Wingate & Finchley at home in the Championship Manager Cup against Maldon and Tiptree on a chilly evening – Whoever won this match was through to the final!   For such an important match, you’d have thought that there would be a good turn-out.  But some joker had arranged for a Chumpions League match to take place on the same night and thus I’d guess that many Gooners fans opted for the comfort of their armchair rather than stand in the arctic wind that was scything across the pitch at the Abrahams stadium.   They were in for a disappointment – Van Persie given a ridiculous second yellow (must have been a bad Ryman League ref on duty) and Arsenal given a drubbing by Barca.   They’d have been better nou camping with us – at least the game would have been more even.

So how did our match go?   Well, firstly, the players took to the field in our new kit.  Gone are the collars and the blue of the shirts is a bit darker – looks a bit like the Italian national kit to me.  I do hope that it’s not a statement of defensive intent!

It was a fast paced first half with good possession for the visitors.  They had two very good chances, one that Danny Niels’ cleared off the line and a second that struck the far post and bounced back into Dan Lee’s gloves.   At the other end Leon and Lewis kept their defenders honest without getting any joy.   One thing that I noticed was the readiness of our defenders to double up on anyone who got down the line to put in a cross and this worked well.   The half-time whistle came almost unexpectedly – 45mins up already? – the game was that involving!

Then it all kicked off 😦   Quite what started it is a mystery too me.  The challenges had been solid, but nothing dirty or obviously intentional from where I was watching the match.   What I did see was a non-player from the Maldon bench run up to Jordan presumably shouting something at him.  Jordan shoved him away and that was when everyone else seems to have got involved.   It took a few minutes for the jostling to stop and the players to start making their way down the tunnel.  Unfortunately, one of our fans decided to hurl some abuse at this point – I do wish he wouldn’t, it doesn’t help the situation and could have made things a lot worse 😦   If he’d stuck with the initial ‘Com’ on – It’s only half-time’ appoach it would have been better.   Meanwhile the referee, who had stood back watching from a distance, had a few quiet words with some of those involved.

The second half kicked off without kicking off, both sets of players on their best behaviour – it was like the rugby scrum at the end of the first half hadn’t happened!   The winner was the football which flowed end to end throughout the half (I took more photo’s in the second half, which is usually a sign of good action).    In the first couple of minutes, Maldon won a free kick on the edge of the area and put an excellent ball into the six-yard area which found a defenders head to send it into the back of the net.  If W&F were going to win their way through to the final it would need to be by coming from behind.

To their credit, they were back in the match within a couple of minutes.  Josh Cooper won a free kick on the edge of the area and Joe O’Brien stepped up to slot it beneath the wall and beyond the diving keeper into the bottom right hand corner – he scored like that a couple of matches ago, only then it took a deflection.  This time it looked a clean strike 🙂

Joe Strikes
Joe Strikes

Maldon once again found the woodwork – why do we call it that when the posts are normally made of Aluminium these days?  Aluminiumwork doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, does it?  I guess Aliwork might be ok but I think we’re dealing with football commentator tradition here 🙂   Anyway, Maldon found the woodwork again and yet again it saved W&F from going behind once more.   Leon set up Joe O’Brien shortly after and he ran into the box.  As the defenders closed him down he shot hard and low.  The Maldon keeper got a boot to it only to see the ball loop up and over his head.  It bounced behind him and the spin imparted on the ball carried it away from a chasing defender and into the left hand side of the goal with the defender making a despairing kick at it when it was already a yard over the line.   Joe was wearing the Number 8 rather than his more customary 4 shirt and he carried it well 🙂   That was really very much the end of the contest – Maldon rarely threatened and Leon could have grabbed a third for W&F.   Wrighty made himself a chance then skied it from the edge of the area, frightening the roosting Wood Pigeons in the hawthorns behind the goal!

The ref had a good game – in the bar afterwards it was commented on by a number of supporters that he’d kept firm control of the match throughout.  Even during the unseemly scuffle at the end of the first half, by not getting involved until it had calmed down, he maintained his impartial status.   There was one dissenting voice – ‘he got every decision wrong’.   Coming from one of our resident Gooners, I’m wasn’t sure if he was referring to the clown at the Nou Camp 😉

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

There we were at a key point in the season sitting in third place.   Then we had a couple of draws.   I missed the one at Romford but reading between the lines of the official match report it was a get out of jail free card like the one before.   All of which didn’t bode well for the visit by AFC Sudbury on Saturday.

AFC Sudbury are a good team with a top class keeper who would take some beating.   With both sides liking to pass the ball, if Wingate & Finchley were on their game it should have been an entertaining match.   But, the first surprise for us fans was that two of our best players were sitting on the bench and would only enter the fray in the second half.  The game kicked off and within the first 5 minutes David Laird had his collar felt – actually it was his whole shirt – by a Sudbury defender in the penalty area, twice!   On neither occasion did the ref see anything wrong 😦   In fact, the ref was going to spend the whole match not seeing much and saying a lot.  I think he thought he was interviewing players for a post match conference, he talked so much.   I know we complain a lot about referees that reach straight for a card, but this guy was at the opposite extreme.    Fortunately, because both teams like to play football, it didn’t degenerate into a bloodbath, or maybe it was the old Monty trick of talking them to a state of boredom?   The first half passed without much incident – both sides had half chances and Joe O’Brien had a very good effort from a free kick that drew a fine save from the Sudbury Keeper.

The second half saw Ahmet brought on immediately.   Ola hit the woodwork early on and put in some good balls for the front men whilst our defence fought off Sudbury’s attacks.   The game continued in a 0 – 0 fashion until a free kick, I suppose around half way through the half – actually might have been slightly earlier.   Taken from close to the halfway line the ball bounced over the heads of the players waiting to attack it on the edge of the box then bounced once more into the corner of the W&F goal with Bobby a disgusted observer somewhere halfway between the sticks.   the official report tells me the scorer was Michael Shinn – well he didn’t shin that one!   With W&F  attacking in an effort to get back in the game, Sudbury broke away twice in the dying minutes to score two more well taken goals and to seal a 3 – 0 away win.

Nicky Eyre Saves!
Nicky Eyre Saves!

A disappointing result for us and the general feeling was that 1-0 to the visitors would have been a fairer outcome.   In reality, the outcome of the game hinged on two key moments.  The first half save by Nicky Eyre, Sudbury’s keeper, from Joe’s free kick and the freak goal from Michael Shinn’s second half effort.   I also think we missed Gary Burrell – currently out with an injury.

It was good to get the chance to chat with Nicky in the bar afterwards to get his view of things and also to get Gavin’s thoughts as he waits for the all clear from his hand injury.   The Sudbury fans were their usual friendly selves – a small group of them were singin Sudbury! Sudbury! Sudbury! behind our goal.  By some effect of the acoustics, pronounciation or maybe me going a bit mutton… it sounded like they were singing submarine.   I had a laugh with them about this and, as Sudbury’s away kit is yellow, we had a quick chorus of Yellow Submarine 🙂

Next up are Maldon and Tiptree twice – at home in the Championship Manager cup and away in the league.   I wonder how many will be on the pitch at the end of those matches – see ‘It’s Always Difficult Playing Against 10 Men’ in my January Archive.   One thing is for sure – the players are going to have to pull their socks up and tuck in their shirts if we’re going to win either of those matches!

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

Mrs Blackbird
Mrs Blackbird in the Rowan

In my garden, outside my office window, stands a Rowan.  At this time of the year the buds are just bursting and the new leaves are preparing to cover the bare branches in a bright new yellowy-green.  In less than a month it will be covered in white flowers and full of birds hunting insects to feed their young.   So many species come to the tree, from Goldcrests and Blue Tits to Magpies and Wood Pigeons.   Even the occasional Woodpecker.  As the year wears on the leaves turn a darker shade of green and the berries form.  By August the berries ripen into a glorious red and the Blackbirds and Starlings  move in to fatten up for the approaching winter.  The arrival of autumn sees the leaves turn yellow, then brown and fall to ground.   The last of the berries will be fought over by the Blackbirds and possibly some Fieldfares.   Through the dark days of winter it sways in the wind and still provides shelter for passing birds, its trunk green with algae.  It’s been there some 25 years now, having grown from a seed that a passing Blackbird dropped – I really ought to say thank you for all the entertainment it gives me every year!   Now that’s a magic tree 🙂