Local Rivalry in a Foreign Land

As a team in the Ryman League Division 1 North we don’t often need to pack our passports  and cross the river 😉   For the second time this season though a cup final required a Thames crossing to be made as Wingate & Finchley players, fans and officials travelled to Tooting and Mitcham’s ground at Imperial Fields to take on Hendon FC in the final of the London Senior Cup.

Flagship (not sure that’s the right word) of the London Football Association, the London Senior Cup is viewed as a prestigious trophy.   The likes of Arsenal and Tottenham have won it in the dim and distant past when football was an amateur game and footballers genuinely played with pride for the shirt they wore.    The first winners were Upton Park in 1883 – no, they didn’t go on to become West Ham!   Finchley beat Barnet in the final to win the cup in 1933 and won it again in 1952, defeating Wealdstone on that occasion – the same year as the dreadful railway accident at Harrow & Wealdstone.    The top professional clubs no longer take part in the competition so the chances of repeating the defeat of Barnet have gone (although they very nearly became a conference side again this season!).   Hendon first won the trophy in 1964 and again in 1969.   Wingate & Finchley – the sides now amalgamated – won in 1995, beating Tower Hamlets in a 4-3 thriller.   Hendon won it as recently as 2009.   So both clubs have a bit of cup history behind them.

It’s fair to say that the fans of the sides were agreed on one thing even before the match got underway – why the hell were we being dragged all the way across London on a Tuesday evening when the contesting teams are both based in North London and within walking distance of each other?   It has been suggested that the final had been ‘promised’ to Tooting and Mitcham – quite when such a promise was made could be interesting as they were only knocked out in the Semi-Finals, at which point it was already known that the teams contesting the final were both from North London.   Which brings us back to why?  It can’t have been to do with the facilities – I went in the bar and despite being beside the Wandle and very much in Young’s territory, there wasn’t a decent pint of beer to be seen 😦    The pitch was in very poor condition – A dust bowl with potholes to catch the unwary, it had the players worrying about picking up injuries before they’d even gone to the changing rooms!   There must have been a suitable neutral venue available in North London – so there’s something fishy going on and it doesn’t come with chips!   Anyway, the effect of the cross-border trek into the southlands was to reduce the number of supporters for both teams on the night and result in a late kick-off as team coaches were delayed in the traffic on what passes for main roads south of the river.   Neither of these effects of the choice of venue can be viewed as positive 😦   Anyway, that’s my gripe on behalf of the fans of both sides – time to tell about the match.

Hendon Take The Lead

Hendon Take The Lead

That the pitch was in very poor condition became immediately apparent as the players kicked up clouds of dust wherever they went.    Hendon took the lead in the 14th minute during a goalmouth scramble – it looked a bit like an old cartoon fight with a huge cloud of dust surrounding the combatants before the ball rolled out of the melee to the feet of a grateful Hendon player.

Murat Takes On The Defence

Murat Takes On The Defence

There followed a period of fast attacking activity from Wingate & Finchley.   Murat should have had a penalty in the 20th minute as he was tripped and dragged down in the Hendon area.   It was so blatant that we couldn’t believe that the ref didn’t see it 😦   Perhaps his view was obscured by the dust?   But I think it was because he was so remote from the play that he would have needed to borrow my telephoto lens to see what happened (I was closer than he was!).   It mattered not in the grand scheme of things though as Murat got clear of the defending tag wrestler on the 28th minute and slotted home past the Hendon keeper at the near post.   The ref then ticked him off for his celebration!    Not a good example of refereeing in a cup final.   In fairness, the referee did get up to speed and had a good second half.

In the 10th minute of the second half Sam Sloma scored to give Wingate & Finchley the lead after the Hendon right back misread the erratic movements of the ball off the pitch.   With Hendon now pressing for an equaliser the Wingate and Finchley defenders were called upon to keep their forwards under control, which they did very successfully – Hendon’s attempts on goal were few and far between.   Then, following a brisk counter attack spearheaded by Ola running down the right and beating two defenders, Lewis scored a third from Ola’s cross on the 70th minute making the game almost safe for Wingate & Finchley.   W & F then played out the last 20 minutes to win 3-1 on the night.

