against Horsham that would have sent Cray down instead.

Leatherhead were the ultimate victims of Kings Langley’s success – Langley had a point more and better goal difference so the win against Potters Bar was a just a final gesture of defiance to close out the season. Relegated, they were immediately posting a ‘Schwarzenegger’ “We’ll be back” on Twitter😎

So, the season is done and dusted and it’s all over bar the shouting… Not necessarily so. Leatherhead might yet get a reprieve. The Leagues and the FA will now begin grading and shuffling. Clubs will look at whether they can really afford to go up to the next level and people who fund some clubs may decide to take their money away. All of these can result in teams not being where they were expected to be and other teams having their relegation quashed. At the end of the 2013/14 season Wingate & Finchley were relegated from the Isthmian Premier. Rumours were already going round though that we would probably get a reprieve. The reason – Worksop Town had lost their main means of finance and took the decision to withdraw from the Conference North. It cascaded down to us being restored to the Isthmian Premier. So, it’s not impossible that Leatherhead may also be back a little sooner than they currently expect… We shall see…

Last Monday, after our match vs Merstham, we had the Annual Awards night. The Supporters Player of the Season and the Players Player of the Season coincided. It was left to Gavin, our Goalkeeping Coach and a previous recipient of both, to present the players trophy to Ben Goode – our current Goalkeeper…

Wingate & Finchley Awards Night (2021/22)

…and here’s Ben showing what he does best – a great save against Hornchurch on Saturday to close out his season…

Hornchurch 1 vs Wingate & Finchley 2 (2021/22)

Today is the last day of the regular season for the clubs in our division. It has been a hard season for Wingate & Finchley with a new management team and an almost entirely new squad. Many players who started the season with us have moved on but since February we’ve had a largely settled squad. For much of the first half of the season we were flirting with relegation and it’s only in the last 2 months that we started to pull clear with some good results while others around us hit bad times. Even so, we could ‘mathematically’ have still been relegated until just 2 matches ago when we got an away point at East Thurrock – that finally made relegation impossible.

This is the current Isthmian League Premier Division table as we prepare to travel…

Courtesy of Football Web Pages

Today, we conclude the season away to Hornchurch. For us, that game only holds the possibility of increasing our points tally – we can’t improve our position in the league. For our hosts however, it is very important to win. They are in the play-off places but will want to maintain their 3rd position in the league in order to have home advantage in their first play-off match. So I expect it to be a hard match and I’ll be pleased if we get something from the game.

With Worthing already crowned champions and the teams that will be in the play-offs already decided, there is little of interest to the travelling football fan at the top of the division today. At the bottom though, it is a different story with 4 clubs separated by just 3 points and 3 relegation slots. The two bottom clubs at the end of play today will be relegated automatically. The third from bottom will hope that their points-per-game tally is better than one of the other teams across 4 divisions. While nothing is set in stone until the final whistle across all games this afternoon, it is likely that the demoted 3rd from bottom team will be Kings Langley of the Southern League Premier Division South. But, none of our bottom 4 will want to be taking that Mathematical gamble!

So today, we’ll be keeping one eye on Cray away to Bishops Stortford, East Thurrock at home to Horsham, Merstham at home to Carshalton and Leatherhead at home to Potters Bar. Having been through several relegation battles with Wingate & Finchley over the years, I know what their fans will be going through today. I have some personal thoughts on who I want to survive but those belong on the terraces to be discussed with other Wingate fans😉

Then, in the closed season, we will await the FA’s rearranging of the divisions to fit in the newly promoted sides. We may continue in the Isthmian Premier, or it might mean us moving across to the Southern Premier South – something which we only avoided by the width of a couple of local council wards last time the FA did a reshuffle 🙄 With some much longer away trips in the Southern League – a day trip to Truro anyone? – I hope we stay where we are 🤞🏻