So there we were – somewhere in Saxon England.  Middlesex to be precise or maybe not as nowadays that former county (once the second smallest in England) exists only as an optional line in postal addresses and in the names of certain revered bodies such as the Middlesex County Cricket Club.   In truth, we didn’t need to come to Harrow to find evidence of our Saxon heritage as Finchley was also a part of Middlesex and still displays the Three Seaxes on some of its bridges, but we had to come anyway to fulfil a fixture in the London Senior Cup.   Then, we’ll be back again next Tuesday to play each other in the Ryman League Cup.   It’s somewhat ironic that the one cup we’re not meeting in is the Middlesex Senior Cup – perhaps next season?

Saved!
Saved!

Being a cup match we knew we were in for the long haul, extra time and penalties if it was a stalemate.     There was an immediate surprise for us Wingate & Finchley supporters as the teams took the pitch – no Gavin in goal – a new keeper we’d never seen before was pulling on the gloves!

The first half was pretty even with both sides creating chances in a game that was enjoyable end to end stuff.   The Boro’ scored first with a looping header defeating our keeper under the crossbar and would have had a second soon after but for a spectacular fingertip save.   ‘Your keeper’s good’ said a Boro’ supporter – ‘I dunno, we’ve never seen him before’ was my response.

The second half started much the same as the first, end to end, though it was W & F’s turn to get a goal with Lewis smacking home a pass from Ahmet.   Gradually W & F got the upper hand and the later stages of the half were mainly at the Boro’ end with them trying to hit us on the break.   Both keepers got to make some more good saves.   But the feeling among W & F fans was that we should have won it then with Sam’s strike from the edge of the area being beaten out by their keeper.

While the players chased the ball back and forth, the mercury plummeted and a few white flakes drifted ground wards.   Groups of supporters from both sides were now begging for someone, anyone, from either side to score!  It was suggested that we should retire to the pub and decide it over a game of darts.   Then the moment we were all dreading, the final whistle and extra-time.

As the players gathered around their respective coaching teams, the referee and his assistants sought some neutral ground near the centre of the pitch and the supporters ducked off to the toilets (the cold shrinks the bladder, or at least that’s my excuse).   While waiting for play to restart, I watched a Chinese sky lantern drift overhead – a lucky omen for someone? – perhaps for Boro’ – they have a young Japanese player who looks frighteningly fast down the wing!

With neither side able to press home any form of advantage, though Leon went close for us, the minutes of extra time ground down to the bitter conclusion – penalties.

Bobby steps up to make a 3rd penalty save!
Bobby steps up to make a 3rd penalty save!

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Bobby Smith stepped up to the plate to become an instant W & F legend making 3 saves to put us through to the next round.   Gavin, you may have finally got some real competition for that jersey!

Anyway, after a trip to the other Seaxe county on Saturday (weather permitting) we will return to Harrow Borough next Tuesday – when they will no doubt be seeking payback :-0

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

It’s fair to say that many football supporters that attend home games don’t travel to the away matches.   I’ll put my hand up and admit that I didn’t in my first few seasons and my first away match was to our rivals – Potters Bar, so it was almost like going to a home game anyway!    Often the deciding factor for me is the ease of getting to the match so forget the football for now – we’re going to talk public transport and specifically a trip to Harrow Borough’s ground yesterday.

The first portal of call is the TfL website to check the options – I use the bus where possible with my Oyster Card as this keeps the cost down but I include the underground and overground in the search in case there are significant time savings.   From Finchley to Harrow Borough the search returns a bewildering number of variations – understandable as it contains permutations of two routes at the Finchley end and three routes at the Harrow end with another two possible routes in the middle.   Interestingly, the permutation I used on the return journey was not one that was suggested!   Anyway – decision taken – 143 to Hendon, 183 to Harrow Bus Station and H10 to the ground for the outbound journey.

It’s fair to say that the 143 is a reformed character of late.  A few years back the service was best described as sporadic and it was not unknown for a driver to take a wrong turning or to ask passengers which way the route was supposed to go.   All that has changed and, on days when there aren’t any major traffic issues, the bus can be relied upon to appear very close to when the timetable says it should!   The older Dennis Darts have now been replaced by new ADL Enviro 200 vehicles which give a quietly comfortable ride.

Transdev SP82
183 Bus at Harrow Bus Station

The 183 from Golders Green to Pinner is operated by Transdev using Scania OmniCity vehicles.   This was my first ride on one of these, so I was interested to see what they were like.   The entrance step bears a welcome aboard from Transdev which is a nice touch.   The side windows are quite deep giving passengers on the upper deck a good view of the world outside and the ride is generally pleasant.   The seating upstairs is pitched to give sufficient legroom which was a pleasant change from a number of recent double deckers that I have travelled on – quite a few vehicles require me to sit with my knees pressed against the seat in front.   The East Lanc’s Myllennium Vyking bodies are a particularly bad example of cramming too much into the available space, having no room for size ten boots between the front seat and the front of the body.   The 183 routes along the Kingsbury Road on its way to Harrow – a one-time race track and still home to some interesting driving.   It’s quite normal for the vehicle in front to indicate left and turn right (and that’s just the coppers!).   I have to say that the bus ride is much more relaxing than driving along it!

The H10 is a circular route around the Harrow and Wealdstone area in a clockwise direction with its counterpart the H9 covering the same route anti-clockwise.   Operated by Transdev using Dennis Dart’s, the bus I boarded at Harrow bus station was standing room only.   It is only a short run to the ground, 10mins approximately, so not really a hardship.   The vehicle itself was 10 years old and the upholestry was quite tatty – I guess replacement is planned sometime soon.  Possibly it’s only awaiting the merger of Transdev and Veolia?  On the return journey, the H9 that I was waiting for failed to appear and I caught the 114 instead back to the bus station to connect with the 183 home.

So how was the match?… you’ll possibly get to hear about that in another blog.

For every football supporter the new year, almost as much as the new season, brings with it renewed expectations.   New Year’s Day at Wingate and Finchley FC saw a visit from local rivals Potters Bar Town.   There is a lot of history between the two clubs and the matches are always hard fought affairs – the season opener in 2010 was a 4-all draw, though the rivalry off the pitch is generally of a friendly nature with several of the players having appeared for both clubs and also some fans who have migrated between the two.   At the start of 2011 both clubs are sitting near the top of Division One North of the Ryman League with hopes of a play-off position finish to the season.   Clearly a game for supporters to enjoy, or so we hoped.

Wingate & Finchley vs Potters Bar
Wingate & Finchley 2 vs Potters Bar 4

And so it proved, an exciting game but one marred by 2 of our players getting sent off.   A 2-4 loss snatched from the jaws of a 2-0 victory:-(   For much of this season and also parts of the last we have paid for a lack of discipline within the team – players racking up yellow and red cards for a mix of arguing with referees and retaliation (and the occasional reckless challenge).   The upshot is that we go into the next league match with a number of key players unavailable and I wonder if our manager has anything in mind to bring a halt to the ongoing trend?   Perhaps the players should be making a New Year’s Resolution to avoid arguing with referees – that might help us to keep 11 players on the pitch!

Today (Jan 3rd) will see us away to Harrow Borough in a London Senior Cup match – lets hope the team can turn it around and put in a disciplined performance.

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