There was much celebration afterwards both on the pitch and in the bar – The cup was passed round to various people who wanted to pose with it.    Paul insisted that I should be photographed with it too – thanks Paul 🙂   Then on the run back through the darkened and empty streets of South London on the team coach the hungry players finally spotted a McDonalds and insisted on a food stop.   I’m a vegetarian – not that night I wasn’t! – Just as well I’m not a Conviction Vegetarian 😉

The London Senior Cup

The London Senior Cup (I'm the one on the right) - photo taken by Paul Lerman

Hungry But Happy

Hungry But Happy



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers

Numbers Worn Beneath Paint That’s Worn

50011 at Reading

The driver of 50011 enjoys the evening sun at Reading. The washing plants have worn away the BR blue paint to reveal the locomotive's previous identity of D411

So Just What Did Happen At The End Of Last Season?

Leon Smith

Leon Smith tiptoes through the tulips - Four defenders and not one got close...

The last regular season game that I was able to attend was at home against Waltham Forest. The Stags were lying bottom of the table after a dreadful season and with nothing to play for except pride. Wingate & Finchley on the other hand needed a win to establish themselves firmly in the play-off places. W & F took the lead in only the 7th minute when Leon tiptoed through the Stags defence and defeated their keeper from close range. From then on there was only ever going to be one winner. The only question was – By how many? In the end it was 5-0 and the fans felt it should have been more like 8-0 as several good chances were spurned. In fact, we only scored 4, the fifth was an own goal by Marvin Samuel which was a bit ironic as he was Wingate & Finchley Captain a couple of seasons back. I think our keeper, Bobby Smith, only had to make one save in the whole match and that was in the 89th minute!

So – there we were in a play-off place. Above us were Brentwood, Harlow and Needham Market. Although Needham were consolidated in 2nd spot the rest of us were fighting over third place to get home advantage for the play-off semi-finals. It would all hinge on the results of the last day of the season and all 4 teams were due to play each other! Harlow would go to Needham Market whilst Wingate & Finchley would travel to Brentwood and I would go to Scotland in the knowledge that I’d miss the play-offs 😦

Shelducks

Shelduck's beside Loch Leven

At the time when those last games of the regular season were kicking off I was in Stirling services drinking coffee in preparation for the last leg of the journey – truth be told I didn’t even think about the matches as my mind was on the drive. It wasn’t until the Monday afternoon that I checked out the website to discover that we’d defeated Brentwood and Harlow had drawn against Needham. So we would be playing at home against Harlow in the semi-final. Again, time passed by without any further thought to the matter – bird watching by Loch Leven and riding behind a steam loco on the Strathspey Railway kept my attention until, on Thursday I finally got to check out the club website again. It was great to read how, with the scores level at full time, Wingate & Finchley had pressed on to win 4-2 in extra time. The guys never like to do things the easy way 😉 Amazing, we were through to the play-off final where we would meet Brentwood after they pulled off a great win against Needham Market. I went to the bar to celebrate with a couple of pints of Blackfriar from the Inveralmond Brewery 🙂

Saturday came and the journey home on the day of the Play-off Final. Once again I was sitting drinking coffee as the teams were kicking off – this time at Stafford services. I mentally wished the team luck as I stirred in some sugar. Then, concentrating on the road took my thoughts away from the game. I received a simple text message kindly sent by Paul later that evening – ‘Hi Martin we won and got promoted!’ Behind that message was an epic match that saw a 2-2 scoreline at full time. Lewis Jones finally nicked it for Wingate & Finchley with 3 minutes of extra time remaining – I was probably passing Luton at the time. I finally saw the regulars on the following Tuesday as we gathered to watch the final of the London Senior Cup.   Everyone wanted to tell me what great matches I’d missed – Thanks Guys 😦   I was happy though, with the regular season over Wingate & Finchley were now a Ryman Premier Division side 🙂   It was time to watch the grand finale of the London Senior Cup but that’s a story for another blog 😉 